Magic Man turned Mystery Man

Hockey’s most sought after ‘magic man’ may have just pulled off the biggest “now you see me, now you don’t” of his career.

Pavel Datsyuk has been dodging the rumors of a potential departure from Detroit all season, until recently. The 37 year old 2x Stanley Cup Champion is on the verge of signing a two year deal with the SKA of the KHL.

In late April he confirmed to Red Wings management he intended on leaving for good once the Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs.

The average onlooker might have trouble fathoming the notion that Pavel would even consider leaving. Detroit has never missed the playoffs during his tenure. He’s been crowned a Cup champion twice and has never had any issues with management.

On the surface it seems to be a personal, potentially family related issue with Mr. Datsyuk. Typically Russian born players return back to “the mother land” when they deem their time in the NHL has reached its climax.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Radulov, Ruslan Fedotenko, Sergei Kotstitsyn and Viacheslav Fetisov are all atop the list of preliminary Russian born players who for one reason or another returned to Russia. Fetisov, was in an opposite position. In the heat of the Soviet Union’s strangle hold on the hockey universe, he wished to leave for the greener pastures of the NHL.

Picture it like this, in the MLB players run to Japan when they have fallen from grace. With the hopes of finding themselves back in the spot light of a major league team and obviously collect a pay check.

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Pavel captained team Russia at this years World Championship of Hockey, which potentially served as foreshadowing of what was to come

Okay, so now that I’ve handed you some background on the situation its time to chip away at what’s really the causes of this rash decision.

Pavel is leaving Detroit at seemingly the worst possible time for a player of his caliber to leave. Detroit isn’t exactly ready for life without this guy just yet.

Granted they have begun to reloaded their pool of talent with players such as Tomas Jurco and Tatar, Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist. Which is all fine and good but the torch hasn’t been completely passed off from Henrik Zeterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen and obviously the now dubbed ‘mystery man’ Pavel Datsyuk.

Detroit is a far cry from what they were in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Jam packed with talent and groomed for another run at Lord Stanley every single year.

2008 was the last time they were crowned champions. Pittsburg took their chances at a repeat away in 2009. Seven years have passed and a couple of first round exits, a loss to Chicago in 2013 after leading the series 3 games to 1, recently a Luongo/Lack esque goaltending situation has formulated, and the departure of beloved coach Mike Babcock have sent this team into a sustained, but gradual tailspin.

Unorthodox, that’s how I would describe this one. It doesn’t taste right, or sound correct when you say it out loud “Pavel Datsyuk is leaving Detroit”. But if I were a betting man, I’d speculate there’s a KHL deal on the table already . Now its just a waiting game, nauseating feeling for Detroit, just waiting for the phone to ring.

Regardless, if he does decide to leave don’t expect thousands to line the runway waving handkerchiefs as your plane lifts off. Never been, but I don’t expect that’s Detroit’s style.

Something tells me you’ll see the number 40 hung in the rafters of the new Joe, or whatever the hell they’re going to desecrate one of hockey’s most synonymous cathedrals as, before the number 13. Sad but true.

To quote Lance Armstrong in Dodgeball “Good luck Pavel, I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever”.

Audios Magic Man, the highlight reels will take a harder beating than you for this.

 

Dumb But Not Dumbfounding 

Partially I feel somewhat moronic for coming so late to the party here, but at least I’m not late to my defensive spots on the ice. That was reserved specifically for Mr. Miller.

Let me get this out of the way, Kevan Miller comes directly as advertised.

What I mean by that is when you play him as a bottom 6 defensemen all season he’ll thrive.

Despite a statistical career high which included 5 goals and 13 assists for an obvious 18 points in 71 games. Kevan Miller was anything but spectacular in his own zone all season.

A plus 15 doesnt accurately reflect how topsie turvey he was. Similar to the entire team play, there was nights where Miller appeared Norris trophy worthy. While others had me questioning why he was suiting up for a professional hockey game.

I distinctly remember on multiple occasions he would have his back turned to the play unfolding behind him. Lone and behold a stellar offensive opportunity would formulate for the opposition that he was utterly oblivious to.

Only reasonable thing you could possibly do in this situation was pay the man 2.5 million dollars over the span of four years, right?

*sigh*

If you agree with that ideology, you wont agree with the next thing I’m going to say.

The man isn’t worth more than 1.5 over three years and even that is generous. Literally not a penny more.

Lets be fair though, the Bruins have completely mouse trapped themselves when it comes to defensemen, so they had to do it. Matt Irwin wasn’t given sufficient ice time before brass shipped him to Providence after he had, in my opinion an above average preseason. Colin Miller, remember him? The major prospect in the Lucic trade with LA? He actually had a clue out there but it apparently wasn’t enough and he, like Irwin was sent southbound down 95.

Allow me to interject here, I don’t hate Kevan Miller, even though up to this point it looks like I do.

Miller is a bottom 6 defensemen. He’ll kill penalties, crunch minutes and beat the sand out of guys if called on. We Bruins fans love that stuff. But, Claude wanted to make him something he’s not. Deep into the season Millers minutes drastically increased. I fear Claude imagines Miller as Johnny Boychuk 2.0, drawing the comparison is almost insulting. I’ll apologize to Mr. Boychuk for even bringing it up.

Sorry Johnny.

Makes you wonder what kind of payday Krug is going to receive, eh?

Personally the game plan should be “devise a locker room that allows for Chara to be off the ice as much as possible” not because I don’t believe he should play. But if you’re going have a chance at sniffing hockey in April next year that man needs unlimited rest.

Which, subsequently he wasn’t allowed because Claude didn’t trust a soul that sat to his right on the bench in 2016.

Miller fits the bill, but not for 20 minutes a night and certainly not for 2.5 million dollars a year.

Upside? Yes there actually is an upside here. At least we aren’t paying 9 million dollars to a guy who was a measly plus four this year. Dagger Montreal.

Keep a close eye on the horizon, free agency is going to tell us a lot on what to expect come October.

See you in the second wild card spot!

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Classic Claude “I’m going to ungracefully brush off that comment” face to send you off on your Thursday commute.

 

Tampa Is Better Than You, And They Know It

Okay, lets get a few things straight before we dive in here.

I know the Penguins evened the series last night. I am also fully aware the Lightning were absolutely dominated in the third period, grasping on to overtime for dear life.

Cool. Yup, I know all of that… I watched the game.

All things aside Tampa is as sound a hockey team as you’ll find, truth be told I’m stating the relative obvious here.

Before you all get upset and formulate ways to defend your team consider this. Tampa is in the playoffs and unless you’re a Penguins, Sharks or Blues fan you don’t have the privilege of saying so.

Now, without further ado here are my 5 reasons the Tampa Bay Lightning are better than your team.

Ondrej Palat #18 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with his teammate Ryan Callahan #24 after scoring a goal in the second period against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

1. The triplet line; Tyler Johnson, the undrafted free agent has solidified himself as one of the most dangerous play makers in modern playoff hockey. Alex Killorn the former Harvard Crimson opened the scoring in game one by virtue of a brilliant stretch pass from Victor Hedman (spoiler he comes later). Ondrej Palat the glue that binds the two previous stated players together, he wears the ‘A’ for a reason.
While this line has been used sparingly thus far in the playoffs, when they are together opposing defenses best come prepared.
2. Their back up goalie is probably better than your starter. Formally a first round pick, hes been patiently awaiting his opportunity to make a splash. Andrei Vasilevskiy 6 foot 4 inches may not be as colossal in size as Ben Bishop but he certainly holds his own. Forced into the starting position due to Bishop’s unfortunate lower body injury, there was reason for concern. Well, from everyone not affiliated with the Lightning.
Typically the backup goaltender is such because, well they’re the backup goaltender but Vasilevskiy is a different breed. Positionally sound, square to his shots, and visually confident he’s kept them in this series. Remember when he was forced to start a game in Bishop’s absence in last years Cup final? Long story short he won the game, and it wasn’t by accident.
3. Jonathan Drouin.
Steven Stamkos? Don’t need that guy, they have Jonathan Drouin.
Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on May 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Disregard all the bad mojo and drama that seemingly followed him anywhere he went, he was worth every headache.
All roads appeared to lead Tampa to trading the young superstar in the making, perhaps they took history into account? Patrick Kane for instance. NHL premiere talent, irreplaceable, yet being a party boy of sorts has made Chicago sweat at times in the off season. Yet they have stuck by him, which hindsight will tell you was for the best. Same applies for Drouin, an investment that as of right now is paying for itself. Just look at his goal last night to tie the game late in the first period, talk about talent.
4. Victor Hedman. Aside from a handful, and I truly mean handful, that’s like 5 players people. I would take Hedman over every guy in the league absolutely no hesitation.
Talk about a guy who quite literally does it all, every night. He plays nearly half a game in the playoffs, quarterbacks the power play, and backbones the penalty kill. He gained invaluable knowledge in the 2011 Eastern Conference final and the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, both with Tampa, both were losses. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, losses in big moments often times spell redemption for young players. That is however if you don’t expect things to simply be handed to you, the way this kid has played this year?
That’s no issue. In the absence of Anton Stralman the pseudo number two guy in Tampa, Hedman’s play hasn’t faltered at all. Which is a perfectly unplanned foray into my next point. It wasn’t all that long ago that Hedman’s game appeared to falter. Regardless Tampa stuck by their guy, good choice.
5. The fifth and final reason Tampa is better than you is the most impressive by far. All of this is possible without Steven Stamkos.
We have been overwhelmed with the prospect that this is primarily Stamkos’ team. Live and die by that fact. However, when you remove him from the equation you gain a different perspective. Tampa is littered with young talent.
Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.
When you take a step back and examine the Tampa Bay Lightning they’ve had one bizarre year. Drouin their best young talent had a temper tantrum that needed some attending to, Stamkos favorited a tweet from a Canadian reporter linking him back to the Maple Leafs, all of this on the back of a Finals loss last season.
All the while they have persevered aside from as rocky a start as a talented team could have. But what makes a championship caliber team, championship caliber is not just its top two lines, you need depth. Even more simply put, depth that works cohesively.
Tampa has had that especially in 2011, 2015 and now again in 2016. What separates the latter two years is superb drafting. 13 draft picks suited up for Tampa last night. While not every team in the league is made up entirely of guys drafted by the team they represent, Tampa is the blue print that a ton of teams want to emulate.
Building within the draft, it isn’t always pretty, in fact it often times leaves you to copy and paste forgotten players amongst your ranks. In the end you may have some pitiful finishes statistically. Those days are long gone, Tampa has narrowed their sights on a championship. A hunger that won’t be simply satisfied.

Remembering May 13th 2013

When it comes to the sporting world the spring is often regarded as the “dark days”. Meaning if you aren’t a diehard baseball fan there isn’t much to quench your thirst.

By virtue of an abbreviated season due to a lockout, the first round of the 2013 NHL playoffs didn’t begin until early May. What is generally the Conference Finals is merely the Conference Semi Finals.

Where were you may 13th 2013? It goes without saying that attempting to recall a specific date from three years ago is difficult if not impossible. If you were traveling into Boston that night odds are you were making a trip to the Boston Garden, ringing any bells yet?

Game 7 between the Bruins and Maple Leafs.

On the surface it appeared as if the Bruins held a slight edge. They were after all more experienced, older, and had won a Stanley Cup after my dad graduated high school. But most importantly they were playing at home.

No brainer, right? It’s practically Boston’s game to lose, and they almost did.

For those who don’t remember Matt Bartkowski got the party rolling early, when his snap shot flew by a screened James Reimer. Then the wheels fell off.

1-1: Cody Franson slams home a rebound off a goal mouth scramble set up by James van Riemsdyk on the power play, tie game.

2-1: Toronto takes the lead when Clarke MacArthur found Cody Franson through traffic setting up his second of the game.

Now we enter the third period. Facing elimination the Garden crowd was sitting on their hands, anxiously quiet. Anticipating a reason to erupt. They didn’t get that, at least right away.

3-1: Toronto, James van Riemsdyk wins a puck battle in the corner, cuts to the high slot and riffles a shot up high on Rask. Phil Kessel corrals the rebound and makes no mistake. Toronto takes a commanding lead.

Things only got worse, temporarily.

4-1: 14:32 seconds remaining in the third, Kessel’s quick release deflects off Rask’s pad and lands right on the tape of Nazem Kadri and they don’t get easier than that. By now all of the oxygen is brutally forced out of the Garden.

Simultaneously between players and fan base the collective inevitability is temporarily realized, it appears to be all over.

BOSTON, MA - MAY 13 - Nazem Kadri scores and fans celebrate in third period action as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins in game 7 in their first round NHL Stanley Cup playoffs series at TD Garden in Boston, May 13, 2013.

Roughly four minutes later…

4-2: Lucic muscles his way behind the net, forces a shot on goal, Nathan Horton collects the loose change and rifles it top shelf.

With the net empty and time becoming their biggest nemesis the Bruins were forced into pure desperation mode

4-3: Bergeron feeds Chara, his one timer careens into Reimer, Lucic punches home the rebound.

Momentum begins to turn as theoretically the ice begins to shift in favor of Boston. Following Lucic’s goal there was about 1:22 seconds remaining on the clock, by now those fans sitting on their hands were beginning to believe.

4-4: Krejci’s “d to d” pass finds Bergeron at the point, his wrist shot fly’s through a maze of Bruins and Maple leafs and kisses the top corner.

With 50 seconds left in regulation its bedlam in Boston.

To overtime we go, then this happened.

5-4: Game. Set. Match. Bergeron’s initial drive is blocked but sits flat in the slot seemingly waiting for him to collect his own rebound. A miscommunication between Gardner and Franson allowed Bergeron to collect his second, and most important goal of the game.

BOSTON, MA - MAY 13 - Leafs fans lament the loss in the stands in the first overtime period as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins in game 7 in their first round NHL Stanley Cup playoffs series at TD Garden in Boston, May 13, 2013.

In the weeks that followed the Maple Leafs decided what they produced that season was an expectation of what is years to come. If we did it once we can certainly do it on a concisistant basis. They were wrong.

For Boston? They made it to the Stanley Cup Final, losing in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. Later that summer they also dealt Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars. In doing so they derailed their chances at remaining a perennial power house, having missed the post season for two straight seasons.

Fast forward three years and the Maple Leafs are selecting first overall at this year’s draft with a franchise center, Auston Matthews awaiting the call. Future hall of fame coach Mike Babcock behind the bench, and a plethora of young talent waiting for the opportunity to shine.

So while Boston may have been on the winning side of one of the greatest come backs of this decade. The last laugh may remain north of the boarder.

No More Playoff ‘Blues’

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Despite a fantastic statistical season from Patrick Kane, Chicago failed to find an equalizer in game 7.

They say “in order to be the best you have to beat the best”. For St. Louis, ousting the defending Cup Champions, who just so happen to double as their arch rival, it’s quite the accievement. As for the whole “being the best” thing you can be the determiner of that.

While Chicago beat St. Louis in 2014 four games to two, and came one goal shy of sending this years match up to overtime, in the end St. Louis was too much to handle.

Revenge is a sweet tasting drink.

Taking a commanding three games to one advantage early in the series Chicago, unsurprisingly battled back to force a game seven. Former Blackhawk Troy Brouwer put St. Louis up 3-2 late in the third period, and the score would stand. Despite a heart stopping double post opportunity from Brent Seabrook in the dying moments of the third period.

So, what now?

With both Chicago and Los Angeles planning their golf trips for the summer earlier than they’re use to. The playoffs have lost that familiar feeling. That’s not to say they wont be exciting none the less.

St. Louis will square up against Dallas, while San Jose faces Nashville.

Sometimes unfamiliar faces bring a breath of fresh air, refreshing. Perhaps a Blackhawk/Kings-less Stanley Cup final will be a good thing for the sport.

However, something interesting to sit on is this.. I ask you what do the 2009 Red Wings, 2011 Vancouver Canucks, 2012 Phoenix Coyotes, and the 2014 Los Angeles Kings all have in common? Aside from the 2012 Coyotes (Lost in the Conference Final to the Kings) all of them beat Chicago en route to the Stanley Cup Final appearance. While the 2014 Kings hoisted Lord Stanley.

In no way shape or form does this mean St. Louis can punch their ticket to the big dance for the first time since 1970. But, if history is any indication of what is to come, its certainly makes for interesting water cooler talk.

Jake Allen is putting on his best Curtis Joseph impersonation and I’m not just talking about the mask. He was sensational against the Blackhawks. As it would appear right now the Blues have finally found the goaltender they need since prematurely dealing Jaroslav Halak.

One can argue the goalie was the only thing missing on their depth chart in years past. They clearly have the size on both ends of the ice. Certainly have the firepower to make it work and Ken Hitchcock has the respect of the locker room.

Before we get too carried away here, whats always haunted the Blues is the dreaded playoff collapses. As a sports town St. Louis has been plagued with sporting mishaps at the most inconvenient moments.

Who knows, this time next year we could be adding St. Louis to the previously stated list of teams that ran through Chicago on their way to the Finals. Or we could be questioning whose job is safe, that’s the glory of being a blogger. When I’m right I’m a hero, when I’m wrong? We’ll, nobody really cares that much.

Happy Playoffs.

Miracle Men 36 Years Later

Goaltender Jim Craig of United States Olympic Hockey team jump with jubilation after the United States beat the Soviet Union hockey team in the semi-finals hockey game February 22, 1980 during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The United States won the game 4-3. The game was dubbed The Miracle On Ice.

First and foremost hockey is a sport. Just like any of the other major sports in America. To some, sports may appear trivial and overrated. Today overpaid, egotistical athletes dominate American propaganda making us wonder, who is worth while to idolize in the sports world?

Leading up to the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid New York America was in the midst of a political gridlock. Tension following the Richard Nixon resignation, the capturing of the American embassy and the ever growing fear of communism in the states. Left the once proud American public, fragile and uneasy. In desperate need for hero’s they turned to their beloved Olympic athletes. However the desire to follow their hockey team was nonexistent.

Highlighted by their defeat at the hands of the heavily favored Soviet Union hockey team at Madison Square Garden 10-3 just a few days prior to the commencement of the games. Amidst speculation the Soviets wouldn’t even be allowed to participate in the games. It was firmly believed the Soviets would plow through the competition to take gold with almost no effort.

As for the underdogs whom were famously described in the 2004 Hollywood rendition as “a bunch of kids from Minnesota and Boston”. They opened the tournament with a thrilling 2-2 tie against team Sweden. Brooks famously pulled Jim Craig with well under a minute left in regulation, down one to tie the game, escaping with a valuable point.

Entering the medal round the Americans were 4-0-1. On the other side the Soviets sliced through the competition like a knife through warm butter. As faith would have it, the Americans would face off against the Soviets for the first time since Madison Square Garden, but more importantly for a spot at the gold medal. All of those who wouldn’t give the team of misfits the time of day were suddenly glued to their television sets.

Everyone and their grandma knows what happens next. Eruzione’s tie breaking goal in the third. Jim Craig standing on his head to keep the game manageable for his team. The iconic countdown from 10 to do you believe in miracles? Herb Brooks sprinting to the locker room to cry. If you don’t have chills, check for a pulse.

While only a select few members of that historical team made it to the pros and enjoyed worthwhile careers. They set the groundwork for this generations American stars. Names such as Parise, Suter, Kane, Kessel, Eichel, Oshie, Pacioretty, Kesler, Backes, Brown, Callahan, Shattenkirk, McDonagh, and finally Quick.

Kane, Eichel and soon to be drafted Auston Matthews are superstars on their respected teams. Kane a former resident of Buffalo New York, Jack Eichel from the state of Massachusetts, and Matthews from Arizona.

Similarly to the Gretzky trade, this moment redefined what it meant to be a hockey player in the United States.

First and foremost hockey is a sport. Just like any of the other major sports in America. To some, sports may appear trivial and overrated. However, every once in a while something happens, something monumental, something so important that it can unite an entire country. Even if its only for a couple of hours. So 36 years later, the sense of nationalism that was felt on that very evening in Lake Placid New York should still burn with the same warmth and intensity.

What happens when sports are seen as more than just a game? Well, miracles, if you believe in that kind of thing.

 

 

Fool Me Twice.. Shame On Me?

T.J. Oshie #77 of the Washington Capitals is congratulated by teammates on the bench after he scored a goal in the overtime shootout against the New Jersey Devils on February 6, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.The Washington Capitals defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in an overtime shootout.Washington has been the NHL’s most unorthodox enigma. Despite the firepower, highlighted by this generations most lethal lamp lighter Alex Ovechkin. They have always found a way to drop game 7’s in the playoffs.

I mean who could forget how dangerous the 2009-10 Caps were? But honestly how good were they when it mattered?

The President trophy winning Capitals ended the season first in their division, conference, and the entire league. Sporting a mind numbing 54-15-13 record, their goals for (315) nearly lapped their goals against (229). Unsurprisingly it was the Alex Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom show offensively. Ovi notched 109 points, and Backstrom tallied 68 helpers. Proven veteran Jose Theodore and up and coming youngster Semyon Varlamov split time between the pipes.

For all of the previous stated reasons the Capitals deserved to be the regular season champs. But back to my original point, how good were they when it mattered?

When did it matter exactly?

Specifically referencing the 2010 Playoffs. The heavily favored (and I cant emphasize heavily favored enough here) Washington Capitals faced off against the 8th seeded Montreal Canadians in the first round. At just 39-33-10 Montreal was lucky to squeak their way into the playoffs as the eight and final seed.

Then, Washington bench boss Bruce Boudreu elected to go with his hot hand in net. Unproven youngster Semyon Varlamov. A bold strategy indeed considering Theodore who had played for the Montreal Canadians, appeared to be the obvious starter.

Nonetheless Montreal stole game 1 in Washington 3-2 in overtime.

The following three games would be outright dominated by Washington. Seemingly every facet of a hockey game was under control as the Capitals held a commanding 3 games to 1 series lead.

What happens next lives in infamy…

Montreal would win the next three straight games. Including a pivotal game 7 in Washington by a score of 2-1. Taking the series in come from behind fashion.

To this day it’s largely considered to be one of the biggest upsets in modern hockey history.

What’s most troubling is the fact that the high powered Capital offense was stymied by the underdog Habs. Dumb luck? Or is there more than meets the eye?

One year later, Washington was blitzed by the Tampa Bay Lightning on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals 4 games to 0.

2011-12 and 2012-2013 saw the Capitals fall to the Rangers in successive post season bouts. Both in game 7’s.

Following a years hiatus from the playoffs the Capitals returned last spring after winning 45 games in the regular season.

Falling yet again to a familiar foe, the New York Rangers in, you guessed it, game 7.

So what makes the 2015-16 Washington Capitals any different at all from the 2009-10 squad?

When held side by side, apart from the difference in years, it be nearly impossible to tell one from the other.

In fact this past week the Capitals became the first team in history to win 44 of their first 58 games to start the season. Believe it or not a ton of that success can be attributed to recently acquired forwards T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, whom replaced Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer. Oshie has found instant chemistry with Ovechkin and Backstrom, making them arguably the scariest trio in the league.

Mr. “game 7” Williams is no slouch either. His ability to kill penalties and produce on the power play clearly has made head coach Barry Trotz’s job a lot easier.

For the time being Mike Richards hasn’t seem to mess with the synergy of the locker room, since signing with the team a few weeks ago. If anything he only has an upside, I mean at least he’s won something.

Unlike in years past the Capitals have, at least up until this point, appeared to have patched their largest wound. Reliable defense. Both Karl Alzner and John Carlson have developed into more than capable defenders. Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen were fabulous additions last off season. Mike Weber whom was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres will fill out the bottom pair along side Dmitry Orlov. That’s pretty damn good.

No, I haven’t forgotten to give Holtby his recognition, because he’s been, dare I say it Broudeur like. 48 games to his name, 38 wins, and only 6 regulation loses. 2.17 GAA .924 SV% and two shutouts. Since his coming out party against the Bruins in the 2012 playoffs. Holtby has proven a ton of those who said he couldn’t keep it up very, very wrong.

But lets face it, the Capitals are that fancy sports car that you’ve always wanted. Every time you see it on the road you stop what you’re doing and stare at it. In the end however you realize its way more practical to go the way of the Honda Civic. So, for the time being you’ll idolize those who have fulfilled your dream, but as soon as something goes wrong you can say “I told you so”.

Remember how cool it was to watch the Kings win their first? Well, in case you forgot the Caps are chasing that elusive first championship. Not to mention they have the most tenacious captain in the NHL. So, it looks like the Eastern Conference is Washington’s to lose. Which they’ve done in the past.

I must admit for some reason this team feels different to me, but there’s also a reason I don’t bet either.

We’ll soon learn if this squad will crash and burn like its 2010 precursor. Until then I suggest tuning into a Capitals game the next time they’re in town. Its damn good hockey.

 

 

Royal Rumble

Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates with Alec Martinez #27, Vincent Lecavalier #44, Dwight King #74 and Drew Doughty #8 after scoring against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on February 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.After spending 8 seasons with the Boston Bruins. Milan Lucic made his anticipated return to the Boston Garden lastnight as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

Aside from the standing ovation and heartwarming video montage, there wasn’t much to get excited about from a Bruin fans perspective as the Kings cruised to a 9-2 victory.

Boston continued their suspect play at home. Which included stingy defense in front of their own net, shots without a purpose, and nearly no energy whatsoever after falling behind quickly following Marchand’s early tally.

Last night was oddly similar to their collapse against the  Maple Leafs at home on February 2nd in the sense that there was nothing to get excited about. “You know we use to have a killer instinct when we were up two goals in the third”. Krejci commented after blowing a two goal lead in the third period. “But today was a frustrating game”. He’s right, this is the most inconsistent I’ve seen the Bruins play in about a decade. Their Achilles heel? Defense, something the Bruins of years past have dominated.

The Leafs put up 35 shots on the Bruins last Tuesday, all of their goals were tipped shots inside or just outside of the slot. Which again proves they aren’t strong enough, or willing enough to move bodies in front of their goalie.

Which, is unacceptable.

One week later the Kings amassed 57 shots on net scoring on 9 of them. Again, the Bruins could not defend the front of their net. Which is a personnel issue.

Simply put, there’s been too much drastic change to the locker room since the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. Its had a catastrophic effect on the team, and organization as a whole. Causing even the most historically reliable defenseman to appear like chickens who were recently decapitated.

Following up on that I don’t have much faith in managements ability to make a trade by months end that will change the dynamic of the season. Nor do I fall in line with the idealism that trading Colin Miller and David Pastrnak is the answer, at all.

This team seldom wins trades involving young talent. So that’s the last thing you should want.

The Kings gave you a taste of your own medicine.

What you use to be is a far cry compared to what you are now.

Watching the Kings play hockey reminds me a lot of what the Bruins used to be. Strong, scary, simplistic breakout plays, running four lines, lockdown defense, and transitioning the play north to south effortlessly. Last night was a grand example of just how far away the Bruins truly are from being relevant again.

Joe Haggerty tweeted quotes postgame that carry some significant weight. “I feel like we got absolutely embarrassed” Zdeno Chara.

“Everyone is pissed off. Anyone that’s got any kind of pride knows that this is embarrassing. We should be pissed off about it” Brad Marchand.

At its core its truly sad to see how this team matches up against the leagues top tier talent. Considering where they use to be not too long ago.

My fear is that this problem is going to linger as the “ideal move” wont present itself by the trade deadline. Coupled with the reluctance to make a deal that will cripple them any further.

Until then you can continue to dazzle us with shootout victories against the Sabres (which required every ounce of effort you possessed) and salvaging a point in a demoralizing OT loss to the bottom feeder Maple Leafs. But the team that mopped the floor with you for 45 straight minutes lastnight should be the team you strive to become again.

I digress.

One thing is for sure the Kings jerseys weren’t the ugliest things on the ice last night. Which is difficult to imagine.

 

Big Buf signs a big deal but where does this leave the Jets?

Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets speaks to Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders during the third period at the Barclays Center on October 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Jets 4-2.
“Big Buf” is all smiles after coming to an agreement with the Winnipeg Jets this afternoon.

 

 

Following months of speculation Dustin Byfuglien finally inked a new deal, and boy did he get paid.

The shinny 5 year deal assures he’ll be paid at least 7.6 million dollars a year. Which again is great news, for Mr. Byfuglien, as well as the Winnipeg Jets.

With a couple choreographed flicks of his wrist Byfuglien just made himself top 5 highest paid defensemen in the NHL. Along with that Byfuglien may have made himself very attractive to teams willing to sell high to acquire his talents. What I mean by that is this, with the uncertainty of Byfuglien being a free agent this coming off season it put Winnipeg in an awkward position. Do we trade him? Or attempt to sign him long term and wait for the phone calls to come?

Constantly mixed into persistent trade rumors Byfuglien is a game changer at 6 foot 5 inches and 260 pounds. Philadelphia had absolutely no answer for his rough and tough play as a member of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Which is exactly why teams have been drooling over him since September.

Los Angeles and Boston have been mainstays in the rumor mill, and on paper are perfect fits. But Buf’s new deal will make it difficult to keep their core of players and acquire him, under the current salary cap.

No doubt in my mind teams will certainly begin to devise a plan to free up space in the future by the trade deadline at months end. But will it be enticing enough for the Jets to part ways with Big Buf?

Not to mention the Jets are yet to sign current team captain Andrew Ladd (30) who has been linked to the Florida Panthers. Ladd was also a member of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, and has spent every season since playing alongside Byfuglien. Currently on pace for yet another 20 goal season Ladd could warrant a pay day tickling 6 million AAV.

Toby Enstrom (31) is yet another Jet defensemen who has been “quietly” shopped to teams in need of defensive help. Unlike Byfuglien, Enstrom is only 5 foot 10 inches and makes 5.75 million a year. A known power play weapon, Enstrom skates with a lot of confidence and makes crisp breakout passes coming out of his zone.

If the Jets were to move Enstrom they would have no difficulty signing Ladd to a monster deal. Solidifying their veteran core.

With seemingly nothing to play for at this point, and with the deadline drawing closer the Jets have an opportunity to make or break next season. If they stay put it’ll be difficult to sign Ladd and keep your established nucleolus in the locker room.

Moving Enstrom seems like a safe alternative to trading Byfuglien. That being said, if you’re the Jets you should go into deadline day with everyone being a potential trade target. With the mentality shifting to draft day immediately following.

After all the Auston Matthews sweepstakes has no definitive front runner as of right now.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Jets manufacture a contract for Ladd prior to the trade deadline. In fact it should be expected, players under contract offer GMs a lot more pull during the negotiation period. Contract or not Ladd, Byfuglien, and Enstrom will all be hot topics on deadline day.

Grab your popcorn folks, someone’s day will be made in a couple weeks time.

Hab-ulous Outcome

David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his third-period goal with teammates during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on January 19, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1.

The last time the Boston Bruins wore their Winter Classic jerseys against Montreal they were routed in front of nearly 70,000 fans, and more watching across the country.

Stereotypically the Bruins play with a lack of confidence and appear lethargic when they play their heated rival in their house, but not last night. Last night in the Bell Centre Max Talbot snapped a wrist shot over Mike Condon’s left shoulder to give the Bruins a much needed early lead in a hostile building.

Mark Barberio would nail the equalizer on a beautiful passing play but that’s all Montreal would get past Rask. Which is good to see considering playing in Montreal has become Rask’s biggest bugaboo. 38 saves on 39 shots, Rask was lights out, he was seeing the puck through traffic, he looked relaxed and hot on his angles. His glove save stoned Torrey Mitchell who found himself in alone knifing between Krug and Seidenberg. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new trend.

Julien put Vatrano, Kemppainen and Hayes on a line and they were moving the puck with a purpose. I was thoroughly impressed with their desire to gain the offensive zone and hem the Canadians in. Peppering Condon with shot after shot. Although they never found the back of the net, this is a welcome sign as Julien has struggled to find offensive production from his bottom six forwards all season.

After battling to tie the game in the second period Montreal struggled to find constancy in the form of offensive pressure. Especially after Bergeron made it a 2-1 hockey game.

One has to think this is a direct result of not having Carey Price in net. With him healthy and playing like his usual self the Canadians are nearly impossible to beat in the Bell Centre. Fact of the matter is Montreal needs to score goals like they were to start this season but have seem to fall off ever since they were nailed with Price’s injury. Understandably so, but this also goes back to my biggest criticism of Montreal. They rely far too much on Price’s ability to make upwards of 50 saves a night to win hockey games 2-1. Now they are without that Luxury and the results, well they speak for themselves.

In the third period Pastrnak gave the Bruins a much needed offensive presence when he pounced on a 50/50 puck. He sped through Gretzky’s office and tucked it home for his fourth of the year.

While Marchand would add an empty net to put the game entirely out of reach, again I found myself shocked by the lack of push back from the Canadians at home. Both Bergeron and Pastrnak beat Condon on simple wrap around goals. Condon exhibited a lack of ability to move from his left to right with much enthusiasm. Where Talbot’s marker was the outcome of a bad turnover by Montreal, which obviously, ended up in the back of their net.

Regardless the win knocks Montreal, for the time being, out of contention for the final wildcard spot. Fun fact, all seven Canadian franchises are currently out of the playoff picture. On top of it all Michel Therrien sits in hot water with management and it was rumored last nights game against Boston would be used as a measuring stick to whether or not Montreal would be in need of his services.

Now I don’t want to see anyone lose their job. However, you have to imagine with the circumstances I laid out that the Bruins were using it as extra motivation to go out and get the job done, and they did. Don’t look now but that’s three wins in a row for Boston with both Vancouver and Columbus on tap to finish off the week.

We have officially passed into the point of the season where ever point counts, and with every win you give management a reason to believe you’re worth investing in on deadline day. I’m sure the Bruins will welcome back their 2011 Stanley Cup Finals opponent with arms wide open, especially with the opportunity to win 4 games in a row.