March 6, 2014
With the Olympics put to bed, the NHL season is once again traveling at warp speed. March 5 marked this year’s trade deadline and there are roughly 20 games left before the playoffs begin. With little time to spare teams were feverously jockeying for position at the deadline. Some won, some lost and some sat back quietly. While many trades involved future draft picks we are focusing on the teams that made moves to greatly impact this season’s playoff push. Never mind the future, these teams made it clear they want to win now.
Bonus: The New York Rangers/Tampa Bay Lightning Trade
There’s no question the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest news of the day. The two teams traded captains. Martin St. Louis went to New York while Ryan Callahan was sent to the Lightning.
I have mixed emotions on this trade—St. Louis is a future Hall of Famer that can hopefully maximize the Rangers potential. Callahan isn’t the scorer that St. Louis is but is a proven leader. The Lightning also got healthy draft picks in the trade but let’s stay focused—we’re talking about now.
Personally, I wish the best for both players and organizations but don’t like the idea of swapping the letter “C.” The Rangers dealt Callahan because of impending free agency and the Lightning granted St. Louis’ request and traded him.
The Lightning are currently fourth in the East and get Steven Stamkos back from injury soon. It’ll be interesting to see if he can score at the same rate without St. Louis setting the table. As for the Rangers, can St. Louis suddenly bring the arguably underachieving team to life?
No. 5: Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings took care of business at the deadline by trading for lamp-lighter Marian Gaborik. The 32-year-old has been often injured since being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets last trade deadline but the Kings hope his woes are behind him.
Remember, the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup are determined to reappear in the Finals. They have an excellent goaltender in Jonathan Quick and a well-balanced roster with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty. The team has won five straight as of 03/05 and leads the league with just 134 goals allowed.
Problem is they’ve only scored 152 and that slim margin urged the front office to add some offense. In the past Gaborik has been a sniper and with good health and a fresh start he should flourish in the City of Angels, especially on the power play. The Kings made themselves contenders at the deadline.
No. 4: Montreal Canadiens
Despite only scoring six more goals than their allowing, the Canadiens sat third in the Eastern Conference with 75 points. Those two factors were the reason why the franchise acquired playmaker Thomas Vanek at the deadline from the New York Islanders.
This is now Vanek’s third team of the season and he’ll look to stay put in Montreal. He’s scored 53 points this season in 60 games with the Buffalo Sabres and Islanders. The Canadiens are a team with balanced scoring, but no star. Prior to Vanek joining the roster the team had 10 players that have scored 20-plus points this season but P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty led with 42 points per. That’s only good enough for 65th in the league.
Vanek brings a spark and a message to the fans that the Habs are making a serious push for the Cup.
No. 3: Washington Capitals
This is a make-or-break time for the Washington Capitals. They have to make a deep run in the playoffs or face the reality of blowing up the roster and starting from scratch.
Led by Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals have immense talent but lack a premium goaltender. They addressed that need at the deadline by trading for Jaroslav Halak from the Buffalo Sabres who got him in a deal from the St. Louis Blues over the weekend. What a whirlwind week for Halak—now he lands in Washington for a team eager to win.
The Capitals currently are fifth in the NHL with 186 goals scored. Too bad they’ve allowed 184, which just so happens to be the fifth-most. Halak is the remedy they’ve been looking for.
The Caps also traded for Dustin Penner who isn’t the flashiest man on the ice but brings plenty of toughness who makes a living in front of the net.
Overall, the Capitals made themselves better at the deadline.
No. 2: Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild deserve credit—they make a number of trades that bolstered their lineup this year at the deadline.
The Wild currently sit in seventh in the Western Conference with 75 points. They spent a king’s ransom last offseason by singing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The West is definitely the stronger of the two NHL sides and Minnesota is the heart of American hockey.
The Wild have to win—now.
They made a head-scratching trade on March 4 by trading for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, formerly of the Edmonton Oilers. Bryzgalov is talented but puzzling at times. He makes for good television but is inconsistent. If the Wild can get on his level and get the most out of him they have a legitimate shot at a playoff run.
The Wild also acquired Brad Winchester who will give their blue line depth down the stretch.
Where the Wild won is by trading for Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres. Moulson is as underrated as they come. The Wild have only scored 153 goals this season and struggle on the road. Moulson has scored 30-plus goals in three straight seasons from 2009-12 and 17 this season. Like the aforementioned Vanek and Halak, this too is Moulson’s third team this season.
Like the men he’s mentioned with, Moulson will make an impact in his final destination.
The Wild just made themselves better—they just made hockey better.
No. 1: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues let it be known that they are a force to be reckoned with. Even though they had solid goaltending they dropped a bombshell when they traded for goalie Ryan Miller. Arguably the best in the world, the Blues put the rest of the NHL on notice when they acquired Miller.
The Blues currently have the largest goal differential in the league at +63 and solidified that stat by acquiring Miller. For the first time in a long time he’ll have a good defense in front of him. Now is his time to shine.
The team did trade Jaroslav Halak to get him, who’s a top-10 NHL net minder. Why trade strength for strength? After a few unsuccessful playoff runs the organization obviously see Miller as the fix they need to win it all. The window to win it all isn’t open forever.
As if they weren’t already, the Blues are now a favorite for the Cup.
November 15, 2013
Nearly 20 games into the 2013-14 NHL season and the competitive balance is evident. The future of the league is mighty bright. Even after a strike that nearly erased last season, the NHL is thriving at the moment.
The league’s decision to change the divisional structure proved to be a stroke of genius. Now, there are four divisions containing eight teams each in the Eastern Conference and seven in the Western. The league is logistically sound now—this year the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets moved east while the Winnipeg Jets headed west. Suddenly, the NHL makes sense in respect to placement of teams.
Albeit early, the standings are a bit surprising at the moment. The Tampa Bay Lightning currently leads the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division at the moment with 28 points. Yes, star Steven Stamkos is out with a broken right leg for some time, but his team is flush with young talent and veteran leaders like Martin St. Louis. Seeing Stamkos go down was a punch to the gut to devout hockey fans. The kid is miraculous on the ice, have faith that when he returns he’ll be better than ever. He’s only 23 years old and a superstar—like the Terminator, he’ll be back. The Lightning surely didn’t let his absence affect their mood as they won the first game without him on November 12, 2-1 over the Montreal Canadiens. That’s good to see that resilience.
Another surprise are the Colorado Avalanche, who led by 22-year-old Matt Duchene are second in the Western Conference’s Central Division with 28 points. This is somewhat hard to believe, but new head coach and Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy clearly knows how to get the best out of his bunch. Top to bottom, this is the best division in hockey right now with the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. This race will go down to the wire come playoff time.
The Central Division may have the most balance, but the Western Conference’s Pacific Division is the league’s strongest. This one will be a dogfight every time teams take to the ice. The Anaheim Ducks are currently the best team in the league with 31 points, but there’s little breathing room. The Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings all have 10-plus wins at the moment. Yes, they’re all going to beat up on each other throughout the season, but they currently have five playoff teams right now.
So, who’s the best team in the league? Right now it’s anyone’s guess and that’s why it’s great.
Don’t forget about the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan division. The Penguins still have a guy named Sidney Crosby while it’s still good to be Ovi in Washington. Crosby is currently tied for the lead with 23 points while Ovechkin is atop the goal list with 14.
The bottom line is that the NHL got it right this time. Everyone should have a smile on their face. The league is as competitive as ever and here to stay. Embrace it, enjoy it, and fall in love with it.
September 30, 2013
With only days until a new NHL season begins, let’s take a look at what happened this offseason, and look forward to a schedule that includes 6 outdoor games.
The Red Wings and the Leafs outside at the Big House? Check. Dodger Stadium? The Ducks? The Kings? West Coast? Check. A double dip in the Big Apple? Check. The Rangers will play the Devils and Islanders three days apart at Yankee Stadium. It wouldn’t be complete without the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.
With that here’s 5 things we should keep an eye on as the new season begins:
Realignment: Will the Red Wings march through the Eastern Conference? Is Winnipeg out of their league?
Training Camp: Will teams be sharper due to full offseason?
Olympic Year: Who’s going to challenge for the U.S. and Canadian rosters? Will certain players on worse teams focus more on country’s Olympic run?
Best Offseason – Dallas Stars: New GM Jim Nill traded for Tyler Seguin and also brought in Rich Peverly, Shawn Horcoff, and Sergei Gonchar. Combine that with star forward Jamie Benn and goaltender Kari Lehtonen and its great expectations in Dallas.
Of all the teams in league, the Panthers would probably win for negative effects brought on by the realignment. The competition for the Panthers in the new Atlantic Division is a considerable change as the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings are ready and waiting. Keep in mind, the Panthers finished dead last in the weakest division in the NHL last season.
It’s time to drop the gloves. Let’s play hockey.
May 29, 2013
Sports mimic life, the movies, and folklore—Game 7 in any playoff series is the cat’s meow.
Nothing is better than a winner-take-all, no-holds-barred bout between two teams that have grown to hate one another over the previous six rounds.
For some, the rivalry is just blossoming as teams and their fans quickly grow a disdain for all things opposition. For others, the enemy is familiar and not welcome.
Nothing brings such a rivalry to a fever pitch as a Game 7. With the season, pride and bragging rights on the line, losing to a despicable foe stings the worst. Players don’t get to wash away the pain in their soul with a win the next time out. Fans have to stomach the body blow knock-out dealt by the gloating faithful of their rivals. Sometimes these memories torment players, fans, and franchises for an eternity.
Even though one may find themselves on the wrong end of a Game 7, the love of the game leaves them desiring more.
The NHL has received a gift from the hockey Gods—on May 29 the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will duel in a Game 7 that promises to be one for the ages. You see, this game will be something special. This is not a normal Game 7, this is THE Game 7. The next time these bitter rivals will meet in the playoffs it will be in the Stanley Cup Finals.
With NHL realignment set to take place, the Detroit Red Wings will venture into the Eastern Conference next season. This leaves the Chicago Blackhawks as the lone Original Six team in the Western Conference.
All of a sudden there’s much more on the line in this Game 7. The winner gets the satisfaction knowing that they got the last laugh with so much at stake. Sure, the loser may exact their revenge in a somewhat meaningless regular season game next season, but the playoffs are different. Game 7 is different. This rivalry is different.
Two blue collar cities such as Detroit and Chicago are too hard-nosed to lie down for their opponent. Expect both sides to come out swinging and fight til the end. Both sides know how much this means to their diehard fans.
Every year there’s a playoff game that just won’t end—it lasts way past your bedtime. Five overtimes later, you can’t fall asleep, can’t stop watching. Don’t worry, your boss will understand. The whole city understands. The outcome will shape the mood of the office for the rest of the week.
Hockey enthusiasts hope it’s this game. The game and its fans deserve it. History is what we want—expect nothing less.
The lore of Game 7 will undoubtedly leave us in awe.
April 30, 2013
The 2013 NHL playoffs promise to be as fast paced as the abbreviated season. The strike-shortened season was roughly only 100 days long and the league carries plenty of momentum into the “second season.”
The league began the season with a black eye but with a jammed packed schedule that went down to the wire, the NHL recovered nicely from a near catastrophe.
With fans back on board the playoffs will be as captivating as ever. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks dominated their respective conferences this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to meet in the Finals.
Remember, it was just last season when the Los Angeles Kings were the first team in history to win it all as a No. 8 seed.
If there’s one thing that’s for certain, expect the unexpected during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Will be the Best Round 1 Matchup
As a hockey fan, one can’t help but lose sleep over this series. Coming into the season this was an all-or-nothing type of season for both sides. After a poor start, both teams rebounded well to finish the season on a strong note.
Now, two teams under the microscope will duke it out in a series that screams seven games. The Capitals‘ Alex Ovechkin finished the year with a league-best 32 goals and needs to continue that trend if his team is to advance.
The Rangers spent a ton of money in the offseason only to be seller’s at the trade deadline. What’s done is done and the team found a way to manage the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. New to New York, star Rick Nash led the team in goals with 21, now it’s his duty to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory.
So, who will win the series?
Capitals in seven games
The Rangers may be facing an intense amount of pressure, but Ovechkin and the Capitals have their backs against the wall.
The Detroit Red Wings Will Upset the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t play consistently good hockey until a week ago, but now they’re hot at the right time.
Spoiled by decades of success, Wings fans were looking lost until recently. The playoffs seemed like a mirage, but the good organizations always seem to get their way and the Wings are in as the No. 7 seed in the West.
Now, the Anaheim Ducks are the underdog in the series even though they are the No. 2 seed. The Wings took the season series 2-1 and have too much momentum right now for Corey Perry and company to stop. Wings stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are carrying their team nicely right now.
The Wings won four straight games to make the playoffs and in that time Zetterberg notched 10 points.
Red Wings in six games
The Wings are too hot to lose in the first round but will run out of gas shortly after.
One Not So Bold Pick–Sidney Crosby Will be Sidney Crosby
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been without their captain Sydney Crosby since March 30 due to a broken jaw, but he’ll be on the ice in the playoffs.
He may have missed the final 12 games of the season, but he scored 56 points in just 36 games. The Penguins should be considered great without him and with his presence on the ice they are the most dangerous team in the league.
It may take a game or two to get back into the groove, but Crosby is the best all-around player in the league. Even with missing the final 12 games, Crosby only lost out on the Art Ross Trophy (most points/season) by four points. Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis took the trophy with 60 points. St. Louis was then followed by teammate Steven Stamkos’ 57 and then Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby with 56.
Crosby makes everyone better and knowing that Penguins acquisition Jarome Iginla has only played a total of :50 seconds with Crosby, the best is yet to come.
Crosby tallies 17 playoff points—6 goals, 11 assist
The Toronto Maple Leafs Will Win Their Series against the Boston Bruins
These rivals won’t back down, but the Maple Leafs will surprise most when they survive and advance. The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 and although both teams stumbled to the finish line, the Leafs carry positive momentum because the city is buzzing.
The Bruins have looked incomplete of late and can’t seem to finish the game. They have dominated the series between the two of late, winning 9-of-10, but the tides will turn here.
The Leafs are well balanced across the score sheet. Expect Nazem Kadri, a 22-year-old center to get under the Bruins skin and light the lamp. In the end, the Bruins won’t know what hit them.
Maple Leafs in five games
Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks in the Finals
That’s correct, an all Canadian final is in store.
The Montreal Canadiens are almost forgotten about but the finished second in the Eastern Conference. The have a goalie in Carey Price who is made for these moments and a perfect blend of toughness and finesse. They are the team that doesn’t have a scoring sensation but rather a group of guys who pitch in at the right moment. A number of players could get hot and spell disaster for their opponents.
The Vancouver Canucks are playoff tested and feel disrespected. They’re almost forgotten about at the moment. Don’t make a mistake by overlooking them and consider them a “has been.” Remember, they have the Sedin twins. Last time I checked they have some weird twin thing going on that gets the puck to the back of the net with regularity. The Canucks X-factor is Ryan Kesler. He’s a world-class player coming off of injury. With only 17 games played this year, he’s seen just enough ice time to make a big difference in the playoffs.
This series will be a slugfest. Plenty of grit combined with a series littered with scrappy goals will make for a memorable final.
Canadiens in six games
Carey Price wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP