LCK Finals: Telecom Wars Review

The Telecom Slaughter

Not even SKT1 fans wanted to see the blowout that occurred during the 2017 LCK Spring Split Finals this past weekend. SKT1 beat kt Rolster in a 3-0 sweep, with the last two games in the series being pitifully one-sided.

Game 1: SKT Victory at 36 minutes

Kt Rolster: Jayce, Elise, Syndra, Ashe, Malzahar

SKT: Shen, Lee Sin, Fizz, Varus, Lulu

Giving Han “Peanut” Wang-ho Lee Sin, a champion he was 9-0 on, was kt Rolster’s first mistake this series. But despite Peanut’s Lee Sin play, kt Rolster was able to take an early lead through clean rotations, opting for towers over kills. Kt Rolster was up in gold by 20 minutes, with Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho having five kills to his name. Kt Rolster lost their lead when Heo “Pawn” Won-seok got caught out around Baron pit. The next few skirmishes followed the same way, with Pawn going down before anyone else, oftentimes with his cooldowns still up. This eventually led to a 28 minute Baron, followed by another eight minutes of consistent tower taking.

Game 2: SKT Victory at 31 minutes

Kt Rolster: Fiora, Graves, LeBlanc, Ashe, Malzahar

SKT: Camille, Lee Sin, Karma, Twitch, Lulu

Again, Peanut picked Lee Sin, but this time he was able to snowball two early kills leading to a more one-sided victory than the first game. With SKT’s mega-Twitch comp, they only needed one lane to win. However, by 20 minutes SKT had decisively won every lane with exception of bot, which was ahead of kt’s bot lane, but not by much. The shielding from Karma and Lulu led to an ae at 27 minutes giving SKT an uncontested Baron that they efficiently transferred into a victory three minutes later.

Game 3: SKT Victory at 30 minutes

Kt Rolster: Jayce, Rengar, LeBlanc, Ashe, Karma

SKT: Gragas, Graves, Lulu, Twitch, Nami

SKT Peanut awarded MVP for LCK Spring Split Playoffs. Courtesy of SKT Twitter

Kt Rolster finally banned Lee Sin from Peanut, but it was too little too late. An SKT tower dive gone wrong left each team at two kills, but seconds later Faker was able to solo kill Pawn as Lulu into Pawn’s LeBlanc. This embarrassment was furthered as Pawn was given his fifth death at the 20 minute mark. You can ban Lee Sin, but Peanut will still take over games; Peanut’s Graves finished game three 11/1/9, earning MVP for the playoffs.

Just Faker Things

Being announced in the bonjwa throne, an armchair that has seated only three other outstanding esports players in Korea, Faker took the stage with as much force as he took the series. The bonjwa throne was originally intended for professional Starcraft players, who were dominate and unrivaled in their era as the title bonjwa suggests. Faker had taken the throne only once since this opening ceremony, during a 2015 World Champions preview video.

Watching Faker play is always a learning experience. Even playing against some of the League’s best players, he looks leaps and bounds better than them. Even the most subtle of maneuvers speaks to his skill level. At one point in game one, Faker’s Fizz was ganked by Elise, creating a two versus one that he managed to escape using a Control Ward he was keeping in his inventory. Faker throws the Control Ward into the brush along mid lane with the intent to disable enemy wards allowing him to juke enemy skillshots without the opponent having vision of him. While this foresight illustrates Faker’s ability to think about different future scenarios in the game, the enemy did not have wards in the brush he juked into. Not knowing this, Faker chose wisely in placing this Control Ward, as it could have been the difference between a kt Rolster first blood or just another failed gank.

Faker shows his mastery on Fizz by using his ultimate to initiate team fights every time it is up. While this led to a lot of whiffed sharks, the constant pressure allotted by Faker’s cooldown reduction heavy build, led to the skirmish after skirmish that eventually paved the way to SKT’s 28 minute Baron in game one. On top of this constant pressure, Faker input buffered his ultimate ability by casting it during the gap closing element of his Urchin Strike, making it the ability harder to predict and subsequently juke.

Faker showed his flexibility in the next two games, playing supportive mages, Karma and Lulu, and allowing his teammates to carry. Despite taking a support into lane against Pawn’s LeBlanc, Faker was able to get a solo kill as Lulu, taking full advantage of kt Rolster’s tilt in game three. Even at the highest caliber of play, Faker can appear to be on a completely different level than his opponents.

 

SKT to MSI

With SKT’s victory over kt Rolster, the team has earned their ticket to the Mid-Season Invitational. As the team stated after their quick defeat of kt, they are looking to train their hardest in an effort to take the international stage by force. We at The Game Haus look forward to seeing the competition at MSI happening in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from April 28 – May 21. For more Faker on the bonjwa throne check the video below, and for more League of Legends, check back on The Game Haus soon.

Image: Courtesy of Yong Woo ‘Kenzi’

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Daigo’s Adjustments Push Him into ELEAGUE SFV Playoffs

The mark of a great player is having the ability to adjust after below average performances.

Daigo “The Beast” Umehara, only weeks after the unveiling of his new character Guile, was able to make the necessary adjustments to make it out of the Group B and into the ELEAGUE SFV playoffs.

Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/el/

Daigo’s only loss was at the hands of one of the most explosive players in SFV, Eduardo “PR_Balrog” Perez, who won group B. The top overall seed entering the day took care of business going 2-0 and 6-2 in games (faced Eita and Daigo). Against two of the premier Japanese players, he convincingly owned the neutral game with Balrog.

Aside from another strong performance from PR_Rog, the most unexpected result was Daigo essentially coming out of nowhere to get second in group B. Daigo is obviously a strong player, but after a sub-par finish at NCR and finishing sixth with a 3-4 record questions started to arise regarding Daigo’s play.

During SFV’s life cycle, Daigo’s had a harder time than usual adjusting to the new game. Ryu, his classic character from other Street Fighter games, wasn’t working for him this one around. He needed a character switch. Guile, a charged fireball character with excellent spacing tools, seemed to be the answer.

Despite bad losses in March and early April, Daigo proved this Friday at ELEAGUE that it was only a matter of time. Daigo ended with a 4-1 overall record with a 13-6 record in games. His defensive playstyle was a switch from weeks prior. It ended up working out.

Wins over Hiroyuki “Eita” Ngata (2x), Bruce “Gamerbee” Yu-Lin Hsiang (Necali), and Darryl “Snake Eyez” S. Lewis (Akuma) pushed him into the playoffs. Unfortunately for him, PR Rog’s relentless Balrog gave him fits, but he gained valuable information in that matchup.

Next Round Matchups

Group A and B winners will face off starting with PR Balrog up against Victor “Punk” Woodley, and Daigo will meet with one of his longtime Japanese rivals in Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi. First off, I’m already gleaming over these opening match-ups. Punk is quickly building a legend I. Street fighter V and PR Balrog looks fantastic with Balrog.

However, Daigo vs. Momochi to open as an elimination match will be intense. Daigo will have basically a month to build more Guile experience and prepare for Momochi’s Ken.


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Zack Kassian, Brandon Prust, Marc Bergevin, John Tortorella, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Milan Lucic, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Patrick Maroon, Ben Scrivens, NHL, NHL Playoffs, Playoffs, 2017 Playoffs, 2017 NHL Playoffs, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks

The Incredible Career of Zack Kassian

Alright, incredible is quite the exaggeration. But say what you will, Zack Kassian is playing incredibly right now.

After the San Jose Sharks took a 1-0 series lead, Kassian has found himself Edmonton’s series savior. Potting two game winning goals in as many contests. Edmonton now leads the series 2-1.

And Kassian’s career couldn’t have turned around at a better time for the Edmonton Oilers.

FROM BUFFALLO TO EDMONTON

Drafted in the first round, 13th overall, by the Buffalo Sabres, Zack Kassian enjoyed a productive – if also turbulent – junior career. He won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010 but his personal problems sometimes over shadowed his career potential.

Attitude, alcohol and drug problems plagued Kassian.

Zack Kassian, Brandon Prust, Marc Bergevin, John Tortorella, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Milan Lucic, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Patrick Maroon, Ben Scrivens, NHL, NHL Playoffs, Playoffs, 2017 Playoffs, 2017 NHL Playoffs, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks

Photo Credit: NHL.com.

These issues followed him to the big leagues, too. His career in Buffalo was cut short when he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. But Kassian failed to shine on John Tortorella.

On July 1, 2015, in one of the saddest trades in recent memory, the Canucks traded

Zack Kassian, Brandon Prust, Marc Bergevin, John Tortorella, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Milan Lucic, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Patrick Maroon, Ben Scrivens, NHL, NHL Playoffs, Playoffs, 2017 Playoffs, 2017 NHL Playoffs, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images.

Kassian and a 5th Round Pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to the Montreal Canadiens who sent an aged Brandon Prust back in return.

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin was willing to give Kassian one last shot at the NHL. But Kassian’s now notorious pre-season car crash, followed by a stint in rehab, effectively ended any hope of the former first-rounder making a comeback.

In December of 2015 he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Ben Scrivens.

ZACH KASSIAN – THE EDMONTON OILER

Perhaps it was the publicity of it all. Perhaps the partying had finally gotten old. Perhaps he just needed to be in the right place, at the right time. And perhaps Edmonton is that right place, and that time is now. Maybe it’s just something in the air in Edmonton. Whatever it is, it’s working.

Kassian has been playing like the young, fast, power forward Buffalo drafted 13th overall all those years ago.

Zack Kassian’s size and grit have been a welcomed addition to the Edmonton lineup. Complimentary to the other big bodies in the lineup like Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic, just to name a few.

In tight, Kassian is once again showing his skills. Pretty plays and quick hands have scored Edmonton’s last two game winning goals. For a big man, he is deceivingly fast as well. Those jets are a big reason the Oilers are up in the series.

Whether it’s the twilight of his career or just a renaissance, the Edmonton Oilers owe it all to Kassian’s play as of late.

And though the road has been a rocky one, Kassian owes it all to the Oilers as well.

The Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks play Game 4 tonight at 10:00pm Eastern; 7:00pm Pacific Time.

Edmonton leads the series 2-1.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

League Champions Korea: Spring 2017 Playoffs So Far

All you need to know to get up to date on League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK)

With LCK’s semifinals for the Spring Split coming soon, now is the optimal time for a brief update before the League’s premier games. In this article, the logistics of the League’s gauntlet style tournament as well as a short recap of how playoffs have been will be discussed.

How it Works: LCK Gauntlet

LCK, like its western counterpart, LCS, has ten teams facing each other twice throughout the split; fighting for their place in the standings that will inevitably result in promotion/relegation tournaments for the bottom two teams, and playoffs for the top four. Tiebreakers occur when two teams have the same game record and head to head record. This occurred between MVP and Afreeca Freecs this season. While this tiebreaker did not hold much weight, as the two teams would then replay each other in the first round of playoffs, it did decide who gets side selection for the next round.

The LCK playoffs operate very differently than their western counterparts. In the LCK, the first place team does not play until the final round, receiving a bye for their performance throughout the normal split. The playoffs consist of the third place team playing against the fourth place team. Then the winner of that team plays the second place team, ultimately leaving one team to play against the first place team. This manner of competition puts much more weight on the individual split, as there are more games where a bye can be achieved. Overall, this is very healthy for LCK, as teams must go through a gauntlet of playoff games before playing against the first place team. This format rewards dominant performances in the regular split, which have become all too typical in the LCK.

 

MVP Jeong “Max” Jong-bin, two kills into his quadra kill on support Sion. Courtesy of OGN.

Playoffs So Far

With Afreeca Freecs (AF) taking the tiebreaker, they were poised to win their next best of five against MVP, in order to play against the third place, kt Rolster. While this was the expected result, AF was subdued by underdog team MVP, a team that just pushed into LCK through the promotion tournament this time last year with a mostly rookie roster. This was in large part due to the momentum MVP took off of a play around baron. Kt Rolster expended too many resources stealing the baron during game one of the series. One over-extension led to MVP taking the first game, which quickly translated into a follow-up victory, securing the series with a zero death MVP bot lane.

After sweeping AF, MVP went on to get swept by kt Rolster. This allowed kt Rolster to play against second place team, Samsung Galaxy, in a best of five that ended much like the previous series (3-0). Kt Rolster flaunted their obvious strengths in both sweeps, with solo laners Wonseok “Pawn” Heo mid, and Kyungho “Smeb” Song top. Renowned 2014 world championship MVP from Samsung White, Sehyoung “Mata” Cho, had a huge impact on Malzahar in kt Rolster’s game against MVP, with pick after pick. Neither MVP nor Samsung Galaxy had a chance to truly challenge kt Rolster, both being 3-0s.

The mistakes they did show played into their commonly criticized characteristics. When kt Rolster is criticized, it is for their lack of team play. Kt Rolster is known largely as a team of Super-Star players, and less known for their meta gameplay and map movement. While their sweep against Samsung Galaxy showed that they can play as a team, albeit a bit messy, their true strengths lie in the power of their individual players as expected.

 

Kt Rolster’s Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong. Courtesy of OGN

The Finals to Come: Kt Rolster vs SK Telecom T1

So far, playoffs have been composed entirely of 3-0 sweeps. I’m sure all League of Legends fans are looking for a closer series between Kt Rolster and SK Telecom T1 (SKT). That being said, what can we expect to see between these two powerhouse teams? SK Telecom T1 is looking as strong as ever. Kt Rolster with their most recent roster seem to be gaining steam, as they have plowed through Samsung Galaxy 3-0.

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Dignitas Playoff Profile: The One Man Ssumday Army or the Unsung Duo to Victory?

 Setting the Stage

 

The return of the gold and black of Dignitas this split was a welcomed sign by some. Even more welcomed was their highly touted Korean imports. Bringing across the Pacific Top lane phenom, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and high flying (get it cause he played in Jin Air… sorry) Jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, Dignitas looked to come back in a big way. Of course, alongside this was the big news of financial backing from the Philadelphia 76ers. This was reportedly the swaying reason why Ssumday joined the team. Integrating these two talents would not only take time, but effort from the organization.

Will Dignitas’ games be another case of Ssumday and co., or will the rest of Dignitas pull their own weight? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

The rest of the Dignitas roster was flushed out with Apex Gaming’s Mid laner, Lae-Young “Keane” Jang, Canadian up and comer, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck, and the 2000 assist man himself, Alex “Xpecial” Chu. Many pundits at the beginning of the split described Dignitas accurately: the Ssumday and friends show, with the heavyweight Top laner often carrying his teammates. Dignitas won and lost games on whether their opponents could contain Ssumday or not.

But that was for the first half of the split. “Trust the process” seems to be the name of the game for Dignitas. After bringing in coach, David “Cop” Roberson, it seemed the process really took off. The team play between the Korean and NA players seemed to pick up too. Dignitas overall matured into a strong team, and while Ssumday was still easily the ace for the squad, games were won on the backs of other teammates. LOD, in particular, stepped up as a player, while Keane earned an insane nine Player of the Games, one behind Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. 

 

The Players in the Jerseys

 

Probably the most hyped player to be imported in the off season, everyone’s eyes were on Ssumday, a staple for the KT organization in LCK for many years. He didn’t fail to deliver, having a dominant opening season in NA. There’s not much more you could ask for in a Top laner. Strong in lane, impact felt outside of lane, and someone who can carry the team on his own back if needed. Ssumday is definitely still the star of this Dignitas roster and should be showing up to prove it this weekend.

There’s an almost cliche team composition of picking a Korean Top laner and Jungler and it working well (see Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin for examples). With Ssumday and Chaser, that pattern continues to be effective. Junglers excel at getting their laners ahead, and Chaser will need to be on point to guarantee that Ssumday can be the tyrant of the top half of the map. Bot lane is another possible target for Chaser, with ganks on P1’s bot lane having possible massive gains if they can keep No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon down. Chaser will need to not only play smart, but creatively, and pick up on the opportunities to get his teammates ahead. If not, Dignitas may look worse for ware.

Maybe not the strongest Mid laner in the league, Keane is still a player you should never count out. Can he shore up his weaknesses for the playoff run or will inconsistencies haunt him? Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

Mid lane, as always, dictates much of the team fighting prowess of a team. Keane will need to show his more consistent side, or possibly bring some pocket picks or off meta choices to catch his opponents off guard. While I think many wouldn’t place Keane as the linchpin that Dignitas rotates around, both Phoneix 1 and Cloud 9 do place their mid as top priorities. Keeping the opposing Mid laner in check will be vital, as will be Keane stepping up his performance overall. His stats have him solidly in a middling position for KDA, Damage Per Minute, and Damage Percentages of his team.

The silent pickup from Dignitas was trading Apex’s Apollo “Apollo” Price for EnVyUs’s LOD. I say silent because the signing of two big name Korean imports generally overshadows a domestic swap of two lower tier ADCs. LOD, however, has come up big for Dig and has shined as a contender for best player on Dignitas. He’s stepped up in big ways for Dignitas in a meta that was hard on ADCs, but looks to carry that on into the playoffs. His partner, Xpecial, clocked his 2000th assist with Dignitas, and has also had a noticeable uptick in the latter half of the split. The duo look to show that this isn’t just a Korean team as the two North Americans have put up good performances.

 

The X Factor

 

What’s the X factor for Dignitas to pull off a deep drive into the playoffs? Their botlane duo of LOD and Xpecial. While it may seem like their star in Ssumday would have to pull off the big plays, I actually feel that the duo in the botlane can have more of an impact if they can manage to get ahead of their lane opponents. Arrow has been an absolute monster for P1, but their listed support of Jordan “Shady” Robison has me thinking Arrow may not play up to his potential. If the synergy of LOD and Xpecial can step up to the plate and best Arrow and Shady, Dignitas have a decent shot at defeating their first opponent on their way to the Semis against Cloud 9.

Can LOD and Xpecial show that they’re one of NA’s top duos? Or will they fail to make a dent against the monster, Arrow? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

If LOD and Xpecial can show up against Arrow, then they stand a chance against Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta too. ADCs have come back into a more carry based position, and a strong bot lane coming out of lane can sway the tides in the mid game. Ssumday should be solid in the Top lane against Derek “zig” Shao. Even against fellow Korean, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, he stands a good chance of holding out. Chaser can possibly gain an advantage from the Jungle, being a more seasoned veteran than both Juan “Contractz” Garcia and Rami “Inori” Charagh. While Keane will also need to be strong or at least keep even with his opposite sides, it’s the duo in the bot lane that will have the biggest impact on their performance. If they step up, they can pull off a great run. If not, I don’t feel they’ll go deeper than Semis.

 

Predictions: 3-1 Dignitas over P1, 3-1 loss against Cloud 9

I’m skeptical of P1’s roster decision going into the Playoffs, and that’s why I give Dignitas the edge here. Starting Inori over William “Meteos” Hartman seems questionable. The team has galvanized around Meteos, but Inori is nothing to scoff at. Regardless though, Chaser should have the edge here, having trust and experience with his teammates. Ssumday against Zig should favour Dignitas, while Keane should be able to hold his own against Ryu. The big question is whether Dignitas’s bot lane can find advantages over P1’s. If yes, Dignitas should win their games cleanly. If they can’t, any win will be hard fought against a well positioned Arrow.

Dignitas will face a much stronger opponent if they move on and face Cloud 9. Cloud 9 retained all of their Worlds attending roster, except Meteos. They picked up Contractz, who seems streaky, but is still a strong Jungler. That means Cloud 9 should easily be the favourites here. Against some of the best laners in the league, Dignitas will be hard pressed to find advantages in the laning phase. While they have looked better recently, mid game should favour the C9 side with experience and communication. If Cloud 9 show up looking like a team that can take first place, Dignitas won’t stand much of a chance. If they show up looking like the roster that loses to Immortals, Dignitas might stand a chance at taking a few wins. Ultimately, C9 should take the series in either scenario.

Power Rankings: #3 western team

Flyquest’s Playoff Profile: Live and Die by the Cheese

Exceeding Expectations

After being pegged as a relegation team in preseason, Flyquest surged to an amazing 5-1 start. They quickly became fan favorites, pulling out some of the most unique champions of the season, from Mordekaiser ADC to Shaco jungle. As teams around them began to build synergy, Flyquest began to crumble. They finished the season 9-9 just barely making playoffs.

Strengths

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Flyquest is great at pushing advantages. You give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Having a legendary shotcaller in Hai “Hai” Lam helps. You’ll often see Flyquest try to pull off Baron as soon as possible to help them finish games as efficiently as possible.

Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate has had an amazing split compared to last year when he looked extremely lost as a rookie on NRG and TL. Moon looked great in the first few weeks, putting up insane kill numbers in the first few games of the split. He has since sizzled out a bit, but still remains one of the better players on this roster.

Lemonnation’s drafting is still extremely unpredictable to say the least. You never know what unique champions they might pull out.

Hai is one of the most selfless mid laners in NALCS. He will often roam to try and get kills for his teammates, even if it means sacrificing resources in the mid lane. As a team, An “Balls” Le, Daerek “Lemonnation” Hart, and Hai have all been playing together since their Cloud 9 days. Hai is amazing at getting everyone to listen to a call and either living or dying by that call.

Weaknesses

They tend to play an eccentric style, taking any fight they can. This can be a weakness for them as most teams have been punishing their over aggressive play style towards the end of the season.

Their attempts at cheesing opponents with their unique champion picks also hasn’t worked much for them. As much as fans love seeing unique champion picks, other teams can just outright beat them with what’s strong in the meta.

They also don’t have the best early game laning. Hai, Balls, and ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru have some of the worst CSD@10 numbers at their respective positions. Flyquest tends to try and go even through laning phase and win through mid game rotations and team fights. If they fall too far behind, they are often punished for trying to fight without the right advantages.

Living and dying by Hai’s shotcalling is a double edged sword. Sometimes it’s the right call, and other times it leaves us scratching our heads, wondering why they decided to fight there.

Player to Watch: Hai

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Mid laner and shotcaller Hai will be essential in how far Flyquest can go in playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ve improved over the last few weeks in preparation for their playoff match against CLG. Hai has always been tasked with guiding his team to victory no matter what team he is on. He’ll need to be at his best for Flyquest to go deep into playoffs.

Prediction

With how they looked near the end of the split, Flyquest will be heavy underdogs coming into their match with CLG. Hai’s shotcalling and some unique champion picks may net them a win, but I don’t see CLG losing this one.

Lose 1-3 to CLG

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CLG’s Playoff Profile: United They Stand, Or Divided They Will Fall

Setting the Stage

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), the perennial contenders (or pretenders) of the NA LCS. They’re (almost) always in contention for playoffs every split. There is always some kind of hype behind them, but they often do the exact opposite of what everyone expects. They were the only NA LCS roster to leave the off season intact, retaining all the same five starters from over a year ago. Top lane held down by the one called Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, veteran long time LCS Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, hot and cold Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, zero to hero ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and team captain on and off the Rift, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. It’s the same squad that brought North America some pride at MSI, and then proceeded to lose both games against Wildcard Cinderella story Albus NoX Luna.

Even his teachers call him… Darshan? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s path to the playoffs was one that could’ve (or should’ve), gone very differently. They had a rough start to the split, where other teams could draw on new players as an excuse. A strong surge in the middle and a wonky, long game three against EnVy make this CLG roster very… CLGesque. But they’re in the playoffs, and up against the hot and cold Flyquest. The record between these two doesn’t really help us in favouring a side. Both have beat each other in a 2-0 series. While CLG’s win was more recent, Flyquest looked stronger in their last week of games.

 

The Players in the Jerseys

What about the players themselves? Darshan hasn’t had quite the split he had last year, often winning his lane and split pushing CLG to victory. Oftentimes he looks as if he’s trying too hard to be too much for the team. Whether it’s the increased skill in the Top lane, a decline in mechanics, or a massive meta shift (the last one being quite likely), Darshan doesn’t seem to be as solid of a rock for CLG as he used to be. The bright side? Darshan has looked a lot more comfortable in the recent meta than in the first half of the split. If he can temper his aggression, become slightly more calculated in his 1 vs 1’s, or contribute otherwise, he can still be the Top laner CLG need. But that’s quite a few ifs.

Xmithie, the constantly underrated Jungler to the point of being overratedly underrated, has looked… uninspiring this split. Statistically speaking, his KDA is the lowest in the league for Junglers at a startling 2.4 (relative to, say, the highest being 3.8 on Galen “Moon” Holgate). He also ranks at the bottom for Kill Particpation, a vital stat for Junglers at a measly 63.1%. It could be the reason that CLG started so slow. Rookies like Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Juan “Contractz” Garcia were on hot streaks, single handedly taking their teams to wins; but as these rookies have cooled down, and the meta shifts away from carry Junglers, we may see the steadier Xmithie return.

Stats aren’t everything, though, and Xmithie is still a strong player for CLG. He has experience and always seems to be where he needs to be. If it makes any CLG fan feel better, Svenskeren ranks only one place above Xmithie. That’s saying something. A Jungler’s role in League of Legends is one of tacticians, making plays to get your teammates ahead and out-thinking the other Jungler. This is something Xmithie has had multiple seasons of practice with.

There are a lot of stats to look at when thinking about Mid laners. Huhi is one of those players that isn’t necessarily understood through his stats. He often looks unstoppable on certain champs, and utterly lost on others. His stats are interesting, though. When you think of Mid laners, you want two things: damage output and CS difference at 15. On the first point, Huhi does pretty well. He places fourth among starting Mid laners with a Damage Per Minute of 559 (28.1% of CLG’s overall damage), putting him third overall for Mid laners.

On the second part, Huhi was dead last, only higher than the much maligned changing Liquid Mid laners of Goldenglue and Piglet. You can never count him out though. He can come up big for the team on certain champions, like Syndra and Aurlieon Sol. His damage output, even while behind in lane, is impressive. He also will play a vital role against Flyquest in (trying) to shut down Hai and possibly get inside the head of the veteran shotcaller.

From zero to hero, Stixxay’s journey with CLG has gone from fans criticizing him to praising him. Can he lead them into another Spring finals? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s botlane duo seems to be almost always the stable foundation for the whole roster. This is the case now more than ever. While the rest of the team fell flat some games, or looked completely bewildered, Stixxay and Aphromoo found consistency. It has put Stixxay in the spotlight. From a harshly criticized player, to challenging Aphromoo as CLG’s strongest laner, Stixxay has come alive this split. He is tied with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi for second in Damage Per Minute at 546, and third in Damage percent at 26.9%. Remember, that’s all coming out of a split that was half dominated by Utility Ult ADC’s, too.

On the other hand, Aphromoo’s contribution to the team isn’t just on the Rift. Stats for Supports are always hard to read. His presence is known inside and out of the Rift, as a team leader and cool head for the squad overall. There’s a lot to be said for that, and a lot to be said about a Support’s ability to bring out the best in their ADC. Stixxay is performing up there among the greats of the league, like newcomer No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, and long time staple, Sneaky.

 

The X Factor

So what does all this mean for CLG? Well, pretty much the same as always. CLG aren’t expected to take it all, and a deep drive into the playoffs will give some hope to the Faithful. It’s a position they’re all too accustomed to, though. So what needs to happen for CLG here? What’s their X factor? Well, as lame as it sounds, they need to stand as a team again. That was this roster’s strength last year. Stixxay didn’t out-mechanic any ADC in NA of note. Darshan was great for splitpushing, yes, and Aphromoo was always Aphromoo, but it was the team that won that playoff. The X factor is for that team to reappear in this playoff run. Not just the strong talent that each player has shown off at times, but for them as a team to move and work together again.

This is a different CLG than last Spring though. Stixxay, as many have pointed out, has grown into one of the strongest ADCs in the region. Aphromoo is still hailed for his strength as a player and a leader. When Huhi is playing his best, he’s an absolute monster. Darshan can still pull off some insane plays. Xmithie still shows up and performs for his team. It was the roster that looked good as a whole, not as individual units. Some part of me wonders if that is for better or worse.

Can Huhi step up to the plate for CLG when they need him? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

As Piltover’s Sherrif says, “The whole is better than the sum of its parts.” CLG fans will need to see that team play again. The macro and teamwork-oriented style of play, while picking each other up. CLG seems too much like a team trying to always make a play. From greedy 1 vs 1’s for Darshan to awkward engages in the bot lane, CLG needs to get themselves back to their position of working as a team and thinking rather than just hoping the plan of attack works. While the obvious players to watch are Stixxay and Huhi, CLG haven’t relied on solo carries since the Doublelift days. They will win as a team.

 

Predictions

3-2 CLG over Flyquest, 3-1 loss against TSM.

I’m not convinced that Flyquest is back to winning. I wonder more if it was the similar phenomena where teams just can’t seem to handle the ‘new kids on the block’ or not. That being said, you can’t bat an eyelash at Hai “Hai” Du Lam and his boys. They’re a strong roster, and whether that’s more off the back of Hai’s magic touch at shotcalling or as a genuine threat, they’re still tough and always a team that can show up and take the win. CLG seemed to play to the level of their opponents this split though, which might mean they’ll be firing on all cylinders against the mind of Hai.

Nonetheless, I think CLG will pull it out in the end. I just think they have it in them to take down Flyquest, but it really depends which CLG and which Flyquest show up. Hence my 3-2 win. I highly doubt we’d see a complete blow out either way. However, if either team comes to these games playing at their lowest, we might. If each team comes performing at their best, it’ll be a back and forth series. Both teams are underdogs to make it deep into the playoffs and will have that underdog identity hanging over their heads. For CLG, this will be old news. For the new (old?) Flyquest boys, this may be a new feeling.

TSM, on the other hand, I don’t see CLG standing much of a chance against. They looked absolutely horrendous against TSM (I would know, I had Huhi, Aphro, and Xmithie on my Fantasy team…). They didn’t seem to put up much of a fight in their most recent meeting. TSM had control the entire time, and with that in mind, I really can’t see this series going CLG’s way. I’m generous and thinking, hey, maybe they can squeeze one game out. If they do manage to pull out a win, it would possibly be an even bigger upset than their past two wins in playoffs against TSM.

Reflecting on Pre-Split EU LCS Expectations

On JANUARY 20, 2017, the second day of the EU LCS Spring Split, I wrote a piece with my initial thoughts on four teams. I chose these four teams, because they seemed to have the widest possible range of results. The final standings would be determined by their performance. Check out that article here.

As the EU LCS finishes Week 9, it only makes sense to revisit my preseason thoughts. There has been a smaller gap between groups than expected. Some teams have performed as expected, while others have been surprisingly strong or weak.

G2 and Splyce

Preseason Thought: “G2 and Splyce decided to retain their entire starting rosters. None of the other teams seem prepared to challenge these two for group dominance. Unless the new pick-ban phase exposes unforeseen weaknesses, we expect these two teams to stay at the top.”

G2: EU LCS #1 team

courtesy of Riot esports

G2 has truly secured their spot at the top of the standings. Sitting at 11-0, few teams have even been able to take a game off of this squad, let alone a series. Maintaining the starting lineup from Summer 2017 has allowed G2 to remain dominant within EU. Even through meta shifts from patch changes, G2 has adapted to every opponent they have faced in the LCS. They may even be performing better than analysts expected.

Splyce: EU LCS #5 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Splyce, on the other hand, has seemed much weaker than last year. Early losses to H2K, Unicorns of Love, and Misfits proved that Splyce would need much improvement to reach the top of Group B. Spring has shown them beating teams below them, but losing to teams above them. Splyce currently sit third in their group, with a 7-4 record. They have generally performed below preseason expectations, but fans have seen flashes of Splyce’s former dominance.

Origen

Preseason Thought: “Origen seems to be the only team that did not catch a break in the off-season. After a 9th place finish in the Summer Split last year, the entire squad dissipated. Origen’s pick-ups each appear to be a downgrade from their respective predecessors…The floor is low on this team, and we expect that they will round out the bottom of Group B.”

Origen: EU LCS #10 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Poor Origen. Boasting a series record of 0-12, and a game record of 2-24, they have performed at the lowest possible level. The lineup has been plagued with issues this split. Substituting in the support and jungle roles has not been ideal.  Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez has had to step into another new seat. Unfortunately, Origen will be heading towards the Spring Promotion Tournament to defend their spot in the LCS. They have performed as analysts expected.

Roccat

Preseason Thought: “I am keeping my eyes on this new ROCCAT. They could get a few wins under their belt and avoid the Summer Promotion series this year. They could end up in last yet again, but everyone loves an underdog, right?”

courtesy of Riot esports

ROCCAT began the split 0-7, which had analysts believing they would be destined to return to their third consecutive Promotion Tournament. However, over the past few weeks, ROCCAT has swung back, going 5-0. They currently sit in fourth in Group A, just below Fnatic. Depending on the results of Week 10, ROCCAT can actually slip into the playoffs and boot Fnatic. Being one of the only teams to truly climb through the standings, ROCCAT have performed much better than many preseason expectations. (I kind of called it, though.)

Misfits

Preseason Thought: “If Misfits want to make an impact, they will need their remaining players to continue to play at the top level, while incorporating PowerOfEvil and KaKAO seamlessly. Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris, Steven ‘Hans sama’ Liv, and Lee ‘IgNar’ Dong-geun will need to maintain lane dominance against tougher lanes. This team does have a high ceiling, but these roster changes will need to prove themselves fruitful.”

Misfits: EU LCS #4 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Misfits have definitely made a splash in their first EU LCS split. Their 7-4 record is nothing to overlook. Misfits sits solidly in second place in Group A, four wins below G2, two wins above Fnatic. The team has looked slightly weaker in recent weeks, but should still be a force in playoffs. Barney “Alphari” Morris, Steven “Hans sama” Liv, and Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun have meshed right into the professional scene. Each of them have had standout performances. Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon have proven my skepticism wrong. Misfits demonstrated team synergy earlier than expected, and PowerOfEvil looks like an entirely new player compared to last year.

H2K

Preseason Thought: “Will the momentum of last year continue, or did it fizzle in the off-season?…Febiven has proven himself to be a top-tier European Mid laner. He should be able to step in without issue. However, Nuclear and Chei are Korean imports, which could prove to be dangerous.”

H2K: EU LCS #3 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski and Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu are as good as ever. The jungler and top laner have maintained dominance while allowing Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten to have a successful split thus far. H2K was obviously disjointed in the beginning of the split, but Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun, and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho have assimilated into the rest of the team relatively well. This team has probably performed slightly higher than many expected, but they are nowhere near the ceiling they experienced at Worlds 2016. H2K is far from the best team in EU.

Fnatic

Preseason Thought: “This roster has a lot of combined experience. But will it be enough?…Most EU LCS fans are probably pulling for Fnatic to do well in 2017. While this line-up’s ceiling is quite high, they could also finish middle-of-the-pack.”

Fnatic: EU LCS #6 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Spring Split has been difficult for Fnatic. Sitting at third in Group A, they hold a 5-6 series record and a 14-16 game record. The same team that took games off of G2, Unicorns of Love, and Splyce also dropped games to Giants and Vitality, even dropping a series to ROCCAT. It seems the combined experience of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, and Jesse “Jesiz” Le has proven insufficient. Substituting at the jungle position has not helped anything. Fnatic’s rookie mid laner, Rasmus “Caps” Winther, has definitely shown strong potential as a solo carry at times. Overall, Fnatic has performed lower than many analysts expected. It has not been entirely surprising, though.

EU LCS teams have one last week to settle the standings leading into playoffs and relegation. This split has had its fair share of exciting match-ups, but much of it has gone according to my preseason expectations. The group format and Best-of-3’s have brought pros and cons, but mostly stagnation within groups. ROCCAT’s recent climb has essentially been the only major action, especially when compared to the NA LCS. Playoffs should be exciting and less predictable, due to the parity between Unicorns of Love, H2K, Misfits, and Splyce. Mid-Season Invitational should be another great test of EU’s relation to the other major regions.

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The Rise of The Miami Heat

The Miami Heat have somehow played their way into the NBA playoff picture. It seemed like the Heat were lottery bound after a dismal 11-30 start. They now sit at 34-36 and are in the thick of the playoff race.

The turnaround started in the backcourt. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters have been dominant in the second half of the season, which has been a huge factor in the epic turnaround.

Dragic is now averaging 20.3 points and six assists per game, and Waiters is putting up 15.8 points and 4.3 assists. The Heat should continue to contend down the stretch even with Waiters’ injury. Tyler Johnson should be able to fill Waiters’ role nicely until he is able to return from his injury (which he anticipates will be before the end of the season).

Another key to their success has rested in the continual rise of Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is averaging his career high in points and rebounds (16.7/14.2) and he leads the league in the latter category. Whiteside received a huge deal over the summer that many people were critical of. It seems as if the deal is paying off for the Heat.

Many were harshly critical of how disengaged Whiteside was last season. He was often accused of taking plays or even entire games off and not giving his full effort. That problem seems like it has been fixed, and his teammates claim that he is able to bounce back quickly and stay engaged in the game. He may be averaging less per game than he did during the Heat’s 11-30 start, but he has shot more efficiently from the field and improved from the free throw line. He also has a distinctly improved plus/minus.

Now sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, it is time for the Heat to make their final push for the playoffs. The final push, however, will be one of their toughest of the season. The March 28 matchup against the Detroit Pistons, who are the current eight seed, may prove to be crucial.

On top of that, they finish the season with games against the Celtics, Cavaliers, Raptors (twice), and Wizards (twice). It’s going to be tough for the Heat to make it to the playoffs considering the brutal final push. However, they can’t be counted out. Either way, it’s been an impressive feat that they’re still in the conversation this late.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

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

Pacific Division Playoff Predictions

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

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

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

SHARKS WIN THE DIVISION

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

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

Photo credit: NHL.com.

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

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

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

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

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

San Jose will win the Pacific Division.

ANAHEIM FOLLOWS CLOSE BEHIND

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

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

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

Photo credit: NHL.com

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

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

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

Gibson is expected back after the bye week.

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

Anaheim will place second in the Pacific Division.

EDMONTON TAKES THIRD

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

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Sergei Belski, USA Today Sports.

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

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

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

Edmonton will place third in the Pacific Division.

CALGARY CAPTURES A WILDCARD SPOT

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

Photo credit: Will Nault.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Frederick Breedon, Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

KINGS COME UP SHORT

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

But it won’t happen.

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

Photo credit: Canadian Press.

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles will finish fifth in the Pacific Division.

VANCOUVER AND ARIZONA

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

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

Vancouver will finish sixth in the Pacific Division.

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

Arizona will finish seventh in  the Pacific Division.

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