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Quick Strikes: Nikita Kucherov is a Hart Trophy finalist

Plus: EBUG ALERT!

Tampa Bay Lightning v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Headline

The finalists for the Hart Trophy were released yesterday, and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is among those on the list. Kucherov is the favorite to win the award after scoring 128 points during an historic regular season. No one has scored that many points since 1995-1996, which was well before the salary cap era.

While he’s deserving of the award for his regular season play, his disappointing post season including getting suspended for a crucial game three with his team down 2-0 will cast a shadow over his win in the short term.

Also on the list were Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.

The Crunch

-The Syracuse Crunch is still trying to puzzle out what happened to their promising season. Mitchell Stephens and Eddie Pasquale shared their thoughts on the end of the season and the future during Syracuse’s media day.

“It’s still bitter the way that it ended and there’s a lot you can say in hindsight, but it’s tough.”

-Crunchman was also out in the community, hanging with the kids at the Step Up 4 Kids walk.

The Prospects

-The final of the Lightning’s prospects have been eliminated from their playoffs.

Radim Salda and Jimmy Huntington - along side the rest of the Rimouski Oceanic - were swept in the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference Final by the #1 junior team in all three of the CHL leagues, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

The Others

-Goaltender Petr Mrázek of the Carolina Hurricanes left yesterday’s game against the New York Islanders with an apparent lower-body injury. Taking over for him was our old friend Curtis McElhinney, who made league history by being in the game:

With the injury also came a Stanley Cup playoffs rarity: The dressing of an EBUG (emergency backup goalie).

The EBUG in question was Todd Scarola, who already has a pretty incredible story.

Carolina went on to win the game 2-1 in a nail biter and take a 2-0 series lead. The Isles were the better team for much of the game but the Canes took the lead in the third period and locked down the game.

The Carolina Hurricanes had plenty of reasons to lose Sunday’s Game 2 - injuries, lackadaisical play, you name it. But goals by Warren Foegele and Nino Niederreiter on consecutive shifts to open the third period gave the Hurricanes an unexpected 2-1 win over the New York Islanders in Brooklyn on Sunday, returning to Raleigh with a 2-0 series lead.

Unlike the Islanders, the Colorado Avalanche evened their series on the road against the San Jose Sharks with a comeback 4-3 victory. After a slow start, the Avs were the better team rediscovering the dominance they showed against the Flames and finding a way to head back to Colorado with a chance to swing home ice advantage.

The Avalanche’s mix of speed and offensive power from their top six did the Sharks in tonight, running San Jose up and down the ice until the weight of playing nine grueling playoff games took their toll in the later stages. And when the Sharks did have their chances, Philipp Grubauer was equal to the task, stopping 31 of 34 San Jose chances.

-15-year-old Aito Iguchi has his sights set on a pretty big goal: the NHL.

Iguchi is plenty of things, all at once. He is a viral-video sensation. He is arguably Japan’s best hope yet at producing a bona fide NHL star. And, most importantly, he is one of hockey’s most intriguing, if misunderstood, prospects.