Posts tagged Stanley Cup
Alex Ovechkin finally brings home Lord Stanley's Cup
caps3.jpg

After 43 years, the Washington Captials are finally Stanley Cup champions, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in 5 games to capture their first Stanley Cup.

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Caps were led by their big 3 forwards in Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom, the top three point scorers in the playoffs this year. Kuznetsov led the playoffs in points with 32 and Ovechkin led all players with 15 goals. Goaltender Braden Holtby allowed just 8 goals in the last four games after letting in 6 goals in game 1. He took off after being benched for the first two games of the playoffs and carried his solid form throughout the playoffs.

It wasn’t just the high-end players who performed for the Capitals. Role players like Devante Smith-Pelly and Lars Eller may have been further down the depth chart but they each had strong playoff performances with 7 goals each, including the game-tying goal in game 5 by Smith-Pelly and the game winning goal by Eller.

The Golden Knights are one of the greatest stories in the history of the NHL and one of the best in sports history. This loss will not detract from their historic season in any way and fans everywhere should applaud this group of players for making it so far.

Reilly Smith was the Knights’ top scorer with 6 points this round while Tomas Nosek pitched in with 3 goals in the series. Two big disappointments for the team were top line forwards William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, who combined for just 1 goal and 5 points in the series. The biggest disappointment, however, came from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. When you look at the entire playoffs, you will see how truly dominant Fleury was for Vegas, but the Final was a different story though as his save percentage was below .900 for every single game against Washington. He came crashing down to Earth hard, making it virtually impossible for Vegas to combat the hot form the Capitals were in.

 (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals have dealt with a lot of heartbreak the past dozen years. When you have a generational superstar like Alexander Ovechkin leading your team, the sky is the limit. Unfortunately, as all sports fans know, the playoffs are unpredictable and sometimes luck just isn’t on your side. The Capitals didn't need any luck this year; they just worked harder than everyone else and their elite skill made them almost unstoppable.

That concludes another NHL season filled with drama, skill and some major history. It will be hard to beat this year, but when it comes to sports, anything is possible. Just ask Vegas. And Conn Smythe winner Alexander Ovechkin.

Stanley Cup Playoffs conference final preview
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals
Season Series: 2-1 TB

The Washington Capitals take on the Tampa Bay Lightning as two of the most talented lineups face off. The Capitals finally conquered their demons in the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 6-game series win last round. Their first round started horribly with two home losses but a switch to Braden Holtby was a huge change and they haven’t looked back since. The Tampa Bay Lightning have rolled through the first two rounds by beating the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in 5 games each. The games haven’t all been one-sided blowouts but their playoffs have started just like their season did as they were dominant.

Alex Ovechkin will look to make the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in his illustrious career and has led this team through two tough opponents with 8 goals and 15 points. John Carlson leads all players with 10 powerplay points in the playoffs. The Lightning offense is very balanced and led by their two superstars in Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. The surprise for them has been Brayden Point with 10 points in 10 games for the team while Andrei Vasilevskiy has been lights out at home for the team.

The Capitals and Lightning both display elite powerplay units and the team who lacks discipline may be on the fast track to an early exit. Washington has been known to disappoint and fall apart with this core but after finally beating the Penguins, this could mean big things for the team. That being said, the Lightning have such a strong balance with their team and a return to their early season form may make them unstoppable.

(TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

(TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Winnipeg Jets vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Season series: 2-1 VGK

The Winnipeg Jets take on the Vegas Golden Knights in a matchup nobody would’ve predicted to happen here at the conference finals. The Jets dismantled the Minnesota Wild before engaging in a grueling 7-game series against the Nashville Predators. The Knights completely shut down the LA Kings in the first round before taking down the Sharks in 6-games.

The Knights top line guided them in this series with Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith combining for 25 points in round 2. Marc-Andre Fleury continued his stellar play with 2 more shutouts against the Sharks as his save percentage is an astounding .951 with a 1.53 Goals Against Average.

The Winnipeg Jets are the best Canadian team since the 2011 Vancouver Canucks and will also look to climb into the Finals. Mark Scheifele leads the league in goals in these playoffs with 7 more this round. Blake Wheeler led the league in assists in round 2 with 9 helpers while Dustin Byfuglien leads all defensemen with 13 points in these playoffs. Connor Hellebuyck has provided very strong goaltending for the team and has been proven to have the clutch gene.

The battle between the Jets high end powerplay and the Golden Knights elite penalty kill will be an interesting battle. Both these teams have never been here before so the nerves will be hitting both sides hard, it will be interesting to see which group of experienced players pull ahead. Fleury could use his ring-winning ways to lead the charge for the Vegas along with their amazing top line. Or the Jets could build off of solid goaltending to boast their high-powered offense that overwhelms the resilient Vegas squad.

Stanley Cup Playoffs roundup

We are roughly halfway through the second round of the NHL Playoffs and it sure looks good already. I have said before that all these matchups will provide entertaining hockey and it has delivered so far.

Three series are three games into the series while one is at two games. Every team remaining has at least one win this round so no sweeps. Every series started 1-1 so the teams’ abilities to win on the road will be tested in these playoffs and is incredibly important for these playoffs.

(Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

(Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins are tied up at 1-1 in the series. Boston came out firing in game 1 to stun the Lightning who managed to rally back for the game 2 win. The Bruins top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak have been outstanding so far combining for 15 points in just 2 games! The Lightning really started slowly but they bounced back in game 2 led by young playmaker Brayden Point who had a goal and 3 assists to even the series. Boston will be very pleased to split the opening 2 road games, especially after a tough 7 game series. However, Tampa Bay is a very dangerous team and they can win in Boston so this series could go the distance.

(AP Photo / Nic Wass)

(AP Photo / Nic Wass)

The Washington Capitals just pulled ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins with a crucial win tonight in Pittsburgh. This series was split in Washington but the Capitals used that home loss as fuel to silence the home crowd in game 3 in a thrilling back-and-forth affair. Jake Guentzel has continued his hot play with 6 more points already this series with Sidney Crosby pitching in 5. Alex Ovechkin is leading the way for the Capitals with 3 goals and 2 assists in the first 3 games. The Penguins should treat game 4 as a must win as they cannot afford to go down 3-1 in the series with the capitals having two chances to win it at home. Washington is in a good position right now but you can never count out Pittsburgh.

(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

The Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators are in the midst of a very high scoring series. They have combined for 25 goals so far in the series and it doesn’t look like they will be slowing down. The Jets were able to steal a road win in Nashville and have won the first game on their home turf. Mark Scheifele leads the league in points this round with 7 including a league-high 4 goals in the series. Blake Wheeler also has 6 points while Dustin Byfuglien leads all defensemen with 5 points. The Preds star forward Filip Forsberg has 5 points while star defenseman PK Subban has 4 points. Pekka Rinne has been very shaky for the Preds and if can’t pull it together than this might be it for them. The Jets are doing very well but their inexperience could be the cause of a collapse this round so they will need to stay focused.

(Benjamin Hager / Las Vegas Review Journal)

(Benjamin Hager / Las Vegas Review Journal)

The Vegas Golden Knights are in a heated battle with the San Jose Sharks this round. This series for Vegas involves over twice as many goals per game as their first round, as there were 10 total goals in 4 games last round while this round the teams have combined for 21. The top line of Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith have been lights out combining for 19 points in 3 games. Brent Burns leads the Sharks with 4 points while Logan Couture also has a couple of goals. The discipline issues and hatred in this series are on full display as these teams have contributed 95 penalty minutes in the first 3 games. If these penalties continue, the team with the best special teams units will succeed. The contrast of San Jose’s lengthy playoff experience vs. Vegas being an expansion team is an interesting consideration for the outcome of the series.

Stanley Cup Playoff round two preview

The first round of the NHL Playoffs is complete. To be honest, this wasn’t the best first round I have seen. Some powerhouses rolled through without much trouble but there were still some surprises, including a game 7. The second round has even more intriguing matchups.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins

Season Series: 3-1 Boston

(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) 

(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) 

The Tampa Bay Lightning will take on the Boston Bruins in the 2nd round. The Lightning rolled through the Devils while the Bruins struggled against the Leafs but still won the series.

The Lightning took care of the New Jersey Devils in 5 games. Despite a strong effort by the Devils led by Taylor Hall putting the team on his back, they were just unable to win enough against this loaded Tampa Bay team. A balanced attack from their group led by star Nikita Kucherov has propelled them to the next round.

The Boston Bruins took the Toronto Maple Leafs to 7 games and came home victorious. Both teams were victimized by poor goaltending but explosive offenses as evidenced by the 6-4 scoreline in game 7. David Pastrnak stood out as he is now tied for the league lead in playoff points with 13. Mitch Marner led the Leafs with 8 points but their star forward Auston Matthews had just 2 points in 7 games and their team just fell apart in game 7 after taking the lead twice.

The Bruins have arguably the best line in hockey and will definitely need them and the rest of the team to show up and compete with the Lightning juggernaut. Tampa Bay has multiple dangerous forward lines with stars Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Added to thatare strong defensemen like Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh and a great goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Bruins are no slouch however and you can never count them out based on their history in the playoffs as their depth always shines through when it matters most. That being said, the total firepower and depth of talent with Tampa Bay will likely lead them to the conference finals.

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Season Series: 2-2

Another year, another playoff series between Washington and Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby is 38-26 all time against fellow superstar Alex Ovechkin and they both will look to carry the momentum from their first-round victories.

The Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers in a weird series. The lowest margin of victory in the first 4 games was 4 goals. The Flyers looked lifeless but stole game 5 on the road before falling in game 6 to a late collapse. Until Philly establishes a long-term solution to goaltending, their talented team will continue to fail. The Penguins scored 28 goals in 6 games. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel are tied for the lead in playoff points with 13 in this round.

The Capitals almost blew it this round against the Columbus Blue Jackets but won 4 straight to win the series. It took a solid, all around effort from Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones, and of course Sergei Bobrovsky for the Blue Jackets to win the first two games of the series in Washington. However, that slipped away as the Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin, took over the series and won it largely due to their deadly powerplay. Braden Holtby probably should’ve started this series for the Caps but he still came in for game 3 and backstopped the team to the next round.

This is a true battle of special teams with the Capitals having the best powerplay in the playoffs and Penguins having the best powerplay this season. The injury of Evgeni Malkin could be potentially devastating to Pittsburgh if he misses multiple games, but deadline acquisition Derrick Brassard could step up and take over that role as he has been very good for the team thus far. The Penguins certainly have history on their side when it comes to this matchup, but the Capitals can only fall apart so many times in the playoffs before they finally burst through their invisible barrier. That time could be now…

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images North America)

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images North America)

Winnipeg Jets vs. Nashville Predators

Season Series: 2-2

This is the battle of the two best teams in the league this season. The Jets and Predators each have been led by a balanced attack, stable defense and strong goaltending this year.

The Predators certainly got a tougher fight than most would’ve seen from the Colorado
Avalanche. This series seemed the most likely for a sweep as Nashville had the best record in the league while Colorado had the fewest points for a playoff team. Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon did what they could but the class of the West couldn’t be stopped. Unexpectedly, its been Colton Sissons and Austin Watson leading the Preds in points so far, the team is getting contributions from everyone.

The Jets rolled through the Minnesota Wild in 5 games. The Jets looked like the most dangerous team in the first round with a balanced attack and strong goaltending from Connor
Hellebuyck. The Wild dealt with injuries throughout the series and their top defenseman Ryan Suter was already out for the playoffs. Mark Scheifele potted 4 goals while Dustin Byfuglien had 5 assists for the Jets.

A crucial factor in the Jets success has been the addition of Paul Stastny has surpassed expectations as he solidifies the line with young stars Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers. The Predators have pushed through led by their defense core many consider as the best in the league featuring PK Subban (Norris Trophy finalist). Austin Waston may have led the team in PIMs this season but now he leads them in points after the first round. This is truly a powerful battle and while making a prediction is difficult, the Jets seem to have the stronger goaltending that will give them the edge in this series.

(Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks

Season Series: 3-1 VGK

The wild and crazy season for Vegas takes its next stop in San Jose. Both these teams advanced with sweeps but still don’t get respect from the league as Cup contenders.

The Knights had one of the tightest sweeps ever as they beat the LA Kings. The Knights won each game by 1 goal and held the Kings to just 3 goals in the 4 games. The Cinderella story keeps on making history, cementing their status as the best expansion team in the history of sports. The Kings had no answer even with Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty coming off career years. Marc-Andre Fleury has been nothing short of outstanding and will look to carry forward this level to the next round.

The Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks in what may have been the most surprising series. The Sharks and Ducks were fairly even teams so not a huge upset but not many could have foreseen a
sweep. The Ducks core is getting real old and their lack of offensive firepower hurt them this year.
Martin Jones was between the pipes for San Jose and only gave up 4 goals in 4 games to lock in the Sharks advancement.

The Knights continue to prove people wrong and fans everywhere are starting to take notice of their new stars Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith. The Sharks are another one of those teams always in the playoffs but can never win that Stanley Cup. This core is higher up in age but this has been supplemented with fresh and young talent. Martin Jones has been solid between the pipes along with Fleury bringing his highly successful experience to lead the charge of the Knights. This does seem like a tough matchup for Vegas but their style of play makes them a slight favourite here, never take them lightly.

A flurry of trades highlight NHL's deadline day

It was an exciting trade deadline day with lots of deals made. Divisions have as many as 6 teams competing for a playoff spot so there were lots of reasons for teams to buy. However, for this exact reason one would be cautious not to sacrifice too much of the future for an uncertain chance. Nevertheless, there were moves made and they will have an impact on the playoff picture this season. Here's a look at the big ones:

Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning: Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller

New York Rangers: Vladislav Namestnikov, Libor Hajek, Brett Howden, a 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 conditional first-round pick.

This was the big trade of the day that everyone has a take on. It is very complex so not an easy one to pick sides for who got better value or if they each got the same. The Rangers have committed to the rebuild by picking up multiple solid futures for vets Nick Holden, Michael Grabner and Rick Nash. Today they waited until the clock struck 12:00 to complete this blockbuster. Out of all their trades, this seems like the lightest return given that McDonagh is a #1 defenseman with 26 points this year and Miller is a top 6 forward with 40 points thus far. Tampa Bay already were the Cup favourites for me and this move just pushes them even further ahead of the pack. The two prospects and picks won’t be a big loss as their window is now and McDonagh is locked up for one more year. Miller is an RFA this summer and Rangers dealt him to avoid a big payday and will have Namestnikov at a cheaper price coming off the 20-goal season he’s had so far. Hajek and Howden are both very strong prospects who will make an impact for the Rangers in the future. However, none of them are elite prospects which has some questioning the return. The conditional 2019 pick will become a second-rounder if the Lightning do not win the Stanley Cup by then. I would grade this trade as a win for the Lightning.

Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

San Jose Sharks: Evander Kane

Buffalo Sabres: Dan O'Regan,a 2019 conditional first-round pick, and a 2019 fourth-round pick

The San Jose Sharks needed this deal. Despite excellent goaltending and defense, they have the 24th ranked goal scoring offense at even strength. Evander Kane is a high-level goal scorer who has 20 goals already this season. He is also a stable penalty killer and ranks 10th among forwards in Goals Allowed per 60 on the PK. He’s had 3 straight years with 20 goals for the lowly Buffalo Sabres and will now get the chance to fight for the first playoff games in his career.O’Regan is not an elite prospect but he does offer considerable upside and is close to the big leagues. The 24-year-old German has had 83 points in 94 games in the AHL the past two season and looks to break into the lineup. The 2019 first-round pick to Buffalo becomes a second-round pick if Kane does not re-sign with the Sharks this summer as he is a pending free agent. San Jose should feel happy about this complete top 6 forward rental that could become a long-term fixture in their lineup if he shows out well at a less than premium price. For this reason, one has to think Buffalo failed to capitalize on having a premium rental asset with just a B level prospect and a risky 2019 pick.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Vegas Golden Knights: Tomas Tatar

Detroit Red Wings: A 2018 first-round pick, a 2019 second-round pick, and a 2021 third-round pick

Most of the trades on the day worked out in favour of the buyers but this one is a controversial one. Vegas is defying all expectations with an overachieving lineup and needed improvements if they wanted to make a run this year despite their rebuild status as a new team. The team is rich in draft picks but this is a clear move towards contending immediately. These picks make it seem like a steeper price than it actually is because they are spread out over the next 4 drafts. Tatar is not a rental acquisition as he stands to earn $5.3 million per year for the next 3 years. He is currently in his worst full season in the league with under 0.5 PPG but is on pace for his 4thconsecutive 20 goal season. Detroit would have liked to have kept Tatar through the rebuild but this offer was too good to pass up. After decades of success the Red Wings are spiralling down and this is a great move for their new direction.

Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

Winnipeg Jets: Paul Stastny

St. Louis Blues: 2018 first-round pick, rights to forward Erik Foley

This was another surprising trade given the fact there was zero buzz around a Stastny trade. Even more peculiar is that this deal involves the Blues who are right on the edge of a playoff spot. The Blues have had an abysmal February in terms of offense so trading away their 2nd line center is strange. However, it is believed that they couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract so St. Louis decided to be proactive and deal the 40-point man for a nice return. The Jets missed out on getting Derrick Brassard but Stastny is a nice addition for their 3rd line in a deep lineup. The Jets do have trouble attracting payers to play for them but Stastny was willing to move there and will look to make a positive impact for the team.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Other trades: Ryan Hartman went to Nashville for a nice haul including a first round pick. He may be a young forward but this is a step in the right direction for Chicago. The Atlantic division also had some additions with Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner heading to the Devils and Thomas Vanek to the Blue Jackets. The past few days also saw some big trades. As I mentioned before Rick Nash was dealt to the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs responded by getting Tomas Plekanecso shore up their forward depth. The Pittsburgh Penguins made another big move by acquiring Derrick Brassard as they gear up for another Stanley Cup Run.

Changing the NHL points system

The NHL could use a big change.

The current point system isn’t very good with “loser points” becoming impactful in today’s game. Two overtime or shootout losses should not equal one clean win.

I'm an advocate of a 3-2-1-0 points system for teams as opposed to the 2-1-0 in place now. Overtime/shootout losses would be 1 point and regulation losses will obviously net you nothing. The difference will be separating wins in regulation and wins in overtime/shootout. I believe that teams that can win within 60 minutes should get 3 points while teams who win in the arcade-like overtime and shootout should get 2 points.

The main impact of this new system would mean that pretty much every team’s point totals go up due to the new category of wins adding to current totals. I measured the effect of this system on the standings of last year.

As you can see the point total numbers all go up as they range from worst to best team goes from 48 to 118 in the current system and 62 to 163 in the new system. Most teams enjoy similar jumps with the top teams rising more than the bottom teams. The biggest riser was the best team in the league (Washington) and the one who had the lowest increase was the worst team (Colorado). An interesting note: the second-lowest increase were from the Detroit Red Wings who finished 25th, which is not surprising given they had the highest amount of shootout wins in the league with nine. Meanwhile the second-biggest rise came from the Anaheim Ducks who came 9th in overall standings with the current system. They clearly won a lion’s share of their games in regulation and were dragged down by a 3-10 record in overtime.

These changes weren’t just made to see how much teams would’ve climbed in the standings or fallen as a result from it as this had significant implications. First we’ll look at the draft lottery. Two of the top three selections went to teams who finished outside the bottom five teams. Instead of the Dallas Stars who received the #3 pick, they would be replaced by the Florida Panthers who would have slipped one spot below them. Also, the Philadelphia Flyers team that just missed the playoffs ended up with the #2 pick. But under the new system, that pick would’ve gone to the Carolina Hurricanes who won more in regulation.

The playoff impact was the most important. There were not too many changes but some of them were big. In the East there was just one change. The Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins would swap places which is definitely something given that the Sens beat the Bruins in game 7 in Ottawa, the swap of home ice advantage lead many to believe a different outcome would’ve occurred and Ottawa may not have beaten Boston as they did and not gone on to the Eastern Conference Final.

The Western Conference had a couple big changes that affected the entire result. The Minnesota Wild would jump Chicago for the #1 spot in the conference and you Blackhawks fans would’ve been very happy to avoid the Nashville Predators. However, the Minnesota Wild would also avoid playing the Preds as the other standings change involved Nashville pushing ahead of Calgary. As a result 3 of the 4 matchups would be different. The Western Conference champion Predators would’ve had a completely different path going through the Pacific division by starting against their Western Conference Final opponents from Anaheim. Minnesota would take on Calgary and the Blackhawks would face the Blues.

Perhaps the Predators make the Finals again but it is clear they would’ve had a much different path. In sports there are a lot of “what ifs” and this is another one with a system that people are interested in and we could see eventually in the league. Draft lottery orders could change franchises given the talent of young players we’ve seen in recent years, and Playoff scenarios could change who hoists the Stanley Cup.

For those of you interested in seeing how this season’s standings could be affected by the new system and the playoff chances stay tuned for a future piece covering the current adjusted standings.