Category Archives: National Hockey League

Laying In The Weeds

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Hands down the Washington Capitals have been the best team in the National Hockey League this season. The Capitals are seeking their first Presidents’ Trophy since 2010 while also attempting to win their first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history. The Caps have one of the best goal scorers that the NHL has to offer in left winger Alex Ovechkin while goalie Braden Holtby is extremely difficult to score on. The Capitals also have a head coach in Barry Trotz that is battle tested while he also knows how to get the most out of his team. And once you add all of that up, this spring in D.C. could shape up to be very good for the Capitals. But even though that the Capitals are more than likely to finish with the best record in the NHL, it isn’t that cut and dry to see to see them reach the Stanley Cup Final as some long time rivals could stand in their way when the postseason rolls around.

After winning the Stanley Cup Title in 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins remained a contender in the Eastern Conference. Led by a two-time National League MVP in center Sidney Crosby, the Penguins are always a tough out in the postseason and this year’s squad is no different.

Sidney Crosby

The Penguins are currently in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, but they are only 3 points behind both the New York Rangers and New York Islanders for second place in the division. Like the Capitals, the Pens have a sharp goalie of their own in Marc-Andre Fleury who’s 2.32 goals against average is 14th in the National Hockey League this season. With the likes of Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin who is currently injured, the Penguins have always had solid scoring, but they added to that last summer when they acquired right winger Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In spite of the fact that Ovechkin and Crosby are two of the top players in the National Hockey League, there’s no love lost between them. And once you factor in that Washington has lost to Pittsburgh in seven of their eight playoff meetings, the Pens are a potential postseason opponent that the Caps cannot afford to overlook.

When it comes to the cities of New York City and Washington D.C., there has always been an intense sports rivalry. We’ve seen it in men’s college basketball with the St. John’s Red Storm and Georgetown Hoyas, in the National Football League with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, and also in Major League Baseball with the New York Mets and Washington Nationals. The ice doesn’t take a backseat to any of the other sports as the Capitals have been known to get it on with both the Rangers and Islanders.

After the Caps made their National Hockey League debut in 1974 as an expansion team, they failed to qualify for the postseason in their first eight seasons. Things would change for Washington in 1983 when they made their first of 14 consecutive playoff appearances. However the next five years would see the Capitals make the playoffs, but in five matchups with the Islanders, they lost four times.

The Isles and Caps have met in some memorable postseason affairs which is highlighted by their epic seven-game duel in the 1987 Patrick Division Semifinals. Game 7 of the series would go to a fourth overtime before Islanders center Pat LaFontaine score the game and series-winner. Overall the Caps and Islanders have met in the playoffs seven times with the most recent meeting coming last year in another seven-game battle: this one however would be won by Washington.

John Tavares

The current Islanders team has solid goal scorers in centers John Tavares and Brock Nelson. But unlike the Penguins, the Isles are not as strong between the pipes with their goalies Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak. In a potential playoff series with the Islanders, the Caps would have a decided home-ice advantage as the Barclays Center in Brooklyn doesn’t have the same appeal for the fans of the Isles like the Nassau Coliseum did.

Henrik Lundqvist

And then there’s the case of the Rangers. The Rangers and Capitals have met in the postseason six times with New York emerging victorious on four occasions including last spring. The Rangers might not have the star power that the Capitals have, but they do have one of the best goalies that the National Hockey League currently has in Henrik Lundqvist. And when Lundqvist is on, you have a better chance of navigating through gridlock traffic in the Big Apple than scoring on him.

Alex Ovechkin

But maybe the thought of the Capitals having to deal with some of their longtime rivals in the playoffs could be just what the doctor ordered for them. Ovechkin has accomplished all of the personal accolades that the National Hockey League has to offer which includes him being being a three-time league MVP, but he continues to hear the growing banter about him not being able to lead his team to a Stanley Cup Title. Trotz put Nashville Predators hockey on the map as he was their head coach in the team’s first 15 years of existence. Trotz got the Predators to the postseason seven times and only eight head coaches in NHL history have won more regular season games than his 652. However Trotz is still searching for the elusive Stanley Cup Title to put on his soon-to-be Hockey Hall of Fame resume.

The Nation’s Capitol is seeking its first title in one the four major sports leagues in the United States since 1991 when the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl. The Capitals have the potential to go all the way this spring, but it won’t be easy with some bona fide heavyweights potentially standing in their way.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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The Bruins Are Coming

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After winning the Stanley Cup Championship in 2011, the Boston Bruins have remained as a title contender in the National Hockey League. And after losing the 2013 Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Bruins were a team on a mission as they entered the 2014 playoffs winners of the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the NHL and it appeared that they were on a mission to once again claim the Stanley Cup Title. But in the second round, the Montreal Canadiens were too much for them as they lost in seven games. The Bruins headed into the 2014-2015 NHL season unable to shake off the effects of their elimination at the hands of the Canadiens and thus they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Don Sweeney

This resulted in wholesale changes for the Bruins as Peter Chiarelli was fired as the team’s general manager and replaced by Don Sweeney. Sweeney was extremely active leading up to the National Hockey League Draft last June as defenseman Dougie Hamilton was traded to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a first-round pick and a pair of second-round picks, while left winger Milan Lucic was sent to the Los Angeles Kings for goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller, and a first-round pick.

In all, the Bruins would have three, first-round picks in the 2015 National Hockey League Draft, and they were all simultaneously in the middle of the first round. Whereas defenseman Jakub Zboril, left winger Jake DeBrusk, and right winger Zachary Senyshyn have yet to suit up for the Bruins, it was pretty clear that Sweeney was looking to get younger while shedding some salary to have more cap flexibility with his team as it appeared that they would be rebuilding.

Claude Julien

But under the guidance of head coach Claude Julien, the Bruins have hung in there all season long in the Eastern Conference. After the Bruins lost their first three games to begin the campaign, they would win six of their next seven contests to finish the month of October with a record of 6-3-1. Since Boston’s slow start at the beginning of the National Hockey League season, they have not been under .500. And with five weeks remaining in the regular season, Boston is in third place in the Atlantic Division as a trip to the playoffs that seemed far off in October is now a reality in Beantown.

In spite of the moves that were made by the Bruins, they still have veteran leadership in the form of centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, left wingers Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson, defenseman Zdeno Chara, and goalie Tuukka Rask that have kept this team going. Bergeron is leading the Bruins in points with 53, while Marchand is the leading goal scorer with 32, and Krejci has 34 assists which is tops on the team. At 6’9″, 256 lbs., Chara is still one of the best defensemen in hockey as he’s an old-school enforcer. And once you factor in the ability of Rask between the pipes who can get hot for long stretches along with Julien’s leadership from the bench, the Bruins are still a very formidable team.

The Bruins finished the month of February with a record of 8-5-1, and even though that they missed an opportunity to take over second place in the Atlantic Division when they fell at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, Boston is once again lurking as a contender.

The promotion of Sweeney to become the team’s general manager, along with missing the postseason has re-energized the Bruins, and once the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in April, playoff seeding won’t be that important to a team that has a veteran core that knows what it takes to win it all.

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The Habs Have Become The Have Nots

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After being eliminated by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, it appeared that the Montreal Canadiens would be destined for bigger things in the current National Hockey League season. The Canadiens began this season by winning their first nine games, and on November 27, their record was 18-4-2. But as good as the first two months of the campaign were in Montreal, the last two have been equally bad as they’ve gone 6-18-2 since. And where it appeared that the Habs were going to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, they now find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture at the All-Star break.

Since November 28, the Canadiens have failed to win consecutive games while offensively they’ve been held to two goals or less in all but three contests which makes the fact that they are currently tenth in the National Hockey League this season in goals per game at 2.66 a bit misleading as most of that damage was done in October and November.

Carey Price

The Canadiens problems began when goalie Carey Price was lost to a lower-body injury on November 28. Price came into this season as the reigning MVP in the National Hockey League and his presence has been sorely missed as he sets the tone for everything that Montreal is able to do on the ice. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has made a few minor deals recently in an effort to spark this team which included acquiring goalie Ben Scrivens from the Edmonton Oilers to somehow fill the void for the injured Price , but right now nothing can jump start this team. Michel Therrien is in his fourth year as the Canadiens head coach, and he appears to have run into a bit of a rut with his squad as it has only been losing and frustration that are currently filling up the Bell Centre in Montreal.

P.K. Subban

Even without the presence of Price between the pipes, the Habs still have star power in the form of All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban and left winger Max Pacioretty, but these two alone have been unable to get Montreal back on track.

The National Hockey League’s All-Star break could not have come at a better time for the Canadiens as this is a team that simply needs a break from hockey right now being that they need to get back on track.

After beginning the second half of the regular season on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Canadiens will be home for four consecutive games, but they need to get it going as the other teams that are ahead of them in the Atlantic Division are playing solid hockey right now and they cannot afford to fall any further back in the standings. This month has seen Price re-take the ice in rehab with an eye towards returning to the team soon as this is a team that is really desperate for a rallying cry. It won’t take that much for the Habs to get it going again, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

 

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Putting Distractions In The Rear-View Mirror

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Typically a summer away from the National Hockey League is a time for players to relax and put a grueling season behind them. But that wasn’t the case for Chicago Blackhawks right winger Patrick Kane. Fresh off of helping the Blackhawks win their third Stanley Cup Championship since 2010, Kane appeared to be riding high as he was prepared to be the cover boy for Electronic Arts Sports latest version of their NHL video game (NHL 16). But everything came to a screeching halt for Kane last August when a woman accused the NHL star of raping her at his Buffalo mansion.

The case would be investigated by authorities in Erie County, New York which would put a dark cloud over Kane’s career. EA Sports removed Kane from the cover of their game, while the Blackhawks didn’t know if they were going to have the services of their star forward. In the end, Erie County authorities didn’t find enough substantial evidence to charge Kane which marked the end of the three-month investigation. But regardless of what happened in Buffalo last summer, Kane took a beating in the court of public opinion.

When Kane faced the media at the start of Blackhawks training camp, there were minimal hockey related questions as mostly everything revolved around his personal life. And at road arenas, Kane has arguably been heckled more than any other player in the National Hockey League this season. But Kane has received support from the Blackhawks organization when he returned to the team and it didn’t take him that long to return the favor to them.

Ever since the puck dropped to begin the 2015-2016 National Hockey League season, Kane has been playing like a man possessed. And whereas Kane was quiet over the summer as the legal process took place, he has now let his hockey stick and skates do the talking.

This season Kane leads the National Hockey League in goals (30), assists (42), and points (72) while making it look easy in the process. Earlier this season Kane had a 26-game point streak and his scoring ability is a big reason why the Blackhawks currently have the best record in the Western Conference as they’re once again in contention to win the Stanley Cup.

There are some folks that have put Kane’s alleged incident from last summer behind them as he was voted by the fans to appear in his eighth National Hockey League All-Star Game later this month which shows that they are some people out there that never gave up on him.

Kane is back to doing what he excels at and loves which is to play hockey. And at times when you’re going through personal struggles, doing something that you truly enjoy can provide you with the solace that you need.

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A Capital Surge

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Alex Ovechkin

The past 11 years have seen left winger Alex Ovechkin become the face of the Washington Capitals franchise along with being one of the top stars in the National Hockey League. Ovechkin has accomplished many tremendous individual accolades while wearing a Capitals uniform as he was the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2005 along with being a three-time league MVP. Ovechkin is also continuing to re-write the Capitals record book as he recently became the first player in franchise history to score 500 career goals. But as good as Ovechkin is, he hasn’t been able to bring a Stanley Cup Championship to D.C. However that could change soon as the Caps have one of the best teams in the NHL this season.

Recently the Capitals be one of the best teams in the National Hockey League on paper, but it hasn’t resulted in postseason success. After being eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring by the New York Rangers, the Capitals have been a very focused team this NHL season that is executing with precision in every aspect of the game.

The Capitals began this National Hockey League season with a record of 8-2 and they have not looked back as this team hasn’t lost more than two games in a row this season. At first it appeared like it was going to be three-team race between the Caps, Rangers, and Montreal Canadiens to be the top team in the Eastern Conference. But as the Rangers and Canadiens have cooled off, Washington has kept their foot on the throttle. The Capitals have won six out their last seven games including a pair of victories over the Rangers. And now the Capitals find themselves with an 18-point lead over the Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division while they possess a 14-point cushion over the Florida Panthers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Caps appear to be well on their way to a playoff spot, and they are also in the hunt to win their second Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history as the team with the best record in the NHL.

Any success that the Capitals are going to have starts and ends with Ovechkin. This season Ovechkin’s 27 goals are second in the National Hockey League. Ovechkin has benefitted from playing on a line with center Nicklas Backstrom who knows how to set the Russian superstar up for goal scoring chances. This season Backstrom has been setting up both Ovechkin and right winger T.J. Oshie as his 29 assists are tied with his Capitals teammate in center Evgeny Kuznetsov for the sixth most assists in the NHL.

Braden Holtby

The Capitals have also been a good defensive club as they are led by goaltender Braden Holtby who is one of the best in the business between the pipes. Last season saw Holtby emerge as one of the top goalies in the National Hockey League when he led the league in saves with 1,887 while winning 41 games. This season has seen Holtby continue to be an efficient as his 29 wins lead the NHL while he is only allowing 1.99 goals per game along with possessing a .931 save percentage.

Barry Trotz

The Caps received an unexpected gift in 2014 when Barry Trotz was fired as the head coach of the Nashville Predators. Trotz was the first head coach in the history of the Predators and in his 15 seasons in Nashville, he led them to seven postseason appearances. And with the Capitals, Trotz has created a fun environment for hockey which is keeping all of his players involved which is evident by the team’s success this season.

With just a few games left before the National Hockey League’s All-Star break, the Capitals want to keep their momentum going. And with upcoming games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, Washington has an opportunity to bury the competition in the Eastern Conference which they are hopeful that this magical season will lead to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since 1998 along with winning their first title in franchise history.

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Time To Adjust

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Jeffrey Lurie

In 2013, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made a splash when he went to the the college ranks to find his next head coach. After four years at the University of Oregon, Chip Kelly decided to take his fast paced, spread offense to the National Football League when he agreed to become the head coach of the Eagles. Kelly had his fair share of skeptics as far as him being able to succeed in the NFL due to the fact that his spread offense was a bit unconventional. Kelly would have immediate success in 2013 as he led the Eagles to the NFC East Title with a record of 10-6. The Eagles would once again go 10-6 last year, but this time around they would fail to make the postseason. However things are a little bit different for Kelly and the Eagles this time around as after four games in 2015, they are 1-3 and still searching for answers.

Lurie has not only made Kelly the Eagles head coach, but he has also made him the team’s de facto general manager as he now oversees all of the team’s personnel decisions. And now that Kelly has the keys to the car, he is attempting to build the Eagles in his own image, but is it working?

Chip Kelly

When Kelly became the Eagles head coach in 2013, he inherited a team that had talent at the offensive skill positions, but he has decided to part with it. In 2014, the Eagles released wide receiver DeSean Jackson who would ultimately sign with the Washington Redskins. Jackson’s departure from Philadelphia was rather controversial due to the fact that he claimed that someone within the Eagles organization began to spread rumors about him having gang affiliations. This past off-season, the Eagles decided to trade running LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills while allowing wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to leave as a free agent as he would go on to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. McCoy left Philadelphia as the Eagles all-time leading rusher and he is in the prime of his football career at the age of 27 which made his departure so surprising. After trading McCoy, Kelly decided to sign running back DeMarco Murray who led the National Football League in rushing last year as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. But through four games this season, Murray only has 11 yards on the ground which has led to a frustrated and irate running back who sounded off during the Eagles 20-3 home loss in Week 2 to the Dallas Cowboys as Kelly must realize that he is not in college anymore and his spread offense isn’t guaranteed to succeed.

By Lurie making Kelly the de facto general manager, he has only fed the ego of his head coach. One of the biggest differences in the college game as opposed to the pros is that the coach has all of the power collegiately being that he possesses total control over the student-atheletes. But in the pro ranks it is totally different as players make more money that their head coaches and in the National Football League, you need stars to win. Kelly has decided to part with the star players such as Jackson, McCoy, and Maclin while relying on his system alone which won’t amount to too many victories in the NFL.

Kelly’s system philosophy is also visible at the most important position on the football field which is quarterback. Since 2013, the Eagles have had four different starting quarterbacks with none of them being able to last a whole season due to injury. Kelly’s quarterbacks tend to get injured because of the system that they are playing in which has them carrying the ball as if they are running backs. Quarterbacks in the Eagles system take unnecessary hits, and unlike the college game, linebackers and defensive lineman are equally as fast as the signal callers. And when they hit quarterbacks outside of the pocket, they are free meat.

Sam Bradford is the latest contestant on wheel of quarterbacks with the Eagles. Bradford was acquired by the Eagles this past off-season from the St. Louis Rams. Bradford was the first overall pick of the 2010 National Football League Draft by the Rams. Bradford’s career record as a starting quarterback is only 19-33-1 and he has only been able to make all 16 regular season starts twice in his NFL career while failing to play a full season since 2012. Through four games this season, Bradford has completed 62.4 percent of his passes, but he’s already thrown 4 interceptions to just a pair of touchdown passes which has already brought jeers and angst in Philadelphia.

DeMarco Murray

When Murray led the National Football League in rushing last season as a member of the Cowboys, he played behind one of the best offensive lines in football. And like Bradford, Murray has had durability issues as well being that 2014 was the only year in which he made all 16 regular season starts. In Dallas, Murray also had the luxury of playing with Pro Bowl caliber talent at the skill positions in quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, and wide receiver Dez Bryant. Now with the Eagles, Murray is just another guy that Kelly will look to fit into his system instead of him adjusting his system to his personnel. Murray is not a running back that will benefit from the spread offense, but at the same time he knew what he was getting into when he sought out the payday that the Eagles were offering him. And to make matters worse for Murray and the Eagles, he is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Since Kelly came to Philadelphia, he has gone with an undersized defense that is predicated on speed. The Eagles currently only have five defensive players that tip the scales at 300 lbs. or higher. The lighter defense hasn’t helped the Eagles as they are currently 23rd in total defense in the National Football League while being 29th in 2013, and 28th in 2014 which isn’t going to get it done in the professional ranks. And as the season progresses, the Eagles defense tends to wear down due to the fact that they are giving up size; especially in their front seven.

When the Eagles won the NFC East in 2013, Kelly was the talk of the National Football League as he and Lurie appeared to be geniuses. But a head coach in the NFL cannot solely rely on his system as it is also about the players there as well. When Kelly was hired, the Eagles were riding the trend of NFL teams hiring college head coaches after seeing the success of Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks and Jim Harbaugh who was formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. But unlike Carroll who had previously coached in the NFL with the New York Jets and New England Patriots, and Harbaugh who had played in the league as a quarterback, Kelly didn’t have prior experience in the pro ranks which appears to be hurting Philadelphia. By the looks of things the NFC East will be weak this year and a record of 8-8 or 9-7 might win it. But even with that, the Eagles could be the odd team out in the race and if Kelly wants to have a long tenure in the NFL, it might be time to made some adjustments to his philosophy.

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NHL Expansion

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The National Hockey League began in 1917 with just six teams and it has grown into a phenomenon with clubs in the United States and Canada while their rosters are comprised with players from numerous countries. Through expansion over the years, the NHL currently has 30 teams. The NHL has not expanded since 2000 when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets joined, but the league could be ready to soon make it 32 teams.

Potential ownership groups from Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, and Las Vegas, Nevada recently sent formal applications to the National Hockey League in order to receive an expansion franchise. Along with Seattle, Washington, Quebec City and Las Vegas have been recently rumored to be in the running for a hockey franchise. But unlike Quebec City and Vegas, there wasn’t anyone on behalf of Seattle that sent the NHL a formal application.

Quebec City has not had an National Hockey League franchise since 1995 when the Quebec Nordiques left to become the Colorado Avalanche. The Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979 after the World Hockey Associated ceased its operations. And during the Nordiques time in the NHL, they had a fierce rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens. Less than three hours separate the two cities that call the Canadian province of Quebec home and in a country that bleeds hockey, the Canadiens and Nordiques were bitter rivals. Montreal and Quebec would meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs five times with the Habs winning on three occasions. The most infamous series came in 1984 which will be remembered as the “Good Friday Massacre” in which Game 6 of the best-of-seven series was marred by several intense brawls. The Nordiques always had support from their fan base, but being that they played in a small media market along with receiving Canadian currency from the fans at the arena for tickets and merchandise to having to pay their players in American currency, Quebec was fighting an uphill battle the first time around the block in the NHL. And like the original Winnipeg Jets that moved to Arizona in 1996, the Nordiques were caught in a financial buzz saw and thus they needed a stronger financial market to play in.

But this time around, the National Hockey League and commissioner Gary Bettman appear to be more committed to bringing teams back to Canada along with revenue sharing. The NHL brought hockey back to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers moved there and it makes total sense for the league to restore hockey in Quebec City as well.

As far as Las Vegas goes, the NHL has held preseason exhibition games there in Sin City along with postseason award shows. The major professional sports leagues in North America have been reluctant to place a team in Vegas due to the fact that gambling is legal there and they are worried about players taking “dirty” money that could hinder the outcome of a game. But the NHL has enough security in place to monitor such a thing and placing a team in Vegas could be a boom for the league. Las Vegas has long been a tourist attraction due to its nightlife, casinos, and shows; and a professional hockey team in the desert would always attract fans. An NHL team in Vegas would immediately create a rivalry with the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings who both call Southern California home as the distance between L.A. and Vegas is less than five hours.

I wouldn’t see the National Hockey League Players’ Association standing in the way of expansion due to the fact that it would create more jobs and more money for the union which would be a win-win for everyone involved.

Gary Bettman

When a topic such as league expansion begins to pick up steam, you know that it is only a matter of time before it comes to fruition as the owners are all about their money. Billionaire businessman Bill Foley intends to bring an NHL team to Las Vegas while Quebecor which is a Montreal-based media company is backing Quebec City’s bid. At times Bettman has taken a ton of flack from hockey fans for his handling of the league, but bringing hockey back to Quebec City which would re-spark a rivalry with the Canadiens while also potentially becoming the first commissioner of a major North American sports league to put a franchise in Vegas, might make folks see him in a different light.

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The New Look Bruins

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Make no mistake about the fact that the Boston Bruins were one of most disappointing teams from this past National Hockey League season. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup Championship in 2011 and they were expected to follow suit in 2014 as they won the Presidents’ Trophy for the most points during the season. But in the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Bruins were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in seven games and they have yet to recover. The Bruins were an up and down hockey team this past season. The Bruins would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and that disappointment brought with it wholesale changes in Boston this off-season.

Peter Chiarelli was fired as the general manager of the Bruins and he would be replaced by Don Sweeney. And when the Bruins brought in Sweeney, there was a ton of speculation that longtime head coach Claude Julien would be dismissed as well. But the Bruins decided to maintain Julien and instead they made changes to their roster.

Don Sweeney

At the 2015 NHL Draft, Sweeney and the Bruins were wheeling and dealing. The Bruins traded left winger Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and the 13th overall pick of the NHL Draft which Boston used on defenseman Jakub Zboril from the Czech Republic. The Bruins would also send defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames in exchange for the 15th, 45th, and 52nd overall selections in the draft. And once you factor in that the Bruins owned the 14th overall selection, they became the first team in NHL Draft history that had three consecutive first round picks. The Bruins would have six of the first 52 selections in the 2015 NHL Draft as they looked to get younger while Sweeney is looking to put a team together while also seeking to develop team chemistry which is something that Boston lacked all season long.

As a new general manager, Sweeney has come and he is not married to any of the veteran players on the Bruins roster which means that he is free and clear to do whatever he wants as he attempts to get Boston back into contention. But now it is just a matter of seeing whether or not that these moves that he has orchestrated will work.

The Bruins still have a core of veterans that includes defenseman Zdeno Chara who is the team’s captain, along with centers Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, and David Krejci who are all alternate captains. And the Bruins still have goalie Tuukka Rask between the pipes who remains as one of the top netminders in the National Hockey League. But as the Bruins have gotten younger and are rebuilding, the pressure is still on this organization to contend for and ultimately win the Stanley Cup Title. Although Julien survived with the Bruins this off-season, the pressure will be on him this upcoming season to improve off of this past season’s disappointment. And no matter what, Sweeney will forever be linked to the transactions that he made recently as only time will tell if they’ll hurt or help the Bruins.

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Another Year At The Office For The Blackhawks

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In their first 81 years of existence as a National Hockey League Franchise, the Chicago Blackhawks were only able to hoist the Stanley Cup Trophy three times. But since 2010, winning the Stanley Cup Championship has become a regular habit for the Blackhawks. Last night the Blackhawks finished off the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games for their third Stanley Cup Title in six years. And in the process the Blackhawks have jumped ahead of the Los Angeles Kings as far as being the team of the decade. But one of the things that made this title run so special for the Blackhawks is that they were able to clinch on their home ice at the United Center as the folks in Chicago were able to see their favorite team take it in the Windy City for the first time since 1938.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has taken the lessons that he received from his Hockey Hall of Fame father in Scotty Bowman and built a winner in Chicago. Under Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, Chicago has a core of players consisting of right winger Patrick Kane, center Jonathan Toews, goalie Corey Crawford, defenseman Duncan Keith, defenseman Brent Seabrook, left winger Patrick Sharp and right winger Marian Hossa that along with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and center Marcus Kruger have been around for all three of the team’s Stanley Cup Championships this decade. And in the current era of the NHL where the salary cap and parity are reigning supreme, the Blackhawks have found a way to overcome the system that is in place to sway consistency.

Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

After losing last season to the Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on their home ice, the Blackhawks never sulked and they came back to work for the 2014-2015 National Hockey League season. The Blackhawks finished the regular season with a record of 48-28-6 which was good for fourth place in the Western Conference and third place in the Central Division. But once the playoffs began you had the feeling that all of the Blackhawks previous playoff experience would come in to play. That experience and resolve allowed the Blackhawks to get past the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games. The Blackhawks would sweep the Minnesota Wild in the second round to set up a date with the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. The Ducks were the top team in the Western Conference this season and they felt that they had the right formula to win the Stanley Cup.

But the Blackhawks resolve and determination would be on display in Game 2 when they would defeat the Ducks in triple overtime and again in Game 4 where they would be victorious in double overtime. With the series tied at 2-2 entering Game 5, the Blackhawks found themselves trailing 3-0 early on. But Chicago would rally to cut their deficit to just one goal before the Ducks scored late in the third period. Undaunted, the Blackhawks would score a pair of late goals in regulation to force overtime. And although the Blackhawks would go on to lose Game 5, they had renewed confidence when they took the ice for Game 6 in Chicago. The Blackhawks would defeat the Ducks in Game 6 by the score of 5-2 to force a decisive Game 7 in Anaheim.

In Game 7, the Blackhawks played like they expected to win while the Ducks played as if they hoped to win which was the deciding factor. Two goals by Toews in the first period gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 advantage that they never relinquished as they went to defeat the Ducks 5-3.

And in the Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks would face a Lightning squad that was looking to make history as they were seeking to defeat an Original Six team of each round of the postseason.

After winning Game 1 in Tampa, the Blackhawks would lose the next two and they were faced with a must-win scenario in Game 4. The Blackhawks would be up for that challenge with a 2-1 triumph before defeating the Lightning in Tampa in Game 5 by the same margin. And when the Blackhawks took to the ice in Chicago last night for Game 6, they sensed their victory and unfortunately for the Lightning, they did as well.

After a scoreless first period that was highlighted by missed opportunities for the Blackhawks, they got it going in the second period when Keith scored on a rebound. And in the third period, Kane would clinch the Stanley Cup Championship with his 11th goal of the postseason. But in the Stanley Cup Final, you cannot forget the effort of Crawford between the pipes.

Corey Crawford

At one point during the playoffs, Quenneville benched Crawford in favor of backup goalie Scott Darling. And like a true pro, Crawford responded when he came back to the starting lineup which was highlighted by him giving up just two goals over the last three games of the Stanley Final to a Lightning team that can score with the best of them.

Chicago prides itself as being “The City of Broad Shoulders” and all of those broad shoulders will have no problem in carrying their favorite hockey team around town for the immediate future. Bowman has built a team of stars and their core will remain intact. The Blackhawks have a head coach in Quenneville that preaches winning, and more importantly he never loses his cool. Like most winning organizations, the Blackhawks don’t point fingers, they pick each other up, and they have a locker room full of guys that hate to lose more than they enjoy winning. And now that hatred for losing has allowed the Blackhawks the chance to bask in all that winning has to offer as they’ve now spoiled the hockey fans in Chicago by making their June party a regular thing.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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Stamkos’ Chance On Hockey’s Biggest Stage

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Steven Stamkos

Make no mistake about it that Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos is one of the brightest stars in the National Hockey League. Stamkos is a three-time NHL All-Star and at the age of 25, the future looks bright for this native of Markham, Ontario. Stamkos is a tremendous goal scorer as he already has two seasons in which he has scored at least 50 goals. And as good as Stamkos has been, more people would know about him if he played in a bigger market. But that could all change this week.

Led by Stamkos, the Lightning are set to make just their second appearance in the Stanley Cup Final as they are gearing up to face the Chicago Blackhawks who are going for their third Stanley Cup Championship since 2010. As a team, the Lightning have spent this postseason knocking off the blue bloods of the National Hockey League as they’ve defeated three Original Six teams in the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers en route to winning the Eastern Conference Title. And the Lightning will meet another Original Six team in the Blackhawks. But led by Stamkos, it has been a total team effort for the Lightning.

In this postseason Stamkos has scored 7 goals, but his scoring ability has been setting up teammates as he also has 10 assists where teammates Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn have been the beneficiaries on his line. And Stamkos’ ability to score and pass will be vital in the Stanley Cup Final as the Blackhawks are a team of stars that are led by center Jonathan Toews, right winger Patrick Kane, and defenseman Duncan Keith just to name a few. Stamkos has rebounded from the broken leg that put a dent into his 2013-2014 NHL season while also robbing him of the chance to play for Canada in the 2014 Olympics to now closing in on being a part of the first Lightning team to hoist the Stanley Cup since 2004 to hoist the Stanley Cup. And if the Lightning are able to knock off the favored Blackhawks, Stamkos won’t just be a popular figure in Tampa as he’ll truly become a household name in both Canada and America.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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