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

Watch: Alex Ovechkin with epic celebration after go-ahead goal

Alex Ovechkin was feeling it after pouring in the go-ahead goal Monday night as his Washington Capitals attempted to close out their series against Carolina.

Ovechkin made a brilliant shot before going absolutely wild with an epic celebration in front of the road crowd.

This was Ovechkin’s fourth goal of the playoffs so far. He’s on fire right now, just like his celebration game.

Original Article

By Jesse Reed

Watch: Alex Ovechkin knocks out Andrei Svechnikov in fight

Alex Ovechkin wasn’t looking to get into a fight during Game 3 of the Carolina Hurricanes-Washington Capitals first round playoff series on Monday night, but once he engaged, he looked to end it quickly.

Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov kept dogging Ovechkin, trying to bait him into a fight during the first period. Ovechkin seemed to be declining at first but then dropped gloves.

He took a shot or two and then unloaded two big right hands to drop Svechnikov:

If the sight of Ovechkin fighting seemed odd to you, it should. That was only his fourth career fight, according to HockeyFights.com. His record is now 1-3 with this one knockout.

By: Larry Brown

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

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

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

Conn Smythe Watch: Fleury, Ovechkin leading MVP race

We’re down to the final four in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and the expansion darling Vegas Golden Knights are all seeking their first championship. The Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to win for the first time in 14 years.

Here’s a look at the individual players who have contributed to their success, and have put themselves in line for playoff MVP honors. Keep in mind this ranking isn’t based just on their stats so far but also on how the voters might view their cases should their teams hoist the Cup.


10. Dustin Byfuglien, D, Winnipeg Jets

It’s been a Big Buff lovefest this postseason, as fans rediscover the singular charms of the hulking Jets defenseman. He has 13 points in 12 games, four of them on the power play, to go along with 18 penalty minutes. His 26:17 of ice time per game is third most among players still active in the postseason.

9. Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

Holty has the numbers, with a .929 even-strength save percentage in backstopping the Capitals to their first conference final in 20 years. But more importantly, he’s got the narrative: benched for the first two games of the playoffs, then reclaiming his starter’s mantle with series wins against Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Murray.

Full article here

By: Greg Wyshynski

Capitals giving Washington fans reason to believe as they take 2-0 lead vs. Lightning h

TAMPA — A running joke for Washington area sports fans for many years has been that every spring, in our nation’s capital, cherry blossoms bloom and the Washington Capitals wilt.

But this season’s Capitals appear determined to break the cycle of postseason failures. The Capitals turned in another strong overall game to down the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 and claim a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final.

Two weeks ago, the story was the Capitals hadn’t been to the conference finals in the Alex Ovechkin era. Now, the Capitals are two wins from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.

“We are playing good,” said Brett Connolly, who scored one of Washington’s goals.  “They look like they are a frustrated a little over there, and we have to continue to play hard, keep playing fast, and stay on them.”

Forgive Washington fans if they don’t know how to act on Tuesday when the series shifts to D.C. for Games 3 and 4.

The Capitals aren’t just squeaking by against the Lightning. Despite missing key center Nicklas Backstrom because of an injury, the Capitals have outscored the Lightning 10-4 in the two games in Tampa. This is a Lightning team that boasted the league’s No. 1 offense in the regular season. The Lightning have one even-strength goal against Washington in two games.

Enthusiasm abounds for the Capitals. It’s as if the Washington players, now with a huge weight lifted off their shoulders by escaping the second round, are now playing with unbridled confidence. The Capitals are 3-0 without Backstrom, who is among the NHL’s best centers. They are 7-1 on the road. They overcame a blown officiating call that led to a Lightning power-play goal.

Continue article here

By. Kevin Allen

 

Capitals vs. Lightning Preview: 3 keys to the series

The Capitals certainly have their work cut out for them in the Eastern Conference Final. They are facing a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has reached this round three times in the last four years and that has a loaded roster.

If they hope to advance on to the Stanley Cup Final, here are three keys to the series.

1. Winning the goalie duel

On paper, Tampa is better on offense and defense. If they get the better of the goaltending matchup as well then…well, there’s not much left for the Capitals to build on. Washington must have the edge in goaltending if they hope to win.

Fatigue is a definite question mark when it comes to Vasilevskiy. He already admitted midseason he was struggling with it and, while you could certainly argue that seemed to affect Braden Holtby as well, the difference is that Holtby got a chance to rest thanks to Philipp Grubauer.

Holtby played in 54 games in the regular season as compared to Vasilevskiy’s 65. Both goalies have given comparable performances in the playoffs thus far, but the longer this postseason run goes for Vasilevskiy, the more you have to wonder if fatigue will catch up to him again in much the same way it did during the regular season when his numbers plummeted.

Even if fatigue is not a factor, however, Holtby must still find a way to outperform his counterpart. Goaltending can often be a mitigating factor in the playoffs and it needs to be for Washington given how deep the Lightning’s roster is.

By: J.J Regan

https://www.yahoo.com/news/capitals-vs-lightning-preview-3-032546454.html