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

The biggest storylines in 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs

The 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs are set to begin, so settle in for two months of unpredictable chaos, madness and excitement. Some of the big stories worth watching include the Washington Capitals‘ pursuit of a repeat, Tampa Bay’s quest to finally get over the hump and Sergei Bobrovsky’s attempt to solve his postseason demons. All of these are among our 20 biggest storylines to watch in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Can the Capitals repeat?

Winning the Stanley Cup once is incredibly difficult. Winning it two years in a row is even harder. It is something that has been done only three times since 1990, and the Capitals are going to try to add to that list. They still have all of the superstars that made their 2018 championship possible and made some smart additions at the trade deadline to bring in Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen to sure up the defense. They have all of the ingredients at their disposal to do it.

Will the Lightning finish it this season?

After experiencing repeated playoff heartbreak over the past four years, the Lightning are back and better than ever this season. They completed one of the best regular seasons in NHL history, and they enter the playoffs as the clear favorites to win the Stanley Cup. If they do not reach at least the Stanley Cup Final with this roster, it will be their biggest postseason disappointment yet.

The Golden Knights’ encore performance

So much to watch with the Golden Knights. Will they have their over-the-top pregame performances? Will they be able to make another run to the Stanley Cup Final? Can they actually win it all in Year 2? You have to like their chances not only because of the strength of their roster but also because their path through the Pacific Division bracket features two teams with significant question marks in goal. That is a good position to have an advantage in this time of year.

Joe Thornton’s last ride?

The only thing Thornton’s Hall of Fame career is missing is his name on the Stanley Cup, and this might be his last best shot to do it. He is not getting any younger, it is not known how much longer he is going to play in the NHL, and the San Jose Sharks went all in on this season to try to get a championship. They will need a healthy Erik Karlsson to get there and for Martin Jones to get his act together in net after a miserable regular season.

Will the Stanley Cup return to Canada?

A Canadian-0based NHL team has not won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did so all the way back in 1993. There are three Canadian teams that have a chance to do it this season with Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg all punching their tickets to the playoffs. The Flames, having finished the year with the best record in the Western Conference, seem to be the team with the best chance to do it, but they have major questions in goal. The Maple Leafs have to get through their arch nemesis in Boston, while the Jets have been trending in the wrong direction down the stretch.

 

Can the Maple Leafs get out of the first round?

If they do not, there is going to be some intense scrutiny in Toronto. Not only do the Maple Leafs need to win as a team, but coach Mike Babcock also needs to advance for the sake of his own reputation. There have been 23 different coaches who have won a playoff series since a Babcock-coached team has, while he has made it out of the first round just once since 2010. That is not what you want from the highest-paid coach in the NHL

The Islanders return to the playoffs

Nobody expected the New York Islanders to be here. After missing the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and then losing John Tavares in free agency, expectations were as low as humanly possible for them at the start of the year. But they defied the odds all year and put together one of the most incredible one-year turnarounds in recent NHL history, going from the worst defensive team in the league a year ago to the best this season. How long can their goalies continue their great play and will they find enough offense? Those going to be the big questions for them.

Full List Here

By: Adam Gretz

The most surprising developments of the NHL season so far

The one constant in any given NHL season should always be to expect the unexpected because there is always going to be something that surprises you — maybe even shocks you.

The team that you thought might stink could turn out to be good for some bizarre reason.

The player you pegged as an offseason flop might catch lightning in a bottle and excel.

The player who was supposed to put the Stanley Cup contender over the top? Well, that might be the one who flops and ends up holding the team back.

We have seen a lot of those scenarios playing out over the first quarter of the NHL season.

Among them…

The Max Pacioretty trade is working…for Montreal

After more than a year of constant rumors and trade speculation, the Montreal Canadiens finally put an end to all of the drama and sent Max Pacioretty, their best goal-scorer and one of their best players from the past decade, to the Vegas Golden Knights.

At the time it looked to be a huge score for a Vegas team that stunned the hockey world a year ago by reaching the Stanley Cup Final in its debut season, and it would finally kick off a much-needed rebuild in Montreal.

In return, the Canadiens received a package of players centered around Tomas Tatar, who was a total flop in Vegas after he was acquired at the trade deadline this past season, and 2017 first-round pick Nick Suzuki.

So far it has gone the exact opposite way anyone could have anticipated.

Through Vegas’ first 19 games (of which Pacioretty appeared in only 15 due to injury), he has managed just two goals and two assists, while Tatar, who seems to have rediscovered his scoring touch in Montreal, has recorded 16 points (including eight goals) in his first 19 games. Suzuki, meanwhile, has continued to dominate in the Ontario Hockey League.

At some point Tatar is going to cool off, and Pacioretty is going to rebound. And ultimately the key player to this trade for Montreal was — and will continue to be — Suzuki. But it’s still been shocking to see how this trade has worked out in the early going, even if it doesn’t last.

For now though it is a primary reason why Montreal has been one of the biggest surprise teams in the league and why Vegas has been one of the early disappointments.

Max Domi: offensive machine

Sticking with the Canadiens for a second, their other big offseason trade saw them send Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes in a one-for-one swap for Max Domi.

Domi was coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons in the desert where he managed just nine goals in each, with four of his goals a season ago coming as empty-netters. It seemed that his offense had completely dried up after a promising rookie season.

But just like the Tatar-for-Pacioretty trade, this one has found a way to work out for Montreal in the early going.

Through Thursday, Nov. 15, Domi had already scored 10 goals (all of them with an opposing goalie in the net) and was one of the league’s top-10 total point producers. Even if it is an unsustainable pace, he is still going to crush his numbers from the previous two years.

The Blackhawks fire Joel Quenneville

It should have been expected that the Chicago Blackhawks might struggle this season. They had not won a playoff series in three years and were coming off their first non-playoff season in nearly a decade. The core is getting older, the depth is getting thinner and the salary cap space is still perpetually getting tighter for them. At some point they were going to start making some changes, and eventually that was going to lead to the end of the Joel Quenneville era. It was just surprising to see that after everything Quenneville did for the franchise that he was let go as quickly as he was, especially when a lot of the team’s recent struggles are probably out of his hands.

The Blackhawks were done in a year ago by an injury to starting goalie Corey Crawford and the fact that they had no capable backup to fill in for him.

This year the problem is that the roster, outside of the top four or five players, just really isn’t that good, and that responsibility has to fall on the front office.

Eventually it will. Because once the Blackhawks continue to struggle under a new coach (and given the roster, they will), the next change will be at the top.

Full Article

By Adam Gretz

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

Goalies under siege in Game 1 shootout between Caps, Knights

LAS VEGAS — Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby have been two of the hottest goaltenders during the postseason. Vegas Final Odds

Their duel between the pipes looked more like survival in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as the Vegas Golden Knights outlasted the Washington Capitals, 6-4.

Fleury came into the series with a 1.68 goals-against average for Vegas with Holtby not far behind at 2.04. Giving up nine goals between them seemed unlikely but that’s exactly what happened Monday night as both goalies were screened relentlessly, caught out of position at times and left out to dry on occasion by defensemen trying to keep up with two swarming offenses.

For Washington, scoring against the Golden Knights was taking advantage of Vegas defenders failing to clog the slots and Fleury making his own mistakes.

Brett Connolly’s redirect that went through defenseman Colin Miller’s legs in the first period caught Fleury overcommitting on Michal Kempny’s shot from the point. Less than a minute later, Nicklas Backstrom backhanded a shot past Fleury, who couldn’t recover after sprawling to his right with T.J. Oshie coming around the back of the goal.

Fleury came into the series with a 1.68 goals-against average for Vegas with Holtby not far behind at 2.04. Giving up nine goals between them seemed unlikely but that’s exactly what happened Monday night as both goalies were screened relentlessly, caught out of position at times and left out to dry on occasion by defensemen trying to keep up with two swarming offenses.

For Washington, scoring against the Golden Knights was taking advantage of Vegas defenders failing to clog the slots and Fleury making his own mistakes.

Fleury didn’t stand a chance against John Carlson, who scored an easy backhander after a beautiful feed from Oshie, who wrapped a pass around defenseman Shea Theodore across the slot. And while Tom Wilson got credit for Washington’s fourth goal, the puck slid into the net after Fleury kicked it in himself after getting caught under his skate.

Full article here

By W.G. RAMIREZ

Golden Knights Rally Vegas In First Game

Written by Arash Markazi at ESPN.com

#VegasStrong

It was impossible to walk or drive around Las Vegas this week and not have that hashtag engrained in your mind. It was everywhere. On billboards, hotel exteriors and hand-written signs taped to fences. It has become a common hashtag for a community to rally around following adversity, but Las Vegas isn’t your typical community, as a tourist oasis for many.

Most people who pass through for the weekend view it as a lovable punchline, a place where you quote lines from “The Hangover” and “Swingers” and promise yourself you’ll never return — before you invariably do a few months later.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting on Oct. 1, however, the world is discovering the part of Las Vegas that is a real city, with real locals who call this place home. They are the first responders, the police officers, the firefighters, the doctors, the nurses, and the men and women who lined up for hours to donate blood because they wanted to help out in any way they could. They don’t live on The Strip. They live in North Las Vegas, Summerlin, Boulder City, Henderson and all over Clark County. The impact a sports team can have on a community can, at times, be exaggerated, especially when public funding is involved, but Tuesday night was an example of what a team can do for a city looking for a reason to smile and have fun again, even if just for one night.

This wasn’t the home debut Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley envisioned when he was awarded the first major professional sports team in the city’s history last year. All of his grand-opening plans were postponed until the team’s next home game on Friday. Tuesday wasn’t about them; it was about remembering the victims, honoring the first responders and recognizing the city they call home. The team covered all the advertising on the boards around the ice before the game and replaced it with one simple message — #VegasStrong.

“We want to show that we’re part of the Vegas community,” Foley said. “We want to recognize first responders and show them that we appreciate everything that they’ve done. They’re the ones who went out there and risked their lives and saved lives. We’re trying hard to represent them.”

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Golden Knights Expansion Draft Revealed

Written by ESPN Staff at ESPN.com

Marc-Andre Fleury already is a champion. Now he’s a Golden Knight.

The veteran goaltender was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in their expansion draft, the results of which were announced Wednesday during the 2017 NHL Awards telecast. The announcement comes on the 14th anniversary of Fleury being selected first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2003 draft.

Fleury, who was on hand for Wednesday night’s ceremony, received the largest cheer from the Las Vegas fans, something that surprised the 32-year-old.

“I didn’t know that was coming,” Fleury said. “I was a little surprised by that. That was a warm welcome, and I’m getting excited about it.”

Fleury now goes from the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champions to the desert expansion team.

“I’m not looking to be the face of much,” Fleury said when asked of being his new team’s star player. “I’m just trying to come and play hockey.”

His old team’s star player, Sidney Crosby, spoke glowingly of the netminder.

“He’s going to be so important for their team with his experience and the kind of person he is,” Crosby said after the awards show. “You couldn’t have a better guy.”

The Golden Knights’ selections were revealed in reverse order of their originating team’s regular-season standings, meaning the Colorado Avalanche’s player (Calvin Pickard) came off the board first, while the Washington Capitals’ pick (Nate Schmidt) was announced last.

With their first expansion draft picks, Vegas selected Pickard, a goalie, forwards William Carrier, Cody Eakin, Jonathan Marchessault, Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Nosek, and defensemen Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill and Luca Sbisa.

James Neal was the biggest individual name revealed in the second round of expansion announcements. The veteran forward posted 41 points for the Stanley Cup Finals runner-up Nashville Predators during the regular season.

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Army Not Happy With New Vegas Hockey Team


Written by Scott Burnside at ESPN.com

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point but says that the naming of his NHL expansion team doesn’t cross any lines with the U.S. Army, whose longtime elite parachute team also uses the nickname Golden Knights.

“I have complete respect for the US Army and all that it does for our nation,” Foley told ESPN in an email after news surfaced that the U.S. Army was looking into the official naming of the 31st NHL franchise last week because of the shared nickname.

“Our development and use of the name Vegas Golden Knights was based upon Nevada being the largest gold producing state in the country and the golden tones of the Las Vegas strip,” Foley wrote.

“Our use of the Golden Knights is distinctive from the Army Golden Knights just as the N.Y. Rangers are distinctive from the Texas Rangers or the Arizona Cardinals are distinctive from the St. Louis Cardinals,” he added. “There already exist the Clarkson College Golden Knights and many other Golden Knights across the country.”

Reports that the Army might have an issue with the Las Vegas team’s nickname first appeared in The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina. The Army parachute team is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Foley trademarked three names — Silver Knights, Desert Knights and Golden Knights — leading up to the unveiling of the expansion team’s name. The nickname Golden Knights was introduced at a ceremony outside the team’s arena off the Las Vegas Strip on Nov. 22. Foley told ESPN.com that he cleared the use of the nickname with the Clarkson University Golden Knights in Potsdam, New York, before proceeding.

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