Biggest surprises of the NHL playoffs so far

With the second round of the NHL playoffs underway, the chances of a perfect bracket are slim to none. According to NHL.com, there are only five perfect brackets remaining.

Because of the chaos, there have been many surprises since the first game of the 2019 NHL playoffs. We look at the biggest shockers of the first round.

Lightning sent home thanks to Blue Jackets

  • Led by head coach John Tortorella , the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the President’s Trophy winners, even after Tampa’s historical regular season.
  • The Lightning were one of the best offensive teams in the league this season but were outscored, 19-8, in the series and had scarce offensive output from their best players.
  • With 128 points during the regular season, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov registered only two assists in four games for the Bolts.
  • This is the first time in NHL history that a No. 1 overall seed has been swept in the first round of the playoffs.

The Jets were grounded after six games

  • After making it to the Western Conference finals last season, the Winnipeg Jets were the most favored Canadian squad to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • The Jets lost in six games to the St. Louis Blues, who have won 12 of their past 16 games dating back to March 16.
  • All of Winnipeg’s losses came by one goal, as well as both their victories.
  • Even in their own arena during Game 5, the Jets allowed three goals in the third period and lost, 3-2.

Some of the league’s top players were shut down

  • Arguably the best player of the past decade, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby registered one assist in the playoffs — the lowest postseason point total of his career. He finished with a minus-4 in four games, the worst mark of his postseason career.
  • Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau also finished with one assist in five games with a minus-2 rating after scoring 99 points in the regular season.
  • Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist for the Predators and was not much of a factor, and the Dallas Stars took advantage, taking the series in six games.
  • Steven Stamkos also had a goal and an assist, with a plus/minus of minus-8. You could say he was a defensive liability for the Lightning.

Golden Knights get robbed in Game 7

  • Up 3-0 in Game 7, Vegas’ Cody Eakin cross-checked San Jose’s Joe Pavelski to the ice. Eakin was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
  • San Jose had an unreal comeback, netting four goals on the 5-minute power play to take the lead, with two goals coming from Logan Couture.
  • The Sharks won with two minutes left in overtime thanks to a goal from Barclay Goodrow, who only played two shifts the entire period.
  • On Thursday, the NHL apologized to the Golden Knights and admitted the referees were incorrect on Eakin’s penalty. That does not change anything for the Golden Knights.

A “Bunch of Jerks” beat the defending champs on the road in Game 7

  • One of the biggest underdogs in the playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes took the Washington Capitals to double overtime and advanced on a goal from Brock McGinn.
  • The Caps’ Alex Ovechkin had seven goals in the series but finished with a minus-2. He was a force in the offensive end but not so much on defense.
  • Warren Foegele led the Canes with four goals. In 77 regular- season games, Foegele had 10 total goals. The third liner has been great in his first playoff series.
  • The Hurricanes advance to the second round for the first time since 2009, when they made it to the Eastern Conference finals.

By: Trevor Drake

Original Article

Mats Zuccarello has eventful day in first game with Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars acquired winger Mats Zuccarello Saturday night and brought him to Dallas early Sunday. The team traded two conditional picks for the veteran winger, including a conditional third-round pick in 2020 that could turn into a first-rounder if Zuccarello re-signs with the Stars.

However, Zuccarello was non-committal when asked about his unrestricted free-agent status, according to The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro. The veteran said he isn’t thinking about it right now and his goal is to help the Stars get into the playoffs and beyond.

In other Western Conference notes:

  • Zuccarello, who had a goal and an assist in his debut with Dallas, left Sunday’s game against Chicago with an upper-body injury. Zuccarello was hit in the arm or hand while blocking a shot by Chicago’s Ryan Murphy late in the second period (video link here). Forward Jamie Benn was also declared out with a lower-body injury as the Stars suddenly lost two key players in their newly enhanced lineup. No word on the severity of either injury.
  • TSN’s Ryan Rishaug writes the Edmonton Oilers might still make a move at the deadline, with forward Alex Chiasson being the most viable trade chip. The Oilers would be looking for a pick and Rishaug believes if a team is willing to offer a third-rounder for Chiasson, Edmonton will pull the trigger. Chiasson has 17 goals and has been one of the few bright spots during a dismal season in Edmonton.
  • Fox Sports Andy Strickland reports that Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington will become a Group 2 restricted free agent this summer once he hits 26 games this season. The standard number is 28 games, but Binnington signed his entry-level contract in the 2012-13 season, which had a reduced schedule due to the lockout. His number of games was reduced. The 25-year-old Binnington, who spent a good portion of his career in the AHL, has a 14-2-1 record to go with a 1.70 GAA and a .934 save percentage. He is in line to get a significant pay raise.
  • The San Jose Sharks were without star defenseman Erik Karlsson  on Sunday after he left Saturday’s game after re-tweaking his strained groin, which kept him out of nine games recently. There is no word on how long he will be out, according to Paul Gackle of the Mercury News. Head coach Peter DeBoer expressed optimism that it wouldn’t be long. Of course, DeBoer said the same thing when Karlsson first was injured, which could be worrying. “We have MRIs and those types of things, but you get put in spots, you can re-tweak, you can overextend it,” DeBoer said. “Everybody thinks it’s healthy and then you get hit a certain way. It’s a contact sport. You can’t control that stuff.”

By Holgen Stolzenberg

Original Article

2019 NHL All-Star rosters announced

The NHL has announced the four rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game today, scheduled to be held on January 26th in San Jose. Earlier today, Alex Ovechkin, who was elected captain of Metropolitan Division squad, told the league that he wouldn’t be attending and will accept the punishment of missing one game either before or after the break. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews will represent the Pacific, Central and Atlantic respectively, as the other captains. A replacement captain for Ovechkin has yet to be named.

The full rosters are as follows:

Pacific Division

John Gibson (ANA)
Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK)

D Erik Karlsson (SJS)
Brent Burns (SJS)
Drew Doughty (LAK)

Connor McDavid (EDM)*
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY)
Joe Pavelski (SJS)
F Elias Pettersson (VAN)
F Clayton Keller (ARI)

Central Division

Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Devan Dubnyk (MIN)

D Roman Josi (NSH)
D Miro Heiskanen (DAL)

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)*
Mikko Rantanen (COL)
Blake Wheeler (WPG)
Patrick Kane (CHI)

Mark Scheifele (WPG)
F Ryan O’Reilly (STL)

Atlantic Division

Jimmy Howard (DET)
G Carey Price (MTL)

Keith Yandle (FLA)
D Thomas Chabot (OTT)

F Auston Matthews (TOR)*
F Nikita Kucherov (TBL)
F Steven Stamkos (TBL)
John Tavares (TOR)

F David Pastrnak (BOS)
F Jack Eichel (BUF)

Full List

By Zach Leach

Blackhawks Trade For Johnny Oduya

Written by Chris Hine at Chicago Tribune

Ever since Johnny Oduya went to the Stars in free agency after the 2015 Stanley Cup run, the Blackhawks have been searching for a defenseman to fill the role he played for them in those playoffs — a defensively dependable blue liner who could eat up 20-plus minutes per night if coach Joel Quenneville asked.

After going through several candidates who didn’t stick a season ago, the Hawks now are turning to … Johnny Oduya.

General manager Stan Bowman said he didn’t envision the Hawks making a big splash before the Wednesday trade deadline, but he delivered a cannonball Tuesday in bringing back the 35-year-old defenseman who helped the Hawks win two Stanley Cups.

The deal came together quickly Tuesday night, a source said. On its face, the Hawks appear not to have surrendered much for Oduya, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. They traded forward prospect Mark McNeill, who was languishing in Rockford and never quite could crack the Hawks’ roster, and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft that could become a third-rounder if the Hawks win two playoff series this season and Oduya plays in 50 percent of the games.

To make the deal work for the salary-cap strapped Hawks, a source told the Tribune the Stars are responsible for half of Oduya’s $3.75 million salary and cap hit.

The price for Oduya was likely lower than it otherwise would be because of injury issues Oduya has battled. Oduya missed much of the last month because of a nagging ankle injury, but he was healthy enough to return to the lineup Sunday against the Bruins and log 18 minutes, 28 seconds of ice time. Oduya also missed time in November and December and has played in just 37 games this season. He has one goal and six assists.

Stars general manager Jim Nill said the Hawks were one of several teams inquiring about Oduya over the last few weeks. He said Oduya is fully healthy now.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Rangers Shutout Stars, Lundqivst Returns


Written by the AP at Charlotte Observer.com

Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist returned to the New York Rangers’ lineup and were instrumental in their 2-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

Nash, who had missed four games with a groin injury, scored an unassisted goal with his team short-handed to snap a scoreless tie in the third period.

Lundqvist, who hadn’t started since a 4-2 loss to the Islanders on Dec. 6, left briefly after getting bowled over behind the net and combined with Antti Raanta for the shutout. Raanta had won three of the previous four games.

“I went out there with a lot of desperation,” said Lundqvist, who has won at least 30 games in 10 of his 11 seasons. “I felt like it was an important game for me to just feel good. My game hasn’t changed over a week, but my mindset has changed.

“It is a new experience for me,” he added.

Nash broke up a pass by Jamie Benn near the Rangers blue line, skated down the ice and put a snap shot past Dallas goalie Antti Niemi at 7:08.

Nash said he benefited from watching teammate Chris Kreider’s unsuccessful breakaway in the second period.

“After watching Chris try it on his breakaway, I thought (Niemi) was kind of cheating the deke, and thought I could kind of catch him off guard,” Nash said.

Mats Zuccarello added an empty-net goal.

Lundqvist actually returned twice on Thursday. Raanta replaced him for 5:31 of the first period after Dallas’ Cody Eakin plowed into Lundqvist behind the net, knocking off his mask as the goalie played the puck along the end boards.

Eakin received a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.

“The league better do something about that hit,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “It’s everything that you want to take away from the game. A hit to the head, forward motion and it’s a goaltender on top.”

Stars coach Lindy Ruff defended Eakin.

“I understand the call. As a penalty killer, he’s trying to gain speed so he can get back. I know it doesn’t look that way, but there was no intent on his part,” Ruff said.

To continue reading this article, click here,

Blackhawks Continue to Win, Streak is at 6


Written by Brian Sandalow at Chicago Sun Times

The plot was familiar. The main players were familiar.

So was the result.

Marian Hossa scored the winner with 28.7 seconds left in overtime to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win Sunday over the Dallas Stars. Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists, Artem Anisimov stretched his career-best point streak to 11 games, Patrick Kane also scored, and the Hawks overcame a late tying goal in the teams’ second game in two nights.

The Hawks led 3-2 until the 18:40 mark of the third when Gemel Smith re-directed a shot past Scott Darling to even the game and send it to overtime. After killing a Kane penalty in overtime thanks in part to a sprawling save from Darling on Patrick Eaves, Hossa scored with help from an Anisimov screen to give the Hawks the win.

“No one seems to be focused on the win streak that we’re on right now,” Toews said. “We’re just focused on every game. I think that’s a good thing that we’ve got going as well.”

The Hawks had been down 2-0 midway through the second before scoring the next three goals, continuing an ongoing theme for this team. The start was slow, the result ended up good, this time leading to their sixth straight win and a sweep of the home-and-home from Dallas.

“It’s tough to say one reason but I think when the games go on we are in a better rhythm and I think we are playing better than (at) the start,” Hossa said. “That’s the reason, but I think we have to keep improving (and) have better starts because that’s as important as finishing.”

Down 2-1 after Kane’s second-period goal, the Hawks scored twice in 56 seconds early in the third to take the lead. Toews tied the game at the 3:39 mark when he directed a slick Hossa pass past Kari Lehtonen to tie the game. Toews then set up the go-ahead score by driving to the net and firing the puck off Lehtonen’s pads, with Anisimov sending the rebound into the net for the lead.

Though that lead didn’t hold up, the Hawks were able to come away with two more points.

“I think there’s a lot of positives to take away,” Toews said. “I think we’re relying more and more on some young guys in key situations. Four lines are getting involved in getting their minutes up. We’re getting contributions from everyone.”

To continue reading this article, click here.

Stars Lose Hemsky for 5-6 Months


Written by Chris Peters at CBSSports.com

The Dallas Stars have been dealing with a litany of injury issues early this season. One of them was to forward Ales Hemsky, who had been battling a hip ailment sustained at the World Cup of Hockey. Though Hemsky tried to play through the injury, appearing in one game this season, the team expects him to miss an extended period of time now.

The Stars announced Monday that Hemsky underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum. The expected recovery timeline is five to six months.

Hemsky’s one game this season came on Oct. 22. He played over 15 minutes and took 25 shifts in the game, but has not been back since.

The veteran forward has been a solid source of scoring depth for one of the league’s most productive teams over the past two seasons. He had 13 goals and 39 points last season. Meanwhile, the Stars’ overall roster depth has been tested mightily during the early goings of the season.

Top-six winger Patrick Sharp has been dealing with concussion issues for the past two weeks, center Cody Eakin went down with a knee injury and promising young forward Mattias Janmark suffered a knee injury in the preseason that will keep him out five to six months as well.

It has been difficult for the Stars as they haven’t been able to play with their full complement of forwards yet this season. It’s no wonder the team is struggling to score. They are averaging just 2.25 goals per game, which ranks 26th in the NHL. Making matters worse, the Stars are allowing an average of 3.25 goals per game with their goaltenders carrying an .893 save percentage.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Jamie Benn Gets A Massive Contract Extension


Written by the Dallas Stars Staff at Stars.com

Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today at PM Standley Motorcars Party In The Parkthat the team has signed captain Jamie Benn to an eight-year, $76,000,000 contract extension (average annual value of $9,500,000), which will run through the 2024-25 season.

Benn, 26, finished the 2015-16 season ranked second in the NHL and first on the Stars with 89 points (41-48=89) in 82 regular-season games. He also shared second in the NHL in power play goals (17) and ranked third in goals (41), posting new career highs in each category. Benn appeared in all 82 games during the regular season, marking the second consecutive season and the third time in his career that he’s appeared in all 82 contests. During the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Benn finished tied for 14th in the League and led the Stars with 15 points (5-10=15) in 13 postseason contests. He also finished tied for 11th in the NHL with 10 assists in the playoffs, while his six-game point streak was tied for the second-longest in the League during the postseason.

“The Stars are the only organization I know and Dallas is home to me,” said Benn. “In working with the Gaglardi family and Jim Nill, they have made it clear that they are dedicated to winning, and winning the right way. I’m happy to commit to that process for eight more years. My teammates and I value the passion and dedication that we receive from Stars fans and we’re looking forward to getting this season started.”

The seven-year NHL veteran has amassed 448 career points (192-256=448) in 508 regular-season games, all as a member of the Dallas Stars. Benn currently ranks 10th in Stars franchise history with 192 career goals, while he shares seventh in team history with 30 game-winning goals and ranks fourth with 10 shorthanded tallies. He has also made two appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, recording 20 points (9-11=20) in 19 career postseason games.

“Jamie has evolved into one of the most complete players in the NHL and his ability to lead our team is second-to-none,” said Nill. “He impacts the game in so many ways and this signing was extremely important for the direction of the franchise. He’s shown in the playoffs, and at international events like the Olympics and the World Championship, that he is up to any challenge and that his fingerprints will be left on every game. He’s our leader and does things the right way, every day.”

The captain became the first player in team history to win the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s top point scorer after recording an NHL-best 87 points (35-52=87) during the 2014-15 regular season. Benn is also the first player in Stars franchise history to have been named to NHL’s First All-Star Team, earning the nod twice in his career in 2013-14 and 2015-16. He was also named to the NHL’s Second All-Star Team in 2014-15. A finalist for the 2016 Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, Benn has made two All-Star Game appearances in 2011-12 and 2015-16.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Blues Destroy Stars, Advance to WCF

Written by Adam Gretz at CBSSports.com

For the first time in 15 years the St. Louis Blues are on their way back to the Western Conference final.

They reached it Wednesday night thanks to their second Game 7 win of the postseason when the crushed the Dallas Stars 6-1. They will now play the winner of Thursday’s Game 7 between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators.

Unlike the Blues’ first Game 7 this postseason, a nailbiter against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks that came down to a matter of inches, Wednesday’s game quickly turned into a rout thanks to three first-period goals.

With the Stars eliminated, it means that none of the NHL’s regular-season division champions (Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars) will play in the conference finals.

We take a look at all of that with seven takeaways from Wednesday’s Game 7 and the series as a whole.

1. The Stars’ goaltending let them down again. This was a fitting end to the Dallas Stars’ season.

Goaltending was their biggest question mark heading into the playoffs, it was their biggest weakness in the playoffs and Wednesday night it was their biggest problem once again. For the seventh time in 13 games the Stars allowed at least four goals in a game, and it was another tag-team effort by their duo in net. After Kari Lehtonen gave up three goals on eight shots in the first period (plus another one that did not count) he was replaced by Antti Niemi who promptly gave up a goal early in the second period to help put the game out of reach.

The second and third goals surrendered by Lehtonen, which came after a bad-angleVladimir Tarasenko goal was disallowed after an offside review, were not exactly great goals for him to give up. Here is a look at the third one with just under four seconds to play in the period.

The Stars entered the postseason with the worst regular-season save percentage of any team in the playoffs. They ended the playoffs at .889. That level of goaltending will not result in a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

To continue reading this article, click here.

 

Stars Force Game 7 With Blues


Written by Jeremy Rutherford at St.Louis Post-Dispatch.com

To say that the Blues missed an opportunity Monday night would be both an understatement and extremely appropriate.

In spoiling a chance to clinch a trip to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2001, falling 3-2 to Dallas in Game 6 on home ice at Scottrade Center, the Blues missed 19 shots.

Let’s put this in more context: The Blues directed 75 shots on net compared to 25 by the Stars. Their 19 misfires were more than the visitors had on goal, 14.

But while the Blues responded well after spotting Dallas a 3-0 lead, Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen shut the door on another analytics-defying game in this best-of-seven conference semifinal series, forcing a deciding Game 7.

Yes, St. Louis, let your fingernails grow out for the next two days because at 7 p.m. Wednesday, you’ll need them to gnaw on.

This will be the second Game 7 the Blues will play in this postseason, following one in the first round against Chicago. They won that one 3-2 at home, but this one will be on the road at American Airlines Center.

“We’ve won twice in their building already,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I don’t think it matters where you play a Game 7. You get a chance to play it, it’s special. I think our players will be excited. I think they’re disappointed. There’s disappointment and we’ll get over that tomorrow. We’ll get focused and we’ll play really well again.”

The Blues fell to 1-3 in chances to clinch in these playoffs, including 1-2 at home. On the bright side heading into Wednesday’s elimination game, the team is 4-2 on the road this postseason, compared to 3-4 at home.

There were 19,808 in attendance at Scottrade Center on Monday hoping to celebrate the franchise’s first trip to the conference finals in 15 years. But it was clear six minutes into Game 6 that it was going to take some work to make that happen.

To continue reading this article, click here.