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

10 thoughts after the NHL trade deadline

In a lot of ways the 2019 NHL trade deadline was a predictable one.

The Ottawa Senators sold off their few remaining good players. The Nashville Predators were heavy buyers. Teams like the Calgary Flames and New York Islanders that appear to be ahead of schedule did not mess with what has worked for them so far and decided to stay the course and see where their current rosters can take them. There also were not really any major shockers, outside of maybe Mikael Granlund being traded by Minnesota, in terms of the players who did get moved.

But there were still a few surprises thrown in.

The Columbus Blue Jackets went wild and mortgaged their short-term future for the hope of even shorter-term success, the San Jose Sharks doubled down on their confidence in Martin Jones, the Vegas Golden Knights went after the big fish again and the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals made some minor tweaks to their rosters.

We examine all of that and more with 10 thoughts and observations after the NHL trade deadline.

1.  Columbus has everything riding on this season

Keeping Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky was a pretty good indication that the Columbus Blue Jackets were willing to see what they could do this season instead of being resigned to the fact they will lose both over the summer, and thus trading them before the deadline. But then they doubled down on that by being the biggest buyers at the deadline by giving up draft picks and prospects for rentals Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid. That leaves the Blue Jackets with six unrestricted free agents after this season (including Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and Dzingel) and only two draft picks in the 2019 class: a third-rounder and a seventh-rounder. That is the definition of “all-in.” The wild thing about this is that they are not even a lock to make the playoffs. This could all go south very quickly if they do not secure one of the top eight seeds in the Eastern Conference.

2. The Sharks have everything riding on Martin Jones

The San Jose Sharks made themselves better at the trade deadline by getting Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings, making an already deep team that much stronger. They did not, however, address the biggest question mark facing them: goaltending. The tag-team duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has not played up to a championship level this season and that could prove to be the team’s ultimate undoing in the playoffs. Jones has never been one to steal games for the Sharks, but he has always been, at worst, a league-average to slightly above-league-average starter. If he can return to that form and play at that level, the Sharks will be a formidable team in the playoffs. If he does not, it could derail a potential championship season.

3. The Flames have a lot of faith in their team

The San Jose Sharks added Nyquist. The Vegas Golden Knights added Mark Stone. The Nashville Predators added Mikael Granlund and Wayne Simmonds. The Winnipeg Jets added Kevin Hayes. All of the top contenders in the Western Conference added a significant player. The Calgary Flames? Added Oscar Fantenberg. A depth defender. No insurance in goal. No additional depth up front. They are riding into the playoffs with the team that has gotten them to this point in the season. Sometimes that is a good thing.

4. The Detroit Red Wings probably should have done more

It is a few years overdue, but the Detroit Red Wings have finally started to rebuild their aging, expensive, declining roster. They have assembled a ton of draft picks and have at least set themselves up for a chance to restock the cupboards. But why didn’t they do more? Trading Nyquist was a necessary move, given his pending status as a UFA, but was there really no market for Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Thomas Vanek or any other veteran on the team? It just seems like there was a chance here to move more players and get even more draft picks for the future.

5. The Nashville Predators love blockbusters

David Poile has assembled a powerhouse team in Nashville and somehow still kept his team well under the league’s salary cap. He’s also scored some of the biggest trades in the NHL over the past few years acquiring P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Kyle Turris as part of blockbuster deals. He added to that at the trade deadline by pulling a stunner when he sent Kevin Fiala to the Minnesota Wild for Granlund and then acquiring Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers. Oh, and don’t forget about that pre-deadline deal to get Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils. That is what going all in looks like for a Stanley Cup contender, and, amazingly, his team is still in a great position under the salary cap in future seasons. A lot of times when GM’s swing for the fences on big trades, they start to eventually come up empty. That has yet to happen for Poile, who just keeps hitting home runs.

6. The Vegas Golden Knights go big

Even though they were in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, it is still remarkable to see the Vegas Golden Knights, in Year 2 of their existence, going after the big-ticket players. They went all in trying to get Erik Karlsson. When that failed they traded for Max Pacioretty and signed Paul Stastny. Now they pulled off one of the biggest scores of the deadline in getting Stone from the Ottawa Senators, then agreed to a new contract. Stone is a star, a true top-line winger, and a player who can make a difference for an already strong team that is a contender. He is still in the prime of his career, making this a huge score for both the short term and long term.

7. Did Boston do enough?

The Boston Bruins are an outstanding team and a sneaky contender in the Eastern Conference, getting lost in the shadow of Tampa Bay and Toronto. But the top half of their lineup is as good as anybody’s in the league, and they have two goalies playing at an extremely high level in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Their big question has been depth, as there has been little offensive production after Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug (when they are healthy). They attempted to address that by acquiring Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. They are solid additions, and Johansson has been especially hot lately now that he is healthy. But will they be enough to get the Bruins through what will almost certainly be a daunting playoff run in the Atlantic Division that will probably include both the Maple Leafs and Lightning?

Full 10

By: Adam Gretz

Bruins’ Brad Marchand set to return for Winter Classic

The Boston Bruins should get a boost just in time for the Winter Classic on Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reports that Brad Marchand should be ready to go after practicing today, barring any setbacks. He missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury, but it looks like it wasn’t a serious issue.

Marchand is having another solid campaign with 12 goals and 41 points in 39 games this season.

Rosen also reports that defenseman Charlie McAvoy remains questionable for the big game. McAvoy has missed two games with a lower-body injury and did not practice today. The gifted defenseman has struggled with injuries and has appeared in just 17 games this year, although he has 11 points.

In other NHL injury notes:

  • Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post writes that Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen will be out Monday against Nashville and miss his second straight game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. However, the team got better news on Brooks Orpik, who is listed as a game-time decision for Monday after missing 27 games with a right-knee injury. Khurshudyan reports both players practiced Sunday and are close to returning. The team has also been without Christian Djoos.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins could be without forward Bryan Rust and defenseman Olli Maatta on Monday as both are listed as day-to-day, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Matt Vensel. Rust didn’t practice today with an undisclosed injury, and Maatta suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s game against St. Louis, but finished the game. He also didn’t practice today.
  • Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports that Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau is close to a return. While he’s not expected to play Monday, he could be back not long after that. The 26-year-old has been out all season after having surgery to repair a torn Achilles. He had a six-month timetable in mid-September and is well ahead of schedule. Pageau had 14 goals and 29 points last season.

By Holger Stolzenberg

Original Article

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

Nashville Predators Triumph in Game 2

Kevin Fiala scored 5:37 into the second overtime to give the Nashville Predators a 5-4 win against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday. Top rated sports book says the entire city of Nashville was cheering.

 

Fiala took a pass from Craig Smith and beat Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck on the backhand.

“I’m very happy that we won,” Fiala said. “That’s all that matters. It was a huge game for us to tie it up 1-1. It’s very big for us.”

Viktor Arvidsson gave the Predators a 3-2 lead at 18:41 of the second period on a slapshot on the rush from the right circle. It was his third goal.

You focus on the little things,” Johansen said. “You don’t worry about the points or anything like that. You focus on the details as an individual that makes you the best player possible for your team and where you can help guys around you in their game and stuff. For me, it’s going out there and doing the little things all the time consistently well and putting myself in position to have success.”

By N. Cermak

Pittsburgh Penguins Win Second Stanley Cup In As Many Years

Written by Bill Barnewell at ESPN.com

After the Penguins had finally conquered Bridgestone Arena, after the raucous Predators fans had thrown a final catfish and vacated the premises and allowed a few hundred Pittsburgh Penguins supporters to roar, after the TV cameras had turned off and the floodgates had opened to friends and family, Phil Kessel exchanged huge hugs and grateful pounds of relief with his friends. Mark Streit cradled his baby in his arms for gleeful photo opportunities with whomever passed by. Exhausted Penguins conducted versions of what was surely the same celebratory interview in a bevy of languages.

And there, in the middle of it all, was Sidney Crosby.

Even after the glamour of the initial Cup hoist was over, the Penguins captain again held the trophy up for minutes on end as he slowly sauntered around and then through a throng of teammates, coaches and onlooking media. You would forgive Crosby for feeling like it was his own, given that his Penguins became the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the 1997-1998 Detroit Red Wings, and he became the first player to lead the NHL in regular-season goals then hoist the Cup since Wayne Gretzky in 1986-1987 — Crosby’s birth year. While Crosby’s first title was a victory of revenge and redemption over those same Red Wings, and the second was a return to the summit after physical adversity, this was a triumph of sheer will. Pittsburgh survived its way to this championship.

It took a win in Game 6 to keep the Penguins from tying an NHL record for the longest postseason in league history, but in their 25th game of these playoffs, the Penguins delivered an unlikely victory. Beating the Predators in Nashville, where the home team had gone 9-1 before Sunday’s must-win Game 6? Winning a defensive struggle? It’s weird to think of a team with the silky skills of Crosby, Kessel and Evgeni Malkin gritting their way to a championship, but once the shooting luck they rode to stay alive early in this series wore off, Pittsburgh turned in what was mostly an impressive defensive display, a stretch of simply hanging on.

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Penguins Hang 6 Goals On Preds To Take Game 5

Written by Tal Pinchevsky at ESPN.com

With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ series of organized team activities completed before reporting to training camp July 27, the team’s offensive linemen ventured out together Thursday as a group to PPG Paints Arena to enjoy Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final between the hometown Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Nashville Predators.

The outing offered the group an opportunity to kick back while watching a different hometown team make a run toward what the city hopes will be another Stanley Cup title.

“Every OTAs, we do an O-line event before we get to minicamp,” said center Maurkice Pouncey during the game. “We were going to go to the baseball game, but the hockey game ended up being here. We cancelled that and came here. It’s been good so far.”

The group, consisting of 15 players along with coaches Mike Munchak and Shaun Sarrett, was treated to an impressive hometown performance as the Penguins beat the Predators 6-0. Attending class and forced to arrive late, tackle Alejandro Villanueva missed some of those goals. But the night out proved to be a galvanizing excursion for the group.

“I’m actually from Nashville. I’ve been to a few Predators games too,” guard Ramon Foster said. “But Pittsburgh is the only reason I watch hockey. My loyalty is here.”

The group of linemen weren’t the only ones representing the Steelers on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker Ryan Shazier also attended the game, as did former Steeler Brett Keisel.

“We actually spotted our quarterback down there hanging out by the glass,” said Pouncey after spotting Roethlisberger sitting in a separate section. “This is awesome. We’re having a really good time.”

The appearance from the Steelers’ entire offensive line served as something of a response to the Tennessee Titans, whose linemen could be seen supporting the Predators throughout the postseason.

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Predators Tie Series At 2 Games Each

Written by the AP at Fox News.com

Frederick Gaudreau sure is doing his best to earn his own locker with the Nashville Predators with a Stanley Cup Final debut for the ages.

An undrafted free agent playing just his sixth postseason game, Gaudreau scored the go-ahead goal 3:45 into the second period and Pekka Rinne made 23 often-spectacular saves as the Predators beat the Penguins 4-1 on Monday night to even the series at 2-2.

It’s now a best-of-three sprint to the Stanley Cup, and Nashville is riding a wave of momentum after outscoring the defending champions 9-2 in the Games 3 and 4 of their Final debut.

Gaudreau, a 24-year-old rookie, only has a chair in the Predators’ locker room, but he now is the second player in NHL history to score his first three career goals in a Stanley Cup Final, joining Johnny Harms with the 1944 Blackhawks. Calle Jarnkrok, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg also scored for Nashville, which improved to 9-1 at home.

“We were in a tough hole against a really good team, came home and took care of the home games with the help of all our great fans,” Rinne said. “It’s a great feeling. We played two really good games.”

Sidney Crosby scored his first goal in the series after not getting a shot on goal in Game 3. The goal was his first in the Stanley Cup Final since June 4, 2009 — a span of 12 games. The goal came after he was held without a shot for only the fifth time in his career in the playoffs.

The Penguins now have lost two straight for the second time this postseason. They also lost Games 5 and 6 against Washington. Goalie Matt Murray lost consecutive games for the first time in his young career.

Game 5 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

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Predators Stay Alive, Win Game Three

Written by Andrew Both at AOL.com

Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban had guaranteed a win in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final series and the Predators responded with a 5-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Pittsburgh lead the best-of-seven 2-1 but missed a chance to take a stranglehold on the series at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

After leading almost every statistical category except ‘goals scored’ in the opening two games in Pittsburgh, Subban had predicted the Predators would take the third game when the series moved to Nashville.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins went 1-0 up early in the first period when Jake Guentzel pounced on a rebound from an Ian Cole shot and squeezed the puck past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne from close range, silencing the raucous crowd.

But that was the only time the Penguins found a way past Rinne, who stopped 27 of 28 shots and stepped up his play after sub-par performances in the first two games of the series.

The Predators hit back with five unanswered goals, including two within a minute in the second period through Roman Josi, on a power play, and then center Frederick Gaudreau to take the lead.

“We knew what it was going to be like coming back home and we wanted to take advantage of it and we did,” Subban said.

“The first two games we played good hockey but that’s a championship team. You can’t afford to make the mistakes we made.

“A bad bounce early and we went down one-nothing but like our team has done the whole playoffs, we showed really good composure today and we’re going to take that into the next game.”

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