Down the Frozen River Podcast #6- 2015 NHL Entry Draft and Pending Free Agents Analysis

Host, Nick Lanciani, and analyst, Colby Kephart, discuss a little draft strategy and spend the rest of the time talking about potential unrestricted free agents, as well as potential restricted free agents as of July 1st in the 6th edition of the Down the Frozen River Podcast.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver on Twitter- your thoughts might make it on our show!

Please be sure you listen to Parts 1 and 2, we had to break up the file size a bit to fit in all of our thoughts. Since I didn’t get a chance to post this yesterday as I wanted, Happy Belated Father’s Day, now. Sorry it took forever.

Here’s Part 1

And here’s Part 2

It’s Time for a Second Look

By: Nick Lanciani

It’s mind boggling that the NHL wouldn’t want to continue being a leader in sports and entertain the notion of having more than 30 teams in a league, for once, in North American sports. Okay, the NFL has 32 teams, I get that- but there’s this fascination for some odd reason that a successful sports league can only max out around 30 teams, given how the NHL, NBA, and MLB all have 30 teams in their leagues. Quite frankly, that’s a load of bull. The National Hockey League is old enough to still be young and reinventing itself, as was the case after the 2004-2005 lockout with the addition of new rules (the trapezoid) and the removal of old ones (two line passing).

What I mean is, the NHL is not Major League Baseball, which beats the “heritage” card to extinction year after year as to lamely explain why the MLB doesn’t change. While the MLB would never consider entertaining a franchise in Las Vegas (which would be a first in professional sports), the NHL could be a front-runner for professional sports of the future in North America. At least, given the eye of the young fan base that’s been keeping track of the league for the last few years, there’s a chance to really make a splash. Major League Soccer and the NHL’s interest in Las Vegas and other markets are good for their leagues and sports in general.

Peter Stastny center, flanked by brothers Marian (left) and Anton. All three played for the Quebec Nordiques in the 80s. Photos: HHoF
The Stastny brothers (from left to right, Marian, Peter, and Anton) were some of the first European superstars in the NHL back in the 80s. Photo: HHoF

While the MLS is adding a team in Atlanta in 2017, the NHL will likely stay away from Atlanta for eternity after two failed attempts at a hockey presence in Georgia. However, given the recent rate of expansion in the MLS, there’s a good chance that they too, will end up having 30 teams at some point. Soccer’s popularity in the United States is on the rise and it’s backed by the recent viewership of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, beating some traditional hockey markets, like Philadelphia, while a 2015 Stanley Cup Final game was being shown on TV at the same time. The two leagues are innovative and should work together as both sports gain popularity. As it is, hockey is becoming more mainstream by removing some of the importance once stressed on fighting, resulting in just as entertaining games as ever before.

Soccer is a sport best played with many teams and some form of relegation, like in Europe. While that model would not translate well with hockey, at some point the MLS is going to have to absorb many of the popular teams in developmental leagues, in order to make their game more exciting. The NHL should consider something similar when it comes to the minor league markets that are untapped, or have worked in the past. Expansion and relocation fees aside, both leagues should go for breaking the 30-team barrier.

The NHL as it exists right now, would be on the verge of going for it much sooner than the MLS and could act as an example of what to do and how to go about things. I’m in favor of 34 teams in 2017, the NHL’s 100th season. But first, let’s get back to Quebec (and the basics).

(Denis Brodeur/Getty)
Joe Sakic in his Quebec days, before the Nordiques moved to Denver (Denis Brodeur/Getty Images).

If the league is intent on adding franchises, a return to Quebec City, the inevitable Las Vegas team, an expansion to Seattle, and whatever else may come their way is exactly what the NHL needs. After watching the Winnipeg Jets play in their first playoff game at home since the original Winnipeg Jets left for Arizona 19 years ago, I cannot help but think that the NHL needs to return to another small market, where hockey has already worked, and everyone loves the game. There’s a place that is more readily equipped for a National Hockey League return- Quebec City.

Whereas a former member of the NHL, Hartford, doesn’t have an adequate arena to play in and potential spotty ownership, Quebec City has the 18,482 seat Videotron Centre- set to open this September. The brand new arena will have all the top-notch amenities and will be NHL move-in ready, should the league wish to expand or a team relocate, such as the Coyotes in their dreaded current state. Fear not, Arizona and Gary Bettman nay-sayers, the league’s experiment is just starting to see results in the growth of the game in the Southwestern region of the United States.

The Videotron Centre (Centre Vidéotron) sits in the background of the Pepsi Coliseum (Colisée Pepsi). DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/JOURNAL DE QUEBEC/AGENCE QMI
The Videotron Centre (Centre Vidéotron) sits in the background of the Pepsi Coliseum (Colisée Pepsi). DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/JOURNAL DE QUEBEC/AGENCE QMI

And don’t get me wrong, Connecticut, you guys love hockey and still love the Whalers to this day. It’s not realistic in Hartford’s current state, for an NHL return anytime soon. Yet, I’ll still be one of the first to help you demand a return and shout, “Bring back the Whalers!” should there be a more immediate and reasonable plan. But there’s a place that is more readily equipped for a National Hockey League return- Quebec City.

But what’s holding everyone back? Canada is able to sustain at least eight franchises, if not more, and hockey is Canada’s game after all. The league made the best of a hurtful breakup in its return to Winnipeg back in 2011, surely NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and crew can make due on Quebec’s aching heart since 1995 when the original Quebec Nordiques fled the struggling Canadian dollar and the lack of a locally interested owner and went west to become the Colorado Avalanche. Perhaps the league will find enough heart to forgive the Nordiques from almost rebranding with awful looking 90s teal on an otherwise decent looking jersey.

I mean, if the league is serious about adding a team in Las Vegas, which might not carry longevity, then why not look for a place with more staying power than whatever Vegas would become. The original Nordiques survived in the league from 1979 to 1995. Despite some down years, Quebec was on an impressive turnaround at the end of the 1994-1995 season. The team that moved wound up winning the Stanley Cup in their first season in Colorado.

The whiteout was in full force in Winnipeg in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo By: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images
The whiteout was in full force in Winnipeg in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo By: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Among teams that no longer exist, Quebec Nordiques merchandise ranks second to the Hartford Whalers in sales. Still not convinced about the staying power of a new Quebec Nordiques franchise? Look at the return of the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It’s a small hockey market, but they sell out every seat in the 15,004 seating capacity MTS Centre for every home game, despite missing the playoffs from the 2011-2012 season to last season. In their first game back to the postseason, the MTS Centre was rocking at 124 dB from time to time as reported by Sportsnet.

Imagine how loud it would be in the Videotron Centre for the Nordiques return or their first provincial rivalry regular season meet-up with the Montreal Canadiens since 1995- in any case, it’d be awesome. As an aside, Boston Bruins fans would gladly welcome another team that despises the Habs. They’ll even forgive Ron Tugnutt for his extraordinary 70 save performance on 73 shots on goal en route to the Nordiques 3-3 tie against the Bruins on March 21, 1991, even though some of their modern day fans were not even alive then.

The NHL obviously has issues with adding another team to the Eastern Conference before adding anything to the Western Conference due to its current imbalance with 16 teams in the East and 14 in the West. The easiest way to solve the original realignment problem created when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg four years ago would have been to simply swap the Jets with the Nashville Predators in their respective divisions. Winnipeg would have gone to the Central, while Nashville would have gone to the Southeast in a geographically sensible maneuver.

However, the league decided to consolidate the divisions from six to four and swapped Winnipeg for Detroit and Columbus. In the process, each conference makes geographic sense, with a focus on cutting travel expenses and reducing a carbon footprint league-wide. Yet, while the Central and Pacific Divisions are perfect, the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions are somewhat flawed. Yes, with all of the teams from the old Northeast Division, plus Detroit, somehow the Atlantic Division also has the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Division has both the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

It’d make sense to swap both New York City teams with both Florida teams, citing the exact same reasons the NHL came up with in the first place, but for whatever reason, that is frowned upon. It’s not like it wouldn’t saturate the market or anything, because as it is, New York already has three teams (four if you count the New Jersey Devils in Newark, New Jersey). While, yes, the Buffalo Sabres and both the Rangers and Islanders have a little distance between them, it’s nothing compared to Florida and Tampa.

And speaking of the Florida Panthers, it’s only a matter of time- no matter how good the product on the ice may get- before they have to relocate. The Panthers and Sunrise, Florida may find themselves at odds much like how Glendale, Arizona is in legal upheavals with the Arizona Coyotes. A hockey team in the suburbs of a non-traditional market isn’t proven to profit. But where should the Panthers end up without causing much fuss over realignment?

REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

You guessed it- Quebec City. They’re already in the Atlantic Division, so absolutely nothing would have to be changed except for all franchise trademarks and whatnot regarding the transition from the Panthers to the, newly returned, Nordiques. In foresight, it’s not hard to fall in love with the furthest north professional sports franchise after all of the neglect it saw in one of the most southern nontraditional hockey markets.

Oh and if New Jersey had to move for whatever reason, given their recent downturn and less than stellar attendance, then Quebec is a prime destination. Realignment would still be simple, swap Quebec with one of the Florida teams and maybe then the NHL would have to realize it should kick the other Florida team to the Metropolitan Division and insert the New York Rangers (or Islanders) into the Atlantic Division. Then again, relocation of either the Panthers or the Devils could just mean that the league would send them west to Seattle or Las Vegas and call it a day, having a balanced fifteen teams in both conferences, but that wouldn’t be any fun, wouldn’t it?

Look, I’m all for a team in Seattle, so here’s what you do. Add an expansion franchise to Seattle and force Detroit back to the Western Conference; because we all know two matchups a year between longstanding rivals, the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks, really aren’t enough. Then add a team in Quebec City to make it a nice thirty-two-team league with sixteen teams in each conference. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see a reincarnation of the Nordiques after the beautifully aesthetic appeal of the current Jets installment?

That’s right, I’m saying that when the NHL goes back to Quebec City, it’s not a bad idea to modernize the franchise. The igloo with a hockey stick that somewhat formed the shape of an “n” with its tricolor scheme and fleur-de-lis all over the jerseys was great- timeless even, a classic for traditionalist vintage hockey fans- but there are some great concepts on the Internet for glorious designs in the event of a rebirth of the Nordiques.

This is my favorite of all the Quebec concepts on Icethetics.
This is my favorite of all the Quebec concepts on Icethetics.

I think a darker shade of navy blue would suffice, with maybe a snowy owl and the city skyline or something that is distinctive of Quebec City, and of course sharp looking fleur-de-lis prominently featured on the bottom half of the sweater and along the pants. If you have the time, go check out some great designs on Icethetics.co, some great concept artists have really gone all out on creating the perfect symbol for what should be a return to the true north strong and free- Quebec City.

In this day and age, with the billion dollar industry that is the sports world, it shouldn’t be hard to find an owner and work with the largely French speaking fan base. Back in the days of the original Nordiques, English speaking fans flocked to the Quebec City team over the much more hardcore French speaking franchise over in Montreal. Obviously it must have been the warm and inviting ­fleur-de-lis calling them to the light side of The Force in the battle of Quebec. Either that or it was because of the great players that once graced the ice at Colisée Pepsi, such as the Stastny brothers, Mats Sundin, Guy Lafleur, Owen Nolan, Peter Forsberg, and my favorite- Joe Sakic.

The bottom line, folks, Quebec City has an important mark on the history of hockey. It was once home to the Quebec Bulldogs who spent one season in the NHL (1919-1920) before moving to Hamilton, Ontario to become the Hamilton Tigers and it was once home to the 1977 Avco World Trophy champions as the World Hockey Association’s top team before joining the NHL in the WHA-NHL merger in 1979- the Quebec Nordiques. Isn’t it time that someone brought the game back where it belongs for all of us to enjoy? Even in the face of the uncertainty of the salary cap situation currently and the issues that are once again surrounding the Canadian dollar, I mean, hockey is for everyone, after all.

The Chicago Blackhawks are 2015 Stanley Cup Champions

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 6 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2Dynasty. That’s the first word that comes to mind when anyone has to reflect on the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions, once again, for the 3rd time in 6 seasons. 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Duncan Keith, scored the Stanley Cup winning- game winning- goal and Patrick Kane ensured the win with his goal in the 3rd period that made it 2-0 Chicago.

Corey Crawford made 25 saves en route to a Stanley Cup clinching shutout, while Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender, Ben Bishop, stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced in the Lightning’s loss.

Despite entering the night as the only team in the NHL that hadn’t lost 3 games in a row at any point in the season, Joel Quenneville and the Chicago Blackhawks handed the Tampa Bay Lightning their first three game losing streak of the year. Quenneville improved to 10-0 in his career as the Blackhawks head coach in Game 6’s when leading the series 3-2.

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Your 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Photo: Getty Images

The game began with a furious pace as the Blackhawks quickly led the Lightning in shots on goal, 4-2 at 8:35 of the opening period. The 8:35 mark also acknowledged the first penalty of the game as Tampa forward, Cedric Paquette, was called for tripping Chicago captain, Jonathan Toews.

Teuvo Teravainen nearly had a power play goal, but sent the puck just wide of the goal, similar to how Marian Hossa had done so earlier in the series. The Lightning’s penalty killers were able to get the job done and finished off Chicago’s power play opportunity without allowing a goal on the scoreboard.

At 13:53, Brian Boyle took the second penalty of the game and was sent to the box with a minor penalty for roughing. The Lightning killed the penalty. Toews had a remarkable chance late in the 1st period as he fell to his knees and nearly redirected the puck in the net with the shaft of his stick, but sent one wide instead. Paquette had a similar chance a couple of minutes later for Tampa.

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40 year-old, Kimmo Timonen, raises the Cup for the first and last time in his career, becoming the oldest defenseman since Ray Bourque (2001) to win the Cup. Photo: Getty Images

After twenty minutes of play, Chicago was outshooting Tampa, 13-4, leading faceoff wins, 12-5, and blocked shots, 9-5, while Tampa was tied in hits, 16-16. The Blackhawks had gone 0/2 on the power play in the 1st, while the Lightning had yet to see a man advantage opportunity.

Nearly a minute into the 2nd period, Steven Stamkos found himself on a breakaway. His backhanded shot was denied by the sprawling pads of Corey Crawford and the lack of puck luck continued to haunt Stamkos.

Both teams swapped numerous chances as the tremendous battle of spectacular goaltending continued. Chicago broke out with a sting of 4 shots on goal in an eight-minute span, while holding Tampa to a single shot on goal.

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Duncan Keith receives the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo: Getty Images

At 17:13 of the 2nd period, Duncan Keith collected a rebound and scored the game’s first goal of the night. The 1-0 lead for the Blackhawks came on Keith’s 3rd goal of the postseason, with help from Patrick Kane and former Lightning forward, and member of the 2004 Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning team, Brad Richards.

With the goal, Keith tied Chris Chelios for most points by a Blackhawks defenseman in a single postseason with 21 points. Chelios had accomplished the feat in 1992. Chicago was leading shots on goal, 20-11.

22,424 Blackhawks fans at the United Center broke out in unison, chanting “we want the Cup” repeatedly for a few minutes after Keith’s goal.

Ondrej Palat took a minor penalty for elbowing at 19:13 of the period, giving the Blackhawks another powerplay opportunity that carried over into the 3rd period, as a result of not scoring in the remainder of the 2nd period.

After forty minutes of play, Chicago led 1-0 on the scoreboard and was leading just about everything else. The Blackhawks led shots on goal 23-11, faceoff wins 25-15, and blocked shots 14-8. Meanwhile, the Lightning were outhitting Chicago, 40-23.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/ Getty Images
Captain’s Jonathan Toews (left) and Steven Stamkos (right) shake hands at the end of Game 6. Photo by Bruce Bennett/ Getty Images

The final frame of the 2014-2015 NHL season began just as the game had originally begun, with complete domination from the Chicago Blackhawks. The fatigue of 26 playoff games was apparent as the young Tampa Bay Lightning squad chased the well-decorated veteran Blackhawk players around the rink.

With 9:34 remaining in the 3rd period, the Lightning were being outshot 30-18. On Chicago’s 31st shot of the night, Patrick Kane worked his playoff magic and gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead with his 11th goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs (and first goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final). Kane’s goal was assisted by Brad Richards and Brandon Saad.

The United Center was delirious, all but assured of their first Stanley Cup championship won at home since 1938- back when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President- and rightfully so, with the impressive skill and teamwork of the Blackhawks that has powered them in the Kane and Toews era, burning pages into the history books.

Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Corey Crawford looks on during the action in Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Chicago was so confident, in fact, that when Andrew Desjardins was sent to the sin bin for tripping Tampa defenseman, Anton Stralman, it looked as though they weren’t even playing shorthanded at 16:31 of the 3rd period. The Blackhawks killed the penalty with ease, as Crawford denied every shot on Tampa’s only power play of the night.

The seconds ran out and the Blackhawks had captured the Cup at home for the first time since Fitchburg, Massachusetts native, Bill Stewart, was the first American-trained head coach to win the Stanley Cup in 1938 with Chicago. 1938 was also the final time the Stanley Cup Final was a best of 5-games series.

Chicago finished the night with dominating faceoff wins 42-20, blocked shots 25-12, and shots on goal 32-25, while Tampa led in hits, 56-32. The Blackhawks ended the night 0 for 3 on the power play, while the Lightning finished 0 for 1 on the man advantage.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Ben Bishop (30) sprawls to make a save on Andrew Desjardins (11) in Game 6. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There are 17 players on the Blackhawks roster now with multiple Stanley Cups. Corey Crawford picked up his 45th career playoff win, tying a Blackhawks record held by legendary goaltender, Tony Esposito. Crawford also became the first Blackhawks goalie to win multiple Cups in a Chicago uniform.

Patrick Kane now has 114 points in 116 career playoff games and gave the series its lone two-goal lead after more than 350 minutes of one-goal leads or tied games. Chicago improved to 43-14 overall after Game 3 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Kane/Toews/Keith era.

Marian Hossa also capped off his 3rd Cup in 5 Stanley Cup Final appearances in the last 8 years. Hossa lost the Cup as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and as a Detroit Red Wing in 2009, but has won all 3 Stanley Cups in his career with the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, 2013, and 2015).

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Duncan Keith (2) scores the game winning goal on Ben Bishop (30) in the 2nd Period of Game 6 as Andrej Sustr (62) looks on. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Among notoriety, this year’s Conn Smythe winner, Duncan Keith is the first defenseman in NHL history to win 3 Stanley Cups, 2 Olympic Gold medals, 2 Norris Trophies, and 1 Conn Smythe Trophy. Keith also joined the likes of Larry Robinson, Brian Leetch, Bobby Orr, and Nicklas Lidstrom as the only defensemen in history to have won at least 2 Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe.

Duncan Keith was, by far, the Conn Smythe Trophy leading candidate, having been on the ice for 46 of the Blackhawks 68 goals in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The next highest on Chicago was Jonathan Toews, with 29. Keith also became the 2nd defenseman since 2005 with more than 20 points in a single postseason, joining Chris Pronger (2006) in that impressive feat.

Keith also became the first defenseman to win the Conn Smythe since Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer won it in 2007.

Unknown-1The Blackhawks became the first team since the 1945 Toronto Maple Leafs to score 2 or fewer goals in all 4 wins of a Stanley Cup Final series. And just like in 1938, the Stanley Cup was late to the party. Delayed because of the weather, the Cup received a police escort to the United Center after leaving the hotel shortly after puck drop. For the record, then NHL President, Frank Calder, did not think Chicago would win the Cup that night, so it wasn’t even presented to the winning team.

After the loss, the Tampa Bay Lightning revealed some of the injuries the team had suffered, including those to goaltender, Ben Bishop- who had been playing with a torn groin since Game 2- and Tyler Johnson, who had been playing with a broken wrist.

Jonathan Toews became the first captain with 3 or more Stanley Cups by the age of 27 since Wayne Gretzky captained the Edmonton Oilers to 4 Stanley Cups in 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988.

And on one final note, after 250 days, the 2014-2015 NHL season and playoffs witnessed 1,319 games played, 6,997 goals scored, 67,417 hits, 78,997 shots on goal, and 81,082 face-offs.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #5 2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 6 Preview and More

Host, Nick Lanciani, and analyst, Colby Kephart, discuss the chances of the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938 and more in the fifth edition of the Down the Frozen River Podcast.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver on Twitter- your thoughts might make it on our show!

Everyone’s Howling About the Coyotes

By: Nick Lanciani

Once again the Arizona Coyotes are at a crossroads. Every summer meets a new fork in the road for the team that just won’t give up on making ice in a sandy desert. With this off-season’s new tumultuous bringing, the Coyotes have plenty of options in what really should be considered a two-step plan. Step one- get out of Glendale. Step two, however, is unclear.

The Coyotes owners seem firm in their belief that they can do business in Arizona. Moreover, they believe they can remain in Glendale. The fact of the matter is that Glendale is unsustainable in its current state and will not get better. As the City of Phoenix begins to murmur about luring the Coyotes back to a new downtown arena, potentially to be shared with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, one thing is for sure- Arizona, as a state, is committed to their hockey team.

Photo by Norm Hall
Photo by Norm Hall

No, the Arizona Coyotes are not a failed experiment of the NHL by now- even in the face of millions of dollars in debt and a $200 million lawsuit between the Arizona Coyotes hockey club and the City of Glendale, Arizona.

What has failed was the move to the suburbs. Glendale is not an optimal location for fans traveling out of their way to catch the coolest game on Earth (pun intended).

Sporting organizations are always looking for ways to extend the product and/or make a profit. With the success of Patriot Place at Gillette Stadium for the NFL’s New England Patriots, teams in just about every other league- and even NASCAR- are vouching for suburban development of their own.

The MLB’s Atlanta Braves are heading for a suburban location and a sprawling complex of community and commercialization, aimed with a profit in mind, in the near future. Daytona International Speedway is constructing Daytona Rising- an entirely new experience for the International Speedway Corporation owned 2.5 mile superspeedway, set to redesign the grandstands and nearly all that surrounds them will be fully functional in 2016.

The point is to make money year round these days in professional sports (and not just to host fun events for patrons to attend). Even the Detroit Red Wings are moving into a new arena in 2017, set to revitalize Detroit, Michigan, with a money making complex in mind.

Photo by Norm Hall
Photo by Norm Hall

The Coyotes were simply too far ahead of the time to move to the suburbs without any substantial year round relevance in the planning, construction, and upkeep of Gila River Arena. In a sense, the Coyotes are like the Ottawa Senators and the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators play in Kanata, Ontario- a suburb just outside of Ottawa- but there’s not much that is enticing around the arena, aside from what appears to be a relatively new looking strip mall down the street a ways. While there’s the potential advantage of tailgating before a big game, that culture isn’t apparent league-wide, especially without a place to stumble around from shop to shop before the gates open when the weather gets dreary. Even the Senators, though, are pushing for a downtown Ottawa location.

All of this talk of a miracle saving, downtown location, with year round profitability is great, but shops alone do not build a fanbase or assemble an everlasting affect on a region. While an ideal arena design in contemporary times incorporates the suburban neighborly feel, only the game alone can grow the game. And that’s an aspect that the Arizona Coyotes, surprisingly, did well.

We are only just starting to see the affects of hockey in the desert for a long period of time. A generation has now been born with the team in existence for their entire lives and hockey is on the rise. Perhaps sparked by the prominence of strong Californian hockey teams battling the recently weak Coyotes, an interest has taken hold of the Arizona audience. The 2012 Western Conference Finalists have a loyal fanbase. In Phoenix, the building was full because fans could get to the games with ease. In Glendale, fans couldn’t always make the journey, but they made other things happen- partly, the travesty of events that are unfolding now, but the blame is equally spread amongst the team, city, and fans that didn’t make the venture.

Photo By: Credit Dominick Reuter, originally appeared in The New York Times
Photo By: Dominick Reuter, original publication in The New York Times (click photo for link to article).

Arizona now holds two key pieces to the proof of the Arizona Coyotes success in the region, both in the current ACHA Division I Arizona State University hockey team (set to join a NCAA Division I ranking conference for the 2016- 2017 season) and 2016 NHL Entry Draft expected top overall pick, Auston Matthews.

Matthews was born in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1997- a year after the Coyotes moved to Phoenix. The 6’2”, nearly 200 pounds, center is a product of expansion and globalizing the game.

Hockey is for everyone. Anyone that can build a rink and maintain it, can produce some of the next stars of the game. I’m all for the league continuing their desert journey, with one exception- Las Vegas. The Vegas market doesn’t seem to have longevity with it. Then again, rivals in the desert could be enough to forge an imprint in the league.

Improper ownership failed the Coyotes. Too much league intervention failed the Coyotes. But maybe it was just enough, after all, to gain a vested interest from their current ownership (a 51%- 49% split between Philadelphia hedge-fund manager, Andrew Barroway, and IceArizona Acquisition Co., LLC, respectively). Barroway and IceArizona clearly see the commitment of the fans, even at one of the lowest of the lows in terms of the franchise’s on-ice play.

So the Coyotes are left with an ultimatum; agree to share a new arena in Phoenix, in a reunion of tenants with the Suns, or relocate. Given that a new arena, even with the best construction companies, would be at least a couple of years out and the uncertainty of their future in Glendale (it’s a toxic environment that they should absolutely leave) their best bet just might be relocation.

Arizona deserves a hockey team. But it might be too little, too late for this franchise to succeed in Arizona. A move out of Arizona wouldn’t look bad with the growth of the game that would be left behind. This franchise has to save itself from its current damaging model. It needs to go somewhere where it is properly loved for a change. The Coyotes are worn out.

Vermette, Blackhawks, Chance to Clinch on Monday

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 5 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

Unknown-2Antoine Vermette scored yet another clutch game winning goal in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Heading into Game 5 the big story was Ben Bishop, having played through an injury in Game 3 and how he would continue handle it on Saturday night.

Aside from his early mess up that led to Patrick Sharp’s goal 6:11 into the 1st period, he seemed to have a solid game for being injured. However, Corey Crawford was the better goalie only giving up one goal on 29 shots.

The Blackhawks got off to an early start in the 1st period. It wasn’t surprising that they wanted to test the injured Ben Bishop. Bishop was there to answer early chances from Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad. It was one-way traffic in the first few minutes and it looked like Tampa forgot to show up at their own arena.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Nikita Kucherov had a chance as Corey Crawford made a mistake playing the puck and sent it right to Kucherov’s stick. Crawford dove back in front and stopped the surefire goal and run of play, a little over five minutes into the period. As Crawford froze the puck, Kucherov collided with the far post and left the game with an apparent shoulder injury.

Ben Bishop wasn’t so lucky on his mistake a minute later. As he came out to play the puck, he collided with his defenseman, Victor Hedman, while Patrick Sharp collected the puck and put into the wide open net, for his 5th of the post season. Teuvo Teravainen and Jonathan Toews were given the assists on Sharp’s goal.

Unknown-1By the halfway point of the period Chicago was outshooting the Lightning 11-3. Tampa wasn’t getting many shots, but they were throwing their weight around- outhitting Chicago 19-7. Faceoffs were split pretty equally with Chicago having a slight advantage, 13-10. The period ended with questions left unanswered by Tampa, especially since they only had 5 shots on goal compared to Chicago’s 15 shots on net.

The second period began with a penalty in the opening 47 seconds of the period, as Tampa’s Cedric Paquette was called for hooking. Tampa had a strong penalty kill and kept Chicago to very few chances. Except for Kris Versteeg’s great chance from the slot, but it was denied by Bishop.

Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The pace of the 2nd period was much more balanced than the 1st period. About halfway into the 2nd, shots on goal read 20-10 in favor of Chicago. Tampa was outhitting Chicago, 28-7, and leading in faceoffs, 14-13. 10:53 into the 2nd period Tampa evened the scoreboard with Valtteri Filppula netting his 4th of the playoffs, with help from Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman.

A few minutes later Brandon Saad took Chicago’s first penalty of the game as he got called for slashing on JT Brown.

The 2nd period concluded with both teams swapping chances, although neither could manage to find the back of the net. Tampa closed the gap in shots on goal trialing, 22-17. Tampa has also more than doubled Chicago in hits, 32-13. Chicago has continued to lead in faceoff wins, 19-16.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Third period action began with both teams exchanging chances as play went end to end. Brenden Morrow had a chance on a pass that somehow made it to him and went one on one with Crawford, who made a great save on the wrist shot.

Not even a full minute later, Chicago forward, Kris Versteeg carried the puck in on Bishop and threw a quick one off the Lightning goaltender. Antoine Vermette found the rebound and scored yet another big goal for the Blackhawks this postseason. It was his 4th of the playoffs with help from Versteeg.

The teams continued to exchange chances for most of the period, as Bishop and Crawford made big saves. Halfway through the final period Tampa was outshooting Chicago 27-24, while also outhitting the Blackhawks, 34-15. Chicago still had the faceoff win advantage, 26-21.

Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

At 11:24 into the 3rd period Teravainen had a chance with a shot from the slot, yet Bishop was there to thwart a rebound opportunity and made a huge save to keep it a one-goal game.

Tampa began to bring their defensemen men into the attack, pinching further into the offensive zone and generating more odd men rushes. In the end, it didn’t make a difference as the Lightning couldn’t find a way to beat Crawford.

With 8 seconds left in the game, poor judgment resulted in a too many men on the ice penalty for Tampa, sealing the fate of Game 5. With the win, Chicago now leads the series 3-2 with a chance to clinch the game on home ice for the first time since 1938 (their previous two Cups were won on the road in Philadelphia in 2010 and in Boston in 2013).

Game 6 is in Chicago at the United Center on Monday night at 8 PM EST. It will be televised on NBC in the United States and on CBC in Canada. Lord Stanley’s Cup will be in the building, on the chance that the Blackhawks win and need to skate with it. The Blackhawks will be looking for their third Cup in 6 years, while the Lightning will be looking to force a Game 7 back in Tampa on Wednesday.

Saad, Blackhawks Even Series 2-2

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 4 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2It was a valiant effort for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final that ultimately paid out with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Wednesday night.

Corey Crawford backstopped the Blackhawks to the win, having turned aside 24 of 25 shots faced. Brandon Saad’s game winning goal in the 3rd period ensured that the series would be tied, 2-2, heading back to Tampa on Saturday night for Game 5.

The Lightning, meanwhile, listed Ben Bishop as “day to day” with an injury, thereby making Andrei Vasilevskiy the 6th goaltender in history to make his first career playoff start in the Stanley Cup Final. Vasilevsky is also the youngest goalie to start in a Stanley Cup Final game since Patrick Roy, in 1993. Despite a 17 save effort on 19 shots against, Vasilevsky earned his 1st career playoff loss.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Entering the night Vasilevskiy and his backup for the night, Kristers Gudlevskis had a combined 9 career NHL wins. Vasilevskiy is not alone in losing his 1st career playoff start in a Stanley Cup Final game, as Jussi Markkanen was the most recent to do so in 2006 with the Edmonton Oilers- having recorded a 5-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

For Chicago, Kyle Cumiskey, was a healthy scratch on the blue line in favor of defenseman, Kimmo Timonen. It was Timonen’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance since Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, when he was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers who happened to lose that night at the Wachovia Center (now Wells Fargo Center), 4-3, in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks.

22,354 people packed into the Madhouse on Madison witnessed an undisciplined 1st period as both teams took numerous penalties, as well as an unusual performance by the Blackhawks coming out of the gate. The Lightning quickly got 2 shots on goal, but the Blackhawks went over eight minutes without a shot on goal. At 8:17, Chicago recorded their first shot on goal. About a minute later, Brent Seabrook took the game’s first penalty.

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks defenseman was sent to the sin bin for interference, resulting in a power play for Tampa. The Lightning were unable to score on the man advantage and took a penalty of their own at 11:41 of the 1st period, when Jason Garrison was sent to the box for interference.

A minute later, Chicago’s power play was cut short, in favor of 4 on 4 action as Jonathan Toews was guilty of a high stick that caught Victor Hedman up high.

At 16:33, Kimmo Timonen was sent to the box for hooking and Tampa Bay once again went on the power play in a scoreless game. The Lightning were unsuccessful and swapped man advantages with the Blackhawks at 19:08 of the 1st period, when Alex Killorn was sent to the penalty box for high sticking.

After twenty minutes of play Chicago and Tampa were scoreless, with the Lightning leading shots on goal 9-2. The Blackhawks had gone 0 for 2 on the power play in the period, while the Lightning went 0 for 3 on the man advantage.

Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Chicago began to take some control of the game flow in the 2nd period, eventually outshooting the Lightning 12-8 in the period.

Nearly seven minutes into the second frame, Jonathan Toews found the back of the net for the game’s first goal and his 10th of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa picked up assists on Toews’s goal.

Brent Seabrook found his way to the penalty box for his 2nd time of the night at 7:19 of the 2nd period for cross checking J.T. Brown along the wall in Chicago’s defensive zone. The Lightning, in keeping with the special teams trend on the evening, did not score on the ensuing power play.

The Blackhawks 1-0 lead did not last for long, like the rest of the games in the series so far, as 5:07 after Toews scored, Tampa forward, Alex Killorn fired home his 9th of the playoffs.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Killorn’s goal at 11:47 of the 2nd period was assisted by Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos. Stamkos earned his first point since Game 5 against the New York Rangers in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals with the assist and gave Killorn 3 goals in the last 5 games as a result.

The Hawks outshot the Bolts 8-0 after Killorn’s goal as the 2nd period came to an end. Chicago also dominated faceoff wins, 23-15, and led in blocked shots, 16-14.

Tampa still outshot the Blackhawks, 17-14, at the end of forty minutes of play and led in hits, 30-22. Both teams were powerless on the power play with Chicago still 0 for 2 and the Lightning having gone 0 for 4.

Steven Stamkos was quickly penalized to begin the 3rd period, for sending the puck out of play, over the glass, thus earning a delay of game penalty at 1:04 of the period. Chicago had already fired two quick shots on goal and looked as though they would soon be leading the shots on goal category, but the Lightning soon responded with a few shots of their own after killing off Stamkos’s penalty.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

At 6:22 of the 3rd, Brandon Saad capitalized on a quirky play and pocketed his 8th goal of the postseason. Patrick Kane was credited with the lone assist on Saad’s goal, which had given the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead that they’d hold onto for the rest of the night.

Chicago survived Tampa’s desperate surge and the tremendous gain in the game’s already furious pace, staving off 6 shots on goal by the Lightning (and plenty more that went wide or were blocked). Tampa pulled Vasilevskiy with about a 90 seconds on the clock, in desperation, as Stamkos shot wide a couple of times and ran out of puck luck at the most inopportune winding seconds of the game.

Time expired and the Blackhawks took Game 4, 2-1. The Lightning led in shots on goal, 25-19, and hits, 46-34, while Chicago dominated faceoff wins, 38-20, and led blocked shots, 23-17. Chicago finished the night 0 for 3 on the power play and Tampa finished 0 for 4 with the extra man.

Unknown-1Game 4 was the fourth game in the series to be decided by 1 goal. The loss relegated the Tampa Bay Lightning to 8-4 on the road in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, despite having the worst regular season road record among teams that made the playoffs. With an extra day off between Games 4 and 5, Ben Bishop will have 4 days off between starts (assuming he starts in Game 5).

The Stanley Cup Final is tied 2-2 for the 5th time in 7 years, including all three Finals involving the Blackhawks in recent years (2010, 2013, and 2015). Game 5 will be Saturday night at 8 PM EST from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Television coverage will be on NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Paquette Lifts Lightning Late in 3rd for 2-1 Series Lead

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 3 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning were unafraid of the United Center and the 22,336 Chicago Blackhawks fans inside as they pulled off a 3-2 win in Game 3 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final on Monday night. Tampa now leads the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night.

Bishop made 36 saves on 38 shots faced in the sixty minute effort, while losing goaltender, Chicago’s Corey Crawford, saved 29 of the 32 shots he faced. Cedric Paquette’s 3rd goal of the playoffs at 16:49 of the 3rd period was enough to be the game winning goal and steal a win in Chicago for the Lightning.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Game 3 opened up with a frantic pace from opening puck drop. At 5:09 of the 1st period, Ryan Callahan sent one past Crawford for his 2nd of the playoffs and a 1-0 lead for Tampa. Callahan was awaiting entry in the offensive zone at the far blue line as Victor Hedman found him from the defensive end and sent a great pass up and across the ice, giving Callahan a clear shot to the net.

Hedman got his first of two assists on the night from Callahan’s 1st period goal and J.T. Brown registered his first assist of the playoffs on the goal as well. Tampa had been leading shots on goal, 5-3, by that point, but the Blackhawks were about to go on a shooting spree, without allowing a shot on goal by the Lightning, since Callahan’s goal.

It was the 3rd straight game in which Tampa scored first.

4 on 4 action saw some time at 8:12 of the opening frame as Tampa’s Braydon Coburn was sent to the box for tripping Marian Hossa and Chicago’s Brandon Saad saw the sin bin for cross checking Valtteri Filppula. Hossa missed a wide-open net as he was brought down by Coburn’s errant stick.

Coburn wouldn’t keep his name off the box score under penalties for long as he went back to the sin bin at 12:42 for hooking, as Coburn’s stick tugged on Saad’s jersey shortly after the two of them were released from the box minutes before. The Lightning nearly killed the penalty, but former Lightning star, Brad Richards, had other plans in mind.

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Richards received a pass from Hossa in the high slot and fired the puck past Bishop with Andrew Shaw perfecting the screen in front.

The power play goal was the 3rd goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Richards and was his first goal in the Stanley Cup Final since Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final as a member of Tampa Bay against Calgary.

The 1st period ended with the scoreboard reading 1-1 and shots on goal, 19-7, in favor of Chicago. Tampa had double the hits than the Blackhawks (18-9) and led in blocked shots 9-4. The Blackhawks had a slight advantage in faceoff wins over the Lightning, 14-10. Chicago had also gone 1 for 1 on the power play in the first twenty minutes, whereas Tampa had yet to have had a power play opportunity on the night.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Penalties abounded in the 2nd period. Nikita Kucherov put Chicago on the power play after tripping Johnny Oduya 8:53 into the period. The Blackhawks were unable to convert on the man advantage. Tampa went on the power play at 15:18 of the 2nd period when Chicago forward, Bryan Bickell, was given a roughing penalty.

The Lightning then had a 5-on-3 advantage as Brandon Saad returned to the penalty box for his second time of the night, this time for goaltender interference at 15:52 of the period.

Despite tightening the shots on goal advantage, Tampa could not muster enough on the puck during the 1:26 of the 5-on-3 power play they had to beat Crawford. The Blackhawks killed both penalties and resumed full strength play, finishing the period with a 26-24 shots on goal advantage.

Although they trailed in shots at the end of the 1st period, the Lightning had a 17 shots on goal in the 2nd period, compared to Chicago’s 7 shots on goal.

It wasn’t long before the action really picked up in the 3rd period. Riding the momentum of end to end action, including an Antoine Vermette breakaway that was denied by Bishop, the Blackhawks didn’t waste time to get going and feed off of the energy of the crowd.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

At 4:14 of the 3rd, Brandon Saad snuck his 7th goal of the postseason past Ben Bishop with the help of Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith for a 2-1 Blackhawks lead.

But the Madhouse on Madison wasn’t shaking for long. 13 seconds later, Ondrej Palat answered with a goal of his own for the Lightning at 4:27 of the 3rd period. Kucherov and Tyler Johnson were credited with assists on Palat’s 8th of the playoffs.

The pair of goals were the 3rd fastest span of goals swapped between two teams in Stanley Cup Final history. Suddenly, the game was back to a tie, only this time it was 2-2.

Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

The minutes began winding down, with the seconds ticking quickly, as each minute passed. After a stoppage shortly after the halfway mark of the period, Chicago was outshooting Tampa, 34-29.

With 3:11 remaining in the game, Cedric Paquette capitalized on a Blackhawks blunder and scored his 3rd of the postseason, with help from Hedman and Callahan. It was now a 3-2 lead for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Per the NHL, 61.6% of playoff games this year have been either tied or within one goal entering the final 5 minutes of regulation and Game 3 was no exception.

Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

What’s more is that 8 of the last 10 games between the Blackhawks and the Lightning have been decided by one goal dating back to 2011, and including all three of this year’s Stanley Cup Final games so far.

A little under two minutes left in regulation, Joel Quenneville pulled Crawford in hopes that an extra skater for the Blackhawks would be enough to at least salvage an overtime effort in front of their home crowd. Despite multiple chances on offensive zone faceoffs, Chicago was unable to tie the game and send it to overtime.

The Blackhawks finished the game with 38 shots on goal compared to the Lightning’s 32 shots on net and led faceoff wins 39-28. Meanwhile the Lightning led in hits, 46-27, and blocked shots, 19-14. Chicago was 1 for 2 on the power play for the night, while Tampa went 0 for 2 on the extra man advantage.

Jonathan Drouin was once again out of the lineup for Tampa in favor of nonfactor, Nikita Nesterov. For Chicago, Bryan Bickell made his presence known, but Trevor van Riemsdyk had a quiet game, as the two replaced David Rundblad and Kris Versteeg in the lineup.

Unknown-2Game 3’s final outcome marked the first time since 2010 that the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final were all decided by a goal. In 2010, Chicago beat Philadelphia in Game 1, 6-5, and 2-1 in Game 2. The Flyers defeated the Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime, in Game 3 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

The fourth installment of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final will be Wednesday night at 8 PM EST in Chicago, live from the United Center on NBCSN in the United States and CBC in Canada. The Tampa Bay Lightning head into Game 4 with a 2-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Triplets Dominate, Bolts Even Series in Game 2

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 2 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1Everyone chipped in en route to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, so it seems.

Despite Tampa’s harsh ticket policy, Amalie Arena had a noticeably red hue contrasting all the Lightning diehards in blue, but it was the home fans that went home happily assured of a victory in the Stanley Cup Final that evened the series 1-1 and ensures at least one more game at home.

Jason Garrison’s game winning power play goal at 8:49 of the 3rd period proved to be enough to give Andrei Vasilevskiy his first career playoff win. That’s right; Vasilevskiy was the winning goaltender from Saturday night. Tampa’s Ben Bishop was in and out of the action briefly in the 3rd period, ultimately being unable to return, leading many to wonder if he had simply needed a bathroom break. Head coach, Jon Cooper, confirmed after the game that the need for a restroom was not the case and wouldn’t delve further into the situation.

Vasilevskiy made 5 saves on 5 shots on goal in 9:13 time on ice, while Bishop made 21 saves in 24 shots against in 50:33 playing time. Chicago’s Corey Crawford made 20 saves on 24 shots against in the loss.

Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images

Cooper inserted the youthful Jonathan Drouin into the Lightning’s lineup for the first time since Game 4 against Montreal in Round 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Drouin in, Nikita Nesterov became a healthy scratch.

The 1st period began with a frantic pace and high tempo hockey. The Lightning swapped opportunity for opportunity with the Blackhawks but remained scoreless in the first ten minutes of the game.

At 12:56, Cedric Paquette finally broke the ice and scored the games first goal. Paquette’s 2nd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman.

Hedman went on to have a superb rest of the game, while Callahan continued to be a playmaker the rest of the night. A little after the eighteen minute mark of the opening frame, Blackhawks defenseman, Johnny Oduya took a minor penalty for tripping. The Lightning were unable to capitalize on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Shots on goal were relatively even heading into the first intermission with Tampa holding a slight advantage, 12-11.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A string of events sent the game into frenzy early into the 2nd period. First, Andrew Shaw netted his 5th of the playoffs with help from Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins at 3:04 of the 2nd period.

About a minute later Tampa forward, Alex Killorn, was called for hooking former Lightning star, Brad Richards, giving Chicago their first power play opportunity of the night.

Teuvo Teravainen quickly made Killorn and the Lightning pay for their undisciplined effort and pocketed a power play goal at 5:20 of the 2nd period. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp set up Teravainen’s 4th goal of the playoffs and gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the night.

It wasn’t 2-1 Chicago for very long, however.

Nikita Kucherov tied things up at two goals apiece with his 10th goal of the 2015 playoffs at 6:52 of the period with help from Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn. Both teams were shooting the lights out of Amalie Arena in the first half of the 2nd period, compared to the first 20 minutes of the game. Tampa was leading shots on goal 18-15 by the midpoint of the period, just after Coburn took a penalty for holding.

For once, however, things cooled off in the 2nd period. Chicago wasn’t able to score on the power play and for a few minutes both teams settled in.

Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

At 13:58 of the 2nd period, Tyler Johnson scored his first goal since Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers.

Johnson’s 13th goal of the playoffs set a franchise record for the Lightning for the most goals in a single postseason. Kucherov was once again on the scoresheet with the lone assist on the goal.

Tampa was leading 3-2 heading into the 2nd intermission and led shots on goal, 22-19, and hits, 28-18. Chicago was dominating faceoff wins, 23-14, and blocked shots, 9-6.

The 3rd period began with a quick surge for Chicago. A little over three and a half minutes into the period, Brent Seabrook blasted one past Bishop for his 7th of the playoffs. Jonathan Toews and Johnny Oduya picked up the assists on Seabrook’s tying goal, but the game wouldn’t remain knotted at 3-3 for too long.

Unknown-2It had appeared as though Antoine Vermette might have interfered with Lightning goaltender, Ben Bishop, however the contact was ruled as incidental and the goal was confirmed.

Bishop appeared fine, but may have suffered some sort of an injury on the play that bugged him for the remainder of the period. Either that, or he had pulled something on a save earlier in the game. Whatever it was, ultimately forced him out of the game. Bishop was replaced by twenty year-old backup, Andrei Vasilevskiy, with less than eight minutes to go in regulation.

Patrick Sharp took a couple of penalties in a row, one at 4:59 of the period for slashing and another at 7:17 for high sticking.

It was on the latter power play opportunity that Tampa exploited the man advantage with a power play goal from Jason Garrison at 8:49 of the 3rd period. Garrison’s goal was his 2nd of the playoffs and was assisted by Hedman and Callahan. Shots on goal were even at 24 shots apiece.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Lightning fans were unmoved at the threat of whatever was plaguing Bishop, but certainly had their share of a heart attack when Andrej Sustr sent the puck straight out of play and thus received a delay of game penalty with under seven minutes to go in regulation.

But the Bolts defended their one goal lead and held the Blackhawks to one shot on goal on Chicago’s power play. With about two minutes left in the game, Corey Crawford vacated his goal for an extra attacker as the Blackhawks looked to tie the game.

Toews, who had nearly stunned the Honda Center in Game 5 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals after scoring two late third period goals to force the Anaheim Ducks into overtime- only to lose anyway 45 seconds into overtime- was prowling to do nearly the same thing to the Lightning.

His chance was denied by Vasilevskiy and the Blackhawks ran out of time. Tampa had won the game 4-3 in regulation.

The Blackhawks finished the game with 29 shots on goal compared to the Lightning’s 24 shots on goal. Chicago also dominated faceoff wins, 35-19, and topped off blocked shots, 12-9. Tampa led in hits, 33-28. Both teams finished the night 1 for 3 on the power play.

The Lightning improved to 6-1 when leading after the 1st period in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vasilevskiy made a mark on the history books earning his first career playoff win in just his 3rd appearance, while making the fewest saves made (5) in a Stanley Cup Final game, en route to winning, since shots on goal became an official stat in 1967.

Vasilevskiy also became the first goalie since 1928, to win a Stanley Cup Final game in a relief appearance.

Both games this year in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final have been comeback wins. In 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 1 to the Calgary Flames, but won Game 2 and went on to win the Cup in seven games. And since 2004, only one other series has been tied 1-1 (the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks).

This will be the 16th straight Stanley Cup Final to not be swept by either team. The last team to sweep in the Final was the 1998 Detroit Red Wings, who defeated the Washington Capitals in four games to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Detroit was also the last team to repeat as champions having won in 1997 and 1998.

Game 3 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final will be Monday night at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 PM EST with coverage on NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Vermette scores game winning goal, Blackhawks win Game 1

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 1 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2A full house at Amalie Arena for Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final went from being louder than thunder to silent in a span of 1 minute, 58 seconds in the 3rd period as the Chicago Blackhawks triumphed the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Teuvo Tervainen and Antoine Vermette had the game tying and game winning goals, respectively, for Blackhawks and Chicago goalie, Corey Crawford, made 22 saves on 23 shots faced in the win. Tampa’s Ben Bishop made 19 saves on 21 shots against in the loss for the Lightning. Chicago leads the series 1-0.

Despite a goal from Alex Killorn at 4:31 of the 1st period, the Lightning fell to 9-1 overall in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs when scoring first. Killorn’s goal was his 8th of the playoffs. His goal came on a crafty no look, lacrosse move inspired, turn around deflection. The shot originated from an Anton Stralman slapper from the point after Stralman had received a pass from Valtteri Filppula.Unknown-1

Of interest, Killorn became the first Harvard University alumnus to score a goal in Stanley Cup Final history.

Less than two minutes later Chicago forward, Andrew Shaw, took a minor penalty for tripping Tampa forward, Ondrej Palat. The Lightning’s power play was ineffective and the Blackhawks survived the short-handed play. At 16:48, Chicago received a power play of their own as Tampa defenseman, Jason Garrison, was called for cross checking Blackhawks forward, Marcus Kruger.

In spite of a few chances on the power play, the Blackhawks were unable to get on the board and even the score before the end of the first period. The Lightning were held shot less in the final eight minutes of the period.

Twenty-eight seconds into the 2nd period, Brandon Saad took a high stick from Killorn. Tampa killed the ensuing Chicago power play, but found themselves shorthanded yet again at 9:48 of the 2nd period for having too many men on the ice. The bench minor was served by Lightning captain and superstar forward, Steven Stamkos, and the penalty was once again killed by Tampa’s penalty killing unit.

At 13:28 of the period, Chicago’s Kris Versteeg was tripped into Tampa goaltender, Ben Bishop, but was instead questionably called for goaltender interference himself. With Versteeg in the box, the Lightning went on another unsuccessful power play, as neither team scored on special team opportunities.

No penalties were called in the 3rd period, thereby ending Chicago’s night on the power play at 0 for 3 and Tampa’s at 0 for 2.

Tampa Bay was outshooting Chicago 18-15 before the midway mark of the 3rd period, but began to allow more and more chances for the Blackhawks. With 9:27 to go in the game, shots on goal were tied 18-18. The young roster of the Lightning, which includes 12 players under the age of 25 (not necessarily all in the lineup), began to show signs of deteriorating with a 1-0 lead- held since the 1st period.

CGofhUXU8AALZSuTeuvo Tervainen scored his 3rd goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 13:28 of the 3rd period, tying the game, 1-1. Teravainen’s goal was assisted by Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw.

1:58 later, the acquisition made just prior to the trade deadline in March for the Blackhawks, proved his worth once again with a huge goal for Chicago. Antoine Vermette gave the Blackhawks the 2-1 lead with his 3rd goal of the playoffs with help from Teravainen.

With about a minute remaining in the game, Tampa pulled Bishop for an extra attacker, but was unable to tie the game and force overtime. Chicago improved to 5-5 on the road in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Tampa fell to 5-6 at home in the playoffs.

The Lightning outshot the Blackhawks 23-21 in Game 1 and led in hits (29-21), faceoff wins (30-27), and blocked shots (15-11).

For the first time since 1983, the team with the most goals scored in the regular season and the team with the fewest goals allowed in the regular season are meeting in the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa, having been the team with the most goals scored, is trying to become the first team to lead the league in goals scored and win the Cup in the same season since the 1991-1992 Pittsburgh Penguins did so.

Meanwhile, the league’s best defense, the Chicago Blackhawks, are trying to become the first team to win three Stanley Cup titles in a six-season span since the Detroit Red Wings did so from 1996-1997 through 2001-2002.

In the previous four instances of the best offense meeting the best defense in the Final, the best defensive team has won every time.

Chicago is eyeing their 6th Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, while Tampa is trying to earn their 2nd Cup in franchise history in as many appearances in the Finals.

The Blackhawks lead the series 1-0 heading into Game 2 on Saturday night at Amalie Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15 PM EST on NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada.

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