New York Islanders arena uncertainty still apparent

Suppose you lived in an apartment. It had its bumps and bruises, but it was yours, and you lived there your entire life. However, your landlord kicks you out because the landlord can’t agree on how to renovate the building. So, you move to another apartment.

This apartment, as new as it is, doesn’t exactly fit your family, plus your relatives live farther away. You can opt out of the building after a certain time, but where would you go?

Here’s the kicker: the landlord wants you to come back, but wants you to live in a complex that isn’t built yet. You could move back to your old apartment, but despite a renovation, it doesn’t accommodate you as well anymore.

This is a complicated situation, for sure. Welcome the New York Islanders arena conundrum. For a team that seeks a perfect fit, none of its options are without drawbacks, and the uncertainty is hurting the team’s look.

The Islanders Arena Predicament

The Islanders relationship with its home arena, Barclays Center, is not working out. According to ESPN, the Isles had the third-lowest average home attendance last season at 13,101 fans. Players and patrons have spoken out about the rough commute to Brooklyn. The ice is terrible; Cal Clutterbuck and former employees Kyle Okposo and Jack Capuano have all publicly criticized the playing surface.

With a perfect storm of issues, the two sides can opt out of the 25-year deal next January. Newsday’s Jim Baumbach and Robert Brodsky say the Islanders have a choice to leave after next season or in 2019. Barclays Center can evict the Isles if they initiate the opt-out.

The Islanders have other options for a new arena should they choose to leave Brooklyn. They could return to the Nassau Coliseum or build new arenas in Flushing or Belmont Park. The problem is, there are too many gray areas surrounding their options.

The new Nassau Coliseum is not in major contention yet to be the Islanders arena

NYCB Live, better known as the Nassau Coliseum. Photo courtesy of Goldstar Events.

Interestingly enough, Nassau and Suffolk County are urging the Islanders to return to the Nassau Coliseum. The county legislatures will hold a press conference on Friday to urge the team to return to its original home once they, according to Newsday, make “unspecified ‘modifications’”.

However, it’s unlikely the Islanders return back to a shrunken arena. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is adamant that the coliseum’s current 13,000-seat capacity isn’t sufficient for hockey games. The Islanders could’ve stayed years ago before the Nassau County government let them walk. This is already a long shot from the get-go.

They could build a new arena in the same area as Citi Field in Queens, but there is too much litigation surrounding the property to consider it a viable option.

At this stage, Belmont Park is the best option for a different Islanders arena. Even then, there are still many obstacles.

The Belmont Dilemma

On Monday, the town of Elmont held a Belmont Park redevelopment listening session for residents. Over 300 residents attended with a few dozen citizens expressing their interest.

While many were hoping for clarity after the meeting, it was a range of emotions. Some in the crowd, per Baumbach’s Twitter page, were in favor of the arena because it would bring the Islanders back, create jobs and possibly establish a year-round Long Island Rail Road station.

Others, however, believed that it would hamper the local economy long-term, contributing only minimum wage employment. One speaker said that it would also use too many law enforcement officials from the community.

When the dust settled on the meeting, there was only one consensus: there is a divide in support for a new Islanders arena at Belmont Park and is in no way a surefire deal.

The land around Belmont Park could be used for an Islanders arena

An aerial of Belmont Park. Photo by Newsday’s Kevin P. Coughlin.

The Islanders’ Next Home

The blue and orange are in a bind, with these three tangible options for a home arena presenting debilitating flaws. Barclays Center’s ice and location isn’t privy to the players and the fans. The Nassau Coliseum is too small and the NHL doesn’t support it. Belmont Park has critics, and a new stadium will take years to build anyway.

Surrounding all of this arena drama is the fate of the Isles’ franchise player, John Tavares. He has one year remaining on his deal before he hits free agency. The Islanders wish to extend him, but Tavares is reportedly willing to wait. One of the reasons, says Arthur Staple, is he wants to see where the Isles will play long-term.

While it’s impossible to say if that is a legitimate reason Tavares is waiting, it holds merit. Conventional wisdom is that a captain wants to know where he plays out the rest of his career. The uncertainty makes the franchise a tough sell. The Islanders are in a tight spot because of that, and if Tavares doesn’t sign, then expect a monumental revolt from the fandom.

The Islanders arena confusion is harming the team’s reputation. It is a shame that none of the realistic options for a home fit perfectly at the moment. If they stay in Brooklyn, Barclays Center improves the ice and the LIRR eases the commute. If Belmont Park gets approved, hopefully the public warms up to it and the arena gets built quickly with a better train station than it has now.

For a family, a home or apartment needs to benefit the tenants. The Islanders family needs the same from the arena it will play in three years from now.

 

Feature image courtesy of the NY Daily News/Photo by Bruce Bennett, Getty Images.

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Justin Williams free agency: Drawing interest as productive veteran

Justin Williams is going to get a ton of money, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

At 35 years old, Williams is on the final years of his NHL career. With the way he played last year, one wouldn’t know he’s on the wrong side of 30.

Last season, the 16-year veteran tallied 24 goals and 48 points in his second season with the Washington Capitals. According to Hockey Reference, he had his highest career shooting percentage at 14.4 percent. His Corsi and Fenwick ratings were both above 50 percent, signaling that the Caps possessed the puck well with Williams on the ice.

Williams’ contract with Washington expired, and with T.J. Oshie and Dmitry Orlov signing deals, it is unlikely the right winger reunites with them in the nation’s capital. And so, he hits the open market, presenting a quandary for front offices: how many years and how much money do we give an aging player who’s still producing?

Justin Williams’ Value

Justin Williams free agency

Williams won two of his three Stanley Cups with Los Angeles. Photo by Victor Decolongon, Getty Images.

He has the most value in his overall experience in the postseason. In 140 playoff games, he’s notched 94 points while winning three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe trophy in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

During that postseason, Williams scored nine goals and 16 assists. Even as the elder statesman with the Capitals this past year, he recorded nine points in 13 games. As perplexing as it is to outsiders, players and fans know that Justin Williams is reliable in the playoffs.

Justin Williams can help any team that needs a championship-caliber player with his playoff expertise. Combine his resumé with need and teams should fork over the dough to sign him.

Justin Williams’ Cap Hit and the RW Market

Looking at the rest of the free agent market, he can sign at about any time that he wants. Williams is the second-best right wing on the block. Alexander Radulov is the top name on the right side, but they’re both different players at different points in their careers.

Radulov enjoyed a breakout campaign with Montreal after a stint in the KHL. At 30 years old, he still has a handful of good years left. Teams are likely to ink him to a longer deal than Williams. Radulov will go to a team that wants him for the long haul. Williams should sign around a two to three-year deal.

The Capitals paid Williams a modest $3.25 million the past two seasons, per CapFriendly. He hasn’t made more than $4 million in his career. Based on his overall recent production, he should achieve that milestone. Justin Williams can use his play at an old age as leverage to raise the monetary value. Teams will balk at 35 years old. Anything more than three years is excessive. Two or three years, until his skating and his scoring declines, are the fairest lengths for both sides.

Justin Williams free agency prospects

Justin Williams has his own list of coveted places. His list is reportedly down to three, though it is unsure what those teams are. Yesterday, TSN’s Darren Dreger listed Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and the New York Islanders as teams interested in him (he said the quoted tweet is incorrect so it has nothing to do with his commentary).

The Islanders are looking to add another productive scorer as they look to return to the playoffs. CapFriendly says they have $9 million to play with in cap, so they won’t pursue another big free agent if Williams signs there. Plus, they’d have to shuffle their lineup to accommodate him. Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Josh Ho-Sang and Cal Clutterbuck are all right wingers. Williams would have to slot elsewhere or the Isles have to swap someone on the roster.

Justin Williams free agency

Justin Williams may join the orange and white next year instead of roughing them up. Photo by Rob Carr, Getty Images.

Would Justin Williams return to the city where he made his NHL debut? The Flyers have slightly more cap room than the Islanders, but still less than $10 million. However, Williams is a great fit for a team that needs to replace Brayden Schenn’s output. Williams can fit on the second or third line and help a team with postseason potential. Philadelphia is an up and coming team. With Williams’ veteran leadership, he can push them over the top in a daunting Metro Division.

Of these three teams, Tampa Bay makes the most sense. Williams would be their best winger not named Nikita Kucherov. With over $20 million in cap space, the Lightning can afford to overpay him while not restricting their budget. If that’s what it takes for Tampa to replenish their forwards, then they should’ve already been on the phone when midnight struck today.

Justin Williams, at 35 years old, is still a capable NHL player and is one of the better free agent options. Word is he wants to stay in the East, though it’s unknown what teams he is interested in playing for. Whichever team he signs with, they will pay big bucks to land him, but receive a valuable piece for it.

 

Feature image by Nick Wass, AP/Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

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Grades for the latest NHL trades

Browsing social media this week, hockey fans were champing at the bit for newsworthy NHL trades. There were minor deals as the expansion draft passed, and the suspense only grew as the NHL Draft approached.

It’s safe to say that the fans got their wishes.

The past two days have featured former first round picks, backup goaltenders and Stanley Cup champions. If that wasn’t enough, there are likely more coming even before free agency hits on July 1. Until that happens, let’s analyze the top NHL trades that went down before the draft.

Golden Knights ship Trevor van Riemsdyk to Hurricanes

Trevor’s time in Vegas was short-lived, as the expansion team acquired a 2017 second round pick for trading him and a 2018 seventh round selection.

van Riemsdyk is a young asset heading to a younger team. One needs perspective when analyzing his season. He missed time with an upper-body injury which underscored his stats. Still, he was +17 with 100 blocks and 16 points in 58 games.

The former Blackhawk joins three former teammates in Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom and Scott Darling. Perhaps that can help his transition. He’s a capable right-handed shot that helps Carolina get younger and faster. Vegas adds another high draft pick to build their team.

Grade: B+ for Carolina, B for Vegas

Oilers and Islanders swap Jordan Eberle and Ryan Strome

Jordan Eberle was the first of what Isles fans hope to be more NHL trades.

Jordan Eberle heads to the Big Apple. Photo by Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images.

New York getting Eberle long seemed inevitable, but it was intriguing how it occurred. It was a one-for-one swap after many reports had Edmonton seeking a prospect or draft picks.

This was an excellent move from Isles general manager Garth Snow. He paid a heavy price in a first-rounder to prevent Vegas from taking a number of players, and it essentially means they traded it for Eberle.

The former first-round pick disappointed with the Oilers after scoring just 51 points. Pairing with his world championship teammate, John Tavares should boost his input and give Tavares confidence to sign in New York long-term.

As for Edmonton, this was a move that helps more for cap than on-ice skill. They ship $6 million on Eberle’s contract, which helped them extend defenseman Kris Russell. It also increases cap space for when Hart winner Connor McDavid needs a new deal.

As for Strome, he didn’t live up to his fifth overall selection with just one 50-point campaign in four years. He could benefit from a new environment, but on the ice, the Oilers don’t benefit as much. Edmonton could’ve received more for Eberle, it seemed.

Grade: A for New York, B- for Edmonton

Canadiens bring in David Schlemko from Golden Knights

Vegas sends out another expansion draft pick for a 2019 pick. This was a minor move from both sides, which didn’t have to give up much.

Montreal needed defensive help after shipping prospect Mikhail Sergachev and Nathan Beaulieu. In Schlemko, they get a blue liner with back-to-back double-digit point seasons. The 30-year-old vet had 112 blocks and a 53.6 percent Corsi rating. It’s not a major step forward; he hasn’t played a full season. If he’s healthy, he helps.

Grade: B for Montreal, INC for Vegas with draft pick too far away to judge

Niklas Hjalmarsson moves from Blackhawks to the Coyotes

Niklas Hjalmarsson's move to Arizona ignited the flurry of NHL trades.

Niklas Hjalmarsson is headed to the Coyotes. Photo by Matt Marton, AP.

This is when the NHL trades started to boil. Chicago sent their 10-year defenseman to Arizona for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

Even though Arizona’s front office is in a tenuous phase, they still took a big swing for a three-time Stanley Cup winner. He logged over 20 minutes per game in the past six seasons and had a career-high 181 blocks last season. He has excellent size, moves the puck well and can anchor the Coyotes’ blue line for a few more years.

As for Chicago, let’s just say fans were not happy about the news. They lose a strong core of their championship teams to relieve their cap.

Murphy is the better piece in the return deal, but he’s not as skilled as Hjalmarsson defensively. He’s 6-foot-4 and more lauded for his skating ability. The 2011 first-round pick can develop well under new assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson. How well he does dictates if this gamble pays off for Chicago.

Grade: A- for Arizona, C+ for Chicago with chance to work out better

Brandon Saad returns to Midway while Artemi Panarin heads to Columbus

Chicago wasn’t finished. In fact, they dropped a bomb on the NHL with this move. Saad returns to the Blackhawks along with goalie Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-rounder. The Blue Jackets receive Panarin as well as forward Tyler Motte and a sixth round pick in today’s draft.

This is a slam dunk for Columbus. They receive a Calder Award winner with consecutive 30-goal seasons. He’s dominant on the power play and adds a versatile offensive game to a team that can use it. His contract runs for two more years at $6 million, about the same as Saad.

The decision-making behind this for Chicago stems from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Panarin’s next contract would cost too much for Chicago based on their contracts. Plus, Saad was impressive playing on Toews’s line for two Stanley Cups.

Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Lazerus made a good point yesterday: Toews could regain his success with Saad while Kane will still produce without Panarin.

The Blackhawks have turned their team around to keep themselves atop the Western Conference. They have the chance to do that after these trades, but it’s a gamble. Columbus should get a productive Panarin, but it remains to be seen if he can contribute just as much without Kane. Each trade has its risks, but this is a balanced trade on both sides.

Grade: A- for Columbus and Chicago

Rangers dispatch Antti Raanta, Derek Stepan to Coyotes

Arizona continued to wheel and deal yesterday when they snagged their new starting goalie and a top-six forward. In exchange, young blue liner Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick, which the Rangers used to pick center Lias Andersson.

As written last week, Raanta was a name to watch in the expansion draft. When Vegas didn’t select him, Arizona was salivating. The Blueshirts’ netminder enjoyed a career season. He deserves the chance to nab the starting job.

As for Stepan, his contract was steep for New York and he’s automatically the Coyotes’ most expensive player. He’s also the best center now, recording four straight 50-point campaigns. Stepan also helps on the power play that ranked 26th last season in the desert. This was a high-upside trade that fills multiple roles. Now, about finding a head coach…

Meanwhile, New York gets younger on defense with DeAngelo. He’s just 21 years old with an offensive acumen, notching 14 points in 39 games for the Coyotes. DeAngelo is undersized and will have to improve defensively to crack the Rangers’ lineup. Andersson’s play will determine how this trade shakes out for New York. He comes from the elite HV71 in Sweden. While his skating, versatility and defense are superb, he didn’t stuff the scoresheet with 19 points in 42 league games.

Grade: A for Arizona (not just for the alphabet), B- for New York

Blue Jackets and Wild exchange forwards

Rounding out yesterday’s pre-draft NHL trades came with a small move for both teams. Dante Salituro heads to Minnesota while Jordan Schroeder goes the other way.

The 20-year-old Salituro provides goal scoring ability from a 5-foot-8 frame. He impressed in training camp and signed a three-year, two-way contract with Columbus last July. In 295 games across five OHL seasons, he tallied 122 goals and 160 assists. He won’t arrive in the Twin Cities anytime soon, but he has potential.

Schroeder is another small forward but is six years older. With the Wild this year, Schroeder scored six times for 13 points in 37 games. At 5-foot-9, he has to overcome his size. But on the ice, he has the instincts to maintain a roster spot.

Grade: B for Minnesota, C for Columbus

Blues snag Brayden Schenn from Flyer to shed Jori Lehtera

While yesterday trade hype built in the afternoon, it was quiet for most of the draft. There was a minor Blackhawks-Stars trade, but St. Louis and Philadelphia broke the silence. Schenn heads to the Blues by himself while Philly acquired Lehtera, the 27th overall pick (used on Morgan Frost) and a future conditional first-round pick. Elliotte Friedman breaks down the conditional pick.

The Blues upgrade with a more bona fide scorer in Schenn, who has 82 goals in the past three seasons. Lehtera is a great facilitator, but Schenn is an upgrade and Lehtera is making a lot of cash. The negatives for St. Louis is the possible price. They went back into the first round by trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, so the 27th doesn’t hurt. Two possible first-round picks can be a steep price.

Philadelphia can use Lehtera for depth as they ease new draft pick Nolan Patrick into the team. Frost provides speed and special teams abilities down the middle too. It seems the Flyers are prioritizing playmakers that can move the puck. Depending on where the conditional pick winds up, they can add even more pieces.

They have to replace Schenn’s production. Will they give Patrick the chance? Those two questions are the risks for Philadelphia at the moment, but ones that have quick solutions for a team on the rise.

Grade: B for St. Louis, B+ for Philadelphia

The Final Trade

As for Reaves heading to Pittsburgh, it’s icing on the cake for the Metro division. Reaves is an aggressive player that was 10th last season in hits. The Penguins love those types of players. He should perform well there as the division improves exponentially.

 

Feature image of Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman by Anthony Souffle of the Chicago Tribune

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Five NHL Expansion Draft names to watch

The dust in the Nevada desert has settled, but not for long. A suspenseful weekend consisted of a few trades before the NHL’s roster freeze before the NHL unveiled the lists of 30 teams’ protected players for Wednesday’s expansion draft.

There are plenty of unsurprising names for the Vegas Golden Knights to collect, and a few that no one expected to show up. As the clock begins to tick for George McPhee and Vegas, the suspense around the NHL hasn’t wavered. The Golden Knights’ general manager can still negotiate deals on unprotected players in exchange for draft picks.

While we won’t know until draft day what those deals will be, there are plenty of names to keep an eye on as it gets closer. All players listed are available as of June 18. Here are five important names to watch in the expansion draft.

Red Wings G Petr Mrazek

The Red Wings netminder is without a doubt the most surprising name left off of a protect list. Many hypothesized a Marc-Andre Fleury-Jimmy Howard tandem in Sin City. However, Detroit opted for the veteran Howard over the younger Mrazek.

The 25-year-old carries a meager $4 million cap hit for next season. He performed admirably as the Red Wings’ starter in 2015-2016, compiling a 27-16-6 record.

General Manager Ken Holland may have a short-term memory, though. Mrazek struggled last season, allowing three goals a game and stopping just 90 percent of his shots. Howard, on the other hand, posted a respectable 2.10 GAA and a .927 save percentage.

Vegas already had a delectable pallet of goalies to choose from in Fleury, Antti Raanta, Philipp Grubauer and Calvin Pickard. Add Mrazek to that list as a younger option for Vegas.

Islanders GM Garth Snow

NHL expansion draft

Islanders GM Garth Snow. Photo courtesy of CBS New York/Photo by Andy Marlin, Getty Images

Snow isn’t a player, and he isn’t on the move, even if some Islanders fans want to see that. Despite that, he’s likely the general manager to observe the most in this process.

The Islanders were the only team to shield three forwards and five defensemen using the eight-skater option. In doing so, they left interesting forwards and an intriguing defenseman up for grabs.

Brock Nelson has had three consecutive 20-goal seasons while Josh Bailey had 56 points on the top line. On the blue line, Calvin de Haan chipped in 25 points, blocked 190 shots, fourth-most in the NHL, and has averaged 20 minutes of ice time in his career.

Snow couldn’t protect all of those players, but he unexpectedly chose to protect Adam Pelech over de Haan and Nelson. Pelech logged valuable minutes under now permanent head coach Doug Weight. It’s also possible that the Isles could send picks to Vegas to have a player protected.

Nonetheless, the Islanders have playoff expectations next season. Snow will have eyes on him to see who could, or could not, end up going to Vegas.

Panthers C Jonathan Marchessault

There were reports earlier last weekend that Marchessault was on the block. Still, it was shocking to see his name available for discussion.

The 26-year-old Quebec native has improved upon each year. He exploded for a team-high 30 goals last season. Eighteen of his 51 points came on the power play. For a team that was 23rd last year in scoring, exposing your best goal scorer is risky. Pair that with his stick handling and his knack for creating his own shot, and it’s incredible he was left off.

There’s always the possibility that Florida works out a trade with Vegas. The Golden Knights could use the leverage to acquire the 10th overall pick. If McPhee doesn’t, they can just scoop Marchessault in the expansion draft. Vegas has the upper hand in this scenario, and they benefit from wherever Marchessault winds up.

Senators RW Bobby Ryan

In the big picture, Bobby Ryan’s availability is not that shocking. Ottawa went 7-3-1 in their order, which was necessary when Dion Phaneuf didn’t waive his no-movement clause. The Senators had to expose a forward and a defenseman, and Ryan was an easy target.

The question is if his stellar postseason entices Vegas. The 30-year-old right winger had a career-low 25 points in the regular season. He responded with several clutch playoff goals, finishing with six tallies and 15 points. His shot looked much better and he meshed well with his teammates. Ottawa doesn’t escape the first round without him.

With that in mind, will Ryan have that much value to Vegas? Overall, he seems on the decline. But, he is a former second overall pick and showed there’s still something left in the tank. Ultimately it comes down to whom on Ottawa’s available list entices McPhee more.

Many linked defenseman Marc Methot to the expansion draft if Ottawa went 7-3-1. With the useful options up front, Methot has more value for Vegas than Ryan. However, what happens here shows where Ryan’s current value is right not.

Rangers G Antti Raanta

NHL expansion draft

Rangers goalie Antti Raanta. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

As mentioned before, this is a deep expansion draft for goaltenders. With Fleury likely headed to the Strip, Vegas can use the other two spots for a younger netminder and a dependable veteran. Of the goalies in the latter category, Raanta has the most value for Vegas.

The Rangers have had a knack for finding backup goaltenders in the past few years. Cam Talbot flourished and now starts between the pipes for Edmonton. Raanta has almost done the same, posting a 16-8-2 record backing up Henrik Lundqvist. His minutes spiked and he stopped over 700 shots in 30 games.

Raanta is a solid backup for the Blueshirts, and the Rangers would have to figure out an alternative plan if he departs. On the other hand, if Fleury is out of service, Raanta can fill in and contribute. A Fleury-Raanta tandem is solid for a team in its inaugural season.

Vegas could even turn around and trade Raanta for other assets. Arizona is still in the market for a goalie, and teams like Winnipeg and Vancouver don’t have reliable options in net. Like Ottawa, the Rangers have other attractive options like Michael Grabner, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast. Raanta can give Vegas the most flexibility and value.

 

Feature image courtesy of NHL.com

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Mike Milbury, Bob McKenzie, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Joe Louis,Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Bryan Berard, Eric Brewer, Darius Kasparaitis, Bryan McCabe, Olli Jokinen, Todd Bertuzzi, Tim Connolly, Jean-Pierre Dumont, Raffi Torres, Roberto Luongo, Tommy Salo, NHL, NBC, NESN

Mad Mike Milbury

Mike Milbury might just be the most hated man in sports broadcasting.

The New England Sports Network (NESN), Hockey Night in Canada, and NHL on NBC analysts lashed took a shot at the Detroit Red Wings and their Joe Louis Arena on air last night.

Milbury threw shade at the Wings’ beloved arena saying that it was “a dump the day they opened it and it’ll be a dump the day they close it.”

 

Rude, right?

But if you’re surprised by Milbury’s statements I’m inclined to wonder where you’ve been the past 30-plus years. Mike Milbury has always been a controversial figure. Whether it’s on the ice, behind the bench, in the board room, or as an analyst, Mike Milbury has always illicited strong criticism from fans, friends and media alike.

What else would you expect from a man best known for hopping the glass, brawling with fans and beating a man over the head with his own shoe?

Seriously, that happened.

So it is in honour of Mike Milbury’s ridiculously inflammatory nature The Game Haus brings you, from our haus to yours,

Mad Mike Milbury’s Most Memorable on-air Moments

3) The Shoe Incident

There is a strong parallel between Milbury’s television persona and his style of play.

Blunt, raw, and not always easy to watch.

He wasn’t a talented scorer, or a gifted play-maker, but he had his attributes. Most notably, his rough style of play.

In 754 career, regular season, games Milbury amassed 49 goals 189 assist and a whopping 1552 penalty minutes.

On December 23, 1979, Milbury would be involved in perhaps the most iconic hockey fight in history, ubiquitously known simply as the ‘Shoe Incident.’

After an on-ice brawl between the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers broke out, a Rangers fan assaulted one of Milbury’s teammates and attempted to take his stick. The brawl spilt over the boards, over the glass, and into the stands.

Milbury, making his way up the rows, managed to grab the foot of an unruly attendee. He ripped off the man’s shoe and proceeded to beat him over the head with it.

It was truly a career defining moment.

 

 

2) John Scott, All-Star MVP

The 2015/16 All-Star game will go down in history.

Not for the talent that competed, though. No. On the contrary.

It will long be remembered as the All-Star game high jacked by the fans for the sake of John Scott. And while fans rallied around the journeyman NHLer, Mike Milbury did not.

Milbury, apparently disgusted by Scott, detested the grinder. Which is surprising given the way Milbury played the game.

For what it’s worth, John Scott has never beaten anybody with their own shoe. At least not on live television.

 

1) Bob McKenzie with a Zinger

It’s no secret that Mike Milbury’s tenure with the New York Islanders were trying times for both the franchise and Milbury alike.

Hired as their head coach in 1995, Milbury was quickly promoted to general manager and filled both positions until handing over head coaching duties to Rick Browness in 1997.

His time with the Islanders organization is best characterized by the questionable decisions he made with the team’s assets. The bulk of the criticism Milbury received as General Manager stemmed largely from the poor quality of trades he made while managing of the Islanders.

Under the leadership of Milbury the Islanders traded away some of the NHL’s most elite talent, including: Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Bryan Berard, Eric Brewer, Darius Kasparaitis, Bryan McCabe, Olli Jokinen, Todd Bertuzzi, Tim Connolly, Jean-Pierre Dumont, Raffi Torres, Roberto Luongo and Tommy Salo.

During an on-air segment, where Milbury was voicing some highly (hypo)critical opinions about Brendan Shanahan’s hiring by the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, NHL Analyst Bob McKenzie struck him right where it hurts. In the feels.

 

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Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Henrik Zetterberg, Steve Ott, Danny DeKeyser, Jarred Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek, Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Jeff Blashill, Ken Holland, Grand Rapid Griffins, Goals, Assists, Hockey, NHL, Dylan Larkin, Pavel Datsyuk, KHL, Goals, Assists

What’s Wrong with the Red Wings?

It would appear that the glory days of the Detroit Red Wings are behind them. The Red Wings now sit seventh in the Atlantic Division, a full seven spots out of the last Wild Card position. They are also 26th in the league in points.

The 2016-17 season has not been kind to this Motor City team. The franchise has managed to scrape together an atrocious 16-17-5 record, posting a worrying 4-6-2 in the month of December. The new year hasn’t been much kinder as they’ve gone 0-1-1 so far.

On January 1 at the Centennial Classic, the Wings lost in spectacular fashion outdoors in overtime to the Toronto Maples Leafs. On January 3, they dropped a 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.

In short, the Detroit Red Wings have grown stagnant. What’s wrong with the Red Wings?

No Datsyuk

Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Henrik Zetterberg, Steve Ott, Danny DeKeyser, Jarred Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek, Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Jeff Blashill, Ken Holland, Grand Rapid Griffins, Goals, Assists, Hockey, NHL, Dylan Larkin, Pavel Datsyuk, KHL, Goals, Assists

Photo credit: Graig Abel, Getty Images.

In June of 2016, Pavel Datsyuk announced that he was leaving the NHL to play in Russia; reportedly to be closer to his family. With a year left on his contract, the Red Wings managed to trade away the Russian center’s NHL rights to the Arizona Coyotes in return for a few picks and prospect Joe Vitale. Then quietly, Datsyuk returned to Russia in the offseason and now plays for SKA Saint Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

In this post-Datsyuk era, the Detroit Red Wings are among the league’s worst at putting pucks in the back of the net. They are currently 27th in goals for. Not surprisingly, their power play is lacking as well. Operating at an abysmal 11.5 percent, the Wings are 30th in the league when it comes to the man advantage.

Without “The Magic Man” Pavel Datsyuk, general manager Ken Holland was forced to look outside the organization to fill the void. Holland made waves when he signed high profile unrestricted free agents Thomas Vanek, Frans Nielsen, and Steve Ott.

The New Guys

Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Henrik Zetterberg, Steve Ott, Danny DeKeyser, Jarred Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek, Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Jeff Blashill, Ken Holland, Grand Rapid Griffins, Goals, Assists, Hockey, NHL, Dylan Larkin, Pavel Datsyuk, KHL, Goals, Assists

Photo credit: Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports.

Thomas Vanek, for the most part, has surpassed expectations. Vanek signed a one-year contract worth $2.6 million with the Wings this season. After a lack-luster couple of years in Minnesota, the veteran left winger made an immediate impact with his new club. The honeymoon was cut short after a lower-body injury suffered in October sidelined the 32-year-old winger for most of November. In 27 games played, Vanek has managed to tally seven goals and 14 assists.

 

 

 

Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Henrik Zetterberg, Steve Ott, Danny DeKeyser, Jarred Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek, Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Jeff Blashill, Ken Holland, Grand Rapid Griffins, Goals, Assists, Hockey, NHL, Dylan Larkin, Pavel Datsyuk, KHL, Goals, Assists

Photo credit: Kim Klement, USA Today Sports

When Holland landed Frans Nielsen this offseason in a blockbuster six-year $31.5 million deal, the hearts of New York Islanders fans everywhere were broken. The veteran center was acquired in a highly publicized free agent signing which saw Nielsen leave New York, whom he had played the last 10 years with. In 38 games with the Detroit Red Wings, Nielsen has put up eight goals and 11 assists. Coupled with a minus-16 rating, things are not looking good for the newly acquired Dane who is under contract through the 2021-22 season.

 

 

Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Henrik Zetterberg, Steve Ott, Danny DeKeyser, Jarred Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek, Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Jeff Blashill, Ken Holland, Grand Rapid Griffins, Goals, Assists, Hockey, NHL, Dylan Larkin, Pavel Datsyuk, KHL, Goals, Assists

Photo credit: Mike Carlson, Getty Images.

 

There’s not much to say about the 34-year-old NHL journeyman Steve Ott. His 14-year career has included stints with the Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, and now the Detroit Red Wings. Ott signed a one-year deal worth $800,000 with the Red Wings this offseason. For the most part, Ott has done what he was signed to do. He is a gritty, in-your-face, character player who is known to get under the skin of his opponents. He’s racked up 56 penalty minutes in 34 games this season, notching two goals and two assists in the process.

With what ultimately amounts to a group of underwhelming offseason additions, and the steady decline of the Detroit Red Wings, Holland has come under an increasing amount of scrutiny and criticism.

Management

Holland has been with the Red Wings for a long time.

He has been the general manager since 1998. Before that he worked various roles including director of amateur scouting and assistant general manager. He has won four Stanley Cups with the team (1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008), but has failed to build a team capable of taking home the cup for a long time now.

The problem with Holland, as far as the fans are concerned, is that he lacks the ability to make big trades and sign high-profile players. That is not necessarily true, but this perception still prevails. It is unlikely for Holland to change that perception this year. The Detroit Red Wings have no available cap space and will need to unload some considerable salaries in order to add any new pieces to his team.

For Holland and the Red Wings, not making those big trades or signing the high-profile players hasn’t really been an issue until relatively recently. By and large, Detroit’s talent has been primarily home-grown. The Grand Rapid Griffins, Detroit’s farm team, have produced a wealth of talent over the years.

Consider the 2015-16 season a test run for this year’s campaign. Head coach Mike Babcock had moved on to Toronto and a slew of injuries found the Red Wings with a bench full of Griffins. Jeff Blashill, former Grand Rapid Griffins Head Coach, took the reins and coached the Wings to their 24th consecutive playoff appearance.

Has the well run dry? The young guns have cooled off considerably.

The Young Guns

Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Henrik Zetterberg, Steve Ott, Danny DeKeyser, Jarred Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek, Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Jeff Blashill, Ken Holland, Grand Rapid Griffins, Goals, Assists, Hockey, NHL, Dylan Larkin, Pavel Datsyuk, KHL, Goals, Assists

Photo credit: Dave Reginek, NHLI via Getty Images.

After an incredible rookie campaign, Dylan Larkin’s sophomore season is anything but. Larkin saw great success centering the team’s top line last year. Now Larkin finds himself centering the third line alongside Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening. Larkin has managed a respectable 11 goals and four assists so far this campaign. The trio combined have a team worst minus-33 rating.

The 2016-17 season has finally provided Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou their opportunity to shine. Each of these young forwards have exhibited moments of true talent. But with 21 points between the two of them, their impact on the scoreboard has been negligible at best.

The Red Wings guns have struggled on the blue line too.

A Deteriorating Defensive Core

Since injuries have sidelined Detroit’s top blue liners, Coach Blashill has been forced to rely on a young and inexperienced defensive core. Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall are ailing from an upper body and knee injury. The torch has been passed rather ingloriously to Detroit’s next generation of defensemen.

With an average age of 25, you would be hard pressed to find a less seasoned defensive core anywhere in the league. To put it lightly, the Red Wings’ blue line needs some work.

Guys Who Need to Step Up

Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Henrik Zetterberg, Steve Ott, Danny DeKeyser, Jarred Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek, Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Jeff Blashill, Ken Holland, Grand Rapid Griffins, Goals, Assists, Hockey, NHL, Dylan Larkin, Pavel Datsyuk, KHL, Goals, Assists

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press.

Obviously there are a lot of moving pieces here. Guys are brought up, sent back down, get injured, and sometimes just have off days.

As elite as Henrik Zetterberg might be, he can’t carry the whole team. There needs to be some consistency from the team’s core players, or the character guys. One of them is Gustav Nyquist.

Nyquist’s production has significantly decreased since his breakout 2014-15 season. That year he potted 27 goals, 27 assists, and 54 points. After signing a lucrative four-year $19 million deal in 2015, Nyquist has failed to live up to expectations. So far this season he has managed a mere four goals and 14 assists.

With little point production, Detroit’s goalies are having a hard time helping their team win games.

Goaltending

Detroit’s goaltending problems run deeper than simply stopping pucks.

Petr Mrazek, who saw the lion’s share of starts for the Wings after last year’s all-star break, was sure to be the team’s number one tender in 2016-17. Mrazek got off to a rough start though.

Predictably, Mrazek was replaced by (former) starter Jimmy Howard. Howard has since been sidelined with a sprained MCL and Mrazek now finds himself competing for starts against rookie Jared Coreau.

Coreau, with some controversy, was given the nod by Blashill and started in net for the Wings for the outdoor Centennial Classic on New Year’s Day.

To make matters worse, Howard has essentially become a $5.3 million human paperweight. He is now injured and unable to play. Moving him to another team (without retaining at least some of his salary) seems very unlikely. Not to mention the modified no-trade clause built into his contract until the end of the 2017-18 season.

There’s not much Ken Holland or Jeff Blashill can do about their current goal tending predicament. Even if they could find an NHL caliber starting goalie, there is simply no room in the cap to sign them.

Moving Forward

The Detroit Red Wings’ woes are real. They are severe. They are not going anywhere anytime soon. With nearly $9 million tied up on the long-term injured reserve list, the Detroit Red Wings might have to bow out of the playoffs this year. This would mean the end of a historic streak.

For the past 24 years, the Detroit Red Wings have managed to make the playoffs. Barring an incredible second half of the season, that streak appears to have run its course.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Three Down, One to Go

With three of the four quarterfinal series over we take a look back at each series and what to watch for in game seven for the Sharks and Predators.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders (4-1)

Defenseman Victor Hedman came up big in the second round for the Lightning (finanace.yahoo.com)

The Lightning took care of the Islanders swiftly. Tampa Bay might have up to a week of rest, and it will be interesting to see how they play in their first game back. Will they come out slow, or will they come out with tons of energy built up from sitting around for a while? What is certain for Tampa Bay is goaltender Ben Bishop. The Lightning know any given game they can win because Ben Bishop is net. Bishop currently owns a 1.89 goals allowed per game alongside two shutouts.

Also good news moving forward for the Lightning is the possible return of defenseman Anton Stralman and superstar forward Steven Stamkos. Initially Stamkos was out a month to three months after his blood clot surgery, this past Monday was a month since, but he doesn’t quite look ready. Stralman on the other hand could be ready any game now which would be a huge upgrade at the blue line.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-4)

Phil Kessel (fansided.com)

The Lightning will be taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins who just beat the Stanley Cup favorites. Phil Kessel who was somewhat quiet in the first round really heated up this round. The veteran now has 12 points in just 11 games.

This Penguins’ offense is on fire, leading the playoff teams with 3.36 goals per game and they also have an outstanding 27.5% power play. The Penguins power play is lethal with goal scorers all over the ice from Sidney Crosby to Phil Kessel to Evgeni Malkin to Patric Hornqvist, anyone can score at any given moment.

Matt Murray has come out of no where. Murray went from back-up goaltender to one of the best in the playoffs in a couple weeks. This 21-year old kid couldn’t have wished for a better playoff start after outplaying the Braden Holtby who just tied the record for wins in a season by a goalie.

St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars (4-3)

Blues celebrating after Robby Fabbri’s goal (gettyimages.com)

After the Blues lost game six many experts had the Stars winning at home in game seven. The Blues did not skip a beat though, center Robby Fabbri kicked off the scoring early and the Blues didn’t slow down scoring the first five goals. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get with this Blues team, as some games they look like a well oiled machine scoring six and five goal games. Then the next day they can not get a goal to save their life. That aside this team looks like a serious threat for the Cup and is a complete team with an outstanding forecheck and great defense.

Nashville Predators vs. San Jose Sharks (3-3)

Tonight these two teams that were the underdogs in the first round, look to advance to the Western Conference finals. The Predators are heading into the “shark tank” and in the previous six games the home team has won all six in the series. Behind Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Brent Burns I like the Sharks in this one. In that loud environment if the Sharks can get a quick goal early I think the rest will be history. Pekka Rinne has had a great season and playoff run, and Colin Wilson has emerged as great hockey player but I don’t think it is enough.

Nashville Predators @ San Jose Sharks/ Game 7/ May 12th 7:00 CT

Tampa Bay Lighting @ Pittsburgh Penguins/ Game 1/ May 13th

What to Watch for in Round Two

With only one more series to wrap up the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will face off against the Nashville Predators in game seven. We will take a look at the round two match-ups.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Alex Ovechkin takes on Sidney Crosby. Two of the greatest players in the NHL face off in this second round match-up. All hockey fans cannot wait to see these two go at it. Alexander Ovechkin, the hard hitting, hard shooting Russian, verses the quiet playmaker from Canada. Both captains of their respected teams are backed by hot goalies. Matthew Murray is normally the backup goalie to Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins, but Fleury is currently out with a concussion. Murray has not missed a beat only allowing two goals a game in the Rangers series. Braden Holtby, the goaltender for the Capitals, had two shutouts in the Flyers series and never gave up more than two goals in a game. Although these are two of the hottest goalies in the league, these are two high powered offenses that can score at any moment.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders

John Tavares (Extratime.uol.com)

Captain Clutch takes on the best playoff line in hockey. Are Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn for the Tampa Bay Lightning the best line in hockey right now? I think so. All three are +6 while on the ice, as they had three of the four game winning goals, and they are first, second, and third in points for their team. The Islanders upset the Florida Panthers in the first round on the back of John Tavares. In game six of the first round, JT scored a late goal to tie the game and then scored the game winning goal in OT. Anyone that follows the Islanders was not surprised by this, JT is as clutch as it comes.

Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues

Brian Elliot (Bleedinblue.com)

The St. Louis Blues took care of the former Cup champions in the first round, and goaltender Brian Elliot can take some credit for this. Elliot posted a .929 save percentage, not letting the Blackhawks get into a rhythm. Right winger Vladimir Tarasenko had the most goals for the Blues in the first round with four, and he always does great against the Hawks. Let’s see if he can do the same against the Stars. With the loss of Tyler Seguin, the Stars needed other players to step up, step up they did. Left winger, Jaime Benn, has scored 10 points for the Stars which tops the NHL. The Stars used two goalies in the first round, Antti Niemi, and Kari Lehtonen. I hope they use Kari Lehtonen for the rest of the way, as I like the way he has looked.

San Jose Sharks vs. (Anaheim Ducks or Nashville Predators)

The Sharks played really well against the Kings in the first round. I was waiting for the Sharks to fall apart towards the end of the series but it never happened. Whoever wins between Anaheim and Nashville has a tough series to come. Joe Pavelski scored five goals in as many games while shooting an astounding 35.70%. In net Martin Jones out played his former teammate Johnathon Quick. Since Frederik Anderson has taking over in net for the ducks they are 3-1 with his .955%. This is something to watch for in tonight’s game.

4/27 Games

New York Islanders @ Tampa Bay Lightning 7:00 ET

Nashville Predators @ Anaheim Ducks 10:00 ET

NHL Playoffs: 1st Round wrap up

As the first round nears its end, the playoffs have really heated up. With only one series over the others are coming down to the wire. The Red Wings came up short again against the Lightning, and the Ducks are right back in it.

Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3-1)

Washington failed to end the series in just four games but, is in a good position to finish off the series at home in game 5. Braden Holtby is only averaging one goal allowed per game, with the power play working so well for the Capitals I think the series ends tonight.

Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders (2-2)

Each teams with one win at home and one away a tight series goes back to Florida for game 5. At this point leader for the Panthers Jaromir Jagr has started out slow only has one assists in the first four games. Jonathon Tavares for the Islanders is back to his great offensive plays with seven points in the series.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers (3-1)

Evgeni Malkin (zimbio.com)

The Penguins look to end the series on Saturday at home. With a commanding 5-0 win in New York the Rangers find themselves in a tough spot. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled from the net for the Rangers, will he be ready to go on Saturday? Center, Evgeni Malkin, scored two goals and two assists for the Penguins who just recently came back from an injury. I initially had the Penguins winning in 6 games but I think it will end a game short of that mark.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings (4-1)

This is the only series that is finished with Tampa Bay Lightning winning in five games. When back up goaltender Petr Mrazek came in and won the third game of the series taking Jimmy Howard’s spot. Mrazek was not enough to control this Lightning offense though. Tampa Bay’s right winger Nikita Kucherov  has five goals in as many games and has really found his playoff groove.

Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild (3-1)

A series that I predicted to end in four games has extended to at least five games. On Wednesday the Stars got back to their winning ways. The Wild are in a do or die situation going back to Dallas for game 5. I’m trying to not count the Wild out but they’re just not up to the Stars level of play.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks (3-2)

Patrick Kane (windycitizensports)

One of the most intense sporting event scenarios is 5 on 5 overtime playoff  hockey. We have already seen two overtime games in this series and I feel another one coming. The Hawks star Patrick Kane, won the game in double OT last night after the Blackhawks blew a 3-1 3rd period lead. The next game is back in Chicago, one can only hope to see the Blackhawks force a game 7.

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks (1-3)

The Kings are coming back home for game 5 looking to bring this series a little closer in reach. The Sharks have looked great, forcing the L.A. defense into turnovers and taking plenty of shots. Every game has been decided by one goal so these games can really go either way. Keep in the back of your mind the 13-14 playoffs when the Kings came back down (3-0) to the Sharks, anything can happen in the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators (2-2)

Heading into Nashville the Anaheim Ducks had lost the opening two home games and were entering an almost most win. Now the Ducks have tied the series and have outscored the Predators 7-1 in the past two games. In the first two games, Nashville looked like a true contender winning on the road. I can not wait to see how this series turns out.

 

 

 

2016 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

Eastern Conference

Metropolitan

(1) Washington Capitals (56-18-6-2, 120 pts) vs. (wild card) Philadelphia Flyers (41-27-6-8, 96 pts)

Pick: Washington Capitals in 5

Key Players: WSH- G Braden Holtby, LW Alexander Ovechkin; PHI- RW Wayne Simmonds, D Shayne Gostisbehere

The Flyers story is awesome. From looking like they were not going to make the playoffs, the Flyers have been hot and now find themselves up against the Presidents Trophy winning Washington Capitals. The story is great but the road ends here. Look for this to be a bruising series with the Philadelphia Flyers being one of the teams that hits the most. Braden Holtby will shut down the Flyers forwards who lack multiple goal scorers. Alexander Ovechkin is known for being one of the best regular season scorers, but usually starts out slow in the playoffs. If the Ovechkin heats up, watch out, this game will be over in four if he is ripping one timers for the slot.

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins (48-26-4-4, 104 pts) vs. (3) New York Rangers (46-27-7-2, 101 pts)

Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins in 6

Key Players: PIT- D Kris Letang, C Sidney Crosby; NYR- G Henrik Lundqvist, LW Kris Kreider

Two similar teams facing off with plenty of veteran players on the ice. Kris Kreider shocked a lot of people last year in the playoffs showing off his speed blowing past defenders with ease. If you are going into a game with King Henrik in net you always know you have a chance to win so don’t be surprised if this game goes to game seven. Kris Letang is a great goal scoring defenseman that will come up big for the Penguins power play. Coming off an injury, Evgeni Malkin looks to get back to his usual ways with fresh legs he can be a big contributor for Pittsburgh.

Atlantic

(1) Florida Panthers (47-26-6-3, 103 pts) vs. (wild card) New York Islanders (45-27-5-5, 100 pts)

Pick: Florida Panthers in 7

Key Players: FLA- G Roberto Luongo, RW Jaromir Jagr; NYI- CnJohn Tavares, LW Brock Nelson

44 year-old Jaromir Jagr (miami.cbslocal.com)

One of the harder series to predict, the Islanders can surprise people with some really talented forwards. With probably the best fourth line in the league the Islanders are a serious threat. Roberto Luongo gets to face off against the team that drafted him and has the daunting task of stopping Jonathon Tavares. JT was near the top of the league in scoring last year and is heating up. What is there to say about Jaromir Jagr? At 44 years-old the Czechoslovakian is leading his team in points and is the leader they need to make a playoff run.

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning (46-31-2-3 97 pts) vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings (41-30-6-5 93 pts)

Pick: Detroit Red Wings in 7

Key Players: DET- C Pavel Datsyuk, C Dylan Larkin; TB- C Steven Stamkos, G Ben Bishop

It’s Pavel Datsyuk’s final call as he goes for his third Cup, he will return to his home country Russia after the playoffs. Most likely stepping into his 1st line center position next year is rookie Dylan Larkin, who looks to use his speed to launch a successful playoff series. 6′ 7” Ben Bishop is hoping to have another great playoff performance after last year making great saves look easy on a daily basis.

Western Conference

Central

(1) Dallas Stars (50-23-7-2, 109 pts) vs. (wild card) Minnesota Wild (38-33-9-2, 87 pts)

Pick: Dallas Stars in 4

Key Players: DAL- LW- Jaime Benn, D- John Klingberg MIN-LW- Zach Parise, LW- Thomas Vanek

The state of hockey won’t be happy about this one but they are just not quite there yet. The Dallas Stars are an all-around good team, I see the Stars taking care of the Wild quickly. Jaime Benn is an elite offensive player. When Zach Parise gets in the action the Wild can beat good teams and will catch some people’s attention. Thomas Vanek is not the most well-known players but he is a lethal sniper that can score goals with the best of them.

(2) St. Louis Blues (49-24-5-4, 107 pts) vs. (3) Chicago Blackhawks (47-26-7-2, 103 pts)

Pick: Chicago Blackhawks in 7

Key Players: CHI- RW- Patrick Kane, LW- Artemi Panarin, STL- C- David Backes, RW- Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin (zimbio.com)

Growing up in the Chicago area, it is hard for me to root against my Blackhawks. They are going up against a Blues team that was a win away from the lead in points in the Western Conference. The Blues though have struggled in the first round in the past two years. With the best one-two punch of Panarin and Kane the second line of the Blackhawks is deadly and will be the reason why the Hawks advance or lose. A long series is to come for these rivals only separated by 300 miles.

 

Pacific

(1) Anaheim Ducks (46-25-7-4, 103 pts) vs. (wild card) Nashville Predators (41-27-12-2, 96 pts)

Pick: Anaheim Ducks in 5

Key Players: ANA-RW Corey Perry, C  Ryan Getzlaf; NSH- G Pekka Rinne, D Roman Josi

The best power play, penalty kill, and goals against per game in the league resides in Anaheim. The team I have picked to win it all is the most all-around team. Grinder Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler will be spending most of their playoff time in front of the goalie always in the way making Pekka Rinne’s job as hard as possible. The Predators are lacking an edge, if they go down two goals in a game I would not have the confidence they could come back.

Offensive Defenseman Brent Burns (milehighsticking.com)

(2) Los Angeles Kings (48-28-3-3, 102 pts) vs. (3) San Jose Sharks (46-30-3-3, 98 pts)

Pick: Los Angeles Kings in 6

Key Players: LA- G Johnathon Quick, LW Milan Lucic; SJS- C Joe Pavelski, D Brent Burns

San Jose has some great players that turned it around this year from a disappointing year in 2014. The caveman look-a-like Brent Burns is a talented left winger turned defenseman. Quick is known for being one of the better goalies in the league and has proved it in prior playoffs. Milan Lucic was acquired by the Kings in the off-season and the locomotive is ready to be roll deep into the playoffs. The Kings have stars in their lineup up and down their roster, and have too much for talent for the Sharks in this California brawl.