slow start

Underachieving NHL teams: Off to a slow start, eh?

It is typical at times for a perceived great team to get off to a surprisingly slow start. It’s tough to judge a team just 8-10 games in, but you would like to see positive signs moving forward.

Montreal, Edmonton and New York (Rangers) are three of the five bottom teams in the league at the moment. The only team with a worse record (as of Oct. 26) is the Arizona Coyotes (0-8-1). All three of these teams finished with over 100 points last season.

This is a small sample size. However, after a long offseason, teams are typically high on new energy at the start of the year. Moreover, the points you deposit in October are worth the same as the points put in the bank in March. Ask the Canadiens of last year. Montreal started the season 13-1-1, played .500 hockey the next 43 games (18-18-7), and still captured a division title finishing 47-26-9.

Every team hits a lull, or multiple lulls over the course of a season. A hot start isn’t 100 percent crucial to a successful season, but it is your first imprint on the year. It’s the first building block. Your season can be made or broken based off of how it starts. It’s very early again, but what’s going on with three of the league’s current bottom feeders?

off and walking habs

underachieving NHL teams

Photo: NHL.com

The Habs began their season with a 3-2 shootout win over the Sabres. They then proceeded to lose their next seven. Montreal ended that skid Tuesday night with a 5-1 win over a Roberto Luongo-less Florida squad. The team is giving up close to four goals a game and both net minders (Price and Montoya) have save percentages under .900.

The Canadiens are a team that depends on their goaltending heavily having arguably the best in the league in Carey Price. The 2015-16 season saw them skate to a 10-2-0 record with Price in the net and a 4-15-1 record the next 20 after his injury. Thirty-seven of their 47 victories last season came with Price manning the crease. The pressure on Price is huge because they only possess one player (Max Pacioretty) that had over 20 or more goals for them last season.

Montreal is scoring less than two goals a game. They are averaging over 38 shots a game lacking finish. The Habs have the eighth worst power play at just under 14 percent in a year where special teams is ruling with the amount of penalties being called. It’s just not clicking for the Canadiens nine games into their season.

We could see a flip of the script of last year where Montreal could trend upward after October instead. There are 73 games remaining. It’s simply a slow start for the Habs.

Not Much Fuel early For the Well-Oiled Machine

Underachieving NHL teams

Photo: NHL.com

The curious case of the not so well-oiled machine at the moment is concerning. Edmonton has won only two of their first eight games. Connor McDavid is still doing Connor McDavid things (nine points). However, the depth along with the stellar goaltending from Cam Talbot isn’t showing up currently.

Edmonton is giving up an even three goals a game after giving up 1.89 per game through eight games last season. They needed everything and more from their starter Cam Talbot last year. The 30-year old played in 73 of the 82 games. It started with him as the Oilers let up the eighth fewest goals of any team. They’re going to need Talbot to be who he was last year and maybe more if the offense doesn’t pick up.

The league MVP is obviously the catalyst for everything that goes on offensively for the Oilers. However, to be successful and a true contender, you need production from all four lines. The 2016-17 season saw Edmonton possess five 20+ goal scorers, four 50+ point getters and one fourth liner (Mark Letestu) net 16 goals. McDavid can turn this team around in a hurry as they have almost everyone from a year ago minus Jordan Eberle.

Great teams sometimes suffer when they are aware of the talent they have. This can be seen at times with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA regular season. They get bored occasionally. However, the Oilers have no excuse having just made the playoffs for the first time in 10 years despite having the second best preseason Cup odds at 10-1. They haven’t won or proven anything yet.

broadway at a standstill

Underachieving NHL teams

Photo: NHL.com

The Rangers have played in 10 games so far this season and have come away victorious twice. However, they have shown the most positive signs of improvement statistically of the other two teams. New York has been in three one-goal games, averaging 2.50 goals per game, and converting on close to 20 percent of their power plays.

The Blue Shirts’ defense is centered around Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonagh after an offseason trade with Arizona and free agency. They traded Antti Raanta (backup goalie) and Derek Stepan (key bottom six depth player).

Their new backup (Ondrej Pavelec) is 0-2 and has given up six goals in 96 minutes of action. The penalty kill (manned by much of the bottom six) sits at 23rd in the league at 77.8 percent. The new defensive core is a combined -11.

New York finished ninth overall in the league last year with 102 points. They captured a series win over Montreal and took Ottawa to six games who was one goal away from reaching the Finals. The Rangers organization then presumed a few tweaks were needed to take the next step. Sometimes that’s valid and other times it isn’t the case at all.

This could be nothing like the previous two teams discussed. Hopefully (for the front office) this will be a footnote to the next 72 games for the Rangers.

No time to worry

There are new faces up and down a roster coming into the year. Chemistry and figuring out how to play with one another is crucial. Some teams learn faster than others and there is no way to project where these particular teams will be in the standings later on in the season.

The key is to have a short memory and always be in the right frame of mind. Each of these hockey clubs believe they can win with the personnel they possess.

The longest losing streak for the Stanley Cup winning Penguins last year was four. Therefore, the seven game losing streak by the Habs is alarming. The league worst 15 goals that the Oilers have registered in their eight games is concerning. The lack of cohesion from the new-look Rangers is also worrisome. However, they can’t look back.

Will these teams get it together sooner rather than later?

 

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power rankings

NHL week one review

We have completed one week of hockey. Three stories headline the past week that involve the league’s best teams. Connor McDavid increased his speed in the offseason (if that’s possible). The Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks are really good. Alexander Ovechkin is a man among boys still on his team that dominates the regular season.

Referees have enforced the slashing a bit too much for my liking at times, but it was a great week. The Golden Knights won their first three games in franchise history, which no expansion team has ever done. We saw 235 goals scored. Jaromir Jagr signed with Calgary to prolong his illustrious career to a 24th season. This all took place in week one, but the excitement will continue to grow until early June.

There is always a chance something special could happen on any given night in the NHL. Keep your eyes open as this is only the beginning.

Well-Oiled Machine

NHL week one review

Photo: Matchsticks and Gasoline

Edmonton is off to a slow start, winning one of their first three, but no one is doubting where they will be at the end. Furthermore, if you haven’t seen Connor McDavid skate and possess the puck from end to end, you need to.

The 20-year-old league MVP has recorded four points in his first three games including a hat trick in game one.

Eight minutes into the third period of that game, McDavid took the puck from his own defensive circle. He then proceeded to skate past every player on the ice, posses the puck at full speed and put it past the net minder Smith- untouched.

The Oiler captain is impressive by his leadership on and off the ice. McDavid is always looking forward and knowing that tonight was great, but “we have a long way to go” (NHL.com). It is this mindset the third year superstar has that may prove the Oilers to be prominent contenders in the West this year.

Leafs/Hawks

Toronto and Chicago may have the two best offenses in the league. No club has registered more goals than these two.

You expect these numbers from teams like Chicago, but it’s nice to see a new face in the department. The Leafs scored 19 goals through their first three games and the Hawks notched 18. Both teams met Monday night in a thrilling game between two of the league’s current top tier hockey clubs. Will we see these two link up in late May and early June?

NHL week one review

Photo: SB Nation

The game started out with the Blackhawks jumping out to a 2-0 lead. Toronto would tie it in the third, fall behind 3-2, then tie it on the power play with under five minutes to play.

It headed to overtime where Auston Matthews would net one of the most gorgeous wrist shots you will see as the Leafs took the game 4-3 in overtime. A battle like this can be very telling even at this early stage of a season.

Teams are trying to put points in the bank right now and set themselves up to in good position in the second half. Two points in October is worth the same as two points in March.

The games played to start the year are played with such high energy. This one between the Hawks and Leafs definitely set the precedent of what we hope to see more of as this season progresses.

Alexander is still the great

So, Alexander Ovechkin recorded seven goals in his first two games. He became the first player to do so since the NHL’s inaugural season (1917-18). Alex attributes his two hat tricks to his sister-in-law because “every time she’s in town, like I score a hat trick,” he said (ESPN). His theory proved possible as he was held scoreless Monday night as his sister-in-law traveled back home. Ovy was said to have a down year last season after his 33-goal output which is amazing in itself.

NHL week one review

Photo: ESPN

The three-time MVP has never scored less than 32 goals (even in a shortened season) and has scored 50 or more in seven seasons. His speed is still there and his shot is obviously still there at the age of 32. No one doubts his ability to score and put up points. It is his ability to lead his team to victory and take the next step in his 13th season that is questioned.

The Washington Capitals have finished atop the league standings in each of the past two seasons, but have lost to Pittsburgh in the second round both years. The franchise has yet to reach a conference final in the Ovechkin era.

Therefore, each successful regular season will not be held in high regard until we witness the Capitals take the next step. Alex Ovechkin will still be looked at among the NHL’s elite, but like many of his counterparts, you are judged by wins, losses and championships at the end of the day.

Week one

I did not care for a few of the calls made this past week as I discussed earlier. However, the entertainment value did not diminish in the slightest.

This subtle protection package we have now may be somewhat of a blessing in disguise. There was an exceptional amount of offense this week, which is what we wish to see in all sports. We want to see more homers, touchdowns and goals. It would be very difficult to lessen the excitement of NHL hockey. Week one was a success, can’t wait for the next 35.

Good news is, we don’t have to wait..

 

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An Opening Night To Commemorate

October fourth was opening night of the 2017-18 regular season. Fans are in for another wild ride as no rule enforcement can diminish the hype of NHL hockey (as expected).

Four games were on the docket to start the year. The Toronto Maple Leafs exhibited their potential of being not just young talented upstarts, but a problem in the East. The Edmonton Oilers started their narrative in being among the elite in the West. St. Louis displayed their ability to send pucks to the back of the net with regularity despite their current roster subtractions. Then we further understood Wayne Simmonds’s case as one of the top tier power forwards in the league at the end of the night.

“I hope the rest of the season is as entertaining as it is tonight” said NBCSN color commentator Mike Milbury during last night’s game between St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The first of 82 games for four of 31 teams took place this past Wednesday. League policy issues and corruption is not at all a topic of discussion. Hockey fans are here to enjoy the start of this year’s grind solely. Let the shear passion and insanity commence.

Maple Leafs @ Jets

The lethal youth of the Toronto Maple Leafs surged them into postseason play this past spring. They took the President’s Trophy winning Capitals to six games. Management noted they must add depth and veteran leadership this offseason to take the next step. The Leafs told the rest of the league we’re done with being in rebuild mode in game #1.

opening night

Patrick Marleau nets two in his debut with his new team. Auston Matthews starts his sophomore season off right adding another in the Leafs’s dominant 7-2 win on opening night. Photo Courtesy of Sporting News

Patrick Marleau (38) was among the biggest acquisitions for Toronto in free agency this summer. There was curiosity about whether or not he deserved his 6 million+ average annual salary after his 46-point season last year. Opening night proved he could serve has a much valued find for the Leafs. Marleau scored his 509th and 510th goals of his career helping his new team capture their first two points of the season.

Toronto netted seven goals against the Jets to begin their year. They have solid goaltending in Frederik Anderson, high-octane offense led by their youth and the ability to roll four lines and compete with the league’s best. There is much to like about this new and improved Toronto Maple Leaf squad.

Oilers vs. Flames

The battle of Alberta began the season for the Oilers and Flames in Edmonton. Connor McDavid recorded a hat trick and Cam Talbot recorded a 26-save shutout in a 3-0 win over Calgary.

opening night

The league MVP and Oiler captain found the net and stat sheet 3 times on opening night in Alberta. Not a bad guy to have leading your team. Photo Courtesy of TSN

The rest of the West is taking serious notice to the players in Oil country. They possess the league MVP, four lines with offensive production, sound defense and a top 10 goaltender. All of these parts have Edmonton as a serious contender in the West. I would not want to see them come mid April as McDavid expressed that “it feels good, but we have a long way to go.”

These first two games between the four Canadian teams did not have a great deal of intensity. However, it was a phenomenal showcase of one team near the top of the league and one on its way.

Blues @ Penguins

The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Penguins opened up their season at home against St. Louis. Entertainment value, intensity and a roller coaster of emotion were all in play in this battle.

opening night

The captain of the St. Louis Blues Alex Pietrangelo led by example scoring the game winner in game 1 for the Blues capturing their first two points of the season. Photo Courtesy of the Telegraph

Penguins broke the ice first. St. Louis would then take control up two in the 3rd. Pittsburgh then tied the game with two goals in under a minute and the game moved to overtime. Alex Pietrangelo (Blues captain) iced the game with his 2nd of the night 1:15 into overtime.

This was a clash of two great teams that play similar styles, but at different paces. Each of these teams want to play that up tempo offense with two-way defensemen. Pittsburgh has the edge at the moment with more superstar talent as they are able to take full advantage of their opposition’s mistakes. The Blues have talent and depth, it just comes in less waves at the moment. They were able to be opportunistic and survive the fury of the Penguins late.

Shots were 34-33 in favor of the Blues and their ability to match Pittsburgh shot for shot with their somewhat diminished roster is something to note. St. Louis went toe-to-toe with the defending champs on the road without the likes of Fabbri, Steen, Berglund and Bouwmeester. This a game in which two top tier teams battled and went right down to the wire. Who knows where these two will end up at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs?

Flyers @ Sharks

The final game of the evening took place in the Bay Area as the Sharks hosted the Flyers. A high scoring affair ensued as Philly defeated San Jose 5-3.

Wayne Simmonds started the year off with a bang recording a hat trick, two goals on the power play including the game winner at 9:27 of the 3rd period. The Flyers do need Simmonds to be that elite power forward to get back into postseason along with solid goaltending. It has been a long time since Philadelphia was with a true #1. They may be on their way with Brian Elliott as he stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced receiving the game’s 2nd star.

opening night

Simmonds ices the game with an empty netter completing the hat trick and the first win of the ’17-18 season for the Flyers. Photo Courtesy of NHL.com

I have said hockey is back numerous times, but I’ll say it again. Hockey is back.

 

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The Ultimate Battle

The ultimate battle in hockey is overcoming injuries. A study shows $218 million in salaries is lost each season due to injuries. The research was done three years ago. That number is now greater due to the league’s higher market value.

Franchise players dash their team’s ability to make the postseason or winning it all every year. Sidney Crosby gets hit in the head in consecutive games midway through the season in 2011 turns into a first round exit. Connor McDavid breaks his collar bone last year, which puts the Oilers back in the cellar for one more season. Steven Stamkos’s absence from the ice the last two years has not allowed Tampa to take the next step. Lightning lost in the finals three seasons ago, one game away form the finals two seasons ago and missed the postseason altogether last year.

Hockey is a sport of matchups. Four trios of forwards and 3 pairs of defenseman, which makes chemistry paramount in a team’s success. One injury to a forward or defenseman puts a team’s alignment into a puzzle. However, the reality is that lineups are drastically shaken up throughout the course of the season.

The St. Louis Blues

The faithful in the Gateway to West will be without four top 9 forwards (Steen, Berglund, Sanford, Fabbri) and one defenseman (Bouwmeester) to start the year. However, one of which (Robby Fabbri) has been ruled out for the entire regular and postseason.

ultimate battle

Robby Fabbri had surgery, rehabbed all offseason and was medically cleared in July. A big hit for the 21 year old that was entering a contract year. Photo courtesy by NHL.com

Two rookies (Tage Thompson, Klim Kostin) now have every opportunity to show and prove they belong on the Blues’ roster. Depth was an issue during the playoffs last season as the Blues were ousted in the 2nd round by Nashville. Pressure and responsibility may or may not be what these hungry rookies need, but that is what they are getting. This could shapeup as a very exciting or struggle-filled start to St. Louis’s season.

These injuries have General Manager Doug Armstrong looking at not just the rookies, but potential replacement players to fill the current voids. Jaromir Jagr, a 45 year-old future hall of famer has been discussed as a potential signing. It would most likely come after the olympics if it does happen because of Jagr’s desire to play in the tournament. The #2 all-time scorer has shown he still has enough in the tank to compete as he recorded 16 goals and 30 assists last season.

The Importance of depth

The saying “we gotta roll four lines and bang bodies” is crucial to the success of any hockey club. Contributions must be made by each top 12 forward and top 6 defenseman in a push for the playoffs and run to the Cup. Goons and enforcers are few and far between in today’s NHL. Every line has to have offensive output for a team to win with great regularity.

ultimate battle

Mark Letestu of the Oilers is a 4th liner, but tallied 16 goals last season (11 on the powerplay). Edmonton later made their 1st playoff appearance in 10 seasons. Photo Courtesy of Canoe Sports

Injury occurrence forces reshaping of lines, which reforms game plans. Coaches have to be on their toes and be prepared to battle just like his players. The man in charge on the bench is the most underrated person of value in a hockey game. He is the one who executively decides who goes onto to the ice at every point in time.

Some matchup their lines differently. The home coach gets to decide. Some go with their first line against the opposing team’s 4th line or the opposite. The point is that a coach’s decisions are constantly altered due to the injuries. Mike Yeo (Blues head coach) is facing these challenges all at once before the season even starts, but countless more will follow.

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The New Faces of the League

The New Faces of the League

The new faces of the league have entered the NHL in the last two seasons. These young sensations have “battled” their way into becoming some of the most recognizable faces in the sport. They did not come here to just be in the league either…they are here to take over.

Organizations across the board like Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Buffalo, Detroit and Winnipeg all have youth movements in full swing. Some are still in that rebuild waiting to break through. Teams are bringing more excitement and entertainment value to their cities than ever.

Top-tier talent is becoming more and more prevalent in annual drafts that once structure is in place, teams are taking off. Complete change over has already occurred in Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto. Who’s next?

The Catalyst

The Hart Memorial and Art Ross trophies are for the league’s most valuable player and leading scorer. Both of these honors went to a player (Connor McDavid) playing in his first full season. He became the youngest captain in league history before the season started. This NHL phenom turned 20 midway through last season.

McDavid did more then receive individual accolades. In one year, the Oilers’ captain has transformed the hockey culture in Edmonton. He affirmed the conclusion of the Oiler rebuild last year, leading them to their first postseason appearance in 10 years. According to ESPN, their attendance has gone from 21st to 13th in the last 2 years. The excitement is back in the Gateway of the North, and it’s not leaving any time soon.

McDavid has gone from the NHL’s most highly touted prospect, to the league’s brightest star after playing in just 127 games. The Oilers have come out of the bottom of the league and straight to the top. Edmonton notched 103 points last season (up from 70) and finished seventh in the league’s standings (up from 29th).

McDavid signed an eight-year, $100 million extension this offseason as he and the Oilers look to stick together and be proven contenders this season.

Rising threat for the opposition

Of the top-10 goal scorers during last year’s regular season, half of them were 25 or younger. The No. 3 goal scorer recorded 40 (Auston Matthews) and turned 19 at the start of training camp. Matthews and the No. 7 goal scorer, Patrick Laine (19), were two of the three rookie of the year candidates on this list.

They are no longer looked at as kids waiting their turn. Their overall production is making each of them the faces of the league.

NHL new faces

Patrick Laine (left) and Auston Matthews (right) burst onto the scene in ’16-17. (Photo from NHL.com)

These bright new faces are outperforming Hall-of-Fame caliber players like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. They are younger, faster and fearless.

Confidence is huge in any sport and young players like Matthew Tkachuk (19) have the ability to get under the opposition’s skin. Tkachuk drew reactions out of notable veterans Drew Doughty (and almost every L.A. King) and Brent Burns last season. Every player in the NHL deserves respect, but that doesn’t mean these newcomers will be intimidated.

As a fan, the players you hate are the great ones that do not play for your team. They work hard, they get under your skin and they produce at the same time. These first and second-year players already fit this mold.

Next Chapter in Saga

The New Jersey Devils signed No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft Nico Hischier to a three-year, entry-level deal with an average annual salary of $925,000. He turned 18 this year in early January. So, why wait?

“There’s a spot for him on our team,” Devils general manager Ray Shero told NHL.com. They believe he is a center that is great in all areas of the game, including defense.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed the No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick to a three-year, entry-level contract with the same average annual salary as Hischier with performance bonuses. Barring more setbacks stemming from his recent surgery, the Flyers expect him to compete. Philly general manager Ron Hextall has been decisive about not signing veteran role players and is committed to the youth movement.

NHL new faces

Nico Hischier (left) and Nolan Patrick (right) on draft night. (Photo from NHL.com)

We are one month away from the start of the 2017-2018 regular season. Hockey is coined “the coolest sport on earth” for various reasons. Much of it has to do with the speed and the changes on the fly. With these youth movements in place, we could see an even faster growing game for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Image by Sportsnet

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NHL Awards predictions for the 2016-2017 season

It’s understandable to devote all the attention to tonight’s expansion draft. Lest we not forget, however, that the NHL Awards are happening too.

Perhaps it is mostly because the Vegas Golden Knights’ selections occur during the presentation, but this year’s awards are must-see as a hockey fan. From a heated Norris race to multiple options for the best coach and general manager, the finalists well deserve the recognition. These were tough decisions, but there are very few choices where the voters could err.

The postseason stat awards are already apparent: Connor McDavid collects the Art Ross trophy for the most points, Sidney Crosby the Maurice Richard award for the most goals and Braden Holtby the William Jennings nomination for allowing the fewest tallies.

Off the ice, Columbus’ Nick Foligno bagged two awards: the Mark Messier Leadership Award and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders won the NHL Foundation Player Award.

Will these talented players receive more hardware than they already have? Find out below for the official predictions from The Game Haus.

Hart Trophy – Most Valuable Player

Connor McDavid is nominated for two NHL Awards.

Connor McDavid. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Nominees:

Oilers C Connor McDavid

Penguins C Sidney Crosby

Blue Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky

Crosby has history and hardware on his side in this race. The Pittsburgh star is a two-time Hart winner in 2007 and 2014 while collecting three Stanley Cups and two Conn Smythe Awards. McDavid and Bobrovsky are first-time nominees, with the latter reaching as high as fifth in the voting back in 2013.

The Columbus netminder had a phenomenal season, but this is a two-man race between McDavid and Crosby. McDavid bested Crosby in points even though he scored 14 less goals. The first 100-point season in Edmonton since 1995-96 is no small feat. Sid the Kid was still elite this season with 89 points.

In the end, the award is for the most valuable player. McDavid was absent on the score sheet for consecutive games just twice this year, registering points in 70 games. Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl enjoyed banner years, while Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle also performed well. McDavid’s 70 assists helped everyone’s cause, and his team reached the playoffs because of it.

Prediction: Connor McDavid

Ted Lindsay Award – NHLPA’s Most Outstanding Player

Nominees:

Oilers C Connor McDavid

Penguins C Sidney Crosby

Sharks D Brent Burns

This award seems redundant since it’s basically the MVP with a different voting pool. The only difference from the Hart is the addition of Burns, who had 76 points and 320 shots this season. Burns’ feats will be explained further in the Norris category, but he is undoubtedly worthy of a most outstanding player award. He makes this award tougher to choose.

As mentioned before, McDavid and Crosby each have worthy cases. Crosby is seeking his fourth Lindsay award, which would tie his fellow Penguin Mario Lemieux for second-most all-time. McDavid could be the third overall Oiler to win and the first since Mark Messier in 1990.

In the end, though, this is the same award as the Hart. It’s a difference of voter opinion, but it’s hard to say one clearly deserves one award while another does the other. With that in mind, this goes to the same player as the Hart, who overall was the best player this season.

Prediction: Connor McDavid

Norris Trophy – Best Defenseman

Nominees:

Lightning D Victor Hedman

Senators D Erik Karlsson

Sharks D Brent Burns

Finally, an award that McDavid can’t win! Instead, we get three players who were the backbone of their teams. Although the award technically is for the best defenseman, players over the years get more accolades for their offensive work as well. All three have played that part well this season.

Hedman has never made it to the top three in Norris voting. His 72 points this season and 53.4 percent Corsi rating have vaulted him there. Averaging 24:30 minutes of ice time is stellar. However, he’s not as talented offensively or defensively as Burns or Karlsson, so he likely won’t win.

From here’s it’s a matter of preference. Burns led the league in shots; Ray Bourque was the last defenseman to achieve that mark 22 years ago. Twenty-nine goals and almost 25 minutes of playing time per game are insane, too. He is an impressive shot blocker and a prime two-way talent.

If the award had voting through the postseason, Karlsson would win in a landslide. His postseason performance while injured was tremendous, and his 71 points, 26:50 TOI and 201 blocks are as well. However, the voting doesn’t include postseason performance. Therefore, based on a slightly better season, Karlsson will have to wait to grab his third Norris trophy.

Prediction: Brent Burns

Vezina Trophy – Best Goaltender

Nominees:

Canadiens G Carey Price

Captials G Braden Holtby

Blue Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky

This category features the top two netminders across most of the basic statistics and another who had a 10-game winning streak this season. This is the hardest player award to predict based on how close two nominees are.

First off, Carey Price will likely not win. That winning streak is impressive, and a 2.23 GAA and .923 save percentage are too. However, they dwarf in comparison to Holtby and Bobrovsky. While he carried his team to an Atlantic Division title, Washington and Columbus had better seasons. Price was great, his competition is better.

As for that competition, it’s difficult to firmly say one was better than the other. Consider Holtby’s stats: league-leading 42 wins and nine shutouts alongside a 2.07 GAA and .925 save percentage. Now, match them with Bobrovsky’s numbers: 41 wins and seven shutouts, with a league-leading 2.06 GAA and .931 save percentage. How do you decide who was better when the stats are so close?

The deciding factor may come down to the Bob’s 14-game winning streak in December. He had another seven-game unbeaten stretch. Holtby’s best was a 14-game stretch without losing in regulation. This isn’t the best tiebreaker, but voters may have put more weight.

Prediction: Sergei Bobrovsky

Calder Trophy – Best Rookie

Auston Matthews can win the first of what could be many NHL Awards

Auston Matthews. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Nominees:

Jets RW Patrik Laine

Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews

Blue Jackets D Zach Werenski

While the Hart and the Vezina are close, this one is more clear-cut. Matthews was the favorite the moment Toronto drafted him first overall in last year’s draft, but Laine and Werenski made it tougher for voters this season.

Laine scored 36 goals in his inaugural season with Winnipeg, leading the team and finishing second amongst rookies. He did it all at 18 years old. Werenski, meanwhile, was quietly the best rookie defenseman and a quality blue liner in general. He notched 47 points and was a +17 on the ice. He had more points his rookie season than Rick Nash. That’s insane to realize.

Unfortunately for both, Matthews had a special year in the NHL. This was apparent the moment he scored four times on Opening Night. He tallied 40 goals and 69 points on the season, leading the Leafs into the playoffs this season. This is an easy choice.

Prediction: Auston Matthews

Selke Award – Best Defensive Forward

Nominees:

Wild C Mikko Koivu

Bruins C Patrice Bergeron

Ducks C Ryan Kesler

There’s a mix of former nominees and newcomers for the Selke. Bergeron has won it three times and nominated three more times. Kesler won in 2011 and has finished in the top three in five total instances. Koivu is a first-time finalist who’s finished as high as fourth in voting.

Koivu had more blocked shots than points with 65 and 58 points. Kesler won over 57 percent of his faceoffs and ranked third in the NHL as a forward with an average time of 21:18 on the ice. He is likely the toughest one of the bunch to go against one-on-one.

The toughest out of all of them this year, however, as Bergeron, who did everything on the ice. He may have had fewer points, but he had more faceoff wins than Kesler (1,089 to be exact) and was more efficient in the circles. Bergeron goes up against many top lines and creates havoc on the ice. He can match Bob Gainey as the only four-time Selke winners.

Prediction: Patrice Bergeron

Other NHL Awards Predictions

Lady Byng Award for Most Gentlemanly Player – Wild C Mikael Granlund. Every nominee was a first-timer, so this is a toss-up. However, if you go 27 games without being called for a penalty, you need some kind of recognition.

Masterson Trophy for Dedication to Hockey – Senators G Craig Anderson. Easy money. His wife overcame cancer and he was lights out during her battle. The best story of the NHL this past year had a happy ending and follows up with a happy epilogue.

Jack Adams Award for Best Head Coach – Toronto’s Mike Babcock. All three candidates (Todd McLellan of Edmonton and John Tortorella of Columbus) turned around mediocre teams into playoff contenders. But did anyone expect the Leafs to go to the playoffs? Babcock created the right winning culture.

NHL General Manager of the Year – Nashville’s David Poile. His team’s run to its first Stanley Cup Final didn’t count in voting; it didn’t need to anyway. His offseason acquisition of P.K. Subban electrified the team.

 

Feature image courtesy of Cali Sports News

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Thrilling Ducks-Oilers Series Ends with Decisive Game 7

To Mark Letestu and the Edmonton Oilers fans, the open net looked as tantalizing as it did the four other times.

Rogers Place erupted after Letestu’s goal gave the Oilers a 5-0 lead over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 last Sunday. The offensive outburst solidified an eventual 7-1 win for Edmonton, knotting the series at three games apiece. Fans were excited enough for the win, but even more so for the consequences of it: Game 7 of what has been a thrilling series.

The Edmonton-Anaheim battle has had historic comebacks, unlikely heroes and highlight-reel goals from tremendous talents. As predicted here at The Game Haus, it’s a no-brainer why this series is going to seven games.

As the series opened in California for Game 1, the physicality and grit was apparent. Two of the best-hitting teams in the NHL battered each other on the boards, leading to very few opportunities for either side.

It was a 1-1 tie heading into the third period before both teams turned up the intensity. Edmonton defenseman Adam Larsson, the marquee acquisition for general manager Peter Chiarelli last offseason, notched two of the Oilers’ four goals in the period.

His tally with 4:40 remaining in a 3-3 contest gave Edmonton a much-needed win on the road. Larsson scored just four goals all season. He was the source of firepower Edmonton didn’t expect, but certainly welcomed.

Outdoing themselves, Edmonton secured another road win in Game 2 thanks to Cam Talbot. Anaheim was relentless on the attack for a full 60 minutes, finding ways to shoot from anywhere on the ice. But Cam Talbot was sensational in the affair, posting 39 saves in a 2-1 victory.

Despite playing well in the first two games, the Ducks were in a 2-0 hole. They had only lost 12 games at home in the regular season, the third-fewest in the league. However, they were in this spot in the final weeks of the season.

Slumping atop the division while Edmonton gained ground in the standings, Anaheim went on a tear to close out the year. It would do the same north of the border.

Ryan Getzlaf took over in the first period of Game 3, tallying a goal and an assist to put the Ducks on top 3-0. He’s moved the puck well throughout the offensive zone, but that doesn’t come as a surprise. He’s also managed to fight his way to the net facing a ton of pressure from Edmonton, and he finds a way through. His performance set the tone at the start of the affair.

Even though the Oilers came back from a three-goal deficit, Jakob Silfverberg took over in the third. These two were instrumental in the Ducks’ comeback in the series at a time where Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler got off to slow starts.

Ducks-Oilers Game 7

Photo courtesy of USA Today/photo by Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press via AP

Getzlaf and Silfverberg continued to excel in Game 4. The Oilers scored twice in the first, including a beautiful snipe from wunderkind Connor McDavid.

But Getzlaf willed the Ducks with two goals and three points in the second for a 3-2 Anaheim advantage.

Edmonton answered at the 18:18 mark in the third thanks to Drake Caggiula, of all people.

Getzlaf and Silfverberg picked up goalie John Gibson, though, connecting for the overtime winner 45 seconds into the extra frame and tying the series. These occurrences set the precedents for what became a best-of-three series: the road team is king and no lead is safe.

Speaking of unsafe leads, Game 5 in Anaheim was arguably the wildest game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. McDavid, Caggiula and Leon Draisaitl lit the lamp in the second period. Talbot stood on his head the entire game.

But with 3:16 to go, one of the most improbable comebacks began. Anaheim scored twice and then a questionable goaltender interference no-call led to Rickard Rakell’s equalizer with 15 seconds left. Replays showed Kesler at least made contact with Talbot’s pad before he tried to save the puck.

Despite the missed call, the game went to double overtime before Corey Perry, who was phenomenal all night, sent the loyal Ducks fans home happy. Anaheim led the series 3-2 before Edmonton’s Game Six thrashing.

Hockey fans have seen it all in six games as fans of both teams have seen enough tense moments. There’s just one more tonight in Anaheim, though home ice hasn’t helped either team much here. Here are important keys for each team.

Ducks-Oilers Game 7

Cam Talbot. Photo courtesy of Newsday/photo by Codie McLachlan, Getty Images

EDMONTON: Stopping Ryan Getzlaf is next to impossible. The Oilers need to pay attention to him, but limiting those around him will make the most difference on defense. This also means helping Cam Talbot as much as possible. The blue liners have to clear pucks out from in front. If Talbot from the last two games shows up, then the Oilers have a chance.

ANAHEIM: Special teams needs to get going. After a top five penalty kill in the regular season, the Ducks have allowed seven power play goals. On the flip side, their power play is 0-for-15 since Game Two. They got here with strong special teams and they have the talent, but they need to execute tonight.

Regardless of the keys, this game can go either way. McDavid versus Getzlaf has been enjoyable to watch. The game should be the same.

 

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Pacific Division, NHL, Playoffs, Michael Stone, Brian Elliott, Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes, Brad Treliving, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thorton, Peter Deboer, Dwight King, Jerome Iginla, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Chad Johnson, Dougie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid, David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Mantha, Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy

Pacific Division Playoff Predictions

With the trade deadline firmly in the rear view mirror NHL teams have officially hit the ‘stretch.’ The race for third place is on. If your team can’t quite manage to place third or higher, then you’ll have to fight it out for a wild card spot.

Take a look at the Pacific Division and you’ll see a set of standings still relatively up for grabs. Outside of the Arizona Coyotes making the playoffs, just about anything could happen.

So with that in mind, please enjoy these Pacific Division Playoff Predictions.

SHARKS WIN THE DIVISION

Last year head coach Peter Deboer took the San Jose Sharks all the way to the Stanley Cup finals only to lose in six to the Pittsburgh Penguins. But, this year, while the Penguins continue to struggle through injury woes and scoring slumps, the Sharks are as strong as ever.

Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Pacific Division, NHL, Playoffs, Michael Stone, Brian Elliott, Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes, Brad Treliving, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thorton, Peter Deboer, Dwight King, Jerome Iginla, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Chad Johnson, Dougie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid, David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Mantha, Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy

Photo credit: NHL.com.

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Brent Burns will win the Norris Trophy this year. He has been putting up points at an unbelievable pace. Not only does he lead all defensemen in points (66) but he leads the entire League in shots on goal. Burns inked an eight year, eight-million-dollar contract extension back in November and is proving he’s worth every cent of that contract thus far.

One cannot talk about the success of the Sharks without mentioning big Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau. The two veterans have consistently brought calm and stability to the team. Marleau is looking rather Jagr-esque as his career point total continues to climb into the astronomical. And while Thorton may not be putting up points like Marleau, what he lacks in scoring he makes up for as a play maker. On top of this, his locker room presence is unparalleled on the Sharks roster – maybe in the whole league.

On the back end, Martin Jones has been nothing less than stellar. Jones sports a 2.28 goals against average and a .915 save percentage, which are slightly below his career average. But at 30-15-6, Jones and the Sharks have been cruising through the first 63 games with ease.

Not to be too complacent with their position in the standings, the Sharks went out and acquired Jannik Hansen from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline. The versatile Danish right winger has had an injury mired campaign so far but was good for 22 goals last season. He ought to be a lethal weapon for the Sharks no matter where they slide him into the lineup.

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The Sharks have been absolutely ruthless at home, with a record of 19-7-4 at the SAP Center [CHECK AFTER 1030 GAME TONIGHT]. Look for this trend to continue as the team settles in for a six game home stand starting March 9 against the League leading Washington Capitals.

San Jose will win the Pacific Division.

ANAHEIM FOLLOWS CLOSE BEHIND

As the trade deadline approached many speculated that Anaheim’s general manager Bob Murray might try to make some moves. Particularly with the high quantity of high quality young defensemen holding down the Ducks’ blue line. But Murray stood firm. This was a bit of a surprise because, in the face of June’s impending expansion draft, the Ducks could potentially lose the bulk of their back end to the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Instead of selling, though, Murray went shopping. And bought himself one of the best beards in the League; Patrick Eaves.

Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Pacific Division, NHL, Playoffs, Michael Stone, Brian Elliott, Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes, Brad Treliving, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thorton, Peter Deboer, Dwight King, Jerome Iginla, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Chad Johnson, Dougie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid, David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Mantha, Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy

Photo credit: NHL.com

In 54 games with the Dallas Stars last season Eaves put up 11 goals and 17 points. This season, in 60 games so far, the winger has managed a career best 21 goals and 37; 11 of those coming on the power play. The versatile winger could conceivably find himself playing alongside All-Star duo Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, a role which has proven notoriously hard to fill for the Ducks, though the two have been split up as of late. Regardless of where Eaves finds himself in the lineup, the 32 year old winger certainly improves the Ducks’ outlook heading down the stretch.

The addition of Eaves gives the Ducks some impressive depth on the front end, but their play as of late has been less than dominant as they head into their bye week. The San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers may continue to win while Anaheim take their break but the Ducks will return well rested, ready to go, and with games in hand.

On the back end, John Gibson has been a reliable net minder to say the least. Prior to his being placed on the injured reserve list (February 25), Gibson held a respectable 23-15-8 record with a 2.24 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Backup Jonathan Bernier has been less than perfect in Gibson’s absence. He’s dropped two of the team’s last three, including a 2-3 loss against the Arizona Coyotes, the League’s worst team.

Gibson is expected back after the bye week.

Still, with the sturdy defensive core on the blue line and All-Star depth up front that the Ducks sport they ought to finish strong down the stretch.

Anaheim will place second in the Pacific Division.

EDMONTON TAKES THIRD

Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Pacific Division, NHL, Playoffs, Michael Stone, Brian Elliott, Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes, Brad Treliving, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thorton, Peter Deboer, Dwight King, Jerome Iginla, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Chad Johnson, Dougie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid, David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Mantha, Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images.

Connor McDavid is a stud. No doubt about it. But McDavid cannot carry this team into the playoffs and hoist Lord Stanley all by himself. No.

If the Oilers make the playoffs this year, and I predict they will, they still lack the depth and grit to really go very far. Down the final stretch of the regular season, depth and grit can take a team pretty far. But general manager Peter Chiarelli is confident with his squad, stating that the team is already ahead of where he thought they’d be this year; exceeding expectations.

That said, Chiarelli made very few moves at the deadline.

In return for defenseman Brandon Davidson, the Edmonton Oilers received undersized center David Desharnais from the Montreal Canadiens. Desharnais is a small, third or fourth line center. In some ways he helps with the depth issue the Oilers face but on the other hand his addition does nothing to address the team’s size issues.

A trade for minor leaguerers with the New York Rangers has brought former Minnesota Wild player Justin Fontaine to the Oilers as well. In addition to the acquisition of Desharnais and Fontaine, Chiarelli also signed overage junior defenseman Ryan Mantha. Fontaine was traded to the Rangers last year but didn’t see any ice time with the club. Mantha, a former fourth round pick of the Rangers, captains the Niagara Ice Dogs. The 20-year-old will join to the Oilers’ farm club, the Bakersfield Condors.

Needless to say, the Oilers didn’t do much to improve their chances down the stretch. But in all honesty, they aren’t ready to compete for the cup so any big additions at the deadline would have only been in vein.

Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Pacific Division, NHL, Playoffs, Michael Stone, Brian Elliott, Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes, Brad Treliving, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thorton, Peter Deboer, Dwight King, Jerome Iginla, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Chad Johnson, Dougie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid, David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Mantha, Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy

Photo credit: Sergei Belski, USA Today Sports.

The Oilers lack depth at nearly every position. Their blue line is atrocious. And, really, their only redeeming features are their All-Star captain and ridiculously over-performing goaltender.

McDavid is leading the League in points (72) while Cam Talbot is second – only to Devan Dubnyk – in wins among goaltenders. While these two may very well continue to shine in their own right, it’s not likely that the team as a whole will continue to thrive as a whole.

Down the stretch, Edmonton’s weak defense will catch up with them. Their lack of depth in all positions, including in net, will hurt them as they compete for a playoff spot. They will slip out of contention, but fear not they will make the playoffs.

Edmonton will place third in the Pacific Division.

CALGARY CAPTURES A WILDCARD SPOT

Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Pacific Division, NHL, Playoffs, Michael Stone, Brian Elliott, Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes, Brad Treliving, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thorton, Peter Deboer, Dwight King, Jerome Iginla, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Chad Johnson, Dougie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid, David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Mantha, Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy

Photo credit: Will Nault.

Though fans of either team would be loath to admit it, Calgary and Edmonton are a lot alike. They are both Albertan teams well within playoff reach but unlikely to make much of it.

The Flames currently sit in fourth place in the Pacific Division and hold a five-point lead over the Central Division’s St. Louis Blues for the first wild card spot. They are also only two points away from third in the Pacific.

Certainly, the Flames are in much better shape than they were this time last year. Stability has finally reappeared in net for the Flames. The offseason additions of goaltenders Chad Johnson and Brian Elliott appear to be paying off as of late. Elliott’s won his last four starts, including a 2-1 win in overtime against the Las Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.

But general manager Brad Treliving wasn’t content with his team as the deadline loomed. He went out and added former Arizona Coyote defenseman Michael Stone along with former Ottawa Senator Curtis Lazar. These moves add considerable depth to the relatively thin Flames’ lineup.

Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Pacific Division, NHL, Playoffs, Michael Stone, Brian Elliott, Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes, Brad Treliving, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thorton, Peter Deboer, Dwight King, Jerome Iginla, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Chad Johnson, Dougie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid, David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Mantha, Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy

Photo credit: Frederick Breedon, Getty Images.

Stone is already fitting in well with his new squad, with an average time on ice of over 20 minutes a game. He rounds out a defensive core which boasts the likes of Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and T.J. Brodie; three blue liners who have been impressive thus far this season.

Lazar, the 17th overall pick of 2013, has failed to live up to expectations following a terrific junior career in the WHL. But the former first round pick isn’t pessimistic about the way his career has panned out. In an interview with TSN on Wednesday, Lazar stated that he was excited to be joining the Flames and that he sees himself as more of a Western Conference player anyway.

While the Flames’ struggles early in the season will prohibit them from gaining enough ground to fight for a true playoff spot, they are trending up.

Calgary will finish fourth in the Pacific Division, capturing the first wild card spot.

KINGS COME UP SHORT

Now that Jarome Iginla has been traded to the Los Angeles Kings, who doesn’t want to see the Kings go on an unbelievable run, upset the world, and win the Stanley Cup just for Iggy? Okay, maybe not Ducks or Sharks fans. But believe you me, there are a lot of Iggy admirers out there who’d love to see the veteran make one more run at the big show.

But it won’t happen.

Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Pacific Division, NHL, Playoffs, Michael Stone, Brian Elliott, Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes, Brad Treliving, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thorton, Peter Deboer, Dwight King, Jerome Iginla, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Chad Johnson, Dougie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid, David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Mantha, Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy

Photo credit: Canadian Press.

The Kings just don’t have what it takes. They’ve managed an impressive season considering the fact that they’ve been without their All-Star, Con Smythe Trophy winning, two-time Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup winning goaltender Jonathan Quick for the majority of the season. Now that Quick has returned the Kings are poised to make a run at the playoffs but it’s a little too late for a resurgence now.

With roughly 20 games left in the season it will take a lot of luck and hard work for the Kings to make the playoffs, let alone make a run for the cup. Ben Bishop was acquired at the deadline to help in net but you can’t play two at the same time. Bishop will ride the pine while the Kings hold their breath and hope Quick doesn’t re-aggravate his injury.

By shipping winger Dwight King to Montreal, the Kings lose depth and grit they ostensibly plan on replacing with the presence of Iginla. But what quality does Iginla bring to the team besides a veteran presence? In truth, not much. Can he still put up points and will he be able to keep pace? Likely not.

The Kings will come up short of the playoffs this year.

Los Angeles will finish fifth in the Pacific Division.

VANCOUVER AND ARIZONA

These two teams will not make the playoffs. Not by a long shot.

The Vancouver Canucks have officially entered full rebuild mode. What they have tried to accomplish with their squad was admirable but the experiment has ultimately failed. As if to add injury to insult the team has recently been hit by a case of the mumps. Remember parents, vaccinate your kids.

Vancouver will finish sixth in the Pacific Division.

The Arizona Coyotes can file this year away with the rest of their bottom of the barrel finishes. With poor performances like that of the young Anthony Duclair, injuries, and poor asset management as the trade deadline, the Coyotes won’t likely be playoff contenders for a few more years yet.

Arizona will finish seventh in  the Pacific Division.

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Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Are you Pro-lympic?

How many superstars does it take to get to the Olympics? Heck if I know. But there’s one more name to throw into the growing mix of opinions that is the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill, Associate Press.

Connor McDavid came out as Pro-lympic over the All-Star weekend.

McDavid made explicit his views on NHL participation saying, “100 percent they should go. I couldn’t really picture an Olympics without it, to be honest,” McDavid said.

To be able to compete in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea would be a dream come true for the young phenom according to Postmedia.

McDavid is just one of many calling for Olympic participation on behalf of the players. Alex Ovechkin has never been shy on the matter, stating repeatedly his intention to play for Russia regardless of the NHL’s stance. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has stood by his franchise forward, fully supporting Ovechkin’s decision.

But not all owners support sending its biggest players and money makers, halfway across the globe to compete in an event from which they do not profit.

We didn’t need McDavid to remind us about the Olympic confusion, though. Commissioner Gary Bettman very clearly, and carefully, explained exactly where they are on the issue.

Nowhere.

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press.

Bettman made sure to interrupt the painfully slow All-Star extravaganza to tell the fans that himself and the owners have spent almost no time discussing the issue at all. In fact, there is a good chance that Bettman spent more time talking about the Olympics this weekend than the entirety of the NHL brass has in total.

Just to recap: Last year the International Olympic Comittee announced they would no longer foot the bill for travel and insurance costs; roughly $10-20 million dollars.

So, Bettman and the NHL approached the NHL Players Association with a deal.

In return for the NHL fronting the travel and insurance bills, suffering the revenue losses, and risking their most valuable assets to injury, the NHLPA was asked to extend the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, thereby waiving their opt-out clause in 2019; extending the current CBA well into the future and ensuring players the opportunity to play international hockey for another two Olympics.

This proposal was categorically shot down by the NHLPA.

The International Ice Hockey Federation, meanwhile, pledged to raise the money for the NHL. However, Bettman politely declined citing that the NHL could not accept money that would otherwise be spent on grass roots funding and growing the game.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr provided brief shimmer of hope saying in a statement,

I’m more optimistic now than I have ever been, at least as far as we’re concerned, that we’ll be able to reach an appropriate agreement with the IIHF to allow for the players to go.

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today Sports.

And that was that. Until Bettman made sure to tell the masses just how little the NHL has been working to make things happen.

In essence, the issue is really quite simple.

If NHL players go, the Olympics will be better, but the League will lose some money.

If the NHL players don’t go, the Olympics will be much worse and the NHL will carry on as normal.

Repeatedly, Gary Bettman and the owners have stated that because the games are so far away they have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Given the League’s mandate to grow the game, these statements seem to directly contravene Gary Bettman and the NHL’s obligation to youth around the world.

And this is the part where we all realize that the NHL isn’t soft and cuddly. It’s not your childhood best friend or the buddy you hang out with every Saturday night. It may be the game you grew up playing, but it isn’t your game.

The NHL is business, it’s a corporation. A corporation who seemingly has little to no interest in whatever market might exist in the 2018 Pyeonchang Winter Olympics.

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Photo credit: Getty Images

The NHL may believe they can only lose by going to Pyeongchang, but they also have something to lose by not participating as well.

The fans have called for their favorite players, in many cases their countrymen, to compete; repeatedly. Players have pledged allegiance to the Olympics, and superstars at that. The IIHF has even offered to empty their coffers for the cause. But Bettman and the owners have not budged an inch.

If the NHL declines to participate it will result in a serious blow to their integrity.

Bettman has made few friends of fans during his tenure as NHL commissioner, though. Through three lockouts and countless berating and belittling boo’s, the thick skinned commissioner takes his orders from a higher power; the board of governors.

As a result, Bettman is unlikely to put much stock in the thoughts and feelings of the NHL’s true money makers; its fans.

As it stands, there’s not much too much to be optimistic about with regards to seeing our favorite players compete for their countries next winter.

For what it’s worth, though, the NHL has not set a timeline for their decision. So anything is possible.

 

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Brent Burns, Alexander Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Forward, Defenseman, Shots on Goal

Brent Burns is a Beautiful Beast

Brent Burns, Alexander Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Forward, Defenseman, Shots on Goal

Photo credit: Mark Humphrey, American Press.

Brent Burns is both a beauty and a beast.

Drafted in the first round (20th overall) by the Minnesota Wild, Burns was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2011. The hulking blue liner has spent 12 seasons in the NHL, played in 837 games, and accumulated 462 points in that span.

Still, it appears that the Brent Burns show has just begun.

Though the 6’ 5”, 200 lb blue liner has been all the rage around Norris Trophy water cooler conversations this year, Burns has not always been the elite defenseman he is today.

In fact, it wasn’t until he was drafted by the Minnesota Wild that Burns began to play defense. If it weren’t for Jacques Lemaire – Minnesota’s Head Coach at the time – Burns may never had adapted his game for the blue line. But he did. Earning himself a spot on the Wild’s blue line.

Arm chair General Managers have long known of Burns’ value. Fantasy hockey league’s (like that of Yahoo or ESPN) have in the past listed him as both a defenseman and a forward; providing invaluable mobility to make-believe rosters across this great land.

More recently, though, especially since being traded to San Jose, Burns had made the blue line his permanent position. He is no longer available as a forward in fantasy leagues but that has hardly affected his offensive output.

Having finished last season’s 2015/16 campaign with an incredible 27 goals, 48 assists, and 75 points, Burns came in third on the ballet for Norris Trophy votes.

This year, however, is different.

He is among one of the best in his position, accumulating more 5 on 5 points than any other defenseman in the league this year. He also leads the position in goals and is currently on pace to eclipse his point total from last year. With 15 goals, 24 assists, and 39 points Burns boasts a league leading 160 shots on goal.

I repeat, a LEAGUE leading 160 shots on goal. A stat line all the more impressive when you realize that he has accomplished all of this from the blue line.

To put it in perspective, Burns has more shots on goal than some of the league’s most elite shooters; including the likes of Alexander Ovechkin (151), Patrick Kane (138), and Connor McDavid (123).

But Brent Burns is oh so much more than your typical hockey player.

His personality is larger than life.

With a beard bigger than father time’s and fewer teeth and a four-year old, Burns has what many would call a magnetic personality.

He is a self-proclaimed animal lover, he and his Lake Elmo home (nicknamed the Burns Zoo) was even a subject of CBC’s “Inside Hockey.”

Active on twitter, @Burzie88 never disappoints.

 

 

 

His most recent exploits has the toothless wonder team up with Subway to scare the sh*t out of customers and fans.

 

 

On the ice, Brent Burns is a force to be reckoned with. Off the ice he is just a big teddy bear.

Brent Burns is both a beauty and a beast.

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