March 6, 2014

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5 Big Winners at the NHL Trade Deadline

By: Matt Bowen

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?

Los Angeles Kings

Did the Kings do enough at the trade deadline to become Stanley Cup contenders in 2014?

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.

April 10, 2013

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Alexander Ovechkin Is Back To Being A Star

By: Matt Bowen

The Washington Capitals were expected to win a handful of Stanley Cups not too long ago. Led by Alexander Ovechkin, the team was winning and had a plethora of young talent. A fortuitous future was in store for the franchise.

Ovechkin is currently tied for the league lead in goals (26).

The organization signed Ovechkin to an 8-year, $124 million deal in 2008, which was the largest in NHL history at the time. As we all know, money neither buys happiness nor championships.

Now, some five years later the franchise is Cupless and until recently, the fan base was scratching their collective head. The once solid core of talent that filled the Caps roster was either traded away or plagued by injury. Their star seemed to nearly disappear in recent years. Until recently, it was as if Ovechkin forgot how to score.

He took the NHL by storm as a rookie in 2005-06. He netted 52 goals and finished with 106 points and took home the Calder Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the Year honors. Remember, that season was also the debut of Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who was dubbed “The Next One”, drawing comparison to “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky. Ovechkin quickly won fans over as the “other” great player of his class.

He followed up his rookie campaign with 46, 65, 56, and 50 goals in his first five seasons. That’s 269 goals in five years. Holy cow!

Then, a surprising regression occurred. He scored 32 goals in 2010-11 and 38 in 2011-12. While most teams would be happy with that output from their top player, “Ovi” was put on a higher pedestal. He only produced 65 total points last season, and thoughts begin to swirl that something was wrong with the star.

Even with all the previous success that Ovi has had, the Capitals have yet to make an impact in the playoffs. They have not reached the Stanley Cup Finals with Ovechkin as their leader. With the dip on the scoring sheet in 2011-12, many pundits began to wonder if he was the answer in Washington. They wondered if he was a “winner.”

The organization stood by their man and lately, he’s making them look good. The team is currently leading the Southeast Division and is currently third in the Eastern Conference.  Yes, their division is rather weak, but someone has to be king of the mountain and right now, it’s the Capitals.

Most importantly, “Ovi” is back to being a star. He can score in bunches and he’s doing just that this season. His 26 goals are currently tied for tops in the league with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ovechkin looks like he’s having fun again. It’s like he remembers that he can dominate. That he’s Alexander Ovechkin and others aren’t on the same level that he is. He hasn’t gone back-to-back games without a point in nearly a month. He’s lethal on the power play—his 14 goals with the extra man are five better than the next man, John Taveras of the New York Islanders. The Capitals capitalize on the power play around 25 percent of the time, which is tops in the NHL. He’s scored 16 goals since March 17th.

The Capitals were considered an afterthought in early February, now they are the most dangerous team in the league. Hockey enthusiast will remember that the Los Angeles Kings were in a similar situation last season before they squeaked their way into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. All they did was win the Stanley Cup.

Don’t be shocked when the Capitals catch fire and go all the way this season. “Ovi” will be the first one to hoist the Cup as he silences the critics.

Quoting the man himself, “It’s good to be Ovi.”

April 12, 2012

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NHL Playoffs – Eastern Conference First Round Picks

By: Junior

The NHL playoffs begin tonight, considered by many to be the best playoff atmosphere of any sport. Each first round series has a compelling storyline and even the 8th seeds have a shot at advancing. So who will win each series? That is exactly what I will tell you in the following predictions. After breakind down the Western Conference yesterday (to read it, click here.), we take a look at the Eastern Conference.

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Which teams will advance past the first round on their quest for the Stanley Cup?

Eastern Conference

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(1)Rangers vs. (8)Senators

A 1vs.8 series should be a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Ottawa took 3 of 4 from the Rangers during the regular season. The Senators have a solid combination of young stars (Erik Karlsson) and veteran leadership (Daniel Alfredsson), which makes them a very dangerous 8 seed. The Rangers, though, have a great goalie in Henrik Lundqvist and that could be the deciding factor in this series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6.

 

(2)Bruins vs. (7)Capitals

I will point to goalies as the key in almost all of these breakdowns, and the Capitals goalie situation is in dire straits. With Thomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth out, the Capitals will be likely be relying on a rookie early on. The Capitals will get Nicklas Backstrom back to team with Alex Ovechkin, but with Tim Thomas in net and Zdeno Chara on defense, I like the Bruins to escape this series.

Prediction: Bruins in 5.

 

(3)Panthers vs. (6)Devils

The Devils are hot (no pun intended). They are on a six game winning streak and actually scored more points in the regular season than their higher seeded opponent. Add that with veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur and they are a dangerous team. The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000, and will be looking to prove they belong back in the postseason. Unfortunately, they won’t get that chance this year.

Prediction: Devils in 6.

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(4)Penguins vs. (5) Flyers

For many, this is the series to watch during the first round. It is always great when in-state rivals go head to head in the playoffs and this series shouldn’t be an exception. This should be a very physical series and also be very high scoring. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will make things difficult for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers, who are missing a lot of pieces heading into the playoffs. However, the Flyers have talented young players who, if they can step up, will make a big decision in this series. With so many “ifs” on the Flyers side, the Penguins seem to be in a better spot in this series.

Prediction: Penguins in 7.

April 30, 2010

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Man Room Closed

By: Guest Blogger

by Guest Blogger William Seward

I walked into my Man Room Thursday morning with urgency, my head down, looking for a hammer.

Having been to the Capitals game the night before, still not knowing what a “Hab” is even after seven games, and thinking about that 3 to 1 lead we had just a week before…I didn’t want to look up at Ovechkin or any of the other Caps Fatheads I have on my wall. No, I wanted to walk into my room, get my hammer out of the closet, and get out of there.

After such a disappointing showing in the playoffs, I felt ashamed; I felt like my team had let me down.

I decided that I won’t be hanging out in that room until next hockey season. Yes, my large HDTV is in there, as is my mini fridge and my comfy recliner, but seeing those two Caps logos and a 6-foot tall Ovechkin makes me angry.

Thus, I walked into the closet, got my hammer, and got on with my work.

Goodbye, Man Room.  Until next year, the lights are out in here, just like the lights are out at the Verizon Center.  Such a disappointment.