Bruins, Avs dominate my NHL Awards picks

Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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

How early should you pull your goalie? Patrick Roy’s gamble paid off, with a little luck

Colorado Avalanche

How early should you pull your goalie?

Almost every coach does it with about one minute left in a one-goal game, and maybe around 1:30 in a two-goal deficit. But not Patrick Roy.

The Avalanche coach is known as an aggressive individual and his coaching style is the same – he’s been known to pull his goalie earlier than is conventional. Once, when he still coached major junior in the QMJHL, his Quebec Remparts were in a semifinal series against the Shawinigan Cataractes. The series was tied 1-1 and Shawinigan led 3-0 in the third period, when they took two minor penalties less than a minute apart. So, with a 5-on-3 advantage already, Roy decided to go the extra mile and opted to pull his goalie for a 6-on-3 advantage.

There was more than 12 minutes left on the clock.

It didn’t work that time, as Shawinigan scored into the empty net and went on to win the series.

And it didn’t work just last month when Roy pulled Semyon Varlamov with five minutes left of a 2-0 game against Boston. Though the Bruins didn’t score, neither did the Avalanche. No harm, no foul.

It did work in early February against New Jersey, when Roy pulled his goalie with two-and-a-half minutes left in a 1-0 game. They tied it up with less than two minutes left and Ryan O’Reilly buried the overtime winner.

And it worked again in Game 1 of Colorado’s Stanley Cup playoff series against Minnesota. Read more

Stanley Cup playoff preview: Round 1

Stanley Cup

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?


EASTERN CONFERENCE

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

Why your team will not win the 2014 Stanley Cup

Boston Bruins lose Cup

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

Dallas Stars round out this season’s Sweet 16

(Photo by Glenn James/NHL)

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.

Read more

Mike Rupp suspended four games for late, high hit on T.J. Oshie

Rory Boylen
T.J. Oshie

Last night was a great night to be a Minnesota hockey fan. Not only did the Wild’s John Curry, a native of the state who grew up rooting for the North Stars, make 43 saves in his first NHL appearance in four years to knock off the Blues, but the NCAA’s Golden Gophers also advanced to the Frozen Four final on a last-second goal.

The only thing that took away from a great night of Minnesota hockey was Mike Rupp, who hammered St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie with a hit that was obviously in violation of Rule 48 and also ruled to be too late.

As Patrick Burke said in the NHL’s supplemental discipline video: “Rupp hits Oshie at a point where he is no longer eligible to be hit. And in doing so he takes an angle that picks Oshie’s head.” Read more

Ask Adam: Myers to Edmonton?; Vanek re-signing in Montreal?; and Red Wings’ youngsters

Tyler Myers (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Yes, THN’s mailbag is back. What, you were expecting something different, maybe? It’s Friday. This is what happens on Fridays. Prepare yourself accordingly.

Adam, what are the possibilities of the Oilers acquiring Tyler Myers?? I realize you are going to give up a lot to get him, but could a trade similar to the Phil Kessel trade be a good deal?? I know Buffalo is loaded in terms of picks (this year and next), but could they go for a first-round pick in 2015 and a 1st round pick in 2016? I only say this because I would love to see the Oilers’ future with Tyler Myers and (possibly) Aaron Ekblad together, and a supporting cast of Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Martin Marancin. I would also love to see the top six forwards not change. If you were Tim Murray, would you accept my proposal and trade Tyler Myers?
T.J. Zielman, Exeter, Ont.

T.J.,

Not only would I accept your proposal, I’d also jump into your arms and hug you for a long time, because two first-rounders for a blueliner whose stock has fallen as much as Myers’ has since he won the Calder Trophy in 2010 is a major overpayment. First round picks are far too valuable to expend on a player who has regressed and who also comes with a bulky contract that has five years left with an annual salary cap hit of $5.5 million.

Now, Edmonton may have more interest in a Myers deal centered around Sam Gagner, but that’s another story altogether. Murray and coach Ted Nolan might look at Myers – who still is just 24 years old – and decide they’d rather not give up on him just yet, especially if it means taking on Gagner’s $4.8-million salary for the next two seasons when Buffalo is on a long-term rebuild. Further complicating matters is Myers’ limited no-trade clause. So I wouldn’t get overly excited about him joining the Oilers just yet. Read more

Mike Rupp gets match penalty for hit on T.J. Oshie, suspension surely to follow

Rory Boylen
T.J. Oshie

It first looked like Douglas Murray’s hit on Johan Sundstrom was going to be the most controversial of the night, but Mike Rupp went ahead and laid a hit that was clearly much, much worse.

Mid-way through the Blues-Wild game Thursday night, St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie was carrying the puck around the perimeter of Minnesota’s zone when Rupp stepped up and into his head.

This isn’t a question of if there will be a suspension, but for how long it will be. Read more