College hockey’s Frozen Four kicks off this week with 16 teams gunning for a spot in Boston, where the semifinal and final will be held in April. Regionals spread the squads across four cities and there is a lot of firepower at this year’s installment. But who are the players to watch for? Here’s a primer for every school, with an admitted bias towards NHL prospects.
Last season, the No. 1 spot on the Norris Trophy ballot I had the privilege of submitting belonged to Boston’s Zdeno Chara. But at the end of the breakdown of my vote for the Norris, I said “One of these years, though, Weber has to be the recipient”.
This is the year it ought to happen. And as it stands, I’m giving my first-place Norris vote this season to Predators captain Shea Weber. There are good cases to be made for more than a few blueliners (including Chicago’s Duncan Keith, L.A.’s Drew Doughty, Montreal’s P.K. Subban and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson), but it’s about time the hockey world acknowledged Weber’s unique skill set.
Weber certainly isn’t having a career year on offense (that came last season with his 23-goal, 56-point campaign), but he’s in the top 10 among NHL defensemen in scoring in 2014-15 with 15 goals and 45 points. With an average ice time of 26:24, he’s nearly three full minutes behind Doughty (29:17) and slightly behind Preds defensive partner Roman Josi (26:28). But if you’re basing your vote strictly based on points or time on ice leaders, you’re voting wrong. The Norris goes to the blueliner deemed to have displayed the greatest all-around ability, not the one who makes the most highlight reels. And Weber’s multitude of abilities make him capable of hurting you physically, in any zone, and have a direct effect on the scoreboard at both ends of the playing surface. Read more
Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos doesn’t fight often, but when he does – well, as he showed Sunday in a brief, Greco-Roman wrestling-like encounter with Boston winger Brad Marchand, the Bolts’ captain still doesn’t throw a lot of punches.
The host Lightning were tied 1-1 with Boston midway through the first period Sunday when, after bumping into each other in the Bruins zone, Marchand and Stamkos both dropped their gloves and made a priority out of going after each other. But be warned: if you’re hoping for machine-gun fisticuffs from watching the following video (via SportsnetCanada) of the run-in, you’re going to come away disappointed: Read more
The wild-card race in the Eastern Conference is about as tight things can get. In Saturday night’s matchup between Boston and Florida, Tuukka Rask made a game-saving stop on Dave Bolland to keep the Bruins ahead of the hard-charging Panthers.
With little more than five minutes remaining in the third, Bolland snuck towards the side of the Bruins’ net and the puck ended up right on his tape. With Rask entirely out of position, he reached back, put his paddle down and stopped a Bolland shot for a game — and possibly season — saving save: Read more
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is having a year for the history books. Almost singlehandedly, with unthinkable saves and stellar play, he’s guiding Montreal to the playoffs.
For his efforts, there’s talk of Price not only taking home the Vezina Trophy as the season’s best goaltender, but the potential for him to earn the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. That Price is being recognized for what he has done this season is only right – if Montreal makes it deep into the playoffs, it might be one of the greatest goaltending seasons in modern hockey history.
But for every Carey Price, there’s a role player who has done their part to perfection, making the difference that doesn’t necessarily show up on the score sheet, but translates to victories in the long run. These are the NHL’s unsung heroes, and here are the top five this season: Read more
Is there any better story right now than the hard-charging Ottawa Senators? A playoff afterthought as recently as early February, the Sens are riding the popularity and success of first-year goalie Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond, winning games and, after Thursday’s thrilling 6-4 win over the Bruins, pulled within two points of Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference – all with ailing GM Bryan Murray looking on and serving as an inspiration.
Heck, things are going so well for Ottawa (which has won five in a row and eight of their past nine) right now, Senators rookie Curtis Lazar decided to try his luck with one of the hamburgers fans were throwing onto the ice by the dozen after the game had ended:
Why does college basketball get to have all the fun?
There’s something magical about the first four days of the NCAA tournament every year. Are you one of the people who enjoy the rounds of 64 and 32 more than the rest of the bracket and gradually tune in less and less, almost forgetting to watch the national title game? There’s a reason for that. The earlier rounds produce the upsets, the Cinderella stories that steal our hearts.
The home stretch of the NHL season has produced a few exciting Little Teams That Could, too. Which have the best potential to pull insane upsets come April, should they squeak into the bracket? A few come to mind immediately, one of which makes analytics advocates wet themselves, another of which is out to steal your Royale With Cheese.
Tampa Bay Lightning superstar center Steven Stamkos has amazed hockey fans the world over because of what he can do with a hockey stick. But in Thursday night’s game against Boston, Stamkos did something he’d never done before: got himself tossed out of the game after he broke his stick and inadvertently threw it into the stands.
The Bolts and Bruins were in overtime at Boston’s TD Garden when Stamkos connected on a slap shot that missed the Bruins net and also snapped his stick. The Bolts’ captain flipped the stick behind his back as he skated back to the bench, but did so with too much force and sent it over the glass: Read more