Since arriving from Calgary in a trade two years ago, Rene Bourque hasn’t lived up to expectations as a member of the Canadiens. But in Game Two of Montreal’s first-round series against Tampa Bay, he scored a nifty little goal that stood up as the game-winner in the Habs’ 4-1 win over the Lightning.
Halfway through the first period, Bourque split Tampa Bay’s defense and delicately pushed the puck to the outside of netminder Anders Lindback for the Canadiens’ second goal of the night. The 32-year-old winger – who added a second goal against Tampa late in the third period of Game Two – had just nine goals and 16 points in 63 games with Montreal this season, but he did have a pair of goals and three points in five post-season games with the Habs last year. He’s matched that goal total in just two playoff games this year and if he can continue producing, star goalie Carey Price will have a lot more room to breathe.
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
A few thoughts after Night 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…
• Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson is a polarizing player.
On the one hand, he’s an offensive defenseman who is capable of hitting or approaching 40-point seasons. He led the Blue Jackets with 24:40 of average ice time this season, which is actually more than a minute less than he was pulling in a season ago. He’s a guy the emerging Blue Jackets lean on, even though he’s their third-highest paid defenseman at $4.357 million against the cap through 2017-18.
On the other, he can be a liability at times. His negative Corsi for relative percentage this season was worse than every Blue Jackets defenseman and second-worst to only R.J. Umberger on the team. The volatility in his game, especially this season, was a reason why he wasn’t included on Team USA’s Olympic roster this time around.
But Johnson is a competitor. And when it comes to the playoffs, he’s a scorer. Read more
It was a back-and-forth Game 1 between Tampa Bay and Montreal Wednesday night – and an up and down game for the Canadiens’ Dale Weise.
First, he put himself on the low-light reel with this hit-and-miss bodycheck on Lightning rookie Cedric Paquette. (And actually, the most eye-popping part of this video is how close Weise’s skate comes to J.T. Brown’s face.)
(That gif is courtesy @PeteBlackburn who, if you’re not yet following, you should)
But later on, he went and totally redeemed himself. Read more
(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 Rory Boylen would build his team around Steve Stamkos. Also check out Adam Proteau’s column on Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kennedy’s on Drew Doughty)
So we’ve been tasked to choose one player to start building a playoff team around and the obvious names of Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews of course were quickly scooped up. But given Crosby’s past concussion issues, which could come up again without notice, and the fact Toews isn’t the supreme scorer on his team, there is reason to choose someone else first overall.
My preference is 24-year-old super sniper Steven Stamkos, even though he’s only been to the post-season once. That’s not a knock on him – Tampa Bay has had blueline and goalie issues through most of his career.
Stamkos is the most complete, elite goal-scorer in the NHL today and he’s kept up a torrid pace after 2013 Art Ross winner Martin St-Louis was traded to New York at the deadline. If it wasn’t for an unfortunate accident that broke his leg, Stamkos would have played a front-and-center role for Canada at the Olympics. He was considered as much a lock as Crosby and Toews were. 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
Ryan Malone of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been arrested on charges of cocaine possession and driving under the influence.
Malone was arrested early Saturday morning in Tampa, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times from beat writer Damian Cristodero.
“We are aware of the situation concerning Ryan Malone this morning,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement. “Ryan will not travel with the team to Washington today, but beyond that we cannot comment further at this time.”
The 34-year-old power forward has one more season remaining on a contract that will pay him $2.5 million next year.
Malone has struggled this season with just five goals and 15 points through 57 games.
He was being held on $2,500 bond, according to the report.