Jordan Staal traded to Hurricanes

June 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time, but Jim Rutherford finally pulled the trigger on Draft Day.  The ‘Canes picked up Eric Staal’s younger brother, Jordan, from the Penguins in exchange for defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin, the 8th overall pick in the 2012 draft (Derrick Pouliot) and Brandon Sutter.

Brandon Sutter is Pittsburgh-bound after being dealt for Jordan Staal.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

First off, I’d like to wish Brandon the very best.  He was considered part of the young core that would be built around for the future.  He has really come a long way, and has quickly made his name known as one of the better defensive forwards in the league.  Of course, with a name like Sutter, it comes to no one’s surprise that he has found success early on in his career.  He was a leader on and off the ice, being given one of the “A”s last season.  His work around the community was well documented as well.  He will surely be missed by both the fans and the organization.

But onto the trade.  When I first looked at it, I thought that it was a huge overpayment on Carolina GM Jim Rutherford’s part.  I probably would’ve lived with Brandon Sutter + Dumoulin or Sutter + the 8th pick.  But all three?  Now that I think about it, I think the 8th overall pick isn’t too bad.  This is one of the weaker drafts in recent memory, so it doesn’t really hurt to not have a pick in the first round this year.  However, it definitely would’ve been nice to draft Filip Forsberg or one of the plethora of solid defensemen still available.

Brian Dumoulin was a solid prospect for the Hurricanes organization, especially when you consider how weak they are in the farm system when it comes to defensemen.  Aside from Ryan Murphy, there really isn’t a whole lot.  However, with the emergence of Justin Faulk last season, I guess that Rutherford thought that Dumoulin was expendable.

Finally, the biggest piece of the puzzle.  Jordan Staal himself.  Everyone knew that he would be on his way out of Pittsburgh sooner or later.  It’s hard to really showcase your true potential and talents when you’re stuck behind the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the depth chart.  To be putting up the kind of numbers that he has in his career thus far is pretty remarkable, considering he plays with third-line wingers on most nights.  Like Sutter, he is considered one of the best two-way forwards in the league.  This was made evident when he was a finalist for the Selke in 2010.

Jordan Staal is now reunited with his brother, Eric, in Carolina.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Of course, his offensive game is just as great.  He definitely has more of an upside in the offensive category when compared to Brandon Sutter.  After all, he’s “only” scored 20 or more goals in 4 of his first 6 seasons in the NHL.  He will surely add some much needed offense for the ‘Canes.  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about the playoff experience he brings to the table.

Now, the question is whether he will be slotted on the first line (with Eric moving to the wing) or the second line.  Only time will tell what coach Kirk Muller has up his sleeves.

Overall, I think it’s a pretty fair trade once you break it down.  Only time will tell if any time really “won” the trade.  But for now, we will have to wait and see, especially if Rutherford has more moves on the way.  Goodbye Brandon Sutter, and welcome to Carolina, Jordan Staal.

2012 NHL Entry Draft First Round Results

June 22, 2012 2 comments

1. Edmonton: Nail Yakupov (Sarnia – OHL)

2. Columbus: Ryan Murray (Everett – WHL)

3. Montreal: Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia – OHL)

4. NY Islanders: Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton – WHL)

5. Toronto: Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw – WHL)

6. Anaheim: Hampus Lindholm (Rogle BK – HockeyAllsvenskan)

7. Minnesota: Matthew Dumba (Red Deer – WHL)

8. Pittsburgh (via Carolina): Derrick Pouliot (Portland – WHL)

9. Winnipeg: Jacob Trouba (US National Team Development Program – USHL)

10. Tampa Bay: Slater Koekkoek (Peterborough – OHL)

11. Washington (from Colorado): Filip Forsberg (Leksands IF – HockeyAllsvenskan)

12. Buffalo: Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec – QMJHL)

13. Dallas: Radek Faksa (Kitchener – OHL)

14. Buffalo (from Calgary): Zegmus Girgensons (Dubuque – USHL)

15. Ottawa: Cody Ceci (Ottawa – OHL)

16. Washington: Tom Wilson (Plymouth – OHL)

17. San Jose: Tomas Hertl (Slavia Praha – Czech Extraliga)

18. Chicago: Teuvo Tervainen (Jokerit – SM-liiga)

19. Tampa Bay (from Detroit): Andrei Vasilevski (Tolpar Ufa – MHL)

20. Philadelphia: Scott Laughton (Oshawa – OHL)

21. Calgary (from Nashville via Buffalo): Mark Jankowski (Stanstead College)

22. Pittsburgh: Olli Maatta (London – OHL)

23. Florida: Mike Matheson (Dubuque – USHL)

24. Boston: Malcolm Subban (Belleville – OHL)

25. St. Louis: Jordan Schmaltz (Green Bay – USHL)

26. Vancouver: Brendan Gaunce (Belleville- OHL)

27. Phoenix: Henrik Samuelsson (Edmonton – WHL)

28. NY Rangers: Brady Skjei (US National Team Development Program – USHL)

29. New Jersey: Stefan Matteau (US National Team Development Program – USHL)

30. Los Angeles: Tanner Pearson (Barrie – OHL)

*********

TRADES:

1. TO CAROLINA: Jordan Staal

TO PITTSBURGH: Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, 8th overall pick in 2012 (Derrick Pouliot)

*********

2. TO WASHINGTON: Mike Ribeiro

TO DALLAS: Cody Eakin, 2nd round pick in 2012 (54th overall)

*********

3. TO BUFFALO: 14th overall pick in 2012 (Zegmus Girgensons)

TO CALGARY: 21st overall pick in 2012 (Mark Jankowski), 2nd round pick in 2012 (42nd overall)

*********

4. TO COLUMBUS: Sergei Bobrovsky

TO PHILADELPHIA: 2nd round pick in 2012, 4th round pick in 2012, 2nd round pick in 2013

The Blue Jackets made the first splash on Draft Day, bolstering their goaltending by picking up Sergei Bobrovsky from the Flyers.
PHOTO CREDITS: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Categories: NHL News Tags:

2012 Stanley Cup Finals Preview & Analysis

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

(6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS (EAST)

VS.

(8) LOS ANGELES KINGS (WEST)

Los Angeles wins series 4-2

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Wednesday, May 30

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 2-1 in 1st OT

2

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Saturday, June 2

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 2-1 in 1st OT

3

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Monday, June 4

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

LA wins 4-0 in regulation

4

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Wednesday, June 6

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 3-1 in regulation

5

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Saturday, June 9

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 2-1 in regulation

6

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Monday, June 11

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 6-1 in regulation

7

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Wednesday, June 13

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

SEASON SERIES:

New Jersey won season series 2-0-0

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Goals

7- Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac

7- Dustin Brown

Assists

11- Ilya Kovalchuk

9- Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams

Points

18- Ilya Kovalchuk

16- Dustin Brown

Plus-Minus

+10- Bryce Salvador

+13- Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Martin Brodeur (New Jersey)

 12-5-1

2.04

.923

 1

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)

12-2-0

 1.54

 .946

2

Jonathan Quick is certainly one of the favourites to win the Conn Smythe should he continue his stellar play.
PHOTO CREDITS: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

New Jersey (4-3 over Florida in round 1, 4-1 over Philadelphia in round 2, 4-2 over NY Rangers in round 3)

Round 1:

It all started with a first-round tilt against the surprise Florida Panthers, who pushed the Devils to a 7th and deciding game.  A combination of blown 2-0 and 3-0 leads and some inconsistent goaltending led up to this climax, which saw game 7 go into a second overtime.  It was early in that period where rookie Adam Henrique potted the series clincher, as they would move on to the second round.

Round 2:

It would be the first of two divisional rivalries, starting off with the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round.  Many penciled in the Flyers as the victors, considering the way they manhandled the Penguins coupled with the Devils’ poor play against the Panthers at times.  The Flyers would take the first game, but that would be the only game they would take in the series.  Ilya Bryzgalov would continue to struggle between the pipes, allowing at least three goals in games 2-5.  Martin Brodeur would settle down, making some timely saves en route to the series victory.  Ilya Kovalchuk would awaken, collecting 7 points in just 4 games.  This would then set up a date with the New York Rangers.

Round 3:

Once again, the Devils were seen as the underdogs as they took on the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.  It was deja vu for the Rangers, as they continued to alternate wins and losses in a similar fashion against the Caps in the second round.  With the series tied at two games apiece, game 5 would be a crucial point in the series for both teams.  It looked like it was quickly over as the Devils jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Rangers would erase that to draw even at 3-3.  However, a late tally by Ryan Carter would put the Devils back on top, with an empty netter by Zach Parise sealing the deal.  In game 6, the Rangers climbed back from another deficit, as they negated the 2-0 lead New Jersey built up in the second period.  It would take overtime to find a winner, where Adam Henrique played hero once again, sending the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2003.

Los Angeles (4-1 over Vancouver in round 1, 4-0 over St. Louis in round 2, 4-1 over Phoenix in round 3)

Round 1:

Despite being one of the hottest teams down the stretch, no one really gave the Kings much of a chance against the Vancouver Canucks, who captured their second Presidents’ Trophy in as many seasons.  Well, they sure proved their critics wrong.  They would shock the hockey world by taking the first two games in Vancouver by identical 4-2 scores, which would prompt Canucks coach Alain Vigneault to make a goaltending switch.  However, despite Cory Schneider’s brilliance in game 3, his one mistake would prove to be the difference maker as the Kings needed just one goal to win it.  The return of Daniel Sedin sparked the Canucks in game 4, helping them stave off elimination.  The Sedin twins got off to another quick start in game 5 by striking quickly on the PP, but the Kings would tie it late to send it to overtime.  A turnover by Dan Hamhuis in the OT session would lead to a 2-on-1, where Jarret Stoll would finish off the Canucks, as they eliminated one of the Cup favourites in shocking fashion.

Round 2:

Their next roadblock to the Cup finals would be the next highest seed in the West, the St. Louis Blues.  Despite missing Jaroslav Halak, they still had to deal with Brian Elliott, who had a monster year as he and Halak teamed up to create arguably the league’s best goaltending duo.  Well, that goaltending was soon forgotten, as Brian Elliott quickly fell down to earth as he struggled mightily.  The Kings would score early and score often, leading to a quick sweep of the Blues.  Jonathan Quick was superb in the series, allowing only six goals.  As you would imagine, the PK was just as effective, killing all 17 penalties in the series.  #1 seed in West- gone.  #2 seed in West- outta here.  Next up?  You guessed it, the #3 seed in the West – the Phoenix Coyotes.

Round 3:

If you predicted a Kings-Coyotes Western final, give yourself a pat on the back.  Or maybe you’re just extremely lucky, and should consider purchasing a lottery ticket.  The Kings would get off to another fast in the series once again, capturing both opening games on the road thanks to Jeff Carter’s game 2 hat trick and Dwight King’s three goals in games 1 and 2.  It was a much closer affair in game 3, despite the Kings having controlled much of the action.  It was none other than Dwight King who would score the clutch goal early in the third period to send the Kings within one game of the Stanley Cup finals.  The Coyotes would rally back in game 4, thanks to a brilliant performance from Mike Smith, who stopped all 36 shots he faced.  Shane Doan provided both of Phoenix’s goals, as they headed back to Glendale with another breath of life.  In game 5, the teams would go back and forth throughout the game.  They would remain tied after regulation, sending the game to overtime for the first time in the series.  Despite two PKs during the overtime session, the Kings were able to kill both off, before Dustin Penner’s marker late in the first overtime period sent the Kings onwards to the final round.

ANALYSIS:

Los Angeles in 6.  If the Devils’ run has been impressive, then I’m really not sure what to call the Kings’ run.  What it really comes down to in the end is goaltending, where the Kings definitely have the advantage.  No disrespect to the one of the greats in Martin Brodeur, but Jonathan Quick has by far been the more consistent goaltender in these playoffs, never missing a single beat.  As well, the Devils seem to find themselves either behind early or in front early, only to lose a lead.  They cannot let either happen against the Kings, or this series will be shorter than six games.  One area that could use some major work is their PP, which is operating at only 8.1% in these playoffs.  If the Devils can shut them down even strength, then they could stand a chance in these series.  However, they had better be ready for a physical series, because that is exactly how the Kings have gotten this far.  Either way, it should be an extremely fun series to watch, but only one of these Cinderella runs will end with a happy ending.

Once again, I’m pleased to be joined by Nik of The News of Sports who will be adding his own perspective on the final series of the 2012 NHL playoffs:

Well, this is it! The entire 2011-2012 season comes down to this. Kings vs. Devils. Boy, will this series be a doozy. These two teams are as different as different can be. The Devils have the old but still strong goaltender in Martin Brodeur, while the Kings have Jonathan Quick, the American hero, who’s an up and coming superstar. Even last year, Quick wasn’t thought of as the bona fide starter, playing alongside Jonathan Bernier. Now? You can forget about Quick going anywhere. However, Quick hasn’t been a one man show for the Kings. The two Dustins, Brown and Penner, have been instrumental in the Kings’ run. Drew Doughty has been awesome blueliner and Jeff Carter has provided a veteran leadership that the Kings sorely lacked before.

For the Devils, their defense has been good, but not anything all that special. However, the offense of the Devils is top notch. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have been great as left wingers, and at center the New Jersey has Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac, both of whom have been with the Devils for a long time.

Lastly, I can’t help but think about the rough schedule. New Jersey and Los Angeles are on polar opposites of the United States, and I’ve got to imagine that the players will be tired, even after flying first-class, from across the country every few days just to fly back again.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see how this series turns out, but momentum is on LA’s side, and I think the Kings have what it takes to win their first Stanley Cup and defeat the Devils. This run has been incredible and I don’t think it’ll stop short of the target.

My pick: Kings in 6 games

Could this be Martin Brodeur’s swan song, should he capture his fourth career Stanley Cup?
PHOTO CREDITS: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Categories: Analysis/Opinion

2012 Western & Eastern Conference Finals + Daily Score Updates

May 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Western Conference Finals

(3) PHOENIX COYOTES

VS.

(8) LOS ANGELES KINGS

Los Angeles wins series 4-1

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Sunday, May 13

8:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

LA wins 4-2 in regulation

2

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Tuesday, May 15

9:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

LA wins 4-0 in regulation

3

Phoenix

Los Angeles

Thursday, May 17

9:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

LA wins 2-1 in regulation

4

Phoenix

Los Angeles

Sunday, May 20

3:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

PHX wins 2-0 in regulation

5*

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Tuesday, May 22

9:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

LA wins 4-3 in 1st OT

6*

Phoenix

Los Angeles

Thursday, May 24

9:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

7*

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Saturday, May 26

8:00

CBC, RDS

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

Los Angeles won season series 3-1-2

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

Phoenix

Los Angeles

Goals

5- Antoine Vermette

6- Dustin Brown

Assists

7- Keith Yandle

7- Anze Kopitar

Points

9- Antoine Vermette

11- Dustin Brown

Plus-Minus

+6- Keith Yandle

+9- Dustin Brown

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Mike Smith (Phoenix)

8-3-2

 1.77

 .948

2

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)

 8-1-0

1.55

 .949

1

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Phoenix (4-2 over Chicago in round 1, 4-1 over Nashville in round 2)

Round 1: Refer to post here.

Round 2: Game 1 started out with more goals than people expected, as the two teams went back and forth.  Martin Erat’s late goal was enough to send the game to OT, where veteran Ray Whitney notched the game-winner to give the Coyotes first blood in the series.  It was yet another high-scoring affair the next game, as the Coyotes used a three-goal 2nd period en route to a 5-3 win.  The Preds knew they had to win game 3, or they would face a potential sweep.  And that’s just what they did, as Pekka Rinne bounced back with a 32 save shutout.  Mike Smith responded with his own shutout in game 4, however, as Shane Doan’s first period tally stood up as the game-winner.  They would then seal the deal at home in game 5, as Mike Smith stood on his ahead once again, allowing only one goal on 33 shots as the Coyotes advanced to the third round for the first time in franchise history.

Antoine Vermette has been the surprise offense that the Coyotes have needed so far these playoffs.
PHOTO CREDITS: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Los Angeles (4-1 over Vancouver in round 1, 4-0 over St. Louis in round 2)

Round 1: Refer to post here.

Round 2: The Kings got the better of the Blues in the regular season, and they did it again when the two team squared off in the second round.  Jonathan Quick continued to stand on his head, although he got plenty of help this time from his D.  Speaking of LA’s defense, they played a vital role in their sweep over the Blues, with Matt Greene and Drew Doughty each recording four points in the series.  This led to an offensive explosion, something the Kings lacked in the regular season.  It’s especially not easy when you consider that they had to get pucks by Brian Elliott, but they found a way – many ways, in fact.  Finally, another part of their success was their outstanding PK, which held the Blues scoreless on 17 opportunities.

Mike Richards had his way against the Blues in round 2, picking up 5 points in 4 games.
PHOTO CREDITS: Harry How/Getty Images

ANALYSIS:

Los Angeles in 6.  What a story these two teams have been.  Unfortunately, one of these Cinderella runs will come to an end, and I believe that LA will be the team that comes out on top.  While Phoenix has been just as impressive, you cannot overlook how LA has simply manhandled the top two seeds in the West.  They’re showing the league why they were the best team after the All-Star break, with a combination of some superb goaltending from Jonathan Quick and the offense heating up at just the right time.  Every line has come up big for the Kings these playoffs, and Phoenix is going to have a hard time containing them – especially if they continue to allow Mike Smith to face the amount of rubber he has in the first two rounds combined (over 36+ shots per game).  Another factor that will determine the series is special teams.  Both teams have been excellent on the PK, but Phoenix holds a considerable edge when it comes to the powerplay.  If they are able to capitalize on their opportunities, then they just might have a chance.

Jonathan Quick will continue his impressive playoff run, making a serious case for the Conn Smythe.
PHOTO CREDITS: Harry How/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) NEW YORK RANGERS

VS.

(6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Series tied 2-2

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

New Jersey

New York

 Monday, May 14

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 3-0 in regulation

2

New Jersey

New York

Wednesday, May 16

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 3-2 in regulation

3

New York

New Jersey

Saturday, May 19

1:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 3-0 in regulation

4

New York

New Jersey

Monday, May 21

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 4-1 in regulation

5*

New Jersey

New York

Wednesday, May 23

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

6*

New York

New Jersey

Friday, May 25

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

7*

New Jersey

New York

Sunday, May 27

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

New York won season series 3-2-1

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

New York

New Jersey

Goals

6- Brad Richards

5- Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk

Assists

7- Derek Stepan

7- Ilya Kovalchuk

Points

11- Brad Richards

12- Ilya Kovalchuk

Plus-Minus

+3- Marc Staal

+8- Bryce Salvador

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Henrik Lundqvist (New York)

 8-4-2

 1.68

.937

 1

Martin Brodeur (New Jersey)

8-3-1

 2.05

 .920

1

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

New York (4-3 over Ottawa in round 1, 4-3 over Washington in round 2)

Round 1: Refer to post here.

Round 2: Once again, it took all seven games for the #1 seeded Rangers to eliminate one of the lower seeds in the East.  The two teams would alternate wins in the series, and this pattern would fortunately continue for the Rangers as they pulled out a 2-1 victory in game 7.  Like the Sens, the Caps gave the Rangers all they could handle, including a triple OT game that Marian Gaborik ended – the 21st longest game in NHL history.  Rookie Braden Holtby was outstanding for Washington, but his goaltending was matched by one of the best in Henrik Lundqvist.  Steady offensive contribution aided the Rangers’ success as well, as they exacted revenge for their loss to the Caps in 2009 and 2011.

New Jersey (4-3 over Florida in round 1, 4-1 over Philadelphia in round 2)

Round 1: Refer to post here.

Round 2: Many didn’t give the Devils much of a chance against the Flyers.  After Danny Briere’s OT marker in game 1, something changed.  They made a big statement in game 2, earning a split and riding on momentum as the series shifted back to Newark.  They would head to OT again in game 3, with Alexei Ponikarovsky doing the heroics for the Devils.  Ilya Bryzgalov continued to have a hard time in game 4, surrendering another 4 goals as the Devils erased a 2-0 deficit to put the Flyers on the brink of elimination.  The Flyers opened the score in game 5 quickly,but not before the Devils responded twice, before Ilya Kovalchuk added an insurance marker early in the third to send the Devils to the conference finals for the first time since 2003.

Ilya Kovalchuk broke through in round two with two goals and five assists against the Flyers.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

ANALYSIS:

New York in 6.  Once again, the Devils are the underdogs as they face off against another divisional rival.  This time, however, it’s a bit different.  No disrespect to Ilya Bryzgalov, but Henrik Lundqvist is most likely not going to be lit up like he was against the Devils (and Penguins).  The Rangers have some quality defensemen that will sacrifice every part of their body to block a shot, and their offense isn’t too shabby either.  Just like the Western series, however, I think that it all boils down to special teams once again.  The Devils absolutely must stay out of the box, for their PK% is only operating at 73.9%, the lowest of the four teams remaining.  Faceoffs will also be important, a stat that both teams have been struggling with through the first two rounds.  Sure, the Devils may have Parise, Zajac, Elias, and Kovalchuk, but I simply like the depth of the Rangers’ offense more (not to mention their D).  After a slow start, Marian Gaborik started to heat up in round two.  Brad Richards continues to pace the offense, while the D chips in from time to time with the likes of Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, and Michael Del Zotto.  The Devils’ D will need to find a way to do something similar, or their Stanley Cup dreams will be shattered.

Henrik Lundqvist will do battle against one of the best goaltenders in NHL history: Martin Brodeur.
PHOTO CREDITS: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

 
Categories: Analysis/Opinion

Jack Adams Award Finalists Announced

April 30, 2012 Leave a comment

And they are…

Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues

Many believe that there is no doubt that Hitchcock will win the Jack Adams, and you can’t really argue that.  Taking over the team early in the season, the team quickly bought into his defensive system and never looked back.  Just ask Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, who had career years as they combined to create the league’s #1 goaltending duo.  The Blues finished with 109 points, the team’s highest total since 1999-2000.

The Blues' early coaching change paid heavy dividends.
PHOTO CREDITS: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators

Many didn’t expect the Ottawa Senators to be as competitive as they were this season.  Projected by many to finish well out of the playoffs, the Sens were one of the better teams in the East for most of the season under the guidance of first-year coach Paul MacLean.  At one point, Ottawa was leading the Northeast division, ahead of the Boston Bruins.  He was able to spark the team’s offense, as Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek both rebounded from a tough year last season to post some solid stats.

Paul MacLean did an admirable job in his first season as an NHL coach.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

John Tortorella, New York Rangers

“Torts” took a team that barely made the playoffs last season to the top team in the East all in one season.  He was able to use all his assets to his advantage, with a solid mix of offense and stingy defense.  Henrik Lundqvist provided the Rangers with some solid goaltending, and the offense was led by Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.  It almost feels like Tortorella has been in New York for longer than his four-year tenure so far.

John Tortorella continues to prove that he is one of the better coaches in the league.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Categories: NHL News Tags:

2012 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals + Daily Score Updates

April 28, 2012 2 comments

(1) NEW YORK RANGERS

VS.

(7) WASHINGTON CAPITALS

New York wins series 4-3

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Washington

New York

Saturday, April 28

3:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 3-1 in regulation

2

Washington

New York

Monday, April 30

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

WSH wins 3-2 in regulation

3

New York

Washington

Wednesday, May 2

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 2-1 in 3rd OT

4

New York

Washington

Saturday, May 5

12:30

NBC, CBC, RDS

WSH wins 3-2 in regulation

5*

Washington

New York

Monday, May 7

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 3-2 in 1st OT

6*

New York

Washington

Wednesday, May 9

7:30

CBC, RDS, NBCSN

WSH wins 2-1 in regulation

7*

Washington

New York

Saturday, May 12

7:30

CBC, RDSI, NBCSN

NYR wins 2-1 in regulation

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

Season series tied 2-2

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

New York

Washington

Goals

3- Brian Boyle

3- Alexander Semin

Assists

3- Brad Richards, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov

3- Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom, Roman Hamrlik

Points

5- Brad Richards

5- Alex Ovechkin

Plus-Minus

+3- Anton Stralman

+5- Roman Hamrlik, Mike Green

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Henrik Lundqvist (New York)

4-1-2

1.70

.945

1

Braden Holtby (Washington)

4-1-2

2.00

.940

0

Braden Holtby was one of the better stories in round 1 after his spectacular performance against the Bruins.
PHOTO CREDITS: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

New York (4-3 over Ottawa in round 1): It took more games than everyone expected, but the Rangers were able to squeeze by the 8th seed Senators by the hair of their chins.  The two teams split the first two home series, with the Rangers taking the first game in each series.  However, Ottawa would turn the tables on New York by blanking the Rangers 2-0 in front of their home crowd.  The Rangers would even things out after a three-goals second period in game 6, setting the stage for a tight game 7, where goals by defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi helped the Rangers advance to the second round.

Dan Girardi and the rest of the Rangers D only limited the Sens to 12 goals in 7 games.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Washington (4-3 over Boston in round 1): The two teams traded OT heroics in games 1 and 2, with Chris Kelly scoring the only goal in game 1 and Nicklas Backstrom responding in game 2.  Zdeno Chara’s late tally in game 3 gave the Bruins a 2-1 series advantage, but Braden Holtby put on a show in game 4, making 43 saves in the effort.  Troy Brouwer returned the late heroics in game 5, as his late tally put the defending champs on the verge of elimination.  The Bruins survived OT in game 6, but weren’t so lucky in game 7 as Joel Ward scored his first of the series in game 7 OT to complete the upset.

ANALYSIS:

Once again, I’m pleased to be joined by Nik from The News of Sports who will be giving his analysis of every series this round.  Click on the link below to visit his blog.

New York in 6.  Unlike the past two times these teams have met each other in the playoffs, the Rangers will get the better of the Caps this time around.  The only reason I have this series going to 6 is because of a certain goaltender by the name of Braden Holtby.  New York’s defense will frustrate the Caps snipers, and I believe that Marian Gaborik will start producing.  If the Rangers can continue supporting Henrik Lundqvist with their superb shot blocking ability, then Washington could have a hard time putting pucks by Lundqvist.  Braden Holtby could steal a couple games for the Caps, but the Rangers will rebound from a tough series and return to their form.

The News of Sports:

he Rangers come in against the Capitals as a shaky yet confident team after beating the Ottawa Senators in 7 hard fought games, behind the solid play from netminder Henrik Lundqvist. To continue in these playoffs, the battle-tested Rangers will need to retain their form at home- as well as Lundqvist’s at home and on the road. The Capitals will be no easy opponent.

The Capitals were underachievers in the regular season, but stunned the defending champions Bruins in the first round, also in seven games. Joel Ward sent off the Bruins in style, scoring an OT goal to keep Boston home (the Bruins were the home team). However, perhaps the breakout star of the playoffs, Braden Holtby, will need to shine in net against the Rangers, and continue his bafflingly-good performances for DC. Alex Ovechkin is heating up at the right time, and once again, the key to this series is how well the Caps do in getting the puck past Lundqvist.  Rangers in six games.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(5) PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

VS.

(6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS

New Jersey wins series 4-1

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

New Jersey

Philadelphia

Sunday, April 29

3:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

PHI wins 4-3 in 1st OT

2

New Jersey

Philadelphia

Tuesday, May 1

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 4-1 in regulation

3

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Thursday, May 3

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 4-3 in 1st OT

4

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Sunday, May 6

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 4-2 in regulation

5*

New Jersey

Philadelphia

Tuesday, May 8

N/A

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 3-1 in regulation

6*

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Thursday, May 10

N/A

CBC, RDS

7*

New Jersey

Philadelphia

Saturday, May 12

N/A

CBC, RDS

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

Philadelphia won season series 3-2-1

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Goals

6- Claude Giroux

 3- Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk

Assists

8- Claude Giroux

 5- David Clarkson

Points

14- Claude Giroux

 6- Travis Zajac

Plus-Minus

+6- Claude Giroux

 +5- Stephen Gionta

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Ilya Bryzgalov (Philadelphia)

4-2-0

3.89

.871

0

Sergei Bobrovsky (Philadelphia)

0-0-0

8.11

.722

0

Martin Brodeur (New Jersey)

 4-2-0

 2.06  .922

1

Johan Hedberg (New Jersey)

0-1-0

1.67

.929

0

It could be an easy series, but Ilya Bryzgalov cannot afford to give up as many goals as he did to the Pens.
PHOTO CREDITS: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Philadelphia (4-2 over Pittsburgh in round 1): We all expected a high-scoring series, but definitely not at the absurd rate the Flyers and Penguins were at.  Flyers took a quick 3-0 series lead, as they simply outscored the Penguins.  Game 2 featured duo hat tricks by teammates Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux, the lattere who finished with a whopping 6 points.  The Penguins would come back in a big way in game 4, chasing Ilya Bryzgalov out of the nets en route to a 10-3 blowout victory.  The scoring was toned down a bit in game 5, but the Pens once again found themselves on top.  However, Marc-Andre Fleury struggled mightily once again, giving up 4 goals in game 6 as the Flyers would make it out alive at the expense of Ilya Bryzgalov’s stats.

Claude Giroux was undoubtedly the MVP of the series for the Flyers in round 1.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New Jersey (4-3 over Florida in round 1): With the number of leads that New Jersey had, this series should not have extended all the way to the seventh and deciding game.  After splitting the first two games in Florida, the Devils started game 3 with a bang, building a quick 3-0 lead.  However, that lead quickly became a 4-3 deficit by the second period, spelling the end of Marty Brodeur’s last night.  He would make amends in game 4, stopping all 26 shots en route to a 4-0 shutout.  Jose Theodore posted a shutout of his own in game 5, putting the Devils on the verge of elimination.  In game 6, the Devils built up a 2-0 lead, only to see the Panthers come back in the second period, eventually sending it to OT where Travis Zajac’s game-winner would force a 7th game.  It was the same story once again, with the Devils up 2-0 once again, before Florida scored twice in the third period to force overtime.  In the second overtime session, rookie Adam Henrique snapped one by Jose Theodore, as all of New Jersey breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

ANALYSIS:

Philadelphia in 5.  The Devils are a great team and all, but they simply do not match up to the Flyers.  Especially after they barely sneaked by the Panthers.  Time after time, they found themselves in the driver’s seat, only to blow 2-0 and 3-0 leads with a short period of time.  You cannot do that against the Flyers, because they will make you pay.  Just ask the Penguins.  The firepower of the Flyers will simply be too much for Martin Brodeur and company to handle, and the Devils will ultimately bow out of the playoffs quickly.  The only way they will have any chance of winning this series if they can silence the likes of Claude Giroux and Danny Briere, which I don’t see happening at all.

The News of Sports:

The Devils eked out a series win against the 3rd seeded Florida Panthers behind some timely goals from their offense and great saves by the indomitable goaltender, Martin Brodeur. However, they should feel lucky that they’re still in the playoffs. The Panthers didn’t play all that well, and the Flyers should prove to be a much more difficult task. The Devils time and time again in their opening round series had a lead, gave it up, but fortunately, won the game in overtime. In Game 7, that’s exactly what happened, but Adam Henrique was there to seal the win with a double overtime goal to ensure New Jersey would remain in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Devils will advance if Bryzagalov continues to be inconsistent in net for the Flyers and also to stop some of Philly’s explosive scorers.

The Flyers are on top of the world, as far as they’re concerned. They put away the talented Penguins in six games, and at one point, were up 3-0. However, Ilya Bryzagalov was extremely shaky, and gave up 5 goals before being pulled in Game 4, a 10-3 Pittsburgh victory. The key to this series is how well Bryzagalov plays, because the Flyers have one of the best offenses in the league. Claude Giroux was a force to be reckoned with against the Penguins, and was key in their comprehensive series win. He’ll have to continue to play well.

My pick: Flyers in 5 games

The Devils hope that this will be a common scene.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Categories: Analysis/Opinion

Hart Trophy Finalists Announced

April 27, 2012 Leave a comment

And they are…

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

(50 goals, 59 assists, 109 points, +18)

Many wondered how Evgeni Malkin would fare this season, as the Pens knew that they would start the season without Sidney Crosby.  Coupled with him coming off season-ending knee surgery, and you had a lot of questions left to be answered.  Well, he answered them all right, and in classic Malkin fashion.  He would carry the offensive load for the team, finding great success with linemate James Neal, who had a career year.  Malkin would finish the season with a league-high 109 points, and his 50 goals were second behind Steven Stamkos.  Crosby who?

There was certainly no rust this season from Evgeni Malkin, as he was back to his old self after a knee injury cut his season short last year.
PHOTO CREDITS: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

(39-18-5, 1.97 GAA, .930 SV%, 8 shutouts)

It’s not often that a goaltender appears as a finalist for the MVP, but  you could definitely make a case for Henrik Lundqvist this season.  Time after time, he kept his team in the game, whether up by a goal or trailing late in the third.  He finished within the top 5 in all four major goaltending categories (wins, save percentage, goals against average, shutouts), and helped lead the Rangers to the #1 seed.

The Rangers' star netminder continues to prove that he is one of the best goaltenders, if not, the best, in the league.
PHOTO CREDITS: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

(60 goals, 37 assists, 97 points, +7)

Despite missing the playoffs, it was another incredible year for Steven Stamkos as he became the first player to hit 60 goals since Alex Ovechkin back in 2007-2008.  Unlike last season, he was consistent all year round, scoring 10 goals in the final 9 games of the season.  His 60 goals are also a club record, surpassing the previous record of 52 held by captain Vincent Lecavalier.  At the young age of 22, the rest of the league has to wonder what Stamkos’ limit is, because the way he’s playing, there doesn’t seem to be one.

Steven Stamkos continues to be a scoring machine. Will he hit 65 next season?
PHOTO CREDITS: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

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