Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Penguins

Hockey Hasn’t Broken Up With Violence

Despite what the numbers tell you, and in recent years they have been quite consistent, fighting has persevered in the NHL. Year to year, goons or enforcers in the NHL have diminished, thus the numbers of fights per game have also dwindled.

During the 2012-13 season, the league average of fights per game was 0.48. Up to this point of the 2016-17 season, the league average is 0.30, in fact the 2015-16 season saw 0.28 per game.

Now, just because the number is lower doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t purposeful foul play at hand. Heading into Wednesday nights game against the Winnipeg Jets, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford made an interesting minor league call up. Human wrecking ball Tom Sestito dressed as a precaution, if the game were to get out of hand.

And it did.

Keeping your personal bias aside, Blake Wheeler was introduced to Evgeni Malkin elbow last month which caused an uproar. Rightly so.

Sestito’s sudden promotion obviously, was in direct relation to protecting Malkin’s well being. Geno sits among the leagues highest scorers with 70 points.

But hockey has a lot of unwritten rules, and despite your status, that doesn’t exclude you from street law.

Winning, by unanimous decision, was Mr. Wheeler. Soon thereafter, Sestito dropped the gloves with Chris Thorburn in another, rage filled dispute.

Don’t fret, the shenanigans didn’t stop there, Sestito left his final mark on the game by delivering a cheap shot to Toby Enstrom.

So, after the dust settled, it was just another day at the office for Mr. Sestito and a man who brings nothing to the table besides a professional knack for face transformation.

So, what we have learned this past week is that despite fights per game on the decline? Hockey clutches to their spades. That of course being fighting in the form of street justice. Had Malkin and Wheeler squashed their beef and simply gone on with the rest of the game, perhaps it would have ended there.

Now, this potentially leaves the door ajar for general managers to make these types of unwarranted call ups. To which I argue, with the number of fights on the decline clearly the players who pride themselves in fighting are being faded out of the game. Therefore you have two combatants, on average, not well versed in fighting. Sports should leave these types of things to its players, with little or no interference from those who no longer play.

Make no mistake, fighting and violence are never going to go away, but the days of the heavy weight bouts are seemingly long gone. For the better interest of the sport itself.

 

 

 

 

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Broadcasting Beauties on NBC

Canada has “Hockey Night In Canada”and the United States has “NHL on NBC”. When it comes to sheer games being broadcast over the course of a season, Hockey Night is clearly the victor.

With that being said, hockey fans in America have been the beneficiary of some fantastic games this past week. That is if they happened to tune in.

While Jared Spurgeon may not be unanimously considered to be within the top 100 goal scorers in the league, he absolutely dazzled the fans with this insane hand-eye coordinated thing of beauty.

My goodness, perhaps the Twins ought to give this guy a call to add some depth to their batting order.

Alex Ovechkin is no stranger to grand stage theatrics. The “Great 8” has been notorious for getting fans out of their seats and into the action right away. With a matchup last Wednesday against bitter rival Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, sparks were sure to fly. Especially when a specific milestone was within reach for my generations most lethal goal scorer.

Just 35 seconds into the game, Ovechkin’s toe drag-roof job set the tone for the rest of the night as the Caps cruised to a 5-2 victory. His early tally was his 1,000 NHL point. At just 31 years old and no prior injury concerns, Ovechkin has the opportunity to conjure up some instant magic.

Just 5 nights later, Crosby and Ovechkin would exchange pleasantries again. This time in Pittsburgh. The Caps leaped to a 3-0 lead early in the second, but the lead didn’t last as the Penguins riffled 6 straight goals before the start of the third period. Remarkably, the scoring didn’t end there for either side. As the Caps would tie the game at 7 late in regulation, only for the Penguins to take the decisive second point in overtime.

Your final score, 8-7.

When two original 6 teams face off against one another, it’s often must watch television. In the case of the Bruins vs. Red Wings game this past Wednesday, I’d certainly have to agree. Following an embarrassing defeat at the hand of the anemic Islanders, the Bruins looked for a confidence building team victory in Detroit. Boston’s young guns shinned early as Frank Vatrano nailed two goals and Brandon Carlo’s missile saw the Bruins up three goals on Detroit. An answer from Dylan Larkin cut Boston’s titanic lead to just two. Shortly there after, Patrice Bergeron’s deflection put the Bruins back up by three.

While three unanswered goals by Detroit would tie the game at 4 a piece, McQuiad and Nyquist would each score for their respective teams to force overtime. 5 pulse pounding minutes later, a shootout would decide who would possess the all important second point in the standings.

Detroit sent the hometown fans off with an excellent group victory. For Boston they continue to lick their wounds and search for an answer to their struggles. Emerging discussions about the future dealings of the head coach are once again at the forefront. With time being the only indicator of what course of action will be followed through on, a win against Chicago could prolong the process.

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While it may be old news now, the Montreal Canadiens got smoked by the Minnesota Wild last Thursday, 7-1. I’ll admit, entering this season there were some questions I had in regards to their locker room chemistry. Those concerns were quickly squandered. Montreal looked like the real deal for a significant portion of this season. Attribute it to the lingering affects from the World Cup of Hockey or the pressures of playing in Montreal. But Carey Price has looked aside himself this past month. Granted Montreal currently is in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic, you need to play your best hockey at this juncture of the season. Expect Montreal to make it to the spring tournament, and be a nightmare matchup for whatever team they get in round one.

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On the other hand, aside from filling the net against Montreal, Minnesota has also been filling in the win column. Playing arguably their best hockey since becoming a professional team. Since acquiring Parise and Suter in the same offseason, Minnesota has had their eye on a Cup. With the changes that have been made to tweak the roster in the last 365 days, that dream is looking attainable.

 

Metropolitan Division Prediction

Summer and hockey go together like peanut butter and mayonnaise, forcing us hockey folk to pray for October to come every night before bed. Twice on Sundays because it’s the Sabbath.

In order to keep mental health on a steady line, fans stay preoccupied with the who, what, where and why of their favorite team.

If in fact that team belongs to the Metropolitan Division, please read along and offer your less than productive feedback in the comments below.

Sensing the less than subtle trend?

Once again, to keep suspense at a premium, we’ll go in reverse order because I know what keeps people on the edge of their seat.

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8. Carolina Hurricanes: 35-31-16; A decade has past since Carolina last won a Stanley Cup and seven years since their last trip to the conference final. Last and certainly the most important, they have failed to qualify for the postseason since that previously mentioned date.

What should come as no surprise is the fact that almost no improvement has been made since their last appearance. Exemplified by the previous five seasons.

However, there is plenty of room to grow in 2017. Jeff Skinner, Noah Hanifin, Justin Faulk, Teuvo Teravainen and Victor Rask will have the greatest impact. While Jordan Staal, Lee Stempniak and Bryan Bickell will round out the bottom.

Cam Ward will find himself in the middle of trade rumors all season long. While Eddie Lack will be soul searching for his performances he had while a backup in Vancouver.

Carolina’s biggest Achilles Heel is the division they play in. As you read on you’ll begin to agree. As cliche as it may sound, their season will be made depending on how well they play against divisional opponents.

That being said, sell low on Carolina. But go to the PNC Arena when your favorite team is in town, the weather is unbeatable.

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7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 34-40-8; For all of Columbus’s hard work last season, their less than noteworthy record resulted in a last place finish in their division. With recording over 40 wins in back to back seasons prior to 2015-16, 34 wins was a noticeable set back.

John Tortorella found himself back behind an NHL bench for the first time since his disastrous attempt at coaching Vancouver in 2014. While Columbus appeared to be motivated by the change, it wasn’t good enough to get back to the playoffs.

Ryan Johansen was at odds with Tortorella to the point that management traded him straight up for Nashville’s Seth Jones.

Moving into 2017, Seth Jones may be the blueprint to the plan that moves this team forward. After all, in order to attract top tier talent, you need a top tier player.

Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner, Seth Jones and Brandon Saad make up the untouchables of the group. But there are still many holes to fill, including an above average backup to support Sergei Bobrovsky when he undoubtedly gets hurt at the most inopportune time.

Truth be told it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this team finds itself well above where I placed them…but don’t hold your breath.

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6. New York Islanders: Fully aware of the impressive 45-27-10 record that the Islanders posted, the one thing that bothers me about the them is this past offseason.

The hammer of the salary cap smashed down on New York’s hand. Both Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin were passed on via free agency because they boasted more currency than they appeared to be worth.

While on paper, Okposo may be the most important player. Don’t undermine the importance of a guy like Matt Martin. He lead the league in hits for half a decade and scored 10 goals last year. A pivotal part of the Islanders fourth line, often considered to be the best in the league. What made the Isles’ so lucky was their ability to play their fourth line against the oppositions top lines. Supporting my ongoing argument that a coach needs four confident lines to be successful.

Aside from that, the chemistry between John Tavares and Kyle Okposo being broken up may spell instant disaster moving forward.

With that being said, can they fill the gaps?

One thing is for sure, two time Stanley Cup champion Andrew Ladd adds instant experience to the lineup. Doubt remains whether he will be the Andrew Ladd in Winnipeg or the Andrew Ladd that returned to Chicago this past season.

Expect the Isles’ to be nipping at the heels of our next team.

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5. New Jersey Devils: Hard to believe this happened four years ago. Even harder to believe New Jersey has failed to qualify for the post season since. Actually, no its not. Both Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk left in a span of a single season following that feat.

So 38-36-8 last season begins to make more sense. What ruins New Jersey is how solid they are in their forward department but for years have been in desperate need of a number one guy to take the game over. They don’t score many goals.

Now they have him. Taylor Hall wasn’t just the second overall pick in 2010, he is the life saver New Jersey needs.

Cory Schneider will back stop a team that will make a marathon of improvements from years past. Destined to hurdle the 40 win mark, New Jersey may be the sneaky good hockey team that should invest in itself at the trade deadline.

One thing is for sure, Travis Zajac will be a happy man now that he has a dynamic wing to flank him once again.

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4. New York Rangers: Accumulating over 100 points during the regular season two years in a row should be reason enough to assume that the Rangers are a shoe in for the playoffs. Now, normally I would agree, but from what I saw in last years playoffs, I have to disagree.

While their first round matchup with Pittsburgh is no small task. New York looked overwhelmed and confused as they attempted to keep up with Pittsburgh’s speed.

Signing college standout Jimmy Vesey is a step in the right direction but for the long term, I’m not entirely sure how open their championship window is.

An aging all world goaltender, a top heavy forward core anchored around Rick Nash who repeatedly has failed to produce in the playoffs, and falling back on a stacked defensive core to bail themselves out caught up with them this past spring.

After two deep runs in the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, 2016 was an utter disappointment considering New York has seen a lot of the Penguins in the playoffs over the years. Which makes last season all the more upsetting for the blue shirt faithful.

The Rangers will be one of the better teams in the league, but that dominance you’ve seen over the last three seasons may begin to slip away.

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3. Philadelphia Flyers:  Relax, even Brendan Burns agrees the Flyers should be ahead of the Rangers. 41 wins and 96 points last season for a team that failed to qualify for the post season in two out of the prior three seasons is a huge turnaround.

In typical Flyers form, they weren’t even in the playoff picture until the last month or less of the regular season. Jumping on the collective efforts of Claude Groux, Wayne Simmons, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and a youngster by the name of Shayne Gostisbehere.

Philly hasn’t been the same since Chris Pronger was forced into retirement from his injuries. Ever since he retired, the mission to find a number one defensemen has been their priority.

Moving forward, the core of players mentioned earlier will carry this team. But my eye remains on Steve Mason to have a quick rebound year from last season. The responsibility of success falls entirely on his shoulders at the end of the day.

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2. Pittsburgh Penguins: With two Stanley Cups under his belt, Sidney Crosby now has wiggle room to move out from underneath Mario Lemieux’s shadow. But Phil Kessel deserved to be the playoff MVP, I’m sorry but also not sorry. Anyone with a fully functional pair of eyes could see that.

Moving our attention to the team itself, Pittsburgh went roaring into the 2016 playoffs experiencing consistent recoil only from the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the Stanley Cup final, the Penguins outplayed San Jose for basically the entirety of the 6 game series.

Crosby elevated his game but it was the play of the ‘HBK’ line that stole the show on a nightly basis. Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel comprised the most dangerous line in hockey. What made them even better was where they were slotted, as a third line the mismatches during the game played in their favor. The competition couldn’t keep up with their speed, allowing guys like Crosby and Malkin to be moved around the roster as needed.

I’m interested to see how Matt Murray will be used along side Marc Andre Fleury. Was Murray lightning in a bottle? Or have we seen the beginning of the end for Fleury in Pittsburgh with the expansion draft coming up next summer?

One thing remains, Pittsburgh has as good a chance as any to be the first team to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings in ’97 and ’98.

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1. Washington Capitals: The curse continued. Washington was the most dangerous team in the regular season, but once again failed to keep the momentum flowing when it was most important to do so.

Seven years separated the first and most recent time, the Penguins and Capitals faced off in the playoffs. Similar to the 2009 showdown, Pittsburgh was once again able to withstand the pressure of the situation. Now, Washington takes yet another step back to wonder what exactly went wrong, more importantly how can they improve?

As the regular season rolled on, many chose the Capitals to be the eventual Stanley Cup champions. But in their first round match up with Philadelphia, they came flying out of the gate. When they established their 3-0 series lead over the Flyers, they wondered off the path. Allowing them to come back making it a 3-2 series lead. While Washington eventually pulled through to take the series, doubts resonated.

Weapons are in an abundance in Washington. Leadership, is not.

Especially now that Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera are both out of town. Alex Ovechkin needs to be better, he wears the ‘C’ for a reason. He is their leader offensively, but now he needs to be the leader in the locker room.

The coach, goalie, defensive and offensive core is there. Now Washington needs to find complimentary veteran players to walk through the locker room and corral the youngsters. Players such as Mark Recchi and Bill Guerin don’t grow on trees. But that’s the only piece to the puzzle Washington is missing.

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Metropolitan Division All-Time Greatest Rosters

People often wander what it might be like to cross eras in sports and see what it would be like if certain players had united and played as one. For me though, I want to see what all 30 NHL franchises would look like if they created a roster of that franchises greatest talent. If you missed the first edition of this 4 part series be sure to check out the Atlantic Division article from last week. Without further ado, let’s get into the Metropolitan Division, and then see what the Eastern Conference playoffs would look like.

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1. Pittsburgh Penguins:

Forwards

Mario Lemieux-Sidney Crosby-Jaromir Jagr

Evgeni Malkin-Ron Francis-Rick Kehoe

Kevin Stevens-Martin Straka-Mark Recchi

Chris Kunitz-Syl Apps Jr-Joseph Pronovost

Defense

Paul Coffey-Kris Letang

Randy Carlyle-Sergei Gonchar

Ronald Stackhouse-Larry Murphy

Goalie

Marc-Andre Fleury

Oh my Lord. Mario, Sid, and Jags all on one line? Yes yes yes! This team puts the fear of God in me when I look at this all-time roster. Goals will be scored left and right and wins will be plentiful. The supporting cast is impressive too, Geno and Ron Francis on line two is just as dangerous. The bulk of the load with be carried by the first line though, and they are more than up to the task. Defense is also deadly with Coffey and Letang on the first unit, these two can score with the best of them. The question mark on this roster is Marc-Andre Fleury. He is without a doubt the greatest goaltender in Penguins history, but I do not see him as much of a threat in net as say Henrik Lundqvist or Martin Brodeur in this division. The Penguins will compete for the division crown for sure, and they might even be contending for even more.

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2. New Jersey Devils:

Forwards

Kirk Muller-Patrik Elias-John Maclean

Zach Parise-Scott Gomez-Jamie Langenbrunner

Aaron Broten-Bobby Holik-Petr Sykora

Jason Arnott-Claude Lemieux-Brian Gionta

Defense

Scott Niedermayer-Scott Stevens

Bruce Driver-Andy Greene

Brian Rafalski-Kenneth Daneyko

Goalie

Martin Brodeur

This is a very good all-time roster. From up front to the goal crease this team has some real firepower. I am slightly biased on this one cause I used to love the Devils back in the early 2000s, and I was really pulling for them to take home the cup in 2012, but I think this team would do really well in an all-time greatest season. The leader of this team, and best player, is Martin Brodeur. Martin Brodeur is the greatest goalie the NHL history. Period. He led the Devils to 3 Stanley Cups championships, and to 5 total Stanley Cup appearances. Brodeur also has 688 career victories, that’s nothing to take lightly, that is incredible. Now to the defense. Scott Stevens will kill you. Scott Stevens will wait for the perfect moment to take you head off as you cross his blue line, just ask Paul Kariya. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sR-hjR0sms) The defesne on this team will smother you, all three lines role deep and can lead a team to a Stanley Cup. Offensively I have no complaints either. Elias, Gomez, Holik, and Lemieux make up an incredible center core and the wingers are spectacular in their own rights as well. I look for the Devils all-time franchise to compete for the division title in the Metro.

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3. Philadelphia Flyers:

Forwards

Bill Barber-Bobby Clarke-Tim Kerr

John Leclair-Eric Lindros-Mark Recchi

Brian Propp-Richard Macleish-Reginald Leach

Simon Gagne-Claude Giroux-Mike Richards

Defense

Mark Howe-Eric Desjardins

Kimmo Timonen-Thomas Bladon

Behn Wilson-James Watson

Goalie

Ron Hextall

Heres a team I really like on paper for an all-time greatest season. The Broad Street Bullies as some call them have quite a nice looking team put together here. The Flyers have a rich history, but also a history of not winning the big game, maybe with this roster they can compete for a cup. I think they can absolutely compete, and the number one reason to me is because of Ron Hextall. Hextall is machine in net, and he can take the boys of Philly to the promise land, maybe. The offense is stacked, Claude Giroux on the fourth line…that’s a lineup I would want to have. Bobby Clarke might be the greatest Flyer in history, so you know he will bring his A game nightly. Eric Lindros was one of those guys who was supposed to be the next Wayne Gretzky and because of this his legacy seems tainted, but Lindros can play. I like the way this roster feels, and I think that they can do some serious damage in an all-time greatest season.

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4. New York Rangers:

Forwards

Jean Ratelle-Mark Messier-Rod Gilbert

Steve Vickers-Walt Tkaczuk-Andy Bathgate

Adam Graves-Phil Esposito-Don Maloney

Dean Prentice-Vic Hadfield-Anders Hedberg

Defense

Brian Leetch-Brad Park

Ron Greschner-James Patrick

Reijo Ruotsalainen-Bill Gadsby

Goalie

Henrik Lundqvist

If you’re feeling left unsatisfied after viewing this roster, you’re not alone. The New York Rangers have a rich history, but with not so much winning. I wish I could have lived through the Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup run. Mark Messier making a promise to beat the Devils, and the city of New York going bananas at the Rangers victory parade. Mark Messier is by far the heart and soul of this all-time Rangers roster, but these other guys are great too. Many of the names on this list are from the 50s when the game was different. That’s what leaves me hungry for more, I want to see them in action and see what kind of damage they could do on the ice now. I think the Rangers all-time team will be in a dog fight for a playoff spot, but they are not a lock to get in by any means. Brian Leetch and Brad Park make up one of the best defensive duos in the league and of course you cannot go wrong with Hank in net. King Henrik has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL for a few years now and has lead the Rangers to the top 5 of the league for several years running. This team has all the potential in the world, but can they get it done consistently on game day?

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5. New York Islanders:

Forwards

Clark Gillies-Bryan Trottier-Mike Bossy

John Tonelli-Pat Lafontaine-Bobby Nystrom

John Tavares-Brent Sutter-Kyle Okposo

Derek King-Robert Bourne-Frans Nielsen

Defense

Denis Potvin-Tomas Jonsson

Stefan Person-Kenny Jonsson

Mark Streit-Jean Potvin

Goalie

Billy Smith

This team is crawling with talent from the 1979-1983 era of the New York Islanders, and how could it not? 4 Stanley Cups in 4 seasons during that time is remarkable, and a feat that will never be duplicated again in any sport. Mike Bossy is the Islander hockey, look for him to lead them offensively. I also see John Tavares being a force on the ice as well. Yes, Tavares is still young, but he is an amazing athlete who has lead the Islanders back to relevancy since he was drafted number 1 overall in 2009. Defense is a little weaker than most teams. Denis Potvin leads the way for this unit, but outside of him it’s a little rough looking to say the least. Potvin has over 300 career goals to his name so look for him to light the lamp frequently. Billy Smith was the only goalie who even deserved consideration for this job. He was the goalie back in the Islanders hay day, so he is getting the nod from me in an all-time greatest season as the Islanders starter. Contending for a playoff spot with this roster if you ask me.

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6. Washington Capitals:

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Peter Bondra

Michal Pivonka-Dale Hunter-Mike Gartner

Bengt Ake Gustafsson-Mike Ridley-Alexander Semin

Steve Konowalchuk-Dennis Maruk-Dave Christian

Defense

Calle Johansson-Sergei Gonchar

Mike Green-Kevin Hatcher

John Carlson-Larry Murphy

Goalie

Olaf Kolzig

The Washington Capitals have never hoisted the Stanley Cup, and they will not be anytime soon in an all-time greatest season either. Alex Ovechkin is the best player the Caps have ever had, and to be completely honest, I had him. Ovi is a self-centered, non-back checking, Russian missle launcher who cannot win the big game. Ovechkin has all the talent in the world, but he just does not use it all. He puts up a crazy amount of goals, but does not play defense and doesn’t know how to win. This team is by no means bad, but they will definetly not be winning the ultimate prize. The defense is cute to say the least. Mike Green and John Carlson are on the all-time roster, that’s pretty soft if you ask me, but I put them here cause that’s all Washington had to offer. In net is Olie the Goalie, and what a net minder he was. Kolzig is one of my favorite goalies of all-time due to the fight that he and Byron DaFoe engaged in way back when I was just a little tike. I rooted for DaFoe but that is my first memory of an all-out donnybrook, and I have Kolzig to thank for that.

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7. Carolina Hurricanes:

Forwards

Rod Brind’Amour-Ron Francis-Kevin Dineen

Ray Whitney-Eric Staal-Pat Verbeek

Erik Cole-Ray Ferraro-Sami Kapanen

Blaine Stoughton-Jeff O’Neill-Geoff Sanderson

Defense

David Babych-Glen Wesley

Mark Howe-Ulf Samuelsson

Justin Faulk-Zarley Zalapski

Goalie

Cam Ward

The Carolina Hurricanes franchise is in a downward spiral these days. Management is a mess, the owners want little part in the team, and relocation discussions are in the air. First off, as a hockey fan, send the Hurricanes to Quebec, they deserve a team. But, this franchise has already relocated once in its history, having moved from Hartford, Connecticut down to Raleigh, North Carolina. With that being said, the Hurricanes and Hartford Whalers franchise makes up a pretty solid all-time greatest roster. When I see this lineup I think blue collar, chip and chase hockey. The Hurricanes peaked in ’06 like most of us, and ever since they really haven’t done too much, except crush Bruins fans hearts in game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. The top two lines on this team stack up very nicely in my opinion, having Ron Francis and Eric Staal up the middle is huge for any teams’ success. I do not see the ‘Canes all-time team lighting the lamp at will like some teams, but they have a great defense and an outstanding goalie. Cam Ward was a slam dunk for net for this team, so long as it’s 2006 Cam Ward. As a rookie Cam Ward led the Hurricanes on an absolute thrill ride to the top of the hockey mountain, beating the then good Edmonton Oilers in seven games to capture the crown. Glen Wesley is a household name for any real hockey fan and Justin Faulk is still growing into his own, give this roster a few more years and he would be on the first D unit next to Wesley.

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8. Columbus Blue Jackets:

Forwards

Rick Nash-RJ Umberger-David Vyborny

Nick Foligno-Ryan Johansen-Nikolay Zherdev

Sergei Federov-Derick Brassard-Cam Atkinson

Kristian Huselius-Brandon Dubinsky-Antoine Vermette

Defense

Fedor Tyutin-James Wisniewski

Rostislav Klesla-Jack Johnson

David Savard-Ron Hainsey

Goalie

Sergei Bobrovsky

The first word that comes to mind after reading that roster is bad. All-time rosters are supposed to be great, with players who you recognize, there’s only one name on here that stands out to me, and that’s Rick Nash. Rick Nash is the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is the only player worth mentioning in their abbreviated history. This all-time greatest roster would not even come close to winning the Stanley Cup even in a normal regular season, let alone an all-time greatest roster one. The greatest all-time Columbus Blue Jackets team may not even break the 15 win mark in an 82 game season, this is an incredibly rough roster. I hate to abuse a team this badly, but I am speaking the truth. Sergei Bobrovsky is the all-time winningest goalie in Columbus history, and he is basically a nobody. Basically this is the team that won’t fill its seats on any night and your team can always guarantee a win against.

That wraps up the regular season rankings for the Eastern Conference, but what are the playoff matchup’s and who gets the wild card spots in an all-time greatest season?

In the Atlantic side of the bracket we have:

1. Montreal Canadiens vs. WC2. New York Rangers

2. Boston Bruins vs. 3.Detroit Red Wings

In the Metropolitan Division we have:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. WC1. Toronto Maple Leafs

2. New Jersey Devils vs. 3. Philadelphia Flyers

Local Program Equates Success In The NHL

In case you were unaware, the Pittsburgh Penguins took a two games to none series lead in the Stanley Cup Finals last night by virtue of Conor Sheary’s overtime game winner. Pictured above.

Sheary who wears the number 43 for the Penguins was an undrafted free agent when he graduated from Umass Amherst in the spring of 2014. A stand out for the program, he captained Umass to an unimpressive 8-22-4 record. However, he amassed over 100 points in his collegiate career, which still wasn’t enough to gauge significant interest from NHL teams.

Which doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

College hockey standouts are often pursued with caution, especially coming from an up and down program such as Umass Amherst’s. I’m not saying it’s correct, I’m just saying that’s how it is.

That being said, Mario Lemieux cannot be overly disappointed with his investment in Sheary, who signed with Pittsburg as a free agent. He brings an element of speed, offensive creativity and Massachusetts grit to the ice every night. I would categorize him as a “gift that keeps on giving”.

By no means is Sheary a one trick pony, no sir. His snipe late in the first period of game one Monday night gave Pittsburg a huge 2-0 lead heading into the dressing room.

After last night, he has four goals throughout the playoffs, not to shabby for a kid who started the year in the minors.

Actually, what makes this story that much more significant is how Sheary worked to get to this point. 90 games in the minors with 81 career points, I think we can all agree he deserved a call up.

Right now Pittsburg is flat out dominating the San Jose Sharks. They’re faster, their breakouts are much crisper, they pile on a ton of shots and obviously score more goals. While San Jose won the physicality battle as they often do, they have been forced to play outside of their comfort zone. Consistently having to adhere to Pittsburg’s speed. Appearing to have completely abandoned the game plan that has gotten them here, gain the red line, dump it in and win the 50/50 battles in the corners.

Perhaps a change of scenery is exactly what the doctor ordered in the Sharks case. We’ve seen it a thousand times, go home and play with a lot more reckless abandon. Easier said than done, but it has been done, the 2011 Boston Bruins found themselves behind the 8 ball against Vancouver, returning to Boston after two subpar games in Vancouver and evened the series 2-2. Then won the Cup in 7 games.

Speaking of changes in scenery, Frank Vatrano is another recent Umass Amherst alum who definitely did not need one. While he only played one game alongside Sheary, he brought an offensive punch following Sheary’s departure. 28 points in 36 games, worthy enough to receive a tryout offer from his childhood dream team, the Boston Bruins. Forgoing his academic senior year to play for the Providence Bruins.

Last season Vatrano recorded 12 points in 10 games for the Providence Bruins. In 2015-16 he split time between the clubs. 36 goals in 36 games at the farm level, 11 points in 39 games with Boston.

One thing is for sure he’s a far greater goal scorer than pizza boy. But I digress.

Don’t sleep on Umass Amherst, well maybe during their games. But those boys can flat out play.

Regardless, Go Sharks.

 

 

The Great Eight v. Sid The Kid, Finally

 

Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 11, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Sports, more often than not, have various narratives that make watching them that much more interesting. Take into consideration Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, in their respected cities they’re both cherished and agonized over.

Between the two of them is about every award one can achieve in professional hockey. They’re the NHL’s version of Superman and Batman. But similarly to Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, these two couldn’t be anymore different.

June 26th 2004, Alexander Ovechkin is selected first overall by the Washington Capitals. Not too long after the draft, the NHL announces a lockout that cancels the entire 2004-2005 season.

Just over a year later was the infamous lottery draft, in which Pittsburgh won, and in doing so selected Sidney Crosby.

Neither of them knew it just yet, but they inadvertently reignited one of the leagues most vicious rivalries.

In the years that followed, hockey fans from all regions lusted for Crosby and Ovechkin. Their tilts included speed, flying fists, and most importantly goals. It all came to a screeching halt in the form of a game 7. Crosby and company were too much to handle as Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals were thumped 6-2 at home.

Crosby would go on to win his first, and only, Stanley Cup.

That was seven years ago.

Believe it or not, we’ve gone that long without a playoff match up between two of hockey’s premiere superstars. Whom were most likely over shadowed by the resurgence of the Blackhawks and Kings.

However, with the advent of the new playoff structure, the NHL has ensured division rivals will meet more often. Excellent. After all, the league needs these two to face off, regardless of the outcome.

After a noticeable seven year hiatus, these two vaunted super stars will bash heads once again. This time there is a lot more at stake.

With both Chicago and Los Angeles being eliminated from the playoffs, many believe that this will be the year where an Eastern Conference team will steal a title from the West.

They aren’t wrong in thinking so.

In the last four Stanley Cup Finals either the Kings or Blackhawks have been crowned champions. In fact, you’ll have to go back to 2011 (The Boston Bruins) to find a Cup champion from the Eastern Conference.

Washington and Pittsburgh made significant moves in the offseason to correct disappointing playoff exits from the previous season. Washington excelled all season long, while Pittsburgh stuttered early. It wasn’t until the closing weeks of the season that the league was put on notice, the Penguins came ready to play. Sidney Crosby found his rhythm and never looked back. While Ovechkin was crowned scoring champion yet again.

While everyone will bite their tongue when asked, “is this finally the Capitals year?” One must wonder, if they can knock off Pittsburgh why can’t it be? On the other side of the coin is Crosby, the NHL’s golden boy sits on one Cup title. It would do his superstar status wonders if he could corral another championship.

Whoever emerges victorious earns instant bragging rights until their next meeting. The loser will spent the summer scratching their head wondering what went wrong.

Ovechkin is a man seeking to put to rest two of his biggest demons. One being the Pittsburgh Penguins and secondly, another heartbreaking playoff exit.

Crosby is looking to solidify his place next to hockey’s best and brightest *even Shawn Thornton has two rings*. Having his name etched into Lord Stanley’s hardware a second time will do just that.

Destined for seven games, this series will have it all. Most importantly it will have curb appeal, which the NHL needs the most.

Grab your popcorn and find your favorite seat because having Crosby v. Ovechkin in the playoffs and a significant chance at a title on the line truly doesn’t get better than this.

Happy Hockey Days.