• Rumor Roundup: Martin Broduer, Brad Richards and Mikhail Grabovski buzz

    (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

    Long-time New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur is leaning toward returning next season, but it remains to be seen if it’ll be with the Devils. Brodeur wouldn’t rule out another season with the Devils, but acknowledged their priority is re-signing Cory Schneider, who supplanted him as Devils starter. Schneider is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2015.

    If the Devils cannot re-sign Schneider to a contract extension this summer, NJ.com’s Randy Miller believes they should trade him and re-sign Brodeur. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch suggests the Pittsburgh Penguins as a destination for Brodeur, in order to mentor Marc-Andre Fleury. Garrioch also notes the New York Islanders need a goalie.

    If Fleury suffers another playoff meltdown, the Penguins could be in the market for a new starting goalie, not a mentor. As for the Islanders, Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports they’ll be in talks with current starter Evgeni Nabokov. He could return in a backup role if they land a younger, experienced starting goalie via trade or free agency this summer.

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  • 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

  • Alex Steen scores in third overtime, but Ryan Miller saves the day

    Alex Steen

    St. Louis’ Alex Steen has had a rewarding season. He set a career high with 33 goals and 62 points in 68 games, gained some traction as a Selke candidate and signed a three-year extension worth north of $17 million. In Game 1 against Chicago, he put another egg in his basket.

    The Blues-Blackhawks series is going to be a brutal one…in a good way. With so many banged up stars and gruff bruisers battling for pride and glory, the immense skill and ruthless carnage mix for a perfect playoff painting. The opening game of this series was physical, full of offensive chances, great saves and was a test of endurance.

    The Blues and Blackhawks were on their way to playing two games Thursday night, but Steen put the game, and everyone watching it, to bed, only 26 seconds into 3OT. Read more

  • Why will the Blues win the Stanley Cup? They’ve learned their lessons

    Ryan Kennedy
    St. Louis Blues

    (Editor’s note: The Blues were our pre-season pick to win the Stanley Cup and when it came time to put together our Playoff Preview edition late in the season, we saw no reason to change. Of course, then they went out and lost six in a row to close the regular season. Are we nervous our Cup pick could go out in the first round? That’s an understatement. But we still believe. And a big part of that belief comes from what Ryan Kennedy explored in his cover story for the Playoff Preview issue: the Blues have learned from their tough lessons. Here is that story.)

    Since his star turn for team USA at the Sochi Olympics, T.J. Oshie hasn’t had much time to soak in life as a real American hero. Along with all the fame he got stateside for his shootout heroics against Russia, he welcomed his first child, Lyla Grace, into the world. “It’s been a little bit of an emotional roller coaster,” he says. “But all for the best, I guess besides leaving the Olympics with nothing to show for it. Having my baby girl was the best moment of my life, hands down.”

    In the professional arena, there is one thing that could come close, of course: finally bringing a Stanley Cup to St. Louis, the only still-functioning franchise from the 1967 expansion cohort yet to win the title.

    The St. Louis Blues played for the Cup in their first three years of existence thanks to an unbalanced NHL that had the expansion teams in one division and the Original Six in another. Despite the presence of future Hall of Famers such as Glenn Hall, Doug Harvey and Jacques Plante, the Blues were bludgeoned all three times, winning zero games in sweeps to Montreal (twice) and Boston. As the years went on, no manner of star power could get the team back to the final, and that includes vaunted names such as Brett Hull, Al MacInnis and even Wayne Gretzky.

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  • World’s largest minor hockey league takes on hitting, finances

    Ken Campbell
    bodychecking photo

    The biggest minor hockey league in the world will likely begin to progressively eliminate bodychecking at all age levels of its lowest elite age group by the 2015-16 season. All of which means players who play at the ‘A’ level of the Greater Toronto Hockey League will be able to play a reasonably high level of competitive hockey without worrying about body contact.

    The GTHL recently conducted an expansive survey on the matter asking players, coaches and officials whether they wanted bodychecking removed from all age levels of ‘A’ hockey and 64.3 percent of the 4,000 who responded said they want it removed. Currently, there is no bodychecking in any competitive bracket of any age level from peewee (12 years old) and below anywhere in Canada. The GTHL move would eliminate body contact at all age levels for the ‘A’ bracket, but bodychecking would continue at the more competitive ‘AA’ and ‘AAA’ levels. Read more

  • The Phoenix Coyotes win the 2014 Stanley Cup…of Hope

    (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport)

    Here’s an easy way for the NHL to make even more money: hold a post-season tournament for all non-playoff teams to determine the Stanley Cup of Hope.

    The inspiration for the idea comes from the Kontinental League, which started the Nadezhda Cup (a.k.a. Cup of Hope) last season for teams that missed the playoffs. The, er, “winner” takes home around $600,000 and gets a top pick in the KHL draft.

    It’s an out-there idea, for sure, and I’m not necessarily endorsing it, but let’s indulge it for a moment.

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