Tag Archives: John Tavares

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 Isles Are Going Out In Style

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The top sports story of 2014 in the New York metropolitan area was arguably the New York Rangers winning the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League for the first time since 1994. The New York Yankees and Mets both failed to qualify for the Major League Baseball Playoffs while the New York Giants and Jets will both be watching the National Football League Playoffs from home next month. The New York Knicks have one of the worst records in the National Basketball Association while the Brooklyn Nets also have a losing record. After a slow start to the National Hockey League season, the Rangers have improved in the past few weeks while across the Hudson River, the New Jersey Devils are having tough sledding. But in the shadows of New York City in Uniondale, New York, there is a team that has people talking.

The New York Islanders are in their 42nd year of existence and they have seen their fair share of ups and downs. From 1980-1983, the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cup Championships. But since 1995, the Isles have only made the postseason five times. The Islanders have become a forgotten team out in Nassau County as they’ve taken a backseat to the Rangers. And with Islanders owner Charles Wang set to sell the team as they are going to bid farewell to the Nassau Coliseum this spring in favor of the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, the Islanders are attempting to go out with a bang.

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Jack Capuano

This season under the guidance of head coach Jack Capuano, the Islanders are in second place in the Metropolitan Division as they are only three points behind the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins. The Isles also find themselves tied for the second best record in the Eastern Conference. Islanders general manager Garth Snow has avoided making the same mistake that has held this team back for nearly a quarter-century as he has hasn’t given up on the youngsters.

The Islanders have the 11th youngest team in the NHL this season as the majority of their core has been developed through their system. In 2009, the Islanders had the first overall pick of the National Hockey League Draft. The Islanders would draft a young 18-year old center from Canada by the name of John Tavares. Tavares immediately played for the Islanders and he has led the club in points in three of the last four seasons and he is also the current team captain. The Islanders have a pair of alternate captains in center Frans Nielsen and right winger Kyle Okposo. Okposo is currently leading the Islanders in points (29) and assists (21). Center Brock Nelson was the Islanders first round selection in 2010 and this season he is currently leading the team in goals with 14. Goalie Jaroslov Halak was acquired from the Washington Capitals last May and this season his 2.24 goals allowed average is ninth in the NHL. This month Halak has only allowed more than two goals in a game twice as the successful teams in the NHL have a dominant player between the pipes.

http://www.rantsports.com/nhl/files/2014/09/islanders1.jpgThe Islanders commenced this season by winning their first four games including a 6-3 win over the rival Rangers at Madison Square Garden which allowed them to set the tone. After losing the first two games of a five-game, West Coast road trip that began in late October, the Isles won their last three of thee trip that included victories over the Anaheim Ducks and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. For the month of November, the Islanders would only lose three games and over that stretch they were also able to record a pair of victory over the Penguins on consecutive nights. And after suffering a three-game losing streak earlier this month, the Islanders got right back on the saddle by winning their next four.

The Islanders have shown that they can hang with the best teams in the NHL and it is up to Snow and Capuano to not mess up the team’s chemistry. In year’s past the Islanders front office would make a roster move that would see the team malfunction. But this current Islanders team has tremendous cohesion and they are also receiving tremendous support from their fans in Nassau County. The Isles home attendance at the Nassau Coliseum is up from last season which is dually attributed to their improved play and a nostalgic fan base that is not ready to see them depart for Brooklyn. But when the Isles rose to prominence in the late 1970’s, it was mainly homegrown talent that featured players such as center Bryan Trottier and right winger Mike Bossy that would help to form a dynasty in Uniondale. Now the law firm of Taveres, Nielsen, Okposo, and Nelson have the people believing in the Islanders during their swan song on Long Island as those that are old enough to remember are reminiscing of the glory days at the Nassau Coliseum.

Source: Quanthockey.com, Hockeyattendance.com, Hockey-reference.com

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