The NHL playoffs are famous for their increased physicality, but we’re only three days into the 2014 post-season and the nastiness is already starting to boil over. On Friday night alone, NHLers Jamie Benn and Danny Dekeyser found that out the hard way when both were speared in the groin area by Corey Perry and Milan Lucic respectively.
Lucic attacked the Red Wings defenseman from behind in Detroit’s 1-0 Game One first round win over Boston, jamming his stick into Dekeyser’s lower mid-section. No penalty was called on the play.
The deep dislike the Ducks, Kings and Sharks have for one another is mirrored by the fans in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. We asked bloggers from all three cities to state the hate each fan base has for its California rivals. Much to our delight, none of them played nice.
By Chris Kontos of The Royal Half
DUCKS: According to the Anaheim Ducks Twitter account, a theme for their post-season run this year is #UnfinishedBusiness. I’m not sure what #UnfinishedBusiness they could be referring to…unless they mean being unable to “finish” off the seventh seed last season despite leading the series 3-2. I bet #UnfinishedBusiness refers to the ticket sales department of the Anaheim Ducks. Since they are 21st in attendance, it must be a constant battle to try and get people in Orange County to stop waiting in line for Space Mountain or watching themselves on Bravo and go to a hockey game.
SHARKS: San Jose Sharks fans just love to tell you about how loud their arena is. That it’s the most deafening building in the NHL and provides a distinct home-ice advantage for their team. I guess if I was a hockey fan that was completely insecure about how poor my team did in the playoffs, I’d be boasting about how great the acoustics are in my building as well. And it’s true…the acoustics at the SAP Center are amazing. Each time the Sharks are eliminated in the post-season you can easily hear the tears of the fans drop to the ground!
Once again, I’m privileged enough to receive a ballot for the NHL’s annual individual player awards. It’s a huge honor for any hockey journalist and one I think deserves the respect of full transparency to the public. If we’re supposed to represent the fans, we owe it to them to reveal and stand behind our choices – choices I make after numerous discussions with NHL executives and players.
So here are my picks, along with some brief thoughts on why I chose the players I did for the five awards. You probably won’t agree with all of them, but the last thing these honors are about is pure consensus.
HART TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”) — Five selections.
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
The Rationale: As I’ve noted in the past, I’ve come to see the Hart as a most valuable player award, if only because the concept of “value” is so nebulous. But certainly, Crosby’s value to the Penguins – especially during Pittsburgh’s injury-plagued season – cannot be questioned. Nor can his status as the game’s best all-around individual force. Getzlaf was a very close second, while Giroux got the nod over Bergeron because he was the catalyst in Philadelphia’s remarkable season-saving turnaround. Read more
A few thoughts after Night 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…
• Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson is a polarizing player.
On the one hand, he’s an offensive defenseman who is capable of hitting or approaching 40-point seasons. He led the Blue Jackets with 24:40 of average ice time this season, which is actually more than a minute less than he was pulling in a season ago. He’s a guy the emerging Blue Jackets lean on, even though he’s their third-highest paid defenseman at $4.357 million against the cap through 2017-18.
On the other, he can be a liability at times. His negative Corsi for relative percentage this season was worse than every Blue Jackets defenseman and second-worst to only R.J. Umberger on the team. The volatility in his game, especially this season, was a reason why he wasn’t included on Team USA’s Olympic roster this time around.
But Johnson is a competitor. And when it comes to the playoffs, he’s a scorer. Read more
Ryan Getzlaf’s puck-in-the-puss last night wasn’t your classic shot block, but it has started to stir the age-old debate: is it a good idea for players to throw themselves in front of cannonading vulcanized rubber?
The issue is multi-pronged.
For starters, does it help the cause? The recent data says not necessarily and certainly not always. Take last night’s games. The Ducks topped the six teams who played, with an eye-popping 28 blocks, and held off a Dallas rally. The next three in terms of number of blocks – Columbus, Tampa and the Stars – each lost.
That small sample size mirrors the final tallies from the 2013 playoffs. None of the top five teams in shot blocks per game made it out of the second round. The champion Chicago Blackhawks ranked 12th in blocks per playoff game among the 16 participants.
The Anaheim Ducks had the best record in the Western Conference and the best offense in the NHL this season, so how can an underdog beat such a machine in a seven-game series?
Well, you can start by knocking down one of their pillars.
With 16 seconds left in Anaheim’s Game 1 win, Dallas’ Tyler Seguin one-timed a bouncing puck from the blueline that he lost control of (or did he? muahaha). Standing in front of him was 6-foot-4, 221-pound Ryan Getzlaf, who took said puck square to the mouth. Read more
As I posted on Twitter Monday, I’m picking two series sweeps in Round 1. But there’s a chance two more go the minimum.
Sweeps are killjoys, though, so let’s hope for longer, and therefore much more exciting, series. But the possibility remains that at least one team, or more, will be on the links within a week.
Here are the most likely series sweeps in Round 1:
Florida won the draft lottery last night, meaning the Panthers get the first crack at an interesting field with a lot of variation in it. A lot goes into a draft list and the final results are always thrown into chaos by trades and reaches. As the draft gets closer and teams decide who they like the most, I’ll get a more accurate picture of how things might shake down. But for now, here’s a quick-and-dirty look at what could happen come draft day in Philadelphia, based on the teams’ current situation.
1. Florida – Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts, D
Yeah, yeah, defensemen never go first overall anymore (Erik Johnson was the last in 2006), but the Cats are loaded up front with Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau. Their best ‘D’ prospects are still in college, whereas Ekblad can step in right away and play a top-four role.