Islanders to close out final regular season at Nassau Coliseum in throwback style

Jared Clinton
Islanders Logo (via sportslogos.net)

On Oct. 7, 1972, the New York Islanders took to the ice at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the first time in history. And come April 11, the Islanders will play the last ever regular season game in that very same building. To commemorate the 43-year history of the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, the team will don special throwback jerseys paying tribute to their inaugural season.

The throwback jerseys are nearly exact replicas of the threads worn by the expansion Islanders in 1972-73, except for one notable difference: the name bar. In New York’s first season, the jerseys were without player names on the back, but the Islanders will be wearing names on the backs of their sweaters for their season-ending tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can check the jerseys out below: Read more

For the first time in years, are the Pittsburgh Penguins actually – gasp – playoff underdogs?

Evgeni Malkin (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Hockey News this week revealed its collective pre-playoff pick to win the 2014-15 Stanley Cup (hint: team name rhymes with Grandpa Jay Whitening), but as an individual who was part of that process, I can tell you I wasn’t leading the charge for the team we selected (hint: my pick rhymes with…uh, to hell with it – I picked the Blackhawks). That said, I think this season’s playoffs will be like those that have preceded it in the salary cap era in that you can make excellent arguments for about two handfuls of teams, assuming each benefits from good health and solid chemistry at the right time of the year.

And that said, I think this post-season is particularly fascinating, because it’s the first playoffs in a long time in which the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming in as underdogs – or at least, as much of an underdog that any team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on it can be. Read more

Why goaltending and defense will make or break the Islanders’ post-season

Jared Clinton
The New York Islanders celebrate a victory over the Detroit Red Wings (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The rise of the New York Islanders this season has been one of the league’s great stories. In their final year at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders have recaptured the spirit of Long Island’s once great teams. Sadly, however, there might be a fatal flaw standing between the Islanders and playoff glory: goaltending.

You see, for much of the season, while the talk has been about how GM Garth Snow has reshaped the roster and turned the team into a contender in just one short off-season, goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been struggling on a near nightly basis. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth was brought in at the trade deadline from the Buffalo Sabres to help spark the struggling Halak but now, as the playoffs near, the question isn’t how deep the Islanders stars can carry them, it’s whether or not their goaltending can be equal to the task in the post-season. Read more

Top five best-case-scenario first-round NHL playoff matchups

Brian Elliott, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. (Dilip Vishwanat/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the end of the NHL’s regular-season approximately two weeks away, attention has settled on the possible first-round playoff showdowns. Many, if not most of the specific post-season berths won’t be finalized until closer to the final games on Apr. 11, but it’s not too early to start crossing fingers in the hope that some teams will wind up facing particular opponents and provide viewers with maximum entertainment value right out of the gate. Here are the top five best-case scenario first-round matchups this year:

5. Montreal vs. Ottawa. There are a few ways the Senators can take on the Canadiens in the first round, and most of them involve the Habs fending off Tampa Bay to retain top spot in the Atlantic Division, while the Sens hold on to the final wild card berth. Both results are entirely possible, and if it does happen, Canadian TV executives will be shimmying down the avenue as they celebrate the massive ratings that are sure to ensue. Read more

Thomas Vanek says Isles’ move to Brooklyn was factor in his departure; Isles fans should thank him

Adam Proteau
Thomas Vanek (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

In a new interview with NHL.com, Wild winger Thomas Vanek says the New York Islanders’ pending move to Brooklyn played a part in his decision to leave that franchise as an unrestricted free agent and sign with Minnesota.

“It was close in February [2014] and I thought about it long and hard,” Vanek said. “There was two factors; I made a choice that I really wanted to go to free agency. But after being here for a while I loved it here. The one thing I didn’t like was the move to Brooklyn. I think if the rink would have been built here, it should be here on the island. There was probably a good chance I still would be here.”

There are Islanders fans who no doubt read those words and began stretching their hate muscles in preparation for booing Vanek at Nassau Coliseum when the Wild come to visit. But given the way things have turned out, that’s the wrong approach. Isles fans should be thankful the team moved to Brooklyn, because if Vanek had stuck around and accepted the reported seven-year, $49-million contract offer GM Garth Snow put before him last season (before dealing the then-30-year-old to Montreal last March), the organization would have come to rue the decision. Read more

The 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15

Joe Pavelski (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

As much as a story like the resurgent New York Islanders or the Andrew Hammond-led Ottawa Senators pleases us, there will always be teams or players that fail to meet expectations.

Be it simply a down year or a minor – or major, when it comes to a team – injury, no NHL season goes by without teams and players facing their fair share of difficulties. If they respond positively, they’re heralded for their efforts. But, if things go sideways in a hurry, we’re left wondering how exactly our predictions could have been so wrong.

And these are the predictions that were the farthest off — the teams and players still making us wonder how prognostications could have been so misguided. These are the 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15:

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NCAA Frozen Four: Players to watch from every team in the tournament

Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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.

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