On Tap For Today — Minnesota at Vegas; 6:00 pm PDT; NBCSN
ISLE SEE YOU THERE: The NHL formally announced the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin this weekend, kicking off with the Islanders and Bruins on Saturday at 8 pm ET on NBC. Game 1 between Colorado and Minnesota/Vegas is Sunday, also on NBC at 8 pm ET.
IN THE NICK OF TIME: Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki scored the Game 5 overtime winner Wednesday against Toronto after Cole Caufield forced a turnover and turned it into a two-on-none rush. The goal came just 59 seconds into the extra frame, which was needed after Montreal blew a 3-0 lead.
RING THAT BELL: Speaking of Montreal, when 2,500 fans attend Saturday’s Game 6 at the Bell Center against Toronto it will be the first time in 443 days (seriously!) any fans have attended an NHL game in Canada. Welcome back, fans!
STORMING BACK: Carolina rallied from a two-goal deficit in Thursday’s series-clinching win over Nashville, ultimately winning after Sebastian Aho scored 1:09 into overtime. Their reward? A second-round matchup with the Lightning. Hardly shocking, but certainly electric!
With more than 150 writers across North America, The Hockey Writers offer something for everyone. While Pat, Kristy, Ben and I love bringing you content every morning, we wanted to spotlight some of our other writers. Below is a special contribution from one of our talented members.
For the Samoskeviches, Hockey is a Family Affair — Matthew Zator
Matthew Zator covers the Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver Giants here at the Hockey Writers. He is also the head of the docs pages, prospects and NHL Draft coverage. Zator is passionate about the Canucks, prospects, and all things hockey.
The Samoskeviches are a hockey family through and through. Twin siblings Matthew and Madison grew up around older sister Melissa as she went through her hockey journey and now, they are following in her footsteps.
The twins have a lot of work to do if they want to catch Melissa. At 24 years old, she already has leadership experience as a team captain at Quinnipiac University, two gold medals with Team USA, and time behind the bench as an assistant coach with Penn State University.
Matthew, who is ranked as a second-round pick for the upcoming NHL Draft, clearly benefited from growing up with such an accomplished big sister. He said as much in an interview before his appearance at the BioSteel All-American Game.
“Seeing how she went about her day was a huge positive experience for me… they’re my best friends and having them around in the summer was really cool, and it’s great to have them.”
The physical and mental preparation required to be a successful hockey player is beyond difficult. Matthew already has a leg up on his draft cohorts, as he and his twin sister watched Melissa go through it all as she made it to the summit of professional hockey with the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale.
When Matthew inevitably makes it to the NHL, and eventually becomes a consistent offensive producer, he will no doubt have Melissa to thank for it. Not to say that he didn’t have to put in the work, but having a person to emulate from a very young age is not something every aspiring professional hockey player has in their arsenal.
As for Madison, she is on her way to stardom as well. Even though she is the same age as her brother, she already has something under her belt that he doesn’t have — a year of university. When he was showcasing his skills as a member of the 2021 Clark Cup Champion Chicago Steel, she was completing her freshman season at Melissa’s alma mater, Quinnipiac University. Finishing with one goal and eight points in 14 games, the dynamic defenseman also was pushed by her big sister.
“We used to train together… I think it was really helpful for her to learn the drive, some of the details and how things would be. I definitely tried to push her in the off-ice sense of the game because I knew that’s a big part at Quinnipiac of how we build and how we grow.” – Melissa Samoskevich
All in all, hockey was a lifestyle for the Samoskevich twins, and it was all driven by the eldest sibling. If all goes to plan, they will become as famous as the Sutters, Staals, and Hughes of the world. Except, in this family, women power is the name of the game.
Follow Matthew Zator on Twitter at @MatthewZatorSC
What Went Wrong
In the words of Ferris Bueller — “Life comes at you pretty fast.” It feels like the NHL playoffs just started and already teams are falling by the wayside. The postseason is a time of year when much of the focus is placed on looking ahead and celebrating those teams that remain in Cup contention. However, in the spirit of our new “In Memoriam” segment, we are going to offer some final words on these first round casualties.
Three Stanley Cups in nine seasons can leave a club immune from criticism when it comes to playoff performance. However, at the same time, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ track record since winning back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017 is growing a bit conspicuous. Over these past four seasons, Pittsburgh has won just one playoff series and a mere three of their past 16 games in the postseason.
The latest disappointment came as the No. 1 seed in the MassMutual East Division — dropping their first round series to the No. 4 New York Islanders 4-2.
After setting a franchise record for highest home points percentage, the Penguins have demonstrated that they can still perform at an elite level. However, tough decisions could still be on the horizon for the new brain trust of President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke and GM Ron Hextall. Franchise lynchpins Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are both 34 years old and headed into contract years — even Sidney Crosby will be 34 when next season begins.
Before tackling the future of their franchise legends, Burke and Hextall must address the Pens’ goaltending situation. Tristan Jarry underwhelmed against the Islanders, posting an .888 save percentage and 3.18 goals against average in his first postseason as the undisputed starter in net. While it’s too early to give up on the 26-year-old — having an experienced, reliable backup could prove invaluable next spring.
As far as setbacks go, this one lacks the devastation of some of the other teams that have fallen by the wayside. If Malkin and Crosby never play another NHL game, they go into the Hockey Hall of Fame and still have three rings to show for it. Looking ahead, it’s easy for Pittsburgh to shake off a loss in a loaded division and see another opportunity for a possible deep playoff run next year.
With no major pending free agents and no key players likely vulnerable to the Expansion Draft, Crosby and company aren’t done just yet.
Please join us in a moment of silence for these recently eliminated teams – gone, but never forgotten. We can’t wait until we meet again (the 2021-22 season, of course!), but for now we’ll take this opportunity to reflect on a their brief — but memorable — playoff run.