Tag Archives: Stanley Cup Playoffs

Nashville Stand Up

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The early 1990’s saw the National Hockey League expand to the Southeast Region of the United States. In 1992, the Tampa Bay Lightning joined the NHL, while the Florida Panthers would follow suit in 1993. And in 1997, the Hartford Whalers would relocate to Raleigh, North Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes. The Panthers would enjoy some early success as they appeared in the Stanley Cup Final in 1996 as Floridians came out to support them. The NHL would continue to expand in the Southeast which saw the Nashville Predators join the league in 1998 which was followed by the Atlanta Thrashers beginning play in 1999.

It took the Predators some time as they were attempting to build a fan base in Music City. And by 2004, the Preds reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Six of the next seven years would see the Predators reach the playoffs, and they were able to win their first playoff series in 2011. But after Nashville missed the postseason in 2013 and 2014, Barry Trotz who up to that point had been the only head coach of the Predators was let go.

Peter Laviolette

Trotz would be replaced by Peter Laviolette who already had a stellar track record which included leading the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Championship in 2006, and leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. Laviolette would build off of what Trotz had started, and in the process he has taken the Predators to new heights.

After a 41-29-12 regular season, the Preds entered the Stanley Playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference where they would earn a date with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. The Blackhawks have been the gold standard in the National Hockey League this decade as they’ve won three Stanley Cup Championships. However when the Predators faced the Blackhawks, it was Nashville who appeared to be the perennial Stanley Cup Champ.

The Preds would sweep the Blackahawks and in the process they would outscore them 13-3 in the series. Nashville wasn’t done there as they would take down the St. Louis Blues in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals which set the stage for a meeting with the Anaheim Ducks. And although that the Ducks became the favorite to win the Western Conference Title when the Blackhawks were eliminated, don’t count the Predators among those who were impressed.

After Nashville went on the road to win Game 1 against the Ducks, they dictated the pace throughout the remainder of the series. The Preds never trailed in the series as far as victories went, in spite of the fact that they lost center Ryan Johansen to a leg injury after he led them in points (61) and assists (47) during the regular season.

But after blowing a lead in Game 4 which allowed the Ducks to tie the series at 2-2, Nashville responded by going to Anaheim and securing a 3-1 victory which put the Predators on the cusp of heading to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. And with the electricity being so thick at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for Game 6 that you could cut it with a knife, the Preds were up for the challenge.

Left winger Austin Watson and center Colton Sissons got the scoring going for the Predators in the first period as they each scored a goal to give Nashville the 2-0 advantage.

After Ducks right winger Ondrej Kase scored a goal in the second period to cut the Preds lead in half, they would respond when Sissons scored his second goal of the game early in the third period to make it 3-1 in favor of the home team as the miracle appeared ready to happen.

However the Ducks are a resilient team as they would scored a pair of goals in less than four minutes to tie the score at 3-3 while quieting the crowd at the Bridgestone Arena.

But this Predators team simply would not be denied as Sissons sealed the deal by scoring his third goal of the game. And once the Ducks pulled goalie Jonathan Bernier late in the game in order to have an extra skater on the ice, Nashville was able to take advantage by scoring a pair of empty net goals which secured the Western Conference Title as they brought it home in front of their home fans.

The Predators will undoubtedly enter the Stanley Cup Final as the underdog in the Stanley Cup Final as they’ll take on the Pittsburgh Penguins who are the defending champs, but don’t expect Nashville to be fazed.

The Preds weren’t given much of a chance against the Blackhawks whom they swept. They were written off again versus Blues and the same could be said about their encounter with the Ducks. But that is why you have to step on the ice and play as there is no such thing as paper champions.

The Predators are led by a head coach in Laviolette who now joins Dick Irvin, Scotty Bowman, and Mike Keenan as the only head coaches in the illustrious history of the National Hockey League to lead three different franchises to the Stanley Cup Final. Laviolette knows how to do it in a non-traditional hockey market which can be traced back to his time with the Hurricanes. And if anyone thinks that Laviolette is going to let his team slow down in the Stanley Cup Final because Johansen is not there, think again.

Pekka Rinne

The Predators have a solid team which includes a goalie in Pekka Rinne who is hot right now. Rinne is averaging 1.70 goals against during the postseason as it always important to have a net minder between the pipes. For years P.K. Subban has been one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League. But surprisingly after seven years with the Montreal Canadiens, Subban was traded to the Predators last summer in exchange for defenseman Shea Weber who had become an icon during his 11 years in Nashville. And as good as Weber was for the Preds, Subban has helped give Nashville a new lease on defensive intensity. Players such as Sissons and center Filip Forsberg have been providing the scoring for the Predators in the playoffs as it has been a total team effort.

So now as we’re set to embark on Memorial Day Weekend, the folks in Nashville who are best known for their barbecue and country music will have a front row seat for the National Hockey League’s biggest spectacle. The Predators were born into existence in 1998 after the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League paved the way in Music City in 1997 after nearly four decades as the Houston Oilers. And now the Preds are just four victories away from having the hockey world eating out of the palm of their hands. And even though that a Predators Stanley Cup Championship wouldn’t be a first in the Southeast Region as both the Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning have hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup, it would still be special as this band of brothers has come out of nowhere to shock the hockey world.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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Still Out Of His Reach

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Alex Ovechkin

It’s hard to overlook the talent of Washington Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin. Since Ovechkin was the first overall pick of the 2004 National Hockey League Draft, he has been the face of the Capitals franchise and one of the top players in the league. Ovechkin is one of the top goal scorers in NHL history as he has scored at least 50 goals in a season seven times which has led to him being an eight-time All-Star and a three-time league MVP. Ovechkin’s 558 career goals are 16th all-time in NHL history and when his playing career comes to an end he will undoubtedly be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame. But as good as Ovechkin’s resume has been, there is still one thing that eludes him.

For the second consecutive year the Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team in the National Hockey League. And for the second consecutive year the Caps were eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Overall the Capitals are 1-9 in the postseason versus the Penguins, while Ovechkin is 0-3. And what makes matter worse is that Ovechkin’s losses have come at the hands of Penguins center Sidney Crosby who has been his chief rival as far as being the best player in the NHL.

So now as Ovechkin who will be 32-years of age by the time that beginning of the 2017-2018 National Hockey League season rolls around, fairly or unfairly he is now being labeled as a tremendous scorer who is unable to lead his team to a championship. The Caps have never gotten past the second round with Ovechkin and you have to wonder if they ever will.

We’re in the midst of watching the Penguins dynasty in the Eastern Conference as their depth has been to much for Washington to overcome. And if trying to get past the Pens isn’t enough, the Caps also have to contend with the likes of the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, and the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs just to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Brian MacLellan

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has done a solid job of putting talent around Ovechkin which includes the likes of goalie Braden Holtby, center Nicklas Backstrom, and right winger T.J. Oshie, along with bringing in a veteran head coach in Barry Trotz. But Ovechkin still has to find a way to elevate his game when it matters the most. In the series loss to Pittsburgh, Ovechkin was limited to just a pair of goals, while he and his Capitals teammates were shutout completely in Game 7.

And as Ovechkin and his teammates continue to dominate in the regular season, but fall short in the playoffs, he’ll be labeled as the superstar who cannot get it done when it matters the most, while the Capitals will simply be “next year’s champs”.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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A Giant Step In The Right Direction

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Following Sunday night’s loss to the Washington Capitals, the 2016-2017 National Hockey League season has come to an end for the Toronto Maple Leafs; however for the first time in a long time, their appears to be some hope for this storied franchise. This year’s trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs marked the first journey to the postseason for the Maple Leafs since 2013. And although that Toronto has still been unable to win it all since 1967, things are looking up for them.

Brendan Shanahan

The seeds of the Maple Leafs turnaround were initially planted in 2014 when Brendan Shanahan was named as the team’s president and alternate governor. In Shanahan’s first year the Leafs would fail to qualify for the postseason as he acknowledged that they were rebuilding. That rebuild would take the next step at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 National Hockey League season when the Maple Leafs were able to lure Mike Babcock away from the Detroit Red Wings in order to become their next head coach, while they also traded their best player in right winger Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toronto would only win 29 games during the 2015-2016 NHL season, but they would earn the first overall selection in the upcoming draft.

Auston Matthews

The Maple Leafs would use that selection on center Auston Matthews who has quickly become a household name within the Province of Ontario. In Matthews’ first game, he scored 4 goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators. Matthews would go on to score 40 goals which was second in the National Hockey League, while his 69 points would lead Toronto. And after Babcock had missed making the playoffs as a head coach for the just the second in his career last year, things would be much different this season.

The Leafs would hold off the surge of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders coming down the stretch in the regular season to earn the final wild card berth in the Eastern Conference which set up a date with the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the second consecutive year the Caps finished with the best record in the National Hockey League which earned them the Presidents’ Trophy, but don’t count the Maple Leafs as far as those being in awe.

After Toronto dropped the first game of the series 3-2 in overtime, they would climb back to win the next two games. The Leafs pushed the Capitals throughout the series as five of the six contest were decided in overtime. And when the Maple Leafs ended their season with the customary handshake line with the Caps at the end of Game 6, their fans gave them a boisterous ovation as they left the ice at the Air Canada Centre.

This Maple Leafs playoff loss wasn’t like their defeat in 2013 when they blew a three-goal lead in Game 7 to the Boston Bruins in the first round as some people deemed it as the same old Toronto; however there is now some renewed optimism for this club.

Matthews is the real deal as he could become the first Maple Leafs player since left winger Brit Selby in 1966 to earn the Calder Memorial Trophy as the National Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year. Matthews will be the Leafs franchise player for the next decade as he could have the kind of impact that center Sidney Crosby is having with the Pittsburgh Penguins and left winger Alex Ovechkin has for the Capitals as now it is time to build around him.

Mike Babcock

Getting Babcock to leave the Red Wings after a contract dispute with the team was a coup as he has a wealth of experience which included winning the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008. And it is hard to overlook the 23 years worth of playing experience in the NHL that Shanahan possesses, while he is also showing the ability to get it done in the front office as well which provides plenty of optimism in Toronto that good things are finally on the horizon for the Leafs.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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Blackhawks Down

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Since 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks have been the gold standard in the National Hockey League as their three Stanley Cup Championships over that period are more than any other team in the league. And even in those years where the Blackhawks have been unable to win, they’ve still been one of the top teams in the NHL. This season was no different for Chicago as they would finish with the best record in the Western Conference which ensured them of having home-ice advantage throughout the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But that home-ice advantage wouldn’t do the Blackhawks any good as they were swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators which is hands down the biggest shocker so far of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In the Blackhawks playoff series versus the Predators, they were outscored 13-3 which included being shutout in both games at the United Center in Chicago. The combination of center Jonathan Toews and right winger Patrick Kane who’ve been at the forefront of Chicago’s success since 2010 were limited to a pair of goals during the series against Nashville. And aside from a brief lead during Game 3, Chicago was always trailing for the rest of the series.

Joel Quenneville

After the Blackhawks secured the top spot in the Western Conference, head coach Joel Quenneville decided to rest his key players which backfired as this team lost its continuity, and more importantly its edge. The Blackhawks would lose their last four regular season games and once you factor in how things went down in the playoffs, they finished the season an eight-game losing streak. Blackhawks vice president/general manager Stan Bowman has vowed to make changes, but that doesn’t mean that this team needs to be totally dissected. The Blackhawks have already parted ways with assistant coach Mike Kitchen and you have to wonder what else that Bowman has in store?

Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews

The Blackhawks core players such as Toews, Kane, defenseman Duncan Keith and goalie Corey Crawford are all locked up for the next few years and Chicago might have a little bit of wiggle room under the National Hockey League’s salary cap in order to keep this team together. But the biggest thing for the Blackhawks is that they played their worst hockey of the season at the wrong time. During the regular season Chicago was ninth in the NHL in goals scored per game at 2.93, while they were 11th in goals allowed at 2.59. Kane has contributed to a very potent offense as he has combined to score 80 goals over the last two seasons which included him winning the Hart Memorial Trophy last year as the league’s MVP. However Chicago’s power play was 19th in the NHL this season, while their penalty kill was 24th. The Blackhawks penalty kill was solid during the postseason as it was 87.5%, but they only managed to score a pair of power play goals which helped to lead to their demise.

It has already been made public knowledge that Quenneville will be returning for his 10th season as the Blackhawks head coach. However after the Blackhawks second consecutive first-round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this will be a very interesting summer in Chicago, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the Cubs.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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Sid The Kid Versus Alexander The Great

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Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin won’t be smiling when their Eastern Conference Semifinal Playoff Series begins this week.

 

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Let The Head Scratching Begin

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The 2015-2016 National Hockey League season appeared to be the one in which the stars would fully align for the Washington Capitals. The Capitals won a franchise best 56 games en route to securing the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team in the NHL for the second time in franchise history as head coach Barry Trotz pushed all of the right buttons. The Capitals had one of the best net minders in the league in goalie Braden Holtby who’s 2.20 goals against average was fifth in the NHL this past season, while left winger Alex Ovechkin led the league in goals with 50. The Capitals only had one, three-game losing streak in the regular season as they appeared ready to win their first first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history.

But as good as the Capitals were in the regular season, I knew that there was possible trouble lurking for them around the bend in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Caps found themselves some worthy adversaries in the Eastern Conference Semifinals as they could never figure out the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Eastern Conference Semifinals were another chapter in the rivalry between Ovechkin and Penguins center Sidney Crosby. The Caps made Ovechkin the first overall pick of the 2004 National Hockey League Draft, while Crosby was the first player taken in 2005. Both players are superstars with immense scoring ability as Ovechkin has 525 career goals, and Crosby comes in with 338. Ovechkin and Crosby met once before in the postseason with Pittsburgh getting past Washington in seven games in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals en route to their third Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history.

There was plenty of star power on display when the Caps and Pens got it on, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan devised a solid game plan which took away Ovechkin, while making somebody else on Washington’s team defeat Pittsburgh as for the six-game series, Ovie was held to just a pair of goals along with 5 assists. But even with that the Capitals were not dominated in the series by the Penguins as three of the six games went to overtime with two going in the favor of Pittsburgh. Overall five games in the series were decided by one goal, but unfortunately for the Capitals, four of those went the way of the Penguins.

And when the handshake line that signaled the end of the series in Pittsburgh last Tuesday had finished, Ovechkin and his teammates had to once again skate off of the ice without hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup, as they’ve built a reputation of being unable to get it done when it matters the most.¬†Ovechkin is 30-years of age, and although that he has plenty of hockey left in him, what is it going to take for him to get the Caps over the hump?

The Capitals will head into the off-season knowing that the majority of their core players that includes Ovechkin, Holtby, center Nicklas Backstrom, and right winger T.J. Oshie are all under contract at least through next season. Center Marcus Johansson is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, but I highly doubt that the Capitals will allow him to get away.

It will be very difficult for the Capitals replicate what they did this year when the 2016-2017 National Hockey League season begins, but they must find a way to use the disappointment of their playoff loss to the Penguins as fuel for next season.

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Ran Into A Buzzsaw

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When the New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past Saturday at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it marked the earliest that their season has ended since 2011. The Rangers enjoyed their second consecutive 100-point season, but the action in the National Hockey League this season was tightly contested with several teams having a legitimate chance to win it all. The Rangers faced a very formidable opponent in the first round and after being unable to keep up with the Penguins, there will be a ton of questions that New York must answer heading into the off-season.

For the past decade, goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been the face of the Rangers. Lundqvist has been one of the most dominant goalies in the National Hockey League during his career which included him winning the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie in 2012. This season Lundqvist led the NHL in saves with 1,788. But against the Pens, Lundqvist wasn’t sharp as the Penguins blitzed him for 15 goals in the five-gave series which included him being benched in three games by Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault in favor of backup goalie Antti Raanta on three occasions.

Henrik Lundqvist

Lundqvist and the Rangers were fighting an uphill battle throughout the entire series as it was a clever game plan that was composed by Penguins head coach  Mike Johnston as they pressured Lundqvist. For the series only three periods of hockey saw the Pens not score a goal. And aside from winning Game 2, the Rangers only led for roughly 26 minutes in the series as they were always in catch-up mode.

Pittsburgh came into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the hottest team in hockey as they went 27-9-1 over the last portion of the season while the combination on center Sidney Crosby, right winger Phil Kessel, and rookie Matt Murray were too much for the Blueshirts to tangle with. And the domination by the Penguins in this series shows that the Rangers must find a way to get more athletic heading into next season while also finding a consistent go-to-guy as an offensive threat.

This past season the Rangers were seventh in the National Hockey League in goals per game average at 2.84, but they didn’t have any player finish in the top 20 in the league in goals, assists, or points. And that lack of a superstar player showed up against a Penguins team that is loaded with stars as the blue-collar approach that the Rangers have used over the past few years is not longer going to cut it if they want to win the Stanley Cup. But by hook or by crook, this will be a different Rangers team next season.

Center Dominic Moore, along with defensemen Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle, and Eric Stall are all set to become unrestricted free agents and I don’t see the Rangers signing all four players as it comes down to either age and attrition. The Rangers already have roughly $53 million committed to salaries for next season which would also more than likely put them out of the running to sign Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. But make no mistake about that the Rangers must find themselves a star player that can shoulder the scoring mode in the same fashion that Lundqvist dominates between the pipes. The Rangers were hoping that left winger Rick Nash would be that type of player for them after they acquired him from the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2012: However after a 42-goal season last year, injuries limited Nash to just 15 goals in this campaign.

Ryan McDonagh

The Rangers still have a solid core which is led by Lundqvist and defenseman Ryan McDonagh who is their captain while Vigneault is the best coaching for the this team going forward. But after being so close in the past several years, the last thing that the Rangers want to do is to revert backwards which makes this summer very important for them.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

 

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Peaking At The Right Time

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Sidney Crosby

Ever since the Pittsburgh Penguins used the first overall pick of the National Hockey League Draft in 2005 on center Sidney Crosby, the bar of expectations has changed in Western Pennsylvania. By 2008, the Pens were back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1992, and by 2009, they were hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. Since 2007, the Penguins have made the playoffs in each year, but they’ve been unable to replicate the success of 2009. Since 2006, Pittsburgh has used four different head coaches and they made another coaching change this season when Mike Johnston was replaced by Mike Sullivan on December 12. Sullivan’s arrival to Pittsburgh has lit a fire under the Penguins as they are 33-16-5 on his watch, and with the Stanley Cup Playoffs set to begin tonight, this could be a very dangerous team.

The presence of Crosby, center Evgeni Malkin, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury have made the Penguins a consistent contender, but when the team acquired right winger Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer, that is when the expectations went through the roof. But as it took that talent some time to mesh together, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford couldn’t wait which is why he made the move to bring in Sullivan in spite of the fact that the club had a winning record under Johnston. However it wasn’t until an under the radar trade happened that the Penguins began to live up to their potential.

In late January, the Penguins acquired left winger Carl Hagelin from the Anaheim Ducks. Hagelin had spent the first four years of his National Hockey League career with the New York Rangers and he was a member of their Eastern Conference Championship team in 2014. But last summer, Hagelin became a cap casualty which resulted in the Rangers trading him to the Ducks. But in Anaheim, Hagelin struggled mightily as he only managed to produce 12 points in 43 games which resulted in the trade to Pittsburgh which has given him new life. In just 37 games with the Pens, Hagelin has accounted for 27 points and with him on the roster, the team’s record is 27-9-1.

But make no mistake about it that the engine that makes the Pittsburgh locomotive go is Crosby. This season Crosby led the Penguins in points (85), and goals scored (36), while he finished just one assist away from his third consecutive year in which he would have tallied 50 assists. And although that Crosby will more than likely not be selected to be the MVP of the National Hockey League this season, his ability as a play maker could be the difference in how far that the Penguins will advance in the postseason. Crosby has the ability to put the Penguins on his back for long stretches of play as his ability gives Pittsburgh the edge that they need to compete with some of the better teams in the NHL this season such as the Washington Capitals. Crosby’s play making ability will definitely be put to the test as Pittsburgh is still without Malkin as he is recovering from an arm injury.

Marc-Andre Fleury

Pittsburgh will get the Stanley Cup Playoffs kicked off tonight against a team that they are very familiar with in the Rangers. The Rangers have knocked the Pens out of the postseason in each of the last two years. But it is the Penguins who had the 3-1 series edge over the Rangers during the regular season this time around. The Penguins must find a way to do something which is very difficult to do in the postseason, which is to get to Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist who can be more difficult to navigate than rush hour traffic in New York City. However the Pens have Fluery who himself is no slouch between the pipes as he only allowed 2.27 goals against him per game this season and he could be the difference maker in this series as the Rangers offense has been known to go through spells where they struggle to score.

Although that the Capitals finished this season with the best record in the National Hockey League, you cannot overlook the Penguins who not only have star appeal, but they are also riding a huge wave of momentum into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as it isn’t how you start, but more of how you finish. The Penguins have a core group of players that have drank out of Lord Stanley’s Cup before, and it would not surprise me to see them do it once more this June.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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New York’s Road Team

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The first year for the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York has resulted in a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it will be unlike any other trip to the postseason for this franchise. For the Islanders first 42 years of existence, they called the Nassau Coliseum home as they were Long Island’s hockey team. In the Isles first 12 years as a hockey franchise, they would enjoy great success as they claimed four Stanley Cup Championships. But over the years as Islanders ownership was looking at either a new arena or upgrades to the Nassau Coliseum, they were always met with resistance from county officials which eventually led to them moving to Brooklyn.

The first year in Brooklyn has seen an adjustment period for the Isles who still practice in Long Island and then commute to Brooklyn for their home games via the Long Island Rail Road which stops underneath the Barclays Center. Even with the Islanders traveling woes, they still managed to go 25-11-5 at the Barclays Center this season, but it just wasn’t that same feel when the Isles wore their famed blue jerseys.

In spite of the Islanders playing in the largest media market in the world, they finished this National Hockey League season with third lowest home attendance in the league. The Isles might still call New York home, but the idea of their original fan base in Long Island willing to consistently make the commute to Brooklyn is a pipe dream.

With fares on the Long Island Rail Road consistently increasing and the Downtown Brooklyn area lacking affordable parking, there hasn’t been the rush of residents from Long Island making the trek to New York City to see their beloved Islanders. And once you factor in that the residences surrounding the immediate area where the Barclays Center is located being mainly comprised up of people who are converted New Yorkers, the Islanders home games sound and feel like a minor-league game.

But the Islanders moving to Brooklyn was their best option as the only other possible choices on the table for them would have been to relocate to either Quebec City, Quebec, or Seattle, Washington. And after the Islanders had exhausted all of their options in Nassau County, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman knew that the franchise was in dire straits as he wanted to keep the Islanders in New York City which made the Barclays Center the most logical choice.

However there are several silver linings in these storm clouds for the Islanders as their home games in Brooklyn have allowed more fans that follow some of their key rivals such as the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils to attend games which is good for overall attendance, but that still doesn’t gives the Isles the home-ice advantage that they need. However it is a credit to Islanders head coach Jack Capuano that he has gotten his team to focus and block out the white noise as it could have been very easy for this team to go off of the deep end with all of their commuting issues and true lack of having a home-ice advantage. But the Islanders have persevered all season long in the face of it which could work to their advantage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs set to begin this week, there is the possibility that there could be a bump in attendance for the Islanders being that the stakes have increased and more people might be interested in watching their brand of hockey. But going forward there will have to be an increased effort by the Islanders front office to increase this local support for this club that is talented enough to make a deep run into the postseason as they don’t want to consistently play in an empty arena. The Barclays Center might be nice and shiny, but there is still a large amount of people that consider themselves true fans of the Islanders who really enjoyed the dump that was the Nassau Coliseum which gave the Isles a true home-ice advantage.

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Lord Stanley Eludes The Rangers

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http://content.sportslogos.net/logos/1/20/full/145.gifWhen the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup Championship in 1994, it marked the end of the long suffering for their organization as their last prior title to that was secured in 1940. The Rangers are an Original Six club and they are also one of the most iconic teams in the National Hockey League. But twenty-one years later after hoisting the Stanley Cup, the Rangers are still searching for another opportunity.

The past four seasons have seen the Rangers become one of the top teams in the National Hockey League as they have enjoyed some deep runs in the postseason. In 2012, the Rangers made their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1997, but there they would meet an old nemesis in the New Jersey Devils who proved to be too much for the Blueshirts to overcome. Last year the Rangers made their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since winning it all in 1994. But there the Rangers met a Los Angeles Kings squad that was a team of destiny and they succumb to them in five games. This season was the second one for the Rangers under head coach Alain Vigneault and they felt that this was going to be their year.

After a slow start to the season, the Rangers caught fire down the stretch of the regular season and they earned the Presidents’ Trophy for just the third time in franchise history. And in order for the Rangers to get back to the Stanley Cup Final for a second consecutive year, they knew that they were going to have to go through some of the game’s best scorers. In the first round of the playoffs, it was all hands of deck defensively for the Rangers as they faced the Pittsburgh Penguins and their center Sidney Crosby. But the Rangers were up for the challenge as they got past the Penguins in five games. In the second round, the Rangers had to overcome a 3-1 deficit in their series with the Washington Capitals and their star left winger Alex Ovechkin, but the Blueshirts would prevail in seven games. In the Eastern Conference Finals. the Rangers knew that they would have to contend with Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos. But unlike the Pens and Caps as far as Crosby and Ovechkin respectively, Stamkos had plenty of help around him which meant that the Rangers defense could not completely zero in on him as the Lightning and Blueshirts counter punched in a grueling seven-game series.

http://dqmt5fo24ucpe.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/30041312/handshakes-FB.jpgMadison Square Garden in New York City has proven to be tough on Rangers opponents in Game 7 situations, but when the Lightning won their this past Friday night, it marked the third time in the series that Tampa Bay was victorious at the famous venue. And with that the Lightning added to the angst of the Rangers.

The Rangers pride themselves as a mentally tough hockey team. But toughness alone couldn’t get it done in this series as the Lightning have incredible team speed which was tough for the Rangers all series long. And just as New York torched Tampa Bay for 7 goals in Game 6, they were shutout by Lightning goalie Ben Bishop in Game 7. As always the Rangers rely on goalie Henrik Lundqvist to bail them out of any situation and even he cannot do it all as he is not a goal scorer. But aside from losing Game 7, the Rangers lost something else which is time.

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Henrik Lundqvist

The Rangers still have a solid core on their club which is led by Lundqvist, but in the world of sports you can never take something for granted as title windows can close rather quickly. With the NHL’s salary cap expected to climb next season, New York is in good shape as they have their key players under contract being that Rangers general manager Glen Sather has done a good job in managing the team’s payroll while giving them flexibility going forward. But unfortunately for the Rangers and the folks at MSG, the off-season got started a little quicker than they anticipated.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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