NHL Super 8

Not so super 8 – Feb. 17

This week finally picked up a bit in the top 16.

However, a couple of teams were snubbed by the panel in place of what feels to be less deserving teams (LA Kings and New Jersey Devils.)

Let’s get right to it.

ANAHEIM DUCKSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Ducks should’ve had a spot in the Super 16. Some of the other teams that made it into the top 16 definitely are not as hot as the Ducks right now. They likely missed because of their close victories with below average teams.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Ducks need to start showing up and taking command against lower-ranked teams as stated earlier. They only beat the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers each by a score of 3-2, and then lost to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1. They are getting destroyed by the better teams in the league and barely squeaking out wins against every other team. The Ducks are 5-3-2 the last 10.

COLORADO AVALANCHESuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is another team that is in the top 16 rankings wise that didn’t make the power ranking cut. They probably also should have made the Super 16 over a couple other teams, but they missed due to their just “ok” last 10 record of 4-5-1.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Last week they got destroyed by the St. Louis Blues and then lost to the Carolina Hurricanes. This week they barely beat the Sabres and the Montreal Canadiens and then were blown out by Winnipeg. Much like the Ducks, they need to start finding victories against better teams and need to limit the scoring of lesser teams.

They are also seeing impressive offensive numbers from their forwards. Nathan MacKinnon has 61 points followed closely by Mikko Rantanen with 52 and Gabriel Landeskog with 42. They just need their goalies to pick it up a bit. They only have a combined .914 save percentage.

CAROLINA HURRICANESSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Hurricanes have honestly done pretty well over their past 10 games, but aren’t really in a ranked position to be in the Super 16. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 and won three straight before losing their last two to the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Hurricanes are on an upward path. Their victories have come against some quality teams. They beat the LA Kings 7-3 earlier in the week. If they continue to play well against teams like the Kings, they have a shot to move up significantly in the standings.

FLORIDA PANTHERSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

While the Panthers have won their last two and are 6-4-0 in their last 10, they have been struggling to shut down their opponents offensively not only in their losses, but also in their wins. Like when they beat the Oilers on Monday by a score of 7-5.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Roberto Luongo has stepped up his game in the crease, but the backups need to become more reliable. James Reimer and Harri Sateri have a combined .910 save percentage. Considering Reimer has started the most games this season, those numbers just won’t cut it.

New York IslandersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is where things start going downhill. The Islanders are 4-5-1 in their last 10, which is “ok” but not great.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

If the Islanders can see more goaltending performances like that of Jaroslav Halak against the New York Rangers (50-save shutout), then they may start looking up. His .912 save percentage is less than average, but if that changes, they may be ok. Especially with the impressive offensive numbers they are seeing. John Tavares has 64 points so far this season and is followed just barely by Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey, who each have 62.

DETROIT RED WINGSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Redwings are 4-4-2 their last 10. They are low in the standings and can’t seem to find a winning rhythm, which is why they keep missing out on the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Turn those two OT losses into wins and their record the last 10 is 6-4-0, and they are up three spots in league standings. Regulation wins would really help boost this team, especially at home where they have a league-leading seven OT losses.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Blue Jackets were 3-5-2 in their last 10. Their record in the last 10 games alone is what is keeping them from even getting close to the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Blue Jackets have been on a significant downward spiral these past three weeks. They barely missed the Super 16 three weeks ago. Now they aren’t even close and are traveling closer to the bottom of the standings.

This past week, they have been very hot and cold. They will beat teams by large margins, like when they beat the Islanders 4-1 and the Devils 6-1. They also lost by significant margins to the Leafs (6-3) and the Washington Capitals (4-2).

The Blue Jackets really need to stay consistent here to even have a shot at breaking into the Super 16.

ARIZONA COYOTESSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They are last in the league, so it is clear why they missed. But they are more deserving to sit in this spot just due to their efforts in their last 10. Their record sits at 5-4-1 the last 10 and they are on a three-game winning streak.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They can actually keep winning games. It is hard to break this down because everything needs to change for the Coyotes. In reality, they have no shot of even getting close to the Super 16, but their effort the last stretch is worth recognizing and their fans should appreciate it.

 

Team logos and featured image from NHL.com

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Metropolitan Division

Things are very much congested in the Metropolitan Division

I have been slightly incorrect in the past. The central does have have the better collection of teams overall. However, the Metropolitan Division currently has the most traffic…

Prior to games on February 8th:

  1. Washington Capitals – 67 points – 29 games remaining
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins – 63 points – 27 games remaining
  3. New Jersey Devils – 62 points – 30 games remaining
  4. Philadelphia Flyers – 59 points – 29 games remaining
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets – 58 points – 29 games remaining
  6. New York Islanders – 58 points – 28 games remaining
  7. Carolina Hurricanes – 57 points – 28 games remaining
  8. New York Rangers – 55 points – 28 games remaining

This is not the most talented division, nor does it possess a top three team, but each club is in play for the postseason. Both wild card spots in the East are held by a member of the Metro. It is one hundred percent a three-man race in the Atlantic. This makes for just a 4-point separation between the number one wild card spot (held by the Flyers) and the last place Rangers. The margin for error gets smaller and smaller as every single game now has playoff implications.

So, we meet again…probably

The matchup everyone now looks forward to every season is most likely forthcoming again. It is always known that Sidney Crosby is a three-time Stanley Cup Champ while Alex Ovechkin has yet to reach a conference final…in fact, Crosby has served as Ovi’s kryptonite having never beaten him in the playoffs. The past two years each of their teams have met in the second round with the Penguins winning in six in 2016, then in seven in 2017. There is a very good chance we see this movie yet again this Spring…

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NHL.com

Washington Capitals: Why they will finish in the top three of the Metro

Alexander Ovechkin – 32 goals (leads league)/26 assists/58 points (11th in league)/+12

Depth – Four Players (Ovechkin/Kuznetsov/Backstrom/Carlson) with at least 40 points

Braden Holtby – 27 wins (tied for 3rd in league)

Pittsburgh Penguins: Why they will finish in the top three in the Metro

Trending upwards – 7-3-0 in their last 10 – 20-7-1 on home ice

Special Teams – Power play is 26.8% (leads league) – Penalty Kill is 82.5% (7th in league)

Experience – 15 of their 20 current players on roster have won a Stanley Cup together

We have the cast and crew ready to go. The two teams battled it out on the Friday before the Super Bowl in D.C. with Pittsburgh prevailing 7-4. Will we see the same ending to this trilogy as we have seen in the previous two??…or will the Washington Capitals finally breakthrough and compete for a Stanley Cup??

You gonna make a move or stand pat??

Philadelphia Flyers: Sell it seems like

The Flyers are too inconsistent to be true contenders in the East (5-4-1 in their last 10). Therefore, selling would be smart to keep adding prospects and draft picks to keep building for the future. Ron Hextall added a first rounder in the offseason for Brayden Schenn. Seeing what the market would bring for someone like Wayne Simmonds (which would be a bundle) would be smart. “It all depends on what’s coming back” Hextall says (The Inquirer).

Columbus Blue Jackets: Buy more than likely

The Jackets have scored the least amount of goals (139) of any team in the Metropolitan Division. They are -11 on the year and will look to bolster their roster offensively. Columbus is a league-worst 14.1% on the power play as well. Looking around the league, a reunion with Rick Nash may be the best option.

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NY Daily News

New York Islanders: Toss up

Star Center for the Isles John Tavares is on pace for a 40-goal/90-point season. He is in his prime at 27 and has an expiring contract and will become a free agent on July 1st. Islanders’ GM does not expect to move him before the deadline, but seeing what the market will offer may be in his best interest. The team also knows how to put the puck in the net better than any team in the Metro with 181 goals on the year, but gives up more than anyone in the division (197 goals against). Bolstering their defensive core will be on their minds one way or the other.

One point separates these three teams. All are in play for the postseason. If you have a shot to make the playoffs, the advice should always be to go for it. The parity is real…ask Nashville.

Close, but no cigar

The Hurricanes and Rangers round out the bottom two in this jam packed division. The Rangers have asked Rick Nash for his no-trade list, but GM Ron Francis has not ruled out buying before the deadline. Two different approaches, but similar team finishes if changes don’t soon occur…

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NHL.com

New York Rangers: Selling most likely

Trending downwards – 3-7-0 in their last 10 – 8-14-2 on the road (16 road games left)

No elite scoring – 0 players with 40+ points

Carolina Hurricanes: Buying??

Trending downwards – 4-5-1 in their last 10 – -20 goal differential (worst in division)

Elite scoring and depth – two players (Teravainen/Aho) with 40+ points – five players with 30+ points

As constructed, neither of these teams are dangerous come mid-April. However, if either GM decides that this year is worth giving up significant pieces for their future with how tight the standings are, this could be extremely interesting down the stretch.

Do it

Whether you’re buying, selling or standing pat on February 26th, do it. Very rarely do all seven-eight teams in a division have a clear shot at ending up in the playoffs. All you have to do is get to the dance and right now, the last place Rangers are just three points out of that last wild card spot…

The Hurricanes have a Stanley Cup-winning net minder in Cam Ward and the Rangers obviously have a hall of fame goalkeeper in King Henrik. You can win any playoff series with hot goaltending. Anything can happen. Whatever these teams are thinking, each have a shot…so do it.

 

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NHL concussions

When will concussions be taken seriously?

The NHL has seen an increase in concussions over the years. That is more due to the fact that the NHL has implemented concussion protocols, and athletic trainers are actually looking out for more minor signs to catch them early on before they compound.

To put it simply, the number of concussions occurring is still the same as it used to be, we just are more aware of them now due to an increase of attention paid to concussions.

The Protocol

In 2016, the NHL introduced a new concussion protocol that implemented a “spotter” who is trained to spot visible signs of concussions immediately after a player gets hit.

NHL concussions

George Parros goes down hard on the ice after a fight. (Photo from Yahoo Sports)

study done in April of 2017 by the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that it was easier to predict a concussion if the player showed visible signs such as loss of consciousness, motor in-coordination or vacant look. It was harder to predict concussions when visual signs such as being slow to get up or clutching their head were exhibited.

I believe the biggest goal for these “spotters” will be to pull players from a game before they exacerbate their concussion. Like many athletes, NHL players have the tendency to try and play through the pain.

Playing through broken bones, torn ligaments and stitched up wounds isn’t ideal, nor is it healthy. Playing through concussions can have lifelong consequences. If the symptoms aren’t identified immediately after a player is hit, they will likely get up and keep playing.

Andrew Shaw of the Montreal Canadiens knows this all too well. “If there’s something wrong, right away you have to speak up and say something,” said Shaw in an interview with Sportsnet.

He had collided with Brady Skjei of the New York Rangers in a playoff game during the 2016-17 season. Instead of notifying the training staff, he played on. After subsequent hits, he was sidelined during Game 6 of the series, and the symptoms affected him until mid-July.

Aside from being sidelined, Shaw suffered from mood swings, anxiety and severe depression. Remember the “spotters” who were supposed to monitor these things? They are virtually useless when players do not exhibit any visual signs, much like Shaw in the video below. (Video from Sportsnet)

 

Shaw takes the hit right to the ear, so him wincing in pain is to be expected. However, he does not seem to be dazed or rattled by the hit.

I spoke to Chris Ritter who is a Sports Medicine Professional at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. Ritter spent a season working with the Anaheim Ducks as an intern athletic trainer.

“The general culture of contact sports has proven that being ‘tough’ means hiding or denying injury, especially when it comes to concussions. Now we are in a transition period, when the younger generations are fighting through the old mentality and learning that reporting injuries, especially concussions, is a good thing.”
-Chris Ritter, Cal Poly athletic trainer and former intern athletic trainer for the Anaheim Ducks

Now only time will tell as the younger generations come up and take over the big leagues.

Give The People What they want

Many fans are also calling for improvements to the concussion protocol.

The NHL has made moves to try and help with concussion prevention, but it isn’t enough. It’s hard to say what could be done to prevent compound concussions, but it is clear that visual signs are simply not enough to go by.

 

Featured image from The Globe and Mail

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Johnny Bower

Johnny Bower: The pioneer of hockey toughness

In honor of the passing of Johnny “The China Wall” Bower over the holiday break, I thought it would only be right to dedicate this article to one of the original “tough guys” of hockey.

A Brief History of Johnny Bower

Bower grew up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to a poor, working class family. Growing up in a family of nine children meant his family couldn’t even afford hockey equipment. So Bower created his own using an old mattress for pads and a tree branch for a stick.

At the age of 15, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Canadian Army during World War II. In 1943, he was discharged due to rheumatoid arthritis.

That didn’t stop Bower from being active. Less than two years later, Bower made his professional hockey debut with the Cleveland Barons of the AHL.

Bower bounced between the AHL and NHL for many years before finally getting claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1958.

The Toughness of Johnny Bower

If joining the Army at 15 years old and then playing professional hockey with rheumatoid arthritis isn’t evidence enough of how tough he was, then let his teammates, the statistics and the nature of his position convince you.

Being a goalie in this era of hockey was absolutely brutal. With no masks and minimal padding, injuries were an expectation, not an inconvenience.

Johnny Bower

Johnny Bower played most of his career in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo from AZ Quotes)

Dick Duff, one of Bower’s former teammates, said in an interview with CBC Radio, “[goalies] … the leg and arm, they would be yellow, green, black from stopping the pucks.”

Not only was Bower tough, but he was also talented. He won the Vezina Trophy two times. His name appears on the Stanley Cup four times (three of which were in consecutive years). He also remains the career leader in wins in the AHL.

When speaking of Bower specifically, Duff called him “fearless.”  Others refer to Bower as a “legend.” One thing for sure is that Johnny “The China Wall” Bower will live on in hockey history forever.

Hockey Toughness Through the Years

Bill Meltzer hit the nail on the head when he said,

“‘Hockey toughness’ is not about an individual player’s physical strength or fighting prowess. It’s about teammates protecting and defending one another, preserving together through adversity and pain. It’s not about a lack of fear but, rather, a willingness to face it head on.”

On Nov. 18, 2016, halfway through the second period during a game between division rivals Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers, Blue Jackets’ left-winger, Matt Calvert, took a nasty slap shot to the face courtesy of the Rangers’ Nick Holden. (Video is bloody, be advised) (YouTube link from jguth95)

He was quickly helped off the ice and taken to the dressing room where he received 36 stitches.

One would assume that he would not see the ice again that night, but after passing a concussion test, he took to the ice again midway through the third period. Not only did he come back to play in the same game, but he also scored a short-handed goal, which proved to be the game winner.

Calvert’s return to the ice that night after what should’ve been a game-ending injury serves as only one example of why hockey players are some of the most physically impressive athletes in professional sports. On top of the physical toughness, they also possess great amounts of mental toughness. Having to insert themselves into such a physically demanding situation when already injured takes insane amounts of courage.

Calvert isn’t the only hockey player to have displayed this kind of perseverance. Here’s some ‘tough’ hockey history.

In the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals, Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman Bobby Baun injured his leg badly enough that he had to leave the ice on a stretcher. He returned for overtime where he scored the game winner. It was later revealed that he did indeed have a broken leg. (YouTube link from NHL)

Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers returned to the ice after breaking his jaw in a 2014 playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Boston Bruins’ Gregory Campbell blocked a shot during the 2013 playoffs, which resulted in a broken fibula.  Campbell got up and finished killing the penalty before leaving the ice. (YouTube link from Fred Murtz)

The list goes on and on. Endless amounts of lost teeth, stitches, breaks and sprains. Injuries that would often force the best of athletes to sit from anywhere between one game and a few months show us why hockey is a sport that demands respect, if for no other reason than the unmatched toughness of the players.

 

Feature image from Pictorial Parade/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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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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Kevin Shattenkirk free agency: Best options

Ever since the end of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL offseason hasn’t slept. The expansion draft built the Vegas Golden Knights while New Jersey and Philadelphia selected Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, respectively. One of the top free agents expected to hit the market, T.J. Oshie, heads back to the Capitals on an eight-year deal.

With Oshie settled in the Capitol, the best all-around player available is former Caps defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The seven-year veteran is the most talented offensive blue liner.

This season, he finished with 56 points, trailing Norris finalists Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman. He’s notched 27 goals the past two seasons with both St. Louis and Washington. Defensively, he’s a solid skate who can move the puck from zone to zone.

Where he has the most value is on special teams. His eight power play goals and 27 points were second-most for a defenseman this season. His shot percentage has improved each season since 2013-14. He can lead the attack on the man advantage.

While his plus-minus isn’t pretty to look at the past two seasons, it improved on a stable Capitals blue line. Teams will keep that and the price he will garner in mind when signing him. What teams are in the running for him?

The Favorites

Boston Bruins – Kevin Shattenkirk has been linked to Boston for a few years. He played college hockey at Boston University after growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut. Boston inquired about him at the trade deadline, but the Blues reportedly wanted two first-round picks and David Pastrnak, which was way too high.

The Bruins have a young core of defensemen with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Torey Krug does well on the power play, but he was the main quarterback on special teams. McAvoy had two assists on the power play in the playoffs, but he may need more time.

With Shattenkirk, Boston gets a proven asset that makes their blue line fast and deadly on offense. Its roughly $13.5 million in cap space means they can afford him if he stays around the $6-$7 million AAV range. He provides that leadership for a young core. General Manager Don Sweeney has to think about if Shattenkirk’s offense is enough of an upgrade without breaking the bank.

Kevin Shattenkirk free agency

Shattenkirk (left, playing with Blues) could join the Rangers in free agency. Photo courtesy of Newsday/Photo by Mary Altaffer, AP

New York Rangers – On paper, the Rangers and Shattenkirk is a perfect marriage. New York now has $20 million in cap space after buying out Dan Girardi and trading Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan. Rumor has it Shattenkirk favors the Rangers for its location close to home.

On the ice, he fills a dire need for the Blueshirts. Girardi, while a gritty player, is not the same puck mover as Kevin Shattenkirk. On the power play, their special teams were 3-for-39 in the postseason after a top 10 finish in the regular season. Shattenkirk can replace Brady Skjei on the second unit, giving them a Ryan McDonagh-Shattenkirk combo on the man advantage.

Despite the recent trade for Anthony DeAngelo, New York still needs help on defense. Brendan Smith is still in play for New York, and they can still sign both. He checks every box on both sides. Even if the Rangers may look to get younger and cheaper after shedding Stepan’s contract, Shattenkirk can still make them competitive and fill multiple needs.

Dark Horses

Tampa Bay Lightning – Tampa’s interest in Kevin Shattenkirk is one of the worst-kept secrets in the NHL. In January, the Lightning tried to trade for the blue liner from St. Louis. It did not come to fruition. Now, the Tampa Bay Times reported GM Steve Yzerman is kicking the tires on Shattenkirk.

Even after snagging Montreal’s pristine defensive prospect, Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa is looking for top-four defensive help. Shattenkirk joining Hedman gives the Lightning one of the best combos in the league. His offense and his right-handed stick, according to Times’ writer Joe Smith, is a fit for Tampa Bay.

Ultimately, Shattenkirk’s willingness to come to Tampa Bay is the biggest obstacle. He rejected a seven-year, $42 million extension and a deal to head to the Sunshine State. Does he want to be there? Are the Lightning built to succeed in the next few years? With Shattenkirk, they can, but it’s hard to see unless they gain more pieces.

Kevin Shattenkirk free agency

Shattenkirk (left) could become teammates with Miles Wood next season. Photo courtesy of My NHL Trade Rumors/Photo by USATSI

New Jersey Devils – Any Rangers fan might have a tough time reading this, but it has some traction to it. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in March he wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils threw money at him.

New Jersey has $24 million free in cap space, so their offer could blow almost every other team out of the water. They have five total defensemen and a restricted free agent on their roster at the moment. Andy Greene and Damon Severson were their best defenders, and they were -16 and -31 for a weak team last season.

Basically, Kevin Shattenkirk becomes their best blue liner if he signs. New Jersey should make him their biggest priority. An offense with Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and now Nico Hischier is impressive, while Cory Schneider is strong in net. However, he needs help badly in front of him. Shattenkirk helps them out, and they have room to look at other names such as Cody Franson or Karl Alzner.

Other Possible Destinations

Buffalo SabresTSN’s Darren Dreger reported last week of the Sabres’ interest. Like the Devils, they have a vast amount of cap space. They have a nice defensive core already in Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian. Buffalo is very young, so Shattenkirk would have to be patient with them.

Montreal Canadiens – No surpise here, but Montreal needs to shore up their defense. They have space with $21 million, but there hasn’t been a lot of mutual interest. Plus, if they deal Alex Galchenyuk and lose Alexander Radulov, they may need to prioritize finding some forward help.

 

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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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The History and Merits of the Neutral Zone Trap

Guy Boucher loves it. Neutral hockey fans loathe it. But 22 years after the New Jersey Devils perfected it, the neutral zone trap is making a comeback.

The Ottawa Senators punched a ticket to the Eastern Conference finals this season with the help of their 1-3-1 trap. It completely stunted the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the second round, and has bogged down the Pittsburgh Penguins at times in the current series. Nonetheless, hockey fans continue to argue that the trap is terrible for the sport of hockey.

How has the trap evolved over the years? Does it really slow down games and hurt the sport’s appeal? As it turns out, the trap was fairly popular back in the day.

Pre-Lockout History

Many remember the 1990s as the age of the trap defense and subsequently, the “Dead Puck Era”. The trap itself has been around much longer. There are unsubstantiated claims that the Toronto Maple Leafs developed a trap scheme as early as the 1920s. It’s not until the 1970s that it gained traction.

Many European Olympic teams such as Sweden and Czechoslovakia sought to inhibit the mighty Soviet national teams. Stateside, teams in the 1990s began to utilize the trap. Roger Neilson’s Rangers employed it in the 1992-93 campaign. However, the players hated using it, and Neilson lost his job.

neutral zone trap

The 1994-95 Devils are credited with perfecting the neutral zone trap. Photo courtesy of Real Clear Sports.

The dawn of the neutral zone trap appeared in 1995 when the Devils implemented it. Head coach Jacques Lemaire, who played in a trap with Montreal back in the 70s, had defensemen Ken Daneyko and Scott Stevens create a brick wall.

They swept the Detroit Red Wings that year and shocked – perhaps infuriated – fans everywhere who wanted more exciting hockey.

Even though fan and player backlash ensued, coaches began to utilize the neutral zone trap more. The Rangers, years after ditching Neilson for using it, credited Colin Campbell for using a similar system. Despite this, the NHL wanted to find a way to render the formation ineffective.

During the 2004-05 lockout, the league eliminated the two-line pass, which made it illegal to complete a pass from the defensive zone to the offensive side of the center line. Neutral zone traps countered this strategy, so eliminating the pass hoped to curb the trap’s use.

Post-Lockout Use

As it turns out, the trap was just as effective in stopping quick teams as countering the two-line pass. Lemaire utilized it in Minnesota and New Jersey until he stepped away in 2011. Boucher used it when he started as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s head coach in 2010.

It led to the classic game on Nov. 9, 2011 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia decided the best counter to the trap was to hold the puck in their defensive end and wait for the Lightning to break from position. Tampa would not budge, resulting in nothing happening for minutes on end.

neutral zone trap

To counter Tampa Bay’s neutral zone trap, Philadelphia did… nothing. Photo courtesy of Yahoo Sports.

The NHL did not address the trap during the 2012-13 lockout. The trap was not a high priority during the strike, but it was an opportunity to at least address that no side took.

There were other strategies such as blocking shots that began to grow in popularity. When the season started, Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle ran a neutral zone trap. Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser even recalled Carlyle’s formations were exact replicas of Lemaire’s systems.

In this postseason, the Senators aren’t the only team deploying traps. The Nashville Predators unleashed an effective albeit unorthodox 1-4 trap against the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago’s offensive chances were rare, and Nashville dominated on both ends. It’s interesting to see two of the four remaining teams use traps well.

Is the Neutral Zone Trap Effective?

There are multiple counterarguments to using a neutral zone trap: the sacrifice of offensive chances for forwards and the pace of play. Regarding the former, the statistics are inconsistent. This season, Ottawa was 22nd in the league with just 206 goals. However, before their first Stanley Cup, the 1993-94 Devils were second in the NHL with 306 goals, seven more than the eventual-champion Rangers.

neutral zone trap

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press

Forwards in a trap do have to prioritize checking and defense over scoring. Yet in 1993-94, New Jersey’s John MacLean, Stephane Richer and Bill Guerin combined for 98 goals and 166 points. Phil Kessel had 52 points in 48 games for the trapping Leafs in 2012-13.

While some of the forwards on the deeper lines may forfeit offensive chances, the skill players can still find ways to get to the net while performing the job.

As for the entertainment of trap-heavy games, it’s tougher to watch than a regular game. Hockey is a game of speed, and fans want to watch offensive rushes towards the net more than neutral zone turnovers. On the other hand, a trap is strategy; it’s not something that needs policing. Unless a tactic gives one team an unfair advantage, the NHL shouldn’t ban formations from the game.

Fans have to enjoy the on-ice product, and neutral zone traps aren’t the most exciting strategy to watch. Ultimately, if the neutral zone trap goes the way of the dinosaur, then it needs a clear counterattack and teams have to overcome it. Otherwise, its popularity could boom with an Ottawa Stanley Cup.

 

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Henrik Lundqvist

Cup hopes for Henrik Lundqvist fading as Rangers struggle

What do you get when you add 405 wins, a Vezina Trophy and 11 playoff appearances altogether? For Henrik Lundqvist, it equals zero Stanley Cup titles.

The numbers make the math seem nonsensical, but that’s the irrationality of the New York Rangers’ inability to win a title with Lundqvist in net. With time fading away, his window to claim one is closing.

Since his arrival to the NHL in 2005, Lundqvist has shocked the hockey world with his play. The 405 wins are the most of any European-born goaltender in history. His 2011-12 Vezina victory came the same year he finished third for the Hart Trophy, which is remarkable for a goalie. In those 11 postseason appearances, Lundqvist has 61 wins, most in the Blueshirts record book.

Henrik Lundqvist after the Rangers selected him in the 2000 NHL Draft. Photo courtesy of MSG Networks/Photo by Getty Images

As a seventh-round pick in the 2000 NHL Draft, during which Rangers legend Mike Richter stood between the pipes, Lundqvist was never supposed to be this good. Now that he is, he needs hockey’s ultimate prize to entrench himself in history.

Unfairly or not, fans view great players who haven’t won a Stanley Cup in their careers differently. There are some talented alumni who come to mind. The Russian Rocket himself, Pavel Bure, never drank from Lord Stanley’s Cup. Adam Oates went to the playoffs 15 times in his 22-year career, only to fall short each time.

In the present day, Lundqvist’s division rival Alex Ovechkin continues to face criticism for failing to take the Washington Capitals to the top. Lundqvist, despite shattering hockey records, receives similar shame.

There’s one issue, however: the five players on the ice in front of him haven’t helped.

While Lundqvist’s record in the playoffs is a mediocre 61-65 record, he’s done his part in the postseason. His save percentage stands at .922 and he’s made over 3,500 saves. His greatest moments came in his Vezina season and the year he brought the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final. On May 12, 2012, five years ago yesterday, Lundqvist was incredible against Ovechkin and the Capitals, making 22 crucial saves as the Rangers won in seven games. In 2014, his performance against the Montreal Canadiens in the Conference Finals, and most of that postseason too, was tremendous.

The problem for “The King” and the Rangers is getting over the mountain. In 2012, it was an upstart Devils team that found a heartbreaking overtime goal from Adam Henrique. Then in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the Los Angeles Kings constructed as impressive a brick wall as Lundqvist with Jonathan Quick. On top of that, their offensive pace and pressure were too much for an inconsistent Rangers defense.

Henrik Lundqvist (center) in 2014 after Alec Martinez (left) scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal. Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News/photo by Mark J Terrill, AP

Other years, it was a sluggish offense. Ask any Rangers fan about how Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash fared in the playoffs in recent years. All three have hefty contracts and are expected to be the top goal scorer each year. All three combined for 32 goals in 153 postseason games for the Rangers.

This postseason, the Rangers fell to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Lundqvist was incredible in the previous series against Montreal. His .9466 save percentage was the second-highest of his career in a playoff series. However, his defense left him out to dry against the Senators.

New York had issues clearing the puck and turnovers in their own zone. As a result, Lundqvist had to make countless sprawling saves. Even when he did, one more shot zipped past him. For a team with over 100 points this season, a second-round exit was disappointing. It was even more so for Henrik.

In a race to hold the Stanley Cup, Lundqvist is losing to Father Time. He’s 35 years old, and his GAA has increased over the past three seasons. The Rangers have to examine multiple contracts on the blue line. They may also lose a forward to the expansion draft this summer.

Lundqvist has a hold on to his starting job. That’s clear as crystal. Will he get the opportunity to show off the Stanley Cup to the fans at Madison Square Garden? It’s getting harder to predict.

Featured Image by hlundqvist30.com

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