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

NHL playoff primer: 5 intriguing matchups to watch in the 1st round

It’s playoff season once again.

Before you fill out your postseason bracket, we break down one key matchup across five first-round series that could make or break a team in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Top-line takeover

It’s no secret – for the Leafs to trump the Bruins, they need to find an answer for the three-headed monster of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand.

The Leafs were tormented by the Bruins’ top line in their seven-game series last postseason. Bergeron and Co. controlled possession, posting a Corsi rating of 64.90, and dominated Toronto in high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, 49-26. An encouraging note for the Leafs is that the Corsi number dropped to 54.84 when matched with Auston Matthews and shot up to 75 when going against Tomas Plekanec – suggesting the trio dominated much of the play against a veteran player who is no longer in the league.

Looking at the regular season, both Matthews and Bergeron were out of the lineup for two of the teams’ meetings this season, so we’ll have to see how the coaches choose to deploy their top talent with the pair back in the mix.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders

Goaltending vs. star power

The Islanders claiming home-ice advantage was key, but perhaps their biggest edge sits between the pipes. Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss combined to capture the William M. Jennings Trophy this season, and their dominant play must continue for the team to be successful against the Penguins’ offensive arsenal.

Though neither netminder has a ton of playoff experience, the job will likely be Lehner’s to lose. Since returning from injury on March 19, the 27-year-old has posted a 5-2 record with a .942 save percentage.

Barry Trotz’s club allowed a league-low 191 goals on the campaign and posted a record of 38-2-2 when scoring at least three times in a game. Led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins boasted the fifth-best offense this year and rostered four players with 70-plus points.

Pittsburgh mustered 13 goals in four games against the Islanders during the regular season, with Crosby and Malkin combining for eight points.

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche

Can ‘Johnny Hockey’ outperform MacKinnon?

Calgary’s Gaudreau and Colorado’s MacKinnon each notched a career-high 99 points this season. Though they play different positions up front, the two will be a joy to watch compete as they best embody the speed and skill that will be on display in this series.

The All-Stars have no problem facing the pressure of playoff hockey, either, as MacKinnon has tallied 16 points in 13 career contests, with Gaudreau posting 11 points in 15.

Both men know how to deliver when it matters most, too. “Johnny Hockey” racked up 39 points and 17 goals in the third period or overtime this season, while MacKinnon contributed 37 points and 15 goals in those clutch moments. When the game is on the line, look for one of these two studs to follow through.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Stingy penalty kill vs. Electric man advantage

Special teams will heavily influence this matchup between one of the greatest regular-season teams ever and a franchise looking for its first playoff series victory.

The Lightning’s power play was lethal this season, clicking at a league-leading rate of 28.2 percent. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, deploy the NHL’s top penalty kill.

The Lightning and Blue Jackets posted similar possession numbers with Corsi ratings of 51.59 and 50.21, respectively. The more even-strength hockey Columbus can play, the better its chances of pulling out the upset – in the regular season, the Lightning erupted for six power-play goals on 11 attempts in their three victories over the Jackets this year.

St. Louis Blues vs. Winnipeg Jets

Battle in the crease

This Central Division clash is about as even as any playoff series on the slate. The Jets won 47 regular-season games and sported a goal differential of plus-28, while the Blues won 45 contests and were plus-24. Both teams finished with 99 points, but what may ultimately separate the two in this series is the play in the crease.

The Blues netminder was one of the best stories of the season. In 32 appearances, Binnington posted a .927 save percentage and an unbelievable 1.89 goals-against average en route to setting a franchise record for wins by a rookie goaltender with 24. The 25-year-old has yet to face the Jets this season, perhaps to the Blues’ advantage.

Hellebuyck was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season but will need to regain his form in a hurry after taking a step backward this year. The 25-year-old won 10 fewer games and saw his goals against average spike from 2.36 to 2.90.

With two netminders trending in opposite directions, goaltending will be the deciding factor in this series.

By: Matt Teague

Full 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

NHL Power Rankings: Standout rookies for all 31 teams

Youth continues to be served in the NHL, as almost every team has a first-year player making an impact. For this week’s ESPN NHL Power Rankings — voted on as always by ESPN’s panel of experts — we take a look at some of its best freshmen (or, in some cases, middle schoolers waiting to get the call-up to the big school) of the 2018-19 season thus far.

1. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 1

Eeli Tolvanen. There was a time when this talented Finnish winger was being chatted up as a potential Calder Trophy contender, before being demoted to the AHL in the preseason. So far, he has eight points in 14 games with Milwaukee, with four of his seven assists coming on the power play.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 2

Anthony Cirelli. The Lightning forward has four points in 15 games, skating 13:50 per night, with a minus-4 goal differential at 5-on-5.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 5

Igor Ozhiganov. The 25-year-old KHL import doesn’t have a point in 12 games while skating 13:50 per night. As Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star wrote: “He hasn’t done anything particularly noteworthy — no big goals, or memorable passes. But he hasn’t done anything wrong, and that in itself is often praise-worthy of a defenseman.” So, congrats on not being noteworthy, Igor.

4. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 3

Vladislav Kamenev. Acquired from the Predators as part of the Matt Duchene trade, Kamenev had his arm broken by defenseman Brooks Orpik last season, limiting him to just three games. He’s played nine games this season with a goal and an assist, skating just 9:05 per game as a fourth-line center.

5. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 6

Antti Suomela. The 24-year-old Finnish center has two goals and three assists in 14 games. His 1.91 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is third best on the Sharks this season.

6. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 7

Ryan Donato. One of the most surprising demotions of the season thus far. Donato had one goal in 11 games and was sent down to AHL Providence to work on his offensive game. That’s after his incredible nine points in 12 games debut for the Bruins in 2017-18.

7. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 8

Brendan Lemieux. The most notable accomplishment for the spawn of Claude Lemieux this season has been a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vincent Trocheck. Otherwise, he’s averaged 5:32 per game and is a minus-17 in shot attempts at 5-on-5.

8. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 10

Travis Boyd. The depth forward, 25, was injured in the preseason and returned on Nov. 5 with two assists against the Oilers.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 4

Juuso Riikola. Injuries on defense for the Penguins gave the 24-year-old Finn some early-season chances. He’s been a bit overwhelmed, to the tune of minus-39 in shot attempts, worst among Pittsburgh defensemen. Yes, including Jack Johnson.

10. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 9

Jordan Greenway. The promising winger was sent down to the AHL after a rough start, playing a couple of games for Iowa. He returned with a rediscovered confidence, and has a goal and two assists in his last four games.

11. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 15

Juuso Valimaki. Another Finn! Valimaki, a first-rounder for the Flames in 2017, is skating 14:46 per game. He’s on the plus side of possession but has a minus-5 in goal differential.

12. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 24

Elias Pettersson. The Canucks star rookie became the first player to record 16-plus points through his first 10 career NHL games since 1992-93, when Dimitri Kvartalnov and Nikolai Borschevsky accomplished the feat. You heard it here first: Elias Pettersson, the new Nikolai Borschevsky.

13. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 16

Josh Ho-Sang. As usual, interesting things are happening around Josh Ho-Sang. He was on fire for the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, including a 12 points in 12 games run. At the same time, he had to apologize for comments he gave to the New York Post about his lack of premium ice time.

14. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 14

Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He’s 18 years old, the No. 3 overall pick in June, and has seven points in his first 15 NHL games for the resurgent Habs.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 17

Calvin Thurkauf. He’s missed a bit with an undisclosed injury, but the former Swiss world junior team captain had 24 points in 75 games with Cleveland last season. He’s got some upside, and the Jackets will have an eye on the AHL to see what the winger does in his second pro season.

Full List

By: Greg Wyshynski

Every NHL team’s odds to win the Stanley Cup

Toronto Maple Leafs (13/2)

The pressure for the Toronto Maple Leafs to win this season is going to be immense. They were already a really good team with an embarrassment of riches at forward, and then they went out and signed John Tavares in one of the biggest free-agent moves in recent NHL history. For any team in any other NHL city, this would be pressure. In Toronto, where the Maple Leafs have not won a championship in the post-Original Six era and have not advanced beyond the first round since 2004, the expectation to do something is going to be sky-high. There will be no excuses to be had, either. They have a team willing to spend to the cap, with a couple of superstars, and the highest paid, highest regarded coach in hockey.

Tampa Bay Lightning (15/2)

This team is absolutely loaded on paper with a couple of Art Ross Trophy contenders (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos) at forward, a Norris Trophy contender (Victor Hedman) on defense and a Vezina Trophy contender (Andrei Vasilevskiy) in goal, with a strong supporting cast around all of them. J.T. Miller, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman, so on and so on. On paper this is one of the best teams in the league and has been in at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the past four years. It is not a stretch to think the Lightening could be there again.

Winnipeg Jets (19/2)

They lost Paul Stastny to the team that beat them in the Western Conference Final, which is not ideal, but Stastny was always a luxury on this team. The Jets have one of the best collections of young forward talent in the league, and Patrik Laine could be on the verge of taking yet another step forward this season (50 goals?). The key to their success will be whether or not starting goalie, Connor Hellebuyck, repeats what he did a year ago for them.

Nashville Predators (11/1)

No team in the NHL has a defense that can match Nashville’s. The Predators also are incredibly deep at forward, and they have two goalies capable of starting and playing at a high level. There is no real, clear-cut weakness on this team, and even better, the entire core is locked in place on long-term, salary cap-friendly contracts. The Predators fell a little short in their quest to repeat as Western Conference champions, but they are not going away as Stanley Cup contenders anytime soon.

Full list here

Top 15 Dates to Watch in the 2018-19 NHL Season

We’re just a few weeks removed from the Washington Capitals clinching the Stanley Cup and we’re already looking ahead to the 2018-19 season.
The Capitals kick off their title defense on Oct. 3 at home against the Boston Bruins, a team with high hopes of their own entering the season, and that’s only the start of the fun. Washington will also have a new twist on its rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Caps will get a rematch with their Cup Final nemeses.
With a host of rumored big-name trades, the NHL draft and free agency in the coming days of the offseason, there’ll be plenty more dates to circle on the hockey calendar, but here’s what we’ve already got our eyes on for the upcoming season:

OCTOBER 3, 2018: BRUINS @ CAPITALS
After a summer of raging partying, Alex Ovechkin and Co. will raise their championship banner to the Capital One Arena rafters. Barry Trotz won’t be behind the bench, but it will be the first step in the Caps’ Stanley Cup title defense.

OCTOBER 4, 2018: CAPITALS @ PENGUINS
Any game between these two has been a hyped-up matchup since Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the league, but with Ovi having added a Cup to his resume—and the Caps having finally gone through the Penguins to get it—this matchup will have some new twists thrown in for good measure.

OCTOBER 6, 2018: OILERS VS. DEVILS
Ted Lindsay award winner Connor McDavid and the Oilers will face off against reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall and the Devils in Gothenburg, Sweden.

OCTOBER 10, 2018: GOLDEN KNIGHTS @ CAPITALS
It’s a Stanley Cup Final rematch, the first time the teams meet in the season. Things may look a little different on the ice for both after free agency (John Carlson, James Neal, etc.), though the competition level shouldn’t disappoint.

NOVEMBER 1-2, 2018: PANTHERS VS. JETS
The Panthers and Jets take things abroad to Helsinki, which will be a fun homecoming for Finnish natives and burgeoning superstars Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov.

NOVEMBER 23, 2018: RANGERS @ FLYERS
The Metropolitan Division rivals will take the ice for the Thanksgiving Day Showdown at Wells Fargo Center in an afternoon matchup that will give fans something to watch as they emerge from turkey-induced comas.

NOVEMBER 28, 2018: DUCKS @ PANTHERS
This game marks a matchup between two teams celebrating their 25th seasons in the NHL. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that they were part of the 1993-94 expansion, but both have come a long way since their expansion draft days, especially in the uniform department.

DECEMBER 23, 2018: KINGS @ GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The first of four matchups between two burgeoning rivals and a pair of the league’s premier smack-talking twitter accounts. Based on your personal preferences, consider this your notice to prepare to log on, log off or set up your muted terms well in advance. We’re guessing Vegas won’t hesitate to mention a playoff sweep, but we’re also eager to see how Los Angeles fires back.

JANUARY 1, 2019: BRUINS @ BLACKHAWKS
It seems like the Bruins and Blackhawks have been featured in every outdoor NHL game—they’ve combined to be in five of 10 Winter Classic matchups so far—but on New Year’s Day at Notre Dame Stadium, they’ll go head-to-head in the elements for the first time.

JANUARY 11, 2019: SABRES @ HURRICANES
OK, so maybe this one is looking a little too far ahead for a couple of reasons, but if everything goes as planned, this would be the first matchup between the top two picks in the 2018 draft, Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. It should be a fun look at two players leading the way for their rebuilding franchises.

JANUARY 18, 2019: ISLANDERS @ CAPITALS
Barry Trotz, who resigned from the Capitals earlier this week and has all but taken the coaching vacancy with the Islanders just days after, returns to D.C. with his new team.

JANUARY 25-26: NHL ALL-STAR WEEKEND
The always-fun Skills competition takes place on Friday in San Jose at the SAP Center and will provide all the GIF-able moments fans can handle and at least one big-name player will steal the show. On Saturday, buckle up for another installment of the 3-on-3 All-Star tournament and another chance for an unlikely hero to emerge.

FEBRUARY 23, 2019: PENGUINS @ FLYERS
The Keystone State rivals bring their game outdoors for the second time in three seasons as part of the NHL Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field.

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By:Michael Blinn

NHL Rookies to Keep An Eye On


Written by Chris Peters at CBSSports.com

One of the best parts of any NHL training camp is watching the rookies battle for spots. So few of the young players end up making the NHL roster out of camp, but as we’ve seen in recent years, the opportunities are starting to become available.

As the league continues to skew younger, the opportunities for impact roles for first- and second-year players are there. These next few weeks will determine which of the high-end rookies will at least make the opening-night roster. For those that can be sent back to junior, they might even get a chance to play up to nine games with their NHL club during the regular season.

The fun part about making this list is that there are so many other good, young players that are going to win NHL jobs this year that I couldn’t squeeze on. The future of the NHL is bright thanks to a lot of these young prospects. Here’s 20 to keep a particularly close eye on over these next few weeks.

Note: Penguins goalie Matt Murray will retain his rookie status for next season, but his injury is likely to keep him out for the remainder of training camp and if you watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year, you already know he’s one to watch. For those reasons, he was left off the list.

1. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs: The No. 1 overall pick in 2016 has already dazzled Maple Leafs fans with his performance at the World Cup of Hockey. He showed in that tournament that he was more than ready to make the transition. He might not move up the depth chart in training camp, but would it be surprising to see him in the mix to be Toronto’s No. 1 center by the all-star break? It would not be.

2. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets: Laine was shut out at the World Cup of Hockey, but so was the rest of Finland basically. It shouldn’t do much to negatively impact his outlook on the season considering he was an 18-year-old against the game’s elite players. This is a guy who just dominated the Finnish pro league and the World Championship last year. It shouldn’t take him long to make his presence felt in Winnipeg.

3. Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs: Marner wants to make it impossible for the Maple Leafs to send him back to junior and he just might succeed. The 19-year-old torched the OHL last season and has little left to prove, but the Maple Leafs are not in line to contend this season. It’s always a tough call about burning years off of an entry-level contract, but he looks ready for the NHL now.

5. Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes: The 2015 No. 3 overall pick put together his second straight season of more than 100 points in the OHL. He remains eligible to be sent back to junior, but with the Coyotes clearing roster spots for their young guys, he should be on the full-time roster. He’s a big part of Arizona’s future and will be looking to take a big step while learning on the job this year.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Blackhawks Trade for Winger Andrew Ladd

Written by Chris Hine at ChicagoTribune.com
About a month ago, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman called Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and told him that if Cheveldayoff had any interest in trading winger Andrew Ladd, the Hawks wanted in.

When Cheveldayoff made up his mind this week before Monday’s trade deadline, Bowman did what he usually does this time of year — make the deal happen and get his man, despite salary-cap constraints and whatever pieces Bowman would have to relinquish.

“Great job, Stan,” coach Joel Quenneville said with a smile.

He had a reason to smile, even on a night when the Hawks lost 3-1 to the Predators at the United Center because the Hawks struck a major blow when they reacquired one of the most sought-after players available in Ladd, who helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2010.

“Chicago was on the top of my list for places I wanted to be, just the familiarity with the organization and the guys, it just makes an easy transition for me,” Ladd said. “You’re going to a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. That’s always an exciting prospect.”

With the move, Bowman and the Hawks are once again all in on trying to win another Cup to become the first repeat champions since the Red Wings in 1998.

“The big thing for us is the familiarity he has with not only our coaching staff but our players,” Bowman said. “He has maintained friendships, and that’s important. He’s a guy you want to go to war with.”

But the Hawks paid a heavy price to acquire Ladd, who is in the final year of his contract and may be just a couple of months’ rental for the Hawks. They sent highly valued winger prospect Marko Dano, a first-round pick in the 2016 draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 draft (if the Hawks win the Cup this season) to bring in Ladd, who fills a need for a top-line left winger. Ladd, 30, has 17 goals and 17 assists in 59 games with the Jets this season.

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