Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!
While perhaps not as dramatic as the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens, the Vancouver Canucks are back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 years, following a bizzare double OT winner by Kevin Bieksa. Perhaps it's only appropriate that it came on the 17th anniversary of the double OT goal by Greg Adams that sent the Canucks to face the Rangers in that fantastic series.
Interestingly, they may very well find themselves facing another Original Six club if the Boston Bruins can take care of business tonight. For his part, Guy Boucher has decided to
shred Mike Smith's confidence go back to his #1 goaltender, saying that Dwayne Roloson will start game 6, despite the fact that he was pulled or benched in three games of this series already. I'm torn between "OK, he is your guy" and "Um, maybe this really isn't working...?" Smith took the loss in game 5, but he put up a hell of an effort. It wasn't his fault that Tim Thomas was able to snuff out Stamkos and St. Louis.
Speaking of the San Jose Sharks - a fairly large crop of them will be restricted or unrestricted free agents. Puck Daddy speculates on just how many of them may have played their last game in teal as they continue to search for a way to get this team over the conference final hump.
Over in the Memorial Cup, we had another OT game, but this time the Kootenay Ice kept their championship hopes alive by defeating Saint John 5-4 in their final round robin game. Jackets' goaltending prospect Mathieu Corbeil was in net for the Sea Dogs, and got an honorable mention in the game's three stars of the night. While he did take the loss, notice that he made 41 saves - 30 of which came in the first two periods! It's too early to say for sure, but he certainly seems to be growing into his potential.
Over in local news, there's a big story and a small story - so I'll tease you with the smaller news, first: Jared Boll and Andrew Murray have both donated some signed items to the "Make CF History" charity hockey tournament's silent auction.
With the continued limbo of the Thrashers (though it certainly seems to be simply a matter of time), realignment is getting on everyone's mind. Hockey Night In Canada's Ellitotte Friedman suggests that an all Canadian division is a possibility, while the Wall Street Journal offers up a "low travel" realignment scheme that somehow thinks sending Columbus to divisional games in Dallas and St. Louis would be better than games against, say, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia? (Of course, he's also putting Pittsburgh in the same division as Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Buffalo, so perhaps his grasp of geography is a wee bit suspect.)
Oh, and someone's already hanging "Welcome Back NHL!" banners on the side of the MTS center. Maybe back that up a little until there's a press conference, guys?
In similar news, it would seem there's been enough discussion of the NHL going to Seattle that KONG decided to send reporters up to Vancouver to speak with BIll Daly. The answer seems to be not right now, but maybe someday. Though I agree that yes, Key Arena would need improved (or replaced) to make it truly NHL ready.
Oh, and for those wondering if perhaps his performance at the World Championships was a bit of an audition for Jaromir Jagr to return to the NHL - put the hopes back to bed. His agent says he's only considering KHL teams for next season.
Now, back to that big Columbus news - it seems that the City of Columbus and Penn National have finally come to an agreement on their outstanding issues preventing the construction of the planned Casino from moving forward. It's notable that Columbus will be getting ~$8 million in "host city" revenues, plus taxes as part of the deal. It's also contingent on Penn National selling the original plot of land they had purchased in the Arena District - perhaps selling it back to Nationwide Realty? DBJ has a nice summary of the issues as well.
Speaking of DBJ, he's also continued his "Out of Time" series with a look at Columbus' scoring (or lack thereof). Perhaps the money quote is "Oh dear lord...am I writing myself into a position where I'm encouraging the CBJ to give Jared Boll the green light?"
Over at Fire The Cannon, Mary is having an....unconventional....fantasy draft. Dare I say it, this one is for the ladies (and certain subsets of men).
Back to more mainstream hockey, check out this fascinating look at the growth of hockey in the US in markets with recent NHL expansion, particularly in the South.
Last but not least, congratulations and farewell to minor league legend Guy Dupuis, who carved out a 21 year pro career, much of it with the Jackets' affiliated Fort Wayne Komets. Fort Wayne will retire Dupuis' number next season in a salute to his time with the franchise.