Can Holtby continue to fuel the Capitals’ Stanley Cup hopes

It wasn’t much longer than a week ago that everyone in the NHL was asking what was going to happen to Washington in the offseason. They dropped the first two games of the series at home and were preparing to head back to Columbus for two critical road games.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer started the series for the Washington Capitals but was replaced with Braden Holtby in game two after allowing 4.57 goals per game with just a .837 save percentage.

The Capitals still lost game two, but the change at goalie by head coach Barry Trotz proved to be the difference maker for the rest of the series.

Holtby posted a 4-1 record in the series with a 1.92 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. Holtby’s strong play saved the series for the Washington Capitals, and now they will have a shot at the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Series

Once he came in Holtby was completely in control. The Capitals as a whole began to feed off the momentum of a hot goaltender. When the Blue Jackets shoot they usually find ways to hit the net, and this series was no different. Holtby faced a tremendous amount of shots, and 53 percent of them were on goal.

Stanley Cup Hopes

(Photo By: Zimbio.com)

In a pivotal game three Holtby took over the game making 33 saves on 35 shots; including nine saves in the two overtimes. He only allowed two goals throughout the whole game, and only one of them was at even strength. Game three was a momentum builder for both Holtby and the Capitals, and it translated to the rest of the series.

The penalty kill for the Capitals hit a whole new level with Holtby in the net in games four, five and six. The Caps went a perfect 13 for 13 in those games on the kill; completely stalling out the Blue Jackets power play.

Holtby did benefit a lot from his best-friend behind him. The Blue Jackets hit the post five times in the series, which stands as the highest total throughout the entire first-round.

Beating The Pens

The Capitals and Penguins are meeting yet again in the postseason, but this time Holtby and the Caps will be looking to take them down.

After a tremendous series against the Blue Jackets, Holtby is looking to keep it going against the Pens, but Pittsburgh has proven they can exploit any players weaknesses.
But what are Holtby’s weaknesses?

Shots From The Left Slot

It has been a known weakness for Holtby for awhile now, but he is susceptible to shots from the left slot area, specifically on his low blocker side.

The Blue Jackets tried to exploit this, but couldn’t. Columbus scored nine goals with Holtby in net this series, of those nine, five came from the left slot.

In an article written by Kevin Woodley, it is pointed out that Holtby allowed 18 goals to his low blocker side. The highest total of anywhere on his body this season.

This weak link on the left side will open the door for Pittsburgh’s right-handed scorers to potentially have a more significant impact.

Pittsburgh Exploiting It?

Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, and Bryan Rust are the most notable right-handed players for the Penguins this year, and they have had success against the Capitals this year.

In four games against the Capitals this season, Kessel was able to score three goals and added an assist as well. Hornqvist also added the same numbers. Rust had two assists against the Caps as well as one goal.

The three scorers combined for six goals and eight assists in their series against the Flyers, but they will be looking to put up even more significant numbers against Washington.

Of course, players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are going to score, but if these players can attack Holtby’s low blocker from the left side, they could find some success.

franchise pieces

NHL Draft prospect watch: 3 franchise pieces outside of Dahlin

There is no doubt that Rasmus Dahlin is going to go to whatever team wins the NHL draft lottery. But that does not mean that other players cannot be good franchise pieces to build around.

There are plenty of players that are wanting to make the NHL, but only a few are actually ready. Depending on what teams they go to there are two to three players that are ready for the NHL right away. The top of the draft is filled with two-way forwards that will eventually make significant impacts in the NHL.

Andrei Svechnikov – Right Wing – Barrie (OHL)

franchise pieces

(Photo By: NHL.com)

Svechnikov is going to be an offensive force in the NHL when he is ready. Andrei can score from anywhere on the ice. His blistering shot comes with sniper-like precision. At 6-2 186 lbs, Svechnikov has the size and strength to be among the NHL’s elite goal scorers.

Scouts have said that his top potential is being a pure goal scorer like Patrik Laine and Alexander Ovechkin. He showed that with his play in the OHL this season. In 44 games he posted an impressive 40 goals but also had 32 assists. That is what will make Svechnikov a unique player in the NHL. He sees the ice clearly and knows how to make the extra pass to get his team a goal.

One thing that makes him so advanced for his age is his ability to create his own shot. Andrei at times can create space with his stick-handling to score, but his ability to move off the puck is incredible. Svechnikov understands how and when to push for space with the puck not on his stick, and it leads to a lot of chances off of set plays and transitions.

If Andrei can hit his full potential, he will easily be one of the most exciting players in the NHL, but to get there, he will have to work on his two-way game. Every player, especially the top-end ones have to play defense a decent amount, and Svechnikov has struggled a bit with it. He is very physical with his body, which is a good thing, but at times it can often get him into trouble. Sometimes he gets over aggressive and over pursues a play or ends up taking a costly penalty. Lucky for him, this fault is something that is easily coached. In his young career, he has already shown signs of improvement defensively; he just is not fully there yet.

Brady Tkachuk – Left Wing – Boston University

The younger brother of Matthew Tkachuk, Brady has all the tools to outshine his brothers NHL career. Tkachuk is 6-3 196 lbs, which is precisely what you look for when selecting a two-way forward. Playing physical, but under control is one thing that sets Tkachuk from the rest of the two-ways in this draft.

Tkachuk uses his size and speed to outclass his opponents physically. Head coach of Boston University David Quinn relied on Tkachuk a lot in penalty killing situations during his time at Boston University, and Tkachuk thrived on the unit. Brady’s defense is undoubtedly ready to compete at the NHL level, and he is sure to help out in that area on whatever team he goes to. Tkachuk’s transition to the NHL will be smoother than most, because of his side and defensive abilities.

Along with his strong defensive abilities, Tkachuk has very soft hands and can navigate through traffic efficiently. Scouts his knowledge of knowing when to dump and chase the puck and when to use his stick-handling to carry the puck in. When dumping the puck, Tkachuk does a great job of putting it in the right spot so that it results in a possession for his team.

There is no doubt that Tkachuk’s awareness is at an NHL level, on both defense and offense. He knows what position to be in at all times and can efficiently execute it at the same time. In 40 games with Boston this season he tallied 23 assists which shows his above-average ability to see the ice and make the right pass.

One of the big knocks on Tkachuk is his shot. Even though his shots carry a decent pace, it is not entirely where it needs to be for the NHL. His accuracy is there at times, but other times it is not there. As he gets older and stronger, the speed problem is sure to be fixed, but if Tkachuk is to become a great offensive player, his accuracy will have to get better.

Filip Zadina – Left Wing – Halifax (QMJHL)

Filip Zadina is a very intriguing prospect. Zadina dazzled at the IIHF World Juniors for the Czech Republic, and he was a for Halifax. Filip has been called the best stick-handler in the draft by some scouts, which is scary if you factor in his blistering speed and quick shot.

The combination of size and speed that Zadina brings is that of some of the NHL’s top playmakers, and it looks like his ceiling is exactly that. At 6-1 192 lbs, Zadina has the body to withstand the physicality of the NHL, and the speed to keep up with it. He can move laterally or vertically, and his stick control is second to none.

At the World Juniors, Filip Zadina was able to showcase some of his stick-handling abilities on a large stage. Zadina tallied seven goals during the tournament; including this fantastic display of stick control and shot accuracy.

In the QMJHL Zadina is a star. In 57 games this season, Zadina scored 44 goals and added 38 assists for a total of 82 points. That adds up to 1.43 points per game, which is an impressive feat in any league. If he can carry this high-level offensive play into the NHL, he will be a star.

Before he gets to that point, he has a few things he will have to work on. Sometimes he can get above himself from a playmaking standpoint, and that leads to him holding the puck for too long. At the junior level he can get away with it, but moving into the NHL the speed and skill of defenders will keep him from being able to hold the puck. Another knock is his defense. It is close to being there, but he still needs to work on it a bit. He has shown flashes of playing defense at a high level, but it has to become more consistent before he reaches the NHL.

Recap

The ultimate prize for every team in the lottery is Rasmus Dahlin. But teams can still get some high-level players in picks one through 10. Svechnikov, Tkachuk and Zadina have all the tools needed to dominate at the next level. They will need to be developed, but if done right they will be great contributors to their teams.

 

Featured image by NHL.com

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Winnipeg moves

Winnipeg moves onto round 2 after beating Minnesota

The Jets are moving on to the second round after beating the Minnesota Wild. Winnipeg moves on to round two of the postseason for the first time in franchise history. The Wild looked to be outclassed entirely throughout this entire series and never really stood a chance against a far superior Jets team.

Connor Hellebuyck

As is the theme with most of these series’, Connor Hellebuyck put out a fantastic series in net. He did have a hiccup in game three when he had to be pulled in a 2-6 loss, but in his other four games, he looked completely in control.

Hellebuyck posted a goals-against average of 1.93 with a .924 save percentage. Connor finishes the series on a high note, posting his first shutout of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Going into a probable series against the Nashville Predators the goaltending for Winnipeg could be the difference maker.

Star of the Series: Dustin Byfuglien

Winnipeg moves

(Photo By: The Athletic)

Byfuglien’s presence was felt on the ice all series long. Dustin looked like a man amongst boys against the Minnesota Wild as he laid countless bone-crunching hits. His 25 hits in this series have him ranked second among all players in the NHL this season, but his dominance does not stop there.

Mark Scheifele and Byfuglien lead the Jets in scoring this series with five points each, with all five of Byfuglien’s points coming from assists.

One thing he will have to work on moving on to round two will be staying out of the box. As the Jets move deeper into the playoffs, the power plays of teams tend to become a lot sharper. Byfuglien will hope to cut his 14 minutes of penalty time to help his team succeed. His physical presence completely changed this series, but he needs to be more under control against better teams.

Looking Ahead

Winnipeg is most likely going to have to take on the Nashville Predators. A team they were 2-3-0 against during the regular season. Nashville’s offense overwhelmed the Jets defense in the regular season, scoring four or more goals in four of the five games they played.

That is where Connor Hellebuyck comes into play. Hellebuyck showed why he is a Vezina candidate against the Wild, but he did have the one bad game. The Predators offense is far superior to that of the Wild’s, and if Hellebuyck is off, even a little, they will exploit it and dominate.

How Far Will the Jets Go?

The Jets have all the tools to go all the way to the Stanley Cup, but the issue for them is that every team left does as well. Winnipeg is going to have to have things go their way to make it.

Every little thing during games matters a lot more. The rest of the postseason lies in how hard coach Paul Maurice can get these guys to play. They will have to win at least one game on the road this next series, so they won’t have a crowd to rely on. The Jets can do it, but they need to be locked in.

Featured image by: TSN

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Ducks can’t avoid Jaws, Sharks advance to round 2

The San Jose Sharks defeated the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in game four of the series to complete the sweep. They will take on the Golden Knights in round two. The Sharks advance on the back of a great all-around team series where they got production from all of their core players.

San Jose had complete control of the series from the opening drop of the puck in game one. Anaheim was held to only one lead throughout the entire series. That lead only lasted nine minutes before the Sharks answered with points of their own. The defense of San Jose kept the Ducks offense in check, and goaltender Martin Jones played a significant factor into that.

Martin Jones

Sharks advance

Photo By: Daily Herald

Every year in the postseason there is a goalie that gets hot and shuts a team down. This postseason that goalie was Martin Jones. In four games Jones’ goals against average was an even one goal allowed per game and had a save percentage of .970.

Jones only allowed more than one goal one time throughout the entire series and even was able to post a shutout; something he did only four times throughout the whole regular season. Martin’s play stopped the Anaheim Ducks from grabbing any momentum throughout the entire series and allowed the Sharks offense to play loose and free.

Playing The Knights

Going into round two Jones will be going up against a goaltender that is even hotter than he is in Marc-Andre Fleury. This matchup will be arguably the most entertaining one to watch in round two.

Expect the same story from this series. Low scoring games and lots of physical play. The only difference is, both teams are most likely looking at a series going longer than just four games.

Both teams match up fairly evenly with each other. The Sharks are more star-powered, but the Golden Knights are very fundamentally sound.

In four games against Vegas, this season the Sharks are 1-2-1, but only one game was decided by more than one goal, and two of the games went to overtime. The deciding factor in those four games was the Golden Knights special teams. In the Knights three wins against San Jose, they recorded three powerplay goals and one shorthanded goal. Look for the Sharks to try and fix these issues for their upcoming series.

Game Breaker: Evander Kane

At the trade deadline, the San Jose Sharks acquired Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres, and he made a tremendous impact in the Sharks first series versus Anaheim.

In game one Kane opened the series scoring with two goals within six minutes of each other. Those two goals helped propel the Sharks to a 3-0 win allowing them to flip the home-ice advantage in their favor.

In game three Kane was able to get one goal, and an assist that helped San Jose take down the Ducks 8-1 in what was most likely the end of the Ducks hopes at a series win.

Evander’s strong series is precisely why the Sharks acquired him for their playoff push. The Kings struggled mightily against the Golden Knights defense. San Jose is hoping that Evander Kane can help crack the code of their defense.

If the Sharks can take-down the Golden Knights in round two, Kane is most likely going to need to put out a solid series.

How Far Can They Go?

The Sharks look like a very strong contender to be the Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup. They play defense first, then offense and that is a proven winning formula in the playoffs. San Jose is also getting very elite goaltending. Something only one other team in the Western Conference is getting.

If the Sharks can get through the Golden Knights and the other conference teams keep beating up on each other. There is no reason why they can’t make another run at the cup. The experience is there, but they have to make it happen.

 

Featured image by: World News Insider

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Golden Knights sweep the Los Angeles Kings

Yep, you heard that right. The Vegas Golden Knights are the first team moving on to the second round after sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in their first-round matchup. Each game was very hard-fought and tight until the end, as every game was decided by only one goal; including a double-overtime game in game two.

Star Of The Series: Marc-Andre Fleury

golden knights sweep

(Photo By: Sharon Herald)

The star of the series very easily could have been the opposing goaltender Jonathan Quick, but Fleury had to make his fair share of game-saving saves as well.

In round one Fleury put up awe-inspiring numbers. Fleury sported an incredible .65 goals against average along with a .970 save percentage. Both numbers are good for first in the NHL postseason so far.

Fleury’s best performance came in game four when he was able to stop all 31 of the Los Angeles Kings shots to help the Golden Knights secure a one to nothing victory on the way to the teams first ever playoff series win.

Who Is Next?

The Golden Knights will be facing the winner of the Anaheim Ducks versus San Jose Sharks series. Currently, the Sharks hold a three game to none lead over the Ducks and have dominated in each of those games.

San Jose is carrying a goaltender that is playing just as good as Fleury, but the Sharks also have the offense to match.

If these two teams are to meet in the second round, it is undoubtedly going to be an exciting series. The Golden Knights were underdogs versus the Kings as many of the experts across the nation picked them to lose to Los Angeles in the first round.

Resiliency

Vegas has shown that they are not going to back down from a fight. Beating the Kings was no easy task, let alone sweeping them. Riding the back of Marc-Andre Fleury this team has all the tools to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

The Knights proved in this series that they are for real and it is time the hockey world takes note. Their regular season run was not a fluke; it is what they are. It is going to take a lot to stop Vegas, and I am not sure that any team has the tools to take them down in a seven-game series.

 

Featured image by USA Today

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breakout season

Series outlook: Lightning look to continue their breakout season

The Tampa Bay Lightning have won their first division title since the 2003-04 season when they won the Stanley Cup. Tampa will be looking to have that same success this season, but first, they will have to defeat a New Jersey team that is on the rise.

New Jersey finished last season with 70 points and the number one pick in the NHL draft, but this season the team has looked like a top tier team all season long, and now they find themselves in the postseason for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The Devils are going to have to play some of their best hockey if they want to beat a very deep Tampa Bay Lightning squad.

Nikita Kucherov Taking Over

breakout season

(Photo by: NHL.com

Nikita Kucherov had a spectacular season for the Lightning, and he will be looking to keep it going for them in the postseason. 100 points this season was a career high for Kucherov, and now he will have his first chance at the playoffs since 2016.

Kucherov has appeared in 45 different playoff games in his career. In those games, he has found some success and has a career total of 42 points off of 22 goals and 20 assists. When he has been on the ice, the Lightning have been very productive, and it shows in his career playoff plus/minus of +20.

Nikita appeared in 12 games against the Devils in his entire career, and he has had some success against them. Kucherov has 14 career points against New Jersey including a two-point performance earlier this season.

The Lightning have a solid scoring presence, but Nikita Kucherov will have to play at a high level if the Lightning are going to make a run this postseason. The Eastern Conference is loaded with talent, and Tampa Bay has shown signs of weakness this last month.

From Zero To Hero Taylor Hall

For the New Jersey Devils, the play of Taylor Hall has had a massive impact on their push to the playoffs. Hall went on an incredible point streak in the middle of the season that ultimately ended at a remarkable 26 games.

Hall’s play since the new year began has been extraordinary. Taylor finished the season with 57 points in just 40 games; ranking him third behind only Connor McDavid and Evgeni Malkin. Hall had a great run to end the season, but his play this postseason will be the ultimate deciding factor in how successful this season is.

Head To Head

 

breakout season

(Photo By: CBS New York)

New Jersey has the season series on their side. In three meetings against the Lightning, this season the Devils have won all three of them. Two of the three games were played in New Jersey, and one of the games did end in a shutout.

The Lightning had the highest scoring offense in the 2017-18 season, and their defense plays very well as a team. The Devils do not have the stats to back them, but they have played up to their competition a lot of the time this season. New Jersey is sure to bring their best effort against a very good Tampa squad.

The playoffs are obviously a different beast than the regular season, but the Devils do have favorable matchups with the Lightning, and it could lead to this series being one of the most interesting of the first round.

Series Prediction:

This series, like many others, is going to be a very entertaining one to watch. I do like the matchups the Devils have over the Lightning. New Jersey has the strength and has proven they can hang with the Lightning on three different occasions this season.

I believe this series will need all seven games to be decided with game seven being determined by a coin flip, but I think that the Devils will come through in the end and upset the number one seeded Tampa Bay Lightning.

Devils win the series 4-3

lucky this postseason

Series outlook: Vegas looks to get lucky this postseason

The Golden Knights have broken all expansion barriers and winning a playoff series is the next obstacle in their way. The Kings will be a very tough opponent for Vegas, and this series is sure to be one of the best ones of the first round. Like all playoff series’ in the NHL, the Knights will have to be a bit lucky this postseason to win.

Vegas Playing As A Team

What has made Vegas work, is their ability to work as one unit. Vegas does not have star power on the offensive or defensive end, but they all work very well together as a unit. The Knights had seven players score more than 40 points during the 2017-18 season which was among the top numbers in the league. For the Golden Knights to win in the postseason, it will be critical for them to stick to this formula.

Team Defense

Vegas plays excellent team defense. Their defensemen have done a great job all season of swarming the puck and forcing bad decisions. The Knights finished the season with the second highest takeaway total in the entire NHL. They also had a great takeaway to giveaway ratio at 1.1.

The Golden Knights were able to keep the goaltender relatively clean this season, and when you have a goalie the caliber of Fleury, it makes it very easy to win games. Because of this Andre-Fleury was able to have one of the best even-strength save percentages in the entire NHL with a ..931. He has this save percentage on the 10th least shot attempts in the whole NHL.

William Karlsson

lucky this postseason

(Photo By: Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports)

Even though the Knights don’t have a superstar the one player you would pick to be the leader is William Karlsson. Karlsson’s career-high 78 points led the Golden Knights, and his 43 goals had him ranked third in the entire NHL.

Karlsson did have success against the Kings this season in the four games he appeared. Karlsson tallied three goals and one assist, along with a plus/minus rating of +3. The Knights are 2-1-1 in those games. If William Karlsson can continue to play well, the Golden Knights will have a very good chance at beating the Kings this series.

Kings Lockdown Defense

Like many of the Pacific division teams, the Kings play physical defense that results in low scoring battles. Los Angeles finished the season with a 2.43 goals against average which was good for the lowest total in the NHL.
Penalty Kill

The Kings had an incredibly good penalty kill in the 2017-18 season. They finished first in the NHL with an 85 percent success rate. The Kings are a team that doesn’t take too many penalties, but when they do they kill them very efficiently.

Vegas’ power play ranks ninth in the NHL so the Kings penalty kill will be put to the test, The Kings will have their hands full with Vegas’ power play, but holding them to five on five play will be their best shot.

Anze Kopitar

lucky this postseason

(Photo By: NHL.com)

Kopitar dominated the offensive side of the ice for the Kings this season. Anze finished the season with 92 points and the next closest player on the Kings had 61. Kopitar was consistently the best player on the ice and he proved it by being a force on the offensive end. In four games against the Knights this season Anze tallied two goals and three assists. If he can play at a high level against the Knights, this series could shift in LA’s favor.

Series Prediction

The Golden Knights have a good chance at winning this series, and it is because they match up very well. The Kings have a very good penalty kill, but when they play five on five, they tend to struggle. Vegas has had a balanced attack all season, and it is what will separate them from the Kings in this one.

If the Kings are going to take this one they are going to have to have to steal a win in the first game. I believe the momentum will be too strong to overcome if the Kings allow Vegas to win game one. The Kings have a very strong at home, but the Knights are a good road team that has good chance to neutralize Los Angeles’ strengths.

I like the Knights to win this series, but it will not come easy. This series will take a lot of both teams and will most likely go to seven games.

Vegas wins the series: 4-3

Featured image by USA Today

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Battle for Pennsylvania

Series outlook: A battle for Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia square off in what will be a battle for Pennsylvania. This will be the first hump for the Penguins to overcome on their way to a potential three-peat. For the Flyers This is the Flyers first postseason appearance since the 2015-16 season, and they will be looking to get out of the first round for the first time since the 2011-12 season when they lost in the Conference Semifinals.

Pittsburgh Production From Everywhere

Battle for Pennsylvania

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

There is no denying that the Penguins have a star-powered lineup that is unmatched by any other team. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Phil Kessel lead the way for a Penguins offense that has played very well in 2018.

Since January 1st the Penguins offense ranks first in goals per game with a 3.83 goals per game average. Evgeni Malkin leads the scoring charge for the Penguins while on this scoring tear in the new year. Malkin is second in the NHL in points in that time frame with 62 and has been in serious Hart Trophy considerations as of late.

Along with the immense production from Malkin, Crosby and Kessel have tallied in their share of points as well; each scored more than 50 since January 1st.

Penguins Power Play

The Penguins power play during the 2017-18 season was the best in the league at 26.2 percent. The Flyers are a team that does not commit a lot of penalties, but when they do they have trouble defending them. Pittsburgh will be looking to exploit this aspect of the Flyers game by using their size and speed to draw more penalties. The Penguins power play against the Flyers penalty kill unit will play a significant role in how this series plays out.

Flyers Defense To Offense

Philadelphia has a unique situation where their defense is as capable of scoring as their offense. The defensive scoring attack is led by Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Provorov led all defensemen in the NHL this season with 17 goals, and Gostisbehere tallied an impressive 65 points this season.

The defense of the Flyers could play a very deciding role in this series. Pittsburgh is a team that has shown weakness on the defensive side of the ice. The Pens were one of two teams in the NHL to score three or more goals per game while at the same time allowing three goals per game.

The Flyers defense will demand respect from the Penguins defensemen and in turn that will create space for scorers like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. This is a winnable series for Philly as long as they play it from the defense out. Once they start forcing things on offense the star power from the Penguins offense will eat them alive.

Claude Giroux For Hart?

battle for Pennsylvania

(Photo By: Kate Frese)

Claude Giroux was one of the many surprise candidates for the Hart that emerged this season. Giroux posted his career high for points with 102 and was a driving factor as to why the Flyers are in the postseason.

Claude has seen success against the Penguins this season and had four points in his four games against Pittsburgh this season. He has been especially good at home this season, and the Flyers will need that same dominance in the playoffs if they want to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

Giroux’s splits between home and away are very telling. At home, this season Giroux has 57 points in 41 games and a plus/minus rating of +30. When compared to his 45 points in 41 games and a plus/minus of -2 on the road it is clear that the production is not there on the road.

Philly does not have the luxury of dropping home games against Pittsburgh in this series. They also are going to have to find a way to steal at least one game on the road. Claude Giroux will be a deciding factor in how far this team goes.

Series Prediction

In what will be a battle for Pennsylvania I expect the Penguins to walk out on top. Pittsburgh has been the hotter team as of late, and they are especially good on home ice. The Pens are 30-9-2 when playing at home this season.

If the Flyers are going to win this series, they are going to have to steal one game on the road and then exploit the Pens terrible road record. The Flyers have been about even in both so it could happen, but I believe the Penguins will win this series.

 

Penguins win the series 4-2.

Featured image by Kate Free

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Jets look to fly past

Series outlook: Jets look to fly past Minnesota

This series is looking like it will be one of the most lopsided matchups of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Wild lost defensemen Ryan Suter before the end of the regular season, thinning an already thin defensive unit in Minnesota. The Winnipeg Jets are a team that plays fast and physical, but they do not have experience on their side.

Connor Hellebuyck Dominating In Net

Connor Hellebuyck was one of the best goalies in the entire NHL for the 2017-18 season. Since the new year began, Hellebuyck has been one of, if not the best goalie in the whole NHL. Since January 1st Hellebuyck had a 23-7-4 record with a .924 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average.

Hellebuyck has made it incredibly hard for opponents to score and in turn, it has put the Winnipeg Jets on a different level. The Jets finished the season with the fifth lowest goals against average in the entire NHL, and a lot of it is due to the play of Connor Hellebuyck.

Jets Milestone Season

The 2017-18 season for the Winnipeg Jets is the best in their history to date, and it is not close. Their 114 points are the highest total they have ever had, and now the team looks forward to trying to get out of the west. Winnipeg has never made it passed the Conference Quarterfinals, and they have not been in the postseason since the 2014-15 season.

Patrik Laine’s Goal Scoring

jets look to fly past

(Photo By: (AOP))

Patrik Laine’s goal scoring in the 2017-18 season was an incredible thing to watch. At just 19-years old Laine finished second in the NHL with 44 goals. Laine is the first European born player to score more than 40 goals before he turned 20.

Patrik has established himself as one of the best goal scorers in the entire NHL, and he is only getting better. Laine now will have the opportunity to develop his playoff abilities. No playoff series is easy, but the matchup against the Minnesota Wild will make the transition a bit easier. Laine has played well against the Wild, but not his best. In four games against Minnesota, this season Laine has two goals and zero assists, but he has a plus/minus of +2.

If Laine gets hot in the postseason, the Winnipeg Jets will be an incredibly scary team to watch. They have the goaltending that can carry on its own, but they also have an offense that can score at will. This series will be a fun test to see just how good this team is.

The Wild Underdogs

It is clear that the Wild are significant underdogs against the Winnipeg Jets in this series. If Minnesota wants to win this series, they are most likely going to have to play some of the best hockey they have played all year. Winnipeg has had the Wild’s number so far this season as they hold a 3-1-0 record against them this season.

It Starts With Dubnyk

Even though the Wild are underdogs, the Predators were in the same situation as Minnesota was last year. If the Wild want to shock the hockey world and upset the Winnipeg Jets, it is going to start with goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

Strong goaltending wins in the playoffs and Dubnyk has shown he can be that, but he is going to have to outplay one of the best goalies in the NHL. Dubnyk’s numbers in the 2017-18 season were about average for all goalies. He finished the season 35-16-7 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.52 goals against average. Of course, if the Wild are going to make a run, these numbers are going to have to be better, but he has shown he can play like that.

The Fountain Of Youth: Featuring Eric Staal

Jets look to fly past

(Photo By: NHL.com)

Eric Staal returned to his old ways this season and the Minnesota Wild are reaping the rewards. Staal’s 76 points this season are his highest total since 2010-2011. Staal was in the hunt for the Maurice Richard Trophy late in the year, and his surprise goal scoring has caught the entire NHL off guard.

Staal has shown he can carry this Minnesota team and going into a massive series against the Jets he may be called upon to do just that. Eric scored multiple points in 17 different games this season, but none of them came against the Jets, in fact, Staal has only scored one point in his four games against Winnipeg this season.

The Wild are going to need production from Staal if they are going to steal this series from the hopeful Jets. The Wild are going to need a lot of things to go their way, but they definitely should not be counted out of this series.

Series Prediction

This series is going to be a lot closer than people think. The Wild are a beaten up team, but they do play with a lot of heart. I expect Devan Dubnyk to rise to the occasion and play some of the best hockey he has ever played.

Ultimately I do not think it will be enough. The Jets are a speedy and physical team, and even if Dubnyk plays well, they will wear down the Minnesota skaters. This series will be done in six, maybe seven games, but the Jets will take down the Wild in the end.

 

Jets win the series: 4-2

Featured image by CBS Sports

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Colorado Avalanche Nashville Predators

Series outlook: Can the Colorado Avalanche upset the Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators cruised through the 2018 NHL season finishing first in points with 117 points and the franchise’s first ever Presidents’ Trophy. But their opponents, the Colorado Avalanche had a much harder time getting in. The Avalanche snuck into the postseason with a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues in what was a “win, and you are in” scenario. But can the Avalanche upset the Nashville Predators?

This series should be very heated as both teams come out of the Central Division and know a lot about each other’s play style. Each team’s regular season accomplishments are out the door, and it is now a matter of who can win four games before the other.

Nashville Predators dominance

The Predators are a year removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins. With their play in the 2017-18 season, they look like they are prepping for a return to the finals.

Nashville dominated on both sides of the ice this season, which led them to the highest goal differential in the entire NHL. The Predators’ ability to turn defense into offense is what makes them so unique. It helps keep the defense calm when they know they have a goalie playing at the level Pekka Rinne is.

Pekka Rinne’s incredible season

Colorado Avalanche Nashville Predators

(Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

There is no doubt that Rinne is the backbone of the Nashville Predators, and he proved that this season. In 59 games, he had a save percentage of .927 and goals against average of 2.31 goals per game. Rinne also had the third highest win total of the 2017-18 season, finishing the season 42-13-4.

Rinne has seen success against Colorado in this season. In his three games against them, he is a perfect 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Heading into the playoffs, Rinne will be looking to continue that success with a big series against the Colorado Avalanche.

Defending leads

Nashville has done a terrific job of holding onto leads when they get them, and it is a significant reason as to why they were so successful this season. When the Predators score first, they are a very tough team to beat, and it shows in their 41-4-6 record this season when they score first. The Preds outscored opponents 72 to 49 this season in the first period. Their fast, energetic starts are a driving force behind their success this season.

Colorado Avalanche: How did they get here?

The start of the 2017-18 season for the Colorado Avalanche was incredibly tough. Before Dec. 28, they were 17-15-3 and were dead last in the Central Division with 37 points, but then they went on a run.

From Dec. 29 to Jan. 22, the Avalanche went on a 10-game win streak that propelled them to fifth in the Central Division, just three games out of the last Wild Card spot. Colorado did not look back after their winning streak and continued to play well. Going into the final game of the season, a win and you are in scenario was in place against the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche dominated the game and defeated the Blues 5-2 en route to a postseason appearance.

Nathan MacKinnon breakout year

Colorado Avalanche Nashville Predators

(Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Since the 10-game winning streak earlier this season, MacKinnon has been exceptionally dominant. MacKinnon has the fifth highest point total in that span, including the highest points per game total in the league at 1.31 points per game.

The 22-year-old Avs forward has vaulted himself into Hart Trophy considerations. He led the way for the Avs’ playoff push and proved to be among the NHL’s elite. Going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, continued elevated play from MacKinnon will be necessary to win, especially if they are going to upset a team as good as the Nashville Predators.

Series prediction

Can the Avalanche upset the Nashville Predators? Based off of the way the two teams played against each other this season, the easy answer would be no. Colorado was not able to get a single victory in against the Predators this season, but anything can happen in the playoffs.

Nashville has the home-ice advantage, and it is tough for opposing teams to get victories in Bridgestone Arena. Expect the Avalanche to get one or two games in on their home ice, but the Predators should handle business in the first round. They have the better defense and the better goalie, and that has been a proven win-now formula in the NHL playoffs.

Predators win the series 4-2.

Featured image by NHL.com

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