Bryan Mcwilliam is a a freelance sports journalist and editor who currently writes and edits for The Hockey News. He interned at THN in the summer of 2012 and was a big fan of the Calgary Flames run to the Stanley Cup in 1989. The Toronto, Ont., native enjoys contact sports, eating everything in sight and his favorite film is Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Grit and sandpaper go a long way come playoff time in the NHL. Toughness is an essential factor in teams making Stanley Cup runs and when a hard-nosed player liked David Backes goes down, the results can change, as is certainly apparent in the St. Louis and Chicago series.
Below are the top five tough guys (we’re talking effective tough guys who can also put points on the board, not pure goons) who’ve laid some of their claim to fame in the most essential of games by laying some smack down.
5. Ken Linseman
Linseman did some major damage for the Bruins in 1987-88 when he recorded 25 points in 23 games, but he also knew how to throw his weight around, earning 56 penalty minutes that same year. He was a major factor in the Bruins making the Stanley Cup final that season and was also a key contributor in the Flyers’ playoff runs of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The Kingston, On., native was a scrappy 175 pound bulldog, which is why he’s still beloved by Bruins and Flyers’ fans to this day.
Sunday night was not a good one for the Chicago Blackhawks as they were defeated 4-1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The loss was the third straight for a Chicago team that is 4-5-1 in their last ten.
The Hawks not only lost the game, but captain Jonathan Toews was forced to leave the contest with an upper-body injury thanks to this big hit from Brooks Orpik.
The NHL playoffs are inching closer and closer and there are sure to be some emotional moments, some of which may even involve tears.
But, it’s doubtful that they will emulate a tearjerking response as quickly as U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant John Edwards did when he surprised his family at a recent Carolina Hurricanes home game.
The gesture was an amazing one from the Hurricanes to offer a soldier and his family. The more you watch this video and see the eyes of his youngest son tear up while his father raises him into his arms, the more you begin to understand how special it was for the family to see their dad.
Solid props have to be given to the Carolina home crowd, who not only reacted with cheers and tears of joy for the family, but also started an incredibly loud USA chant, which got the arena lively.
Steven Stamkos knows how to put the puck in the net and he’s been doing just that since returning to the Lightning line-up after missing most of the season with a broken right leg, but now he’s gone too far.
On Saturday, Stamkos scored in both nets. It all started with the miscue below that gave the opposing Buffalo Sabres a 3-2 lead:
Luckily for Stamkos, the error didn’t cost his team the game, as Ryan Callahan tied it at three in the third. Stamkos would make up for the earlier blunder by ripping a laser beam passed Matt Hackett to win it for the Lightning in overtime.
The Boston Bruins clinched the Atlantic Division title on Saturday with a 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals. The win was the 51st for the Beantowners, who also sit atop the Eastern Conference with 108 points. In their last ten games, the Bruins are 9-0-1 and the team has performed well both at home (29-7-3) and on the road (22-10-3) throughout the entire season.
To say the black and gold are the most dangerous Eastern Conference team entering the playoffs would be spot on.
The team is deep at all positions and spread the wealth around offensively. They have nine players with more than ten goals and 20 assists. They also possess one of the top netminders in the game in Tuukka Rask and their team chemistry is some of the best in the NHL. Watching them put away a scrappy Capitals team – who is battling for the last playoff spot in the East – with ease on Saturday was impressive and it just seemed so easy.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are making hometown fans grumble as they slide further and further out of playoff contention. Last night marked their seventh straight loss when the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Buds 4-2.
The loss didn’t stop James van Riemsdyk from tying an NHL record for the fastest goal to start a period against his former team though. Check out this lightning quick goal from JVR.
The Leafs host the Detroit Red Wings at the Air Canada Centre tonight as they look to keep their playoff chances alive and rid themselves of this horrible losing streak.
The unsuspecting, the team that came out of nowhere, the underdog. Sports fans have witnessed miraculous runs by underdogs on so many occasions. A prime example is the NCAA March Madness, where brackets are busted (oh hey there Dayton) and game-winning three balls that you can only dream of come to fruition. The NHL is no different with its underdog stories.
Just two seasons ago, the Los Angeles Kings looked like a team that was in line to miss the playoffs, but a coaching switch and the acquisition of Jeff Carter helped them squeak into the postseason as the No.8 seed. The team got hot and rode the goaltending of Jonathan Quick to the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s history.
The Western Conference has been far superior to its Eastern brothers this season from a points perspective. With the exceptions of the Boston Bruins (95 points) and Pittsburgh Penguins (92 points), an Eastern team has not eclipsed 90 points on the season yet.
The top five teams in the West are all in the 90 point range. They’re currently the St. Louis Blues (99 points), who are THN’s pick to win it all this season, the Anaheim Ducks (97 points), the San Jose Sharks (97 points), the Colorado Avalanche (93 points) and the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks (92 points).