Derek Stepan had 17 goals and 51 points in 82 games this season, but has been shut out through five playoff games. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Author: The Hockey News
By: Mark Malinowski
Apr 22, 2012
Status: New York Rangers center.
Ht: 6-feet Wt: 172 pounds
DOB: June 18, 1990 In: Hastings, Minn.
First Hockey Memory: "I have to go way back...my dad used to work at the hockey rink and when I was really young, we'd all wake up really early and I'd go to the rink before anyone else. Or get there before school. That's probably the earliest memory I have. I wasn't very good back then and I didn't really like it because my feet hurt."
Nicknames: "Pretty much ‘Steps.’"
Hockey Inspirations: "My dad played. He's someone I looked up to as a kid. We were always around hockey with our family. Everyone in my family is hockey-based now because of it. I would say my dad, my grandparents, my mother, even my sister. I don't want to leave anyone out."
Last Book Read: "Lone Survivor. It's a war book. About a guy that survived something that went wrong. Pretty good book."
Favorite Movies: "I can't even name one. Big comedy guy. I like a bunch of 'em."
First Car: "Was a Honda Accord, '98 (silver)."
Current Car: "2011 Denali (black)."
Greatest Sports Moment: "My short career...I'll probably say...there's too many. There's a couple of nights I can think of. Obviously, my first game was cool. World Junior Championships was really fun to be a part of. Those are some. I don't want to pinpoint one right now."
Most Painful Moment: "Probably the national championship game my sophomore year. Came up a little short. I went into the wall pretty hard. I was out cold for a little bit. That was probably the hardest game to swallow, for sure. It didn't help that I had a headache."
Favorite Uniforms: "I like ours. I like ours a lot actually."
Favorite Arena: "I'm going to say New York. I like Madison Square Garden."
Closest Hockey Friends: "I'd say probably my big buddy Ryan McDonagh on the team here, who I played with in college. He'd be one of the guys way up there. Mats Zuccarello is one of our good buddies too."
Funniest Player(s) Encountered: "Mats Zuccarello. (Why?) He's just a goofball. He's always ready to lighten the mood."
Toughest Competitor Encountered: "Good question. There's so many. I can probably pick out one from each team and I don't want to individually put one. If I were to say someone within the locker room here, I'd say Henrik Lundqvist. Most competitive guy for sure. It's just the way he is. He likes to win. And that's a great thing. He's always competitive, even for bowling or ping pong. (Is he the best at everything?) I'm gonna leave that one blank. I don't want to answer that, I'm gonna get myself in trouble if I say yes or no (smiles)."
Most Memorable Goal: "I don't really have any memorable goals yet. Hopefully there's one to come."
Favorite Sport Outside Hockey: "Another good question. I like tennis now and then. I play a lot of golf, it's not really enjoyable sometimes. But tennis is always fun."
Favorite Players To Watch: "I used to love watching Steve Yzerman. I didn't watch too much NHL hockey growing up, I watched a lot of college hockey. When I did, I watched Detroit."
Last Vacation: "Went to Playa de Carmen with a group of buddies and friends."
Strangest Game: "I had one game in high school where there was so much fog that we had to get on the ice, both teams were skating laps around the rink to try to settle the fog down. Then something else weird happened that game. It was like the rink would not cooperate. The lights went out. Then the glass broke. It was a weird game. And we were in - we were playing in Chicago. Against Team Illinois, we called them. We actually had a bunch of guys suspended, like five or six guys. We had a short bench. There was a bunch of fog, glass broke. Our coach almost went over to fight their coach. That was the weirdest game I've ever been a part of."
Personality Qualities Most Admired: "I like a humble person. Who’s out there to make somebody's day. How about that? How's that for an answer?"
Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky celebrate the Game 2 overtime winner at the 1987 Canada Cup.
Author: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Down Goes Brown: What was the best Game 2 in World Cup history?
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 28, 2016
Five out of seven World/Canada Cups have been best-of-three finals, so let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
Tuesday night's Game 1 of the World Cup final, which saw Team Canada earn a 3-1 win over Team Europe, sets up a do-or-die Game 2 Thursday night. A Canada win would end the tournament, and the trophy will be in the building, unless the league has come to its senses and thrown that ugly thing into a raging bonfire instead.
There have been seven World and Canada Cups in international hockey history, but we didn't get to see a Game 2 in all of those. Twice, in 1981 and 2004, the format called for a one-game final. But it's been best-of-three in the other tournaments, which gives us five Game 2 to work with. So today, let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
As always, this is opinion only, and if you disagree, then you're wrong.
No. 5 – 1984: Canada 6, Sweden 5
The road there: Canada stumbled through the 1984 tournament, going 2-2-1 through the round robin and barely making the playoff round as the fourth seed. But Team Canada earned a trip to the final thanks to an overtime win over the Soviets in the semi-final, and they were facing an upstart Swedish team that had beaten them in their round robin meeting and had just embarrassed the Americans with a 9-2 blowout. The Canadians took the opener by a 5-2 final, but the second game proved closer.
Game 2: The game looked like a laugher early on, with Canada scoring four times in the first seven minutes and adding a fifth before the first period was over. A Paul Coffey goal early in the second made it 6-1, setting the stage for a furious Team Sweden comeback. They scored three unanswered goals to close out the second period, and draw to within 6-5 early in the third. But that was as close as they came, as Canada held on for the win and the series sweep.
The aftermath: This turned out to be the first of three straight Canada Cup wins for Team Canada, and remains the only finals appearance by Team Sweden.
The bottom line: What looked like a laugher wound up being a reasonably entertaining contest. But the game everyone remembers from the 1984 Canada Cup will always be that semi-final thriller with the Soviets.
No. 4 – 1991: Canada 4, USA 2
The road there: Coming on the heels of the 1987 tournament, fans were probably hoping for yet another final between Canada and the Soviets. But with the team in turmoil, partly due to the political situation back home, the Soviets failed to even make the playoff round. That left Canada looking for a new challenger, and the Americans were happy to step in for their first ever Canada Cup final appearance. The two teams met in the round robin, with Canada winning 6-3 to hand the Americans their only loss of the stage, and Canada followed that up with a 4-1 win in the opening game of the final.
Game 2: This game may best be remembered for who wasn't playing. Team Canada captain Wayne Gretzky was knocked out of action in Game 1 on an ugly hit from behind by Gary Suter. The check left Gretzky unable to suit up for Game 2, and contributed to the back problems that slowed him down for much of the early 1990s.
Looking for the sweep, Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Americans clawed back with a pair of second-period goals. But Steve Larmer earned some revenge on Suter by stripping him of the puck during an American powerplay and then scoring on a breakaway for the winning goal.
The bottom line: This game, much like the 1991 tournament itself, was an entertaining one that for some reason isn't all that well remembered by many fans.
No. 3 – 1996: USA 5, Canada 2
The road there: The Americans swept through the round robin with a perfect 3-0-0 record, including an impressive 5-3 win over Canada that featured a wild early brawl. That win earned them a quarter-final bye, and after knocking off the Russians 5-3 in the semis, Team USA came into the final looking like they had a real shot to wrestle the international crown away from Canada. But Steve Yzerman's overtime winner in Game 1 in Philadelphia handed the Americans their first loss of the tournament, and left them needing a pair of wins in Montreal to take the tournament.
Game 2: Team USA jumped out to an early lead, but Canada came back to tie the game before the first intermission. Goals by John Leclair and Brett Hull gave the Americans a 3-1 lead, and Mike Richter stood on his head to keep it that way until a late powerplay goal by Joe Sakic made it 3-2 with five minutes to play. That was as close as they came, and a pair of Team USA empty net goals padded the final score to 5-2.
The aftermath: Team USA completed the comeback in Game 3, winning by another 5-2 score to capture their first (and so far only) best-on-best championship.
The bottom line: Despite the two empty netters making the score more lopsided than the game was, this was a fun matchup that featured lots of star power, some bad blood, and a raucous Montreal crowd. You can watch the highlights here.
No. 2 – 1976: Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 (OT)
The road there: Four years after the legendary Summit Series, the Canada Cup was born in an effort to create the first true international best-on-best tournament. There was no semi-final back then, with the top two teams heading directly to the finals. Canada grabbed one of those spots, finishing first in the round robin with a 4-1-0 record. But while many had expected a Summit Series rematch in the final, the Soviets were edged out of a spot by Czechoslovakia.
The opening game of the final was a blowout, with Canada earning a relatively easy 6-0 win. Game 2 ended up proving to be a bigger challenge.
Game 2: Canada grabbed a 2-0 lead just two minutes in, but Czechoslovakia fought back to tie the game early in the third. A Bobby Clarke goal restored the Canadian lead, but two quick Czechoslovakian goals gave them a 4-3 lead with four minutes to play. Bill Barber tied it with two minutes left, and that set the stage for Darryl Sittler to deliver the first ever Canada Cup with what still stands as one of the most famous goals in the tournament's history.
The aftermath: To this day, Sittler and Team Canada assistant coach Don Cherry are still arguing over who's idea that move was.
The bottom line: You could make a great case for this game being No. 1 on the list. I think it’s a coin flip, but I'll take the game that directly led to one of the greatest moments in hockey history.
1987: Canada 6, Soviet Union 5 (2OT)
The road there: Canada and the Soviets finished in the top two spots in the round robin, then knocked off Czechoslovakia and Sweden, respectively, in the semi-finals to set up the first best-on-best multi-game series between the two rivals since the 1972 Summit Series.
Game 2: With the Soviets looking to clinch their second Canada Cup in three tournaments, the series shifted to Hamilton for the second game. The two teams resumed the all-out offensive pace, with Canada leading 2-1 before the game was even four minutes old. Then it got better.
Canada took a 3-1 lead to the first intermission, but the Soviets tied it in the second before Mario Lemieux quickly restored the lead. The Soviets tied it again early in the third, but Lemieux scored again midway through. That set the stage for a frantic end to regulation that saw Valeri Kamensky score with a minute left to send the game to overtime.
With the trophy on the line, the two teams went back and forth through one scoreless extra period. But midway through the second overtime, Canada finally ended it. Guess who.
The aftermath: This game was so good that the hockey gods decided to re-use the same script for Game 3: A back-and-forth thriller that ends with a 6-5 Canada victory on a Mario Lemieux winner.
The bottom line: The series finale was quite possibly the greatest international game ever played. And it was made possible by this one, which was almost as good. That's enough to earn it the top spot on our list, narrowly ahead of Sittler's fakeout.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
The Predators are primed for a breakthrough but will bad goaltending prevent them from becoming true contenders in the Western Conference?
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN's Prediction: 2nd in Central
Stanley Cup odds: 17-1
Key additions: P.K. Subban, D; Yannick Weber, D
Key departures: Shea Weber, D; Carter Hutton, G
-Will P.K. Subban have a career year? The conditions appear just right for an explosive Subban campaign. He takes his freewheeling, creative scoring talents to coach Peter Laviolette, who favors an aggressive style and encourages his D-men to join the rush. Subban and Roman Josi already look like one of the league’s top tandems on paper.
Subban is smack in the middle of his prime at 27, and he will have plenty to prove after the Montreal Canadiens shipped him away for Shea Weber.
-Can any Predator score goals other than Filip Forsberg? Forsberg tied Jason Arnott’s franchise record with 33 goals last season. It was only Forsberg’s second full NHL campaign, so a leap to 40 goals and true star status is possible if not probable. But will the other Nashville forwards step up?
James Neal can be counted on for 25 or 30 snipes, but the rest of the group is suspect. If only Colin Wilson could score in the regular season like he does in the playoffs, Nashville’s forward corps would look far more dangerous.
-Is Pekka Rinne in decline? Rinne sparkled with a .923 save percentage two seasons ago, but his .908 mark last season placed him 34th in the NHL. Rinne has finished at .910 or lower three times in his past four seasons. That’s not good enough for a goalie making $7 million annually.
Rinne’s been average to below average more often than not of late and found himself benched in favor of Carter Hutton for consecutive games when healthy at one point last year. That had never happened before. Rinne, 33, needs to make a statement in 2016-17.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Nashville Predators made a huge splash in the off-season trading captain Shea Weber for P.K. Subban, and are a serious dark horse contender because of it. Weber is still very good, but Subban is younger, better, and more suited to the Predators up-tempo style.
Subban joins an already elite top-four that includes Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. Nashville’s defense is the best in the league according to Game Score and it’s thanks in large part to the contributions from their top four, three of whom would be No. 1 D-men on any other team.
That defence needs to be strong as the guy they’re protecting has declined tremendously over the last few seasons. In Nashville’s 2015-16 season preview, I wrote that Rinne’s high standing was based mostly on reputation over actual performance as he’d been struggling over the last few seasons. He preceded to turn in an extremely lacklustre campaign with a .908 save percentage that was actually deceiving considering the quality of shots given up.
For all the talk about Nashville’s ascent into the West’s elite and their dark horse status, Rinne is the one thing holding the team back. They’re the 11th best team according to this model, but their skaters are actually sixth best in the league. This is an elite team that’s likely going to be undone in the first or second round by goaltending. With relative unknown Marek Mazanec as the backup, there isn’t much of a safety net behind Rinne either.
That means they’ll need to score some goals, and while they have a few guys who can get the job done, it’s a pretty average forward group overall. Filip Forsberg is a star in the making and should be good for another 30 goal season, while James Neal has the potential to do the same. Ryan Johansen is the No. 1 center that Nashville has searched for their entire existence and should take another step this season. That trio will shoulder most of the offensive burden, especially since there aren’t many other offensive catalysts further down the lineup.
The Predators have a very good team here that’s on the cusp of something great, but they need to figure out a better strategy in goal because pretending Rinne is still 27 likely won’t pan out.
Devils ink Quincey to one-year deal, shore up blueline ahead of season
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 28, 2016
Kyle Quincey was left waiting until the final few weeks before the regular season, but he’s landed himself another NHL deal. The veteran rearguard took a big pay cut to land with the Devils, though.
The Devils had no problem relying on all-world goaltender Cory Schneider in 2015-16, but with higher hopes for the coming season, New Jersey GM Ray Shero has gone out and attempted to shore up his defense by adding free agent Kyle Quincey.
Quincey, 31, signed a one-year, $1.25-million deal with the Devils Wednesday, and the signing allows him to completely forego the pro-tryout process regardless of the fact that he’s landing his contract so late in the off-season. The new deal is a hefty pay cut for Quincey — he’ll see his salary drop by $3 million from this past season — but the one-year deal gives him the chance to come into New Jersey, prove his worth and potentially land a longer-term extension with a higher salary.
This past season in Detroit, Quincey averaged nearly 20 minutes per game, but was plagued by injury. He suffered a concussion early in the campaign that put him on the shelf, but the more serious injury came when Quincey was forced to undergo surgery on his ankle to remove bone spurs. He ended up missing more 35 games while fighting his way back into the lineup, and he finished the year with a respectable four goals and 11 points in 47 games.
It’s almost a given that Quincey will come in and play top-four minutes for the Devils, and that shouldn’t be surprising following the trade that sent Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers for Taylor Hall. In fact, it’s the Larsson-for-Hall swap that likely helped facilitate Quincey’s addition to the Devils. Without the hole on the back end, the Devils may not have had much use for the veteran rearguard.
However, with Larsson gone, the Devils don’t have much depth — veteran or otherwise — on the blueline. The off-season acquisition of Ben Lovejoy fills one hole, but veteran Andy Greene is starting to show signs of slowing and the top-four without Quincey would have been rounded out by John Moore and Jon Merrill.
Quincey’s addition means that the Devils can also likely give Damon Severson another year to grow after his promising rookie season and a sophomore campaign that was trying at times. Severson averaged 18 minutes per game, but could be eyeing a part-time spot in the top-four this year.
NHL further away from Olympic participation, optimism in short supply
By Ryan Kennedy
Sep 28, 2016
But taking a pass on South Korea in 2018 may be the best thing for the sport, given how Canada has mopped up at the World Cup
As the World Cup of Hockey winds down in less-than-dramatic fashion, thoughts are already turning to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. And those thoughts aren’t necessarily that positive. Reporter Chris Johnston tweeted out NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s thoughts on the matter yesterday, with Daly noting that he is more down on the possibility of NHLers going than he was two weeks ago.
There are myriad reasons why the NHL shouldn’t go to Korea, but the one that might spike it for real involves money. Shocker, I know – usually the International Olympic Committee doesn’t care about cash at all, right?
Staying on topic, the issue involves insurance and transportation costs for the NHLers. That can be pricey for the IOC, but it’s the cost of doing business if you want the best hockey players in the world to travel across the world, interrupt their own quests for the Stanley Cup, and entertain the planet for a couple weeks.
Daly (via Johnston’s Twitter feed, again) raised the possibility of NHLers returning to the Olympics in 2022, when the Games will be held in Beijing. I can see the pragmatism there. It’s still going to be super-inconvenient for the NHL, but China is a huge potential market and the KHL already planted a flag in the nation with the Kunlun Red Star franchise. If the NHL could get even a fraction of the market that the NBA has already tapped into, you’d never have a lockout again (ha ha, just kidding – Bettman’s still here).
I know the players love the Olympics and fans do too. My hang-up has always been that it forces the NHL to associate with the loathsome IOC – of course the hockey is good once you get to the medal round. But right now, as we have watched Canada stomp the field at the World Cup, I have to wonder how competitive the 2018 Games would even be. Sure, Team USA doesn’t botch its roster and have John Tortorella behind the bench (you would hope), but the Americans might be the only rival for Canada, which would add Connor McDavid and Aaron Ekblad to a core featuring a still-excellent Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron. Russia’s defense will still be threadbare in two years, while Sweden likely won’t have a dominant scorer (and perhaps no No. 1 goalie, depending on how Henrik Lundqvist ages). Maybe it’s all for the best to skip Korea, money issues or not.
Of course, a lot can change in time. The NHL doesn’t have to make a final decision until January 2017, when the 2017-18 schedule is imposed. Perhaps cooler heads will prevail and the IOC will pony up. Otherwise, Korea will basically be the Spengler Cup Part Deux and it won’t even be worth covering.