Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.
PITTSBURGH – Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks waited 1,576 regular season and playoff games to play in his first Stanley Cup final game and he doesn’t think he should have to wait any time to play his second. He likely won’t.
Expect the NHL to take a long, hard look at his hit on Bryan Rust of the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the third period of Game 1, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the NHL to impose any supplementary discipline. Marleau took a minor for an illegal check to the head when he caught Rust in open ice. Rust went to the Quiet Room and was cleared to come back to the game, but played just one shift before calling it a night.
PITTSBURGH – Those of you out there expecting the San Jose Sharks to curl up into the fetal position and roll over because they lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final may be a little disappointed. Because as they’ve proved through the first three rounds of the playoffs, these are not your father’s San Jose Sharks.
There were not a lot of long faces in the Sharks room – unless you measure it by the length of their beards – despite the fact they dropped Game 1 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins because of a bad start and an unfortunate finish. Expect the Sharks to come back strongly in Game 2, the same way they did in the Western Conference final after losing Game 1 to the St. Louis Blues.
PITTSBURGH – The time is nigh, which means there won’t be too many more sleeps before we find out whether the NHL will expand to Sin City or Quebec City, or both, or neither, in time for the 2017-18 season.
In his pre-Stanley Cup final state of the union address, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he expects the executive committee will make an expansion recommendation to the board of governors at least a week before it meets June 22. That takes us likely to June 15. Neither Bettman nor deputy commissioner Bill Daly would say when the executive committee will meet to decide expansion, but said it will be held in early June. There is speculation that meeting could take place as early as next week.
Bettman said there will be one of three scenarios by June 22 – no expansion, expansion to one of the two cities or expansion deferred to a later time. “I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen,” Bettman said, “but when the board meets in Las Vegas on June 22, I am fairly certain that we will know more than we do today.”
PITTSBURGH – Whether or not the NHL continues to participate in the Winter Olympics will come down to dollars, “many, many, many millions of dollars,” according to NHL commission Gary Bettman. When the most powerful man in hockey uses the word “many” three times, you know it’s a significant chunk of change.
In his annual state of the union address preceding the Stanley Cup final, Bettman said the International Olympic Committee’s and International Ice Hockey Federation’s decision to not pay the league’s biggest expenses – contract insurance, travel and accommodations for player’s families – is an “easy showstopper”.
PITTSBURGH – It’s become fairly commonplace for San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to be staring into the eyes of the best players in the world. And after getting a steady diet of Vladimir Tarasenko in the Western Conference final, Vlasic is preparing to renew a battle with Sidney Crosby that dates back more than a decade to their days in the Quebec League.
When the puck drops for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final tonight, expect to see an awful lot of Vlasic on the ice at the same time as Crosby. It will be more difficult for the Sharks to get the matchups they want in the first two games, but not impossible. And Vlasic is ready to see a lot of No. 87 for the Pittsburgh Penguins over the next couple of weeks.
PITTSBURGH – There’s a lot you’re not going to find when it comes to the two starting goaltenders in this Stanley Cup final. The first is body fat. Both Matt Murray and Martin Jones can give Ryan Miller a run for his money in the skinny-as-a-rail sweepstakes. Another is bravado. Not a lot of boasting with these fellows. But the most prominent thing missing from this duo is experience.
Going into the playoffs this spring, Jones and Murray had a combined 112 games of NHL experience, with the vast majority of that (99 games) going to Jones. You have to go back 30 years to find two Stanley Cup final starters with less combined experience than these two guys. Back in the 1986 final, Patrick Roy led the Montreal Canadiens to the Cup after just 48 games of NHL work and faced Mike Vernon in the final, who had played just 21 games for the Calgary Flames prior to the playoffs that year.
Now that the rosters for the World Cash Grab of Hockey™ have been finalized, we can now set about to devoting our energies to predicting everything that’s going to happen. After all, the tournament is only four months away and time is of the essence.
With that said, here’s our stab at World Cup of Hockey Power Rankings. Remember, these are Power Rankings and have no bearing on how a team will finish, so stop it with the hate mail and nasty tweets just because your team didn’t do well in this little exercise. That goes double for all you Team Europe fans out there, all three of you.
So just how good is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft, Auston Matthews? Well, he’s so good that apparently he can skate uphill.
When Peter Chiarelli and Stan Bowman, the two men most responsible for putting the North American roster for the World Cup of Hockey together, announced their initial selections for the 23-and-under team less than three months ago, Chiarelli declared that Matthews had an “uphill road” in his attempts to be on the roster. But with an impressive World Championship to his credit where he was one of the best players in the tournament, Matthews bucked the odds and will find himself part of what will easily be the most intriguing team in the tournament.