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.
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
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:
Welcome to the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs and the beginning of a new format. No longer will teams be seeded from 1-8 in their conference, but instead will have to play out of their division first. Teams are no longer re-seeded after the opening round and will face the other winner in their division in the second round.
THN gets you prepared for the action, which will start Wednesday, April 12. Below is our introduction to each series, insider analysis from CBC’s Kevin Weekes and TSN’s Jeff O’Neill, and THN’s prediction.
And be sure to vote on our poll: Who do you think will win the 2014 Stanley Cup?
BOSTON BRUINS vs. DETROIT RED WINGS
Introduction: A classic Original Six matchup welcomes the Detroit Red Wings to the East side of the playoff bracket and it won’t be a warm reception. The Bruins are the most complete team in the East and asserted their dominance by going through the East with a 12-4 record last playoff season. But the Wings are also an unfortunate draw for Boston. If any team, no matter its drawbacks, is capable of a shocking upset, it’s the experienced Red Wings machine. Just last season, Detroit upset Anaheim in the first round and took Chicago all the way to Game 7. This season, Gustav Nyquist should be even better for them. Read more
Just like the start of the regular season, any fan with a horse in the race starts the NHL playoffs with a giddy optimism. Even if you don’t believe your team will win it all, you’re surely thinking they can pull off an upset or two.
Well, sorry to break it to you, but you’re wrong. Your team isn’t as good or as complete as you believe it to be. They will not win the Stanley Cup.
And here’s why your favorite team will come up empty this spring:
Anaheim: Because the stats community says you’re doomed to fail. Your team’s 49.8 percent Corsi percentage is second-worst among Western playoff teams, which means you don’t possess the puck enough. You were upset last year and it’s going to happen again. Read more
With their 3-0 win over the suddenly slumping St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars are returning to the post-season, having eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes. It’ll be the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2007-08 when ‘Big D’ made it to the Western Conference final before bowing out in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
The 16 playoff teams are now set. All that’s to be decided now is positioning.
For the Stars, they could get any one of the Ducks, Avalanche or Blues in Round 1. They’re 2-1 against Anaheim, 1-3-1 versus Colorado and now 3-1-1 when facing St. Louis. Couple their success in Missouri with the Blues’ five-game losing streak, and the Stars might be hoping for first-round series against the Notes.
As the regular season winds down, so does the career of Ryan Smyth, who announced Friday that he’ll retire after his final game Saturday night in Edmonton against the Vancouver Canucks.
Smyth will leave the NHL the same way he came in: wearing an Edmonton Oilers jersey. As he should. Some in similar shoes hope to have an even better exit – like carrying Stanley out the door – while others will have to settle for less glamorous goodbyes if they leave. At 38, Smyth is the youngest on this list of greybeards who have to decide whether they should stay or go.