The final matches of the IIHF World Championships take place today. Canada had earned their slot after a come-from-behind victory over Russia, and Sweden edged out Finland for the right to play for gold. Finland and Russia are currently playing their bronze medal match, while Canada and Sweden will play at 3:45 CST.
Toronto fans should be excited about the further progression of William Nylander, who leads Sweden in scoring, and also Mitch Marner, who has tallied 11 points in 9 games for the Canadian team. Also playing well for Sweden is Carolina forward Elias Lindholm, who will be entering the final year of his $2.7 MM contract. Nathan MacKinnon is probably Canada’s best player in the tournament, and Colorado fans can dare to be hopeful following a mediocre outing for his squad last season. He is under contract for 6 more seasons at $6.3 MM, so reaching his potential is a huge part of the squad’s future plans.
- New York Post reporter Larry Brooks wrote an interesting piece on the possibility of the Rangers seeking to move Derek Stepan for defensive help. Especially since it seems likely that one of Girardi and/or Staal will be bought out, the defense needs a great deal of attention this offseason. Both players have taken a massive downward turn, and with Henrik Lundqvist’s regression, there is definitely room for concern. However, the Rangers may wish to think twice about moving a useful, young center. He’s only 26 years old, plays a strong defensive game, and has put up 50+ points in 4 consecutive seasons. Although Mats Zuccarello had a breakout season, at 5’7″ and 29 years old, losing a winger might be easier for the organization than forfeiting their number one center. Although, to Brooks’ point, the Rangers’ center position is strongest, there the serious possibility that Oscar Lindberg isn’t ready for top-six duties over the course of a full season. Dangling Zuccarello coming off a career-year may be the more prudent, if far less beloved, decision.
- An intriguing, if ultimately inconsequential sidenote from last night’s amazing Western Conference Finals Game 5 – there was slight bedlam with only 10 seconds remaining. According to league rules, any instigating player who starts a fight with under 5 minutes remaining is subject to an automatic one-game suspension. Although the scrum involved every skater, of note was the tussle between Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie and Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm resorted to actual blows. Ritchie seemed to be the instigator, as Ekholm refused to actually drop his mitts despite throwing punches in response. Ekholm did lose his one glove while holding on to Ritchie, but it could be argued that he never intended to do so. Were that the case, by the letter of the NHL Rulebook, Ritchie would be subject to that automatic suspension. There has been no word on the matter from the league, and no punishment should be expected as the players were only assessed roughing minors on the play.