(Editor’s Note: In our Playoff Preview edition of the THN magazine, we asked the question, “Who Would You Take” if you were a GM and were building a team from scratch to win in the playoffs? Most said Sidney Crosby, but three THN writers had another opinion. Below you’ll read why Ryan Kennedy would build his team around Drew Doughty. Also check out Rory Boylen’s column on Steve Stamkos and Adam Proteau’s on Jonathan Toews)
In a very short period of time, Drew Doughty has become one of the best and most well-rounded defensemen in the world. Never mind the fact he was Canada’s best player at the Sochi Olympics, never mind the fact he has a Stanley Cup championship ring and another gold medal from 2010 to go along with that triumph, just look at the visceral evidence.
For example, ask Washington Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom how he felt when his 6-foot-1, 213-pound frame was hoisted into the air by a Doughty hit in a recent tilt, then unceremoniously dropped from a fair height. Simply put, the Los Angeles Kings’ blueliner can hurt the opposition in every manner possible and that’s why I would want him as the headline player on my team if I were shooting for a title.
At just 24, Doughty has already racked up an array of championships that has him looking like a nastier version of Scott Niedermayer, who is now employed just down the road in Anaheim. The fact Doughty played for a mediocre Guelph team in junior means he’ll never have the Memorial Cup Niedermayer earned in Kamloops, but the young Kings star did get his World Junior Championship gold medal in 2008 and it’s only a matter of time before Doughty’s name is etched into the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Read more
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
In an odd quirk of the schedule, this weekend’s games didn’t mean much for the playoff race. Every post-season team was already determined by the end of Friday, meaning all that remained this weekend was to figure out matchups and the President’s Trophy winner.
So with the battle for the Stanley Cup on pause, many teams chose to make it a weekend full of career firsts – and career lasts.
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.
Montreal’s Daniel Clarke Bouchard, a 14-year-old piano sensation, made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show Tuesday and, of course, she had to ask the young Canadian about hockey.
Turns out, Bouchard is a big-time Los Angeles Kings fan and especially of goalie Jonathan Quick. So, after Bouchard’s impressive playing performance on the show, Ellen surprised him, as she is known to do. Read more
For 14 NHL teams, next year begins now. In a little over a week, fans of the NHL’s non-playoff teams will eagerly look to the future as the league runs its draft lottery to determine the owner of this summer’s first overall draft pick. This year, unlike years past, all 14 teams will have a shot at that top slot, meaning the league’s worst franchise has a better chance to lose the lottery, too.
But despair not, Buffalo Sabres fans: as one look around the league shows, second place isn’t so bad.
This list of active second overall picks is hardly second-rate.
When The Hockey News editorial staff convened last summer to put together our annual Yearbook, there was no consensus when we were hashing out our collective pick to win the Stanley Cup this season. It was like any group of hockey observers, really. Some liked Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins; others picked the Bruins, the Kings or the Rangers.
We wound up settling on the Blues – and with St. Louis tied with Boston for the NHL’s best regular-season record right now, we’re feeling good as a group about that – but that team wasn’t my personal selection. I went with a franchise that not long ago was the darling of hockey pundits everywhere: the San Jose Sharks.
And you know what? I feel better about that pick today than I did when I first made it. It’s fair to question this group’s ability to get over the hump after so many years of disappointment, but it’s also entirely possible they finally take that next step this spring.
Like all teams, the Sharks have struggled at different points in the season. But in the NHL’s new playoff format that emphasizes divisional play, they’re better than solid: only the Ducks have a better record within the division (19-3-3) than San Jose (17-6-3) – and two of Anaheim’s three regulation time divisional losses came against the Sharks.
Meanwhile, as they proved in a 2-1 win Thursday, the Sharks also match up very well against the Kings – especially if star defenseman Drew Doughty is sidelined for any significant stretch of playoff time. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic won’t win the Norris Trophy this season, but he’s been quietly spectacular for them and their overall blueline group makes goalie Antti Niemi’s job a lot easier. As well, San Jose is the NHL’s most dominant playoff team (53 percent efficiency), something that will take on more importance when the post-season begins.
But here’s why I’ve always liked the Sharks this year: an air of desperation, at least for stars such as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, is beginning to loom large over the organization. Read more