Tyler Johnson’s Hat Trick Sparks Lightning, Bolts Take Game 2

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

Unknown-1Tyler Johnson’s hat trick helped the Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the New York Rangers 6-2 in a thrilling end-to-end battle. Tampa coach Jon Cooper made changes from Game 1 switching from 12 forwards and 6 defensemen to only 11 forwards and 7 defenseman. This proved to be confusing for the Rangers and Cooper juggled the lines all night and pulled off a big win at MSG.

The first period was full of special teams action and undisciplined hockey by both teams. Tampa started the period off pretty strong similar to Game 1, recording the game’s first few shots on Lundqvist. About 2 minutes into the first period Tampa took their first penalty- Brian Boyle for holding. Tampa got put in a horrible situation after taking another penalty just a minute later when Jason Garrison was called for delay of game.

But then the unthinkable happened. Martin St. Louis tripped with the puck at his stick and the red hot Tyler Johnson took it the other end and scored shorthanded just 5 minutes into the first period. Tampa Bay then managed to kill off the rest of the Rangers power play, but took another penalty a few minutes later when Brendan Morrow got 2 minutes for high sticking. This time the Rangers took advantage of their power play and Chris Kreider notched home a power play goal assisted by St. Louis and Dan Boyle.

Special teams performances didn’t change the attitude of the players as Kreider (roughing), Ryan Callahan (tripping), and Derek Stepan (tripping) all took penalties within minutes of each other. The result was a 4 on 3 power play, which Tampa capitalized on. Johnson got his second goal of the game- and league leading 10th of the playoffs- assisted by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

With just 5 minutes remaining in the period, Derick Brassard took a penalty for high sticking. The Rangers killed it off without giving up any real opportunities. Both teams had a few power play opportunities during the period with Tampa racking up 8 penalty minutes and the Rangers taking 6 penalty minutes. New York, despite trailing by one after the first period, outshot the Lightening eleven to nine.

The second period brought some discipline issues for Tampa just like in the first period; it started in the first minute with Braydon Coburn taking a roughing penalty. The Lightning managed to kill off the penalty and the game seemed to calm down as both teams finally played some 5 on 5 hockey.

Alex Trautwig/Getty Images
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

Just 8 minutes into the second, fans back in Tampa, Floridawere throwing their hats at their TV’s as Johnson scored his 3rd goal of the game, assisted by Ondrej Palat and Kuckerov. This gave Johnson a goal even strength, shorthanded and on the power play and was his 11th of the playoffs.

About halfway through the period a freak injury to linesman, Brad Kovachick, occurred on a hit from Stamkos delivered to Kevin Klein, catching Kovachick by accident. It appeared as though Kovachick’s injury was to his knee.

Greg Devorski replaced Kovachick on the ice, and the Rangers resumed firing away on Ben Bishop. The Rangers began throwing the kitchen sink at the net and drew a questionable penalty on Cedric Paquette. New York converted with the man advantage as Bishop made two huge saves on Derek Stepan, but couldn’t make the third as Stepan bounced it off Tampa defenseman, Braydon Coburn, on another power play goal for the Rangers.

New York Rangers LogoStepan has recorded a goal in the last three games. The final two minutes of the period saw end-to-end hockey with chances for both teams. After two periods of play the Rangers still outshot Tampa twenty-two to fifteen.

The third period saw the opposite of the second period with the Rangers being the undisciplined team. Stepan took another tripping penalty in the first minute of the period. Even though the Rangers killed it off, the Lightning kept the puck in the zone as Killorn netted his first of the night, making it 4-2.

A few moments later Brassard took his second penalty of the game and got 2 minutes for high sticking. Tampa capitalized on the ensuing power play with Steven Stamkos deflecting a shot in front of the net by Lundqvist. At this point it became frustrating for the Rangers as Lundqvist allowed two goals on three shots. Things started to become edgy as Tanner Glass took a 2-minute minor penalty for roughing and a 10 minute game misconduct for a scrum in Tampa’s end.

Killorn then capitalized on his second goal of the night in what was another power play goal for the Lightning. The Rangers continued to shoot on Bishop, but couldn’t find a hole. New York outshot Tampa for the entire game finishing with thirty-seven shots on goal compared to Tampa’s twenty six.

Game 2 saw an amazing performance by the league leader in playoff goals, Tyler Johnson. In Game 1 Johnson had 1 point with the assist on Ondrej Palat’s goal. In Game 2 he had a 3-point night by scoring his team’s first 3 goals of the game.

His actions woke his team up and the woke Tampa’s first line up as Alex Killorn had 2 goals and Steven Stamkos netted one on Monday night. Tampa’s stars decided to show up and let the Rangers what they are truly made of.

It was the opposite for the Rangers, despite Kreider and Stepan scoring goals, you have to wonder where are Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis in this series, let alone the playoffs as a whole. If it wasn’t for Kreider and Stepan how would the Rangers be in the playoffs? Both St. Louis and Nash had great chances in the game, but couldn’t seem to beat Ben Bishop.

The series is now tied at 1-1 and Game 3 will be in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday May 20th at 8 pm and will be televised on NBCSN.

Duck Commander, Anaheim Rolls Along to 4-1 Win in Game 1

2015 Western Conference Finals Game 1 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownIn front of a packed Honda Center the 2015 Western Conference Finals between the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks got underway with Game 1 on Sunday afternoon. The Ducks beat the Blackhawks 4-1 as Frederik Andersen picked up the win in a 32 save performance. Chicago’s, Corey Crawford, was dealt the loss despite his 24 saves on 27 shots on goal. Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm opened up the scoring in the series at 8:48 of the first period to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead, despite trailing in shots on goal for the entire period.

After a dominating first period without any results on the scoreboard to prove it, the Blackhawks had little to show in the second period for nineteen minutes of it. Anaheim continued to impress with their complete domination, a trend that they’ve held in their first nine Stanley Cup Playoff games played this year.

Kyle Palmieri put the Ducks up 2-0, with his first goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, assisted by Nate Thompshon at 4:17 of the 2nd period. Anaheim would then go about ten minutes without another shot on goal.

After Corey Perry’s lone penalty for the Ducks in the first period, Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent to the box for tripping Jakub Silfverberg. Anaheim wasn’t able to capitalize on their first power play opportunity, despite recording two shots on goal in the duration of their man advantage.

Unknown-2At 19:20 of the 2nd period, Brad Richards stole the puck and fired home a wrist shot on Frederik Andersen, getting the Blackhawks on the board and trimming Anaheim’s lead in half. The score was then a close 2-1 game heading into intermission.

The third period saw more of the same. The Ducks were charging hard, while Andersen and a lack of puck luck kept denying the Blackhawks. Nate Thompson tacked on a goal for Anaheim to make it 3-1 with 7:55 remaining. Chicago pulled Crawford with about two minutes left in regulation, but the Ducks capitalized on a rare Jonathan Toews turnover that led to a Silfverberg empty net goal to make it 4-1.

With the win the Ducks improved to 6-0 at home during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs while the Blackhawks fell to 3-3 on the road. Anaheim leads the series 1-0 and looks to remain unbeatable on home ice in Game 2 as Chicago looks to ruin the party and hand the Ducks their first loss on home ice. Game 2 is on Tuesday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on NBCSN.

Moore Lifts Rangers to 2-1 Win and 1-0 Series Lead

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

New York Rangers Logo

The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 saw the Rangers win 2-1 having scored late goals in both the second and third period. The goal scoring was open by the red hot Derek Stephan with just 12.7 second remaining in the second period. Tampa Bay then evened the game with a power play goal from Ondrej Palat with under seven minutes to go in the second period. Dominic Moore gave the Rangers the lead on his game-winning goal with only 2:25 remaining in the game, in front of the packed Madison Square Garden.

The first period began with an explosive start by both teams with Tampa registering a shot on goal in the first minute of play and the first three shots of the game. The Rangers got their first shot of game about two and half minutes into the period and created a lot of opportunities that were denied by Ben Bishop.

A few key chances came from Rangers forward, Kevin Hayes, after he hit the post with a shot. About eight minutes into the period, another big chance for New York’s, Derek Stepan, on a break away was denied with the left pad by Bishop. The Rangers outshot Tampa 11 to 7 in the energetic first period. Both teams played a disciplined game through the first period, with no penalties called on either team.Unknown-1

Tampa started off fast and the Rangers finished strong in the second period. The Lightning had a great opportunity in the first minute of the second period, with Alexander Killorn putting the puck just wide of the net. The second period was full of odd man rushes in both directions and saw Bishop and Henrik Lundqvist making great saves.

About 4 minutes into the period the Rangers took the first penalty of game, JT Miller was sent to the box with a minor penalty for slashing. Seconds later, Tampa’s Ondrej Palat took a penalty for tripping Dan Girardi behind the net. Five minutes later Tampa took another penalty for too many men on the ice. This sparked a great New York power play, with great chances from Martin St. Louis and Derick Brassard.

The intensity also picked up throughout the period, with some rough stuff and scrums after the whistle. Just as it looked like the second period was going to finish like the first, Stepan found a rebound off Bishop and put in the net with 12.7 seconds remaining. Stepan’s goal was assisted by Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers continued to outshoot Tampa 22-19 at the end of forty minutes.

Tampa came out strong, once again, to begin the third period, with Palat netting a power play goal. Palat’s goal was assisted by Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson about 7 minutes into the period and made the game 1-1. The Rangers struggled with discipline in the third having taken 3 penalties. McDonagh took a penalty for high sticking Tyler Johnson and the Lightning capitalized on it, just 5 minutes into the period.

dominicmoorexxx
Courtesy: NHL.com

Kreider took penalty a few minutes later for holding the stick. The Rangers killed the penalty similar to a penalty taken by Dominic Moore with just five minutes remaining in the game. Then Moore came out of the box and scored with just over two minutes remaining. The assists were given to Kevin Hayes and Derick Brassard. The Rangers then closed off the game with the win despite not finding the empty net. The Rangers outshot Tampa 31-24 at the end of the sixty minute effort.

The biggest takeaway from this game was the stellar goaltending from Bishop and Lundqvist. Ben Bishop had 29 saves on 31 shots for a .933 save percentage and “King Henrik” stop 23 of 24 for a .958 save percentage. Both goals scored on Bishop were scrappy goals- the game winner just bounced off Dominic Moore’s leg. The only goal Lundqvist gave up was a power play goal that was absolutely sniped by Palat.

Finally, another factor was the number of turnovers the Rangers caused for Tampa’s defensemen in their own zone. The Rangers caused a lot of havoc for Tampa and the turnovers created half the chances the Rangers had to score. Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals will be Monday, May 18th 2015 at 8 pm at Madison Square Garden and televised on NBCSN.

2015 Western Conference Finals Preview

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2                                         2015 Western Conference Finals

Unknown1) Anaheim Ducks vs. 3) Chicago Blackhawks

Game 1 Sunday, May 17 3 PM EST on NBC

ANA- Round 1- defeated WPG in 4 games. Round 2- defeated CGY in 5 games. First WCF appearance since 2007 (the same year they won the Cup).

CHI- Round 1- defeated NSH in 6 games. Round 2- defeated MIN in 4 games. Fourth WCF appearance in six years (2010, 2013, 2014, 2015). 

Anaheim Ducks have home ice advantage.

Frederik Andersen and Corey Crawford, two goalies that you probably wouldn’t expect to hear about in the same conversation, but they’ve made it anyway- all the way to the 2015 Western Conference Finals, in fact. It might not be as much to do with goaltending, as it has been to do with dominance all around for both the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks so far in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Ducks have had plenty of offense from their star forwards Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, and others, and so have the Blackhawks in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa. Perry is the leading point scorer of the playoffs so far with 7-8-15 totals in 9 games played. Kane is second with 7-6-13 totals in 10 games.

Anaheim has the best power play completion percentage, 31.0%, while Chicago ranks 5th in the playoffs. Both teams have scored 3.20 goals per game or more (Anaheim again leads with a slight advantage, 3.89 goals per game, compared to Chicago’s 3.20 goals per game). Meanwhile, the Ducks also have an advantage in goals against per game, 2.00, compared to the Blackhawks 2.80, which ranks 11th out of the 16 teams in the playoffs.

Of the teams that have played at least 8 games in the playoffs, Anaheim has 5 skaters ranked in the top 10 in Corsi %, with Hampus Lindholm the highest ranking Duck in 2nd with a 58.84 Corsi%. The Ducks also have four players ranked between 11th and 20th in Corsi% with the same parameters as above. Chicago, on the other hand, has four players in the 11th through 20th range, leaving only Montreal’s Brandon Prust, and the New York Rangers, Dan Boyle, as the other representatives from other teams 11th-20th in Corsi%.

While Corsi is usually a good indicator of offensive production, in terms of shot attempts for, and defensive ability, in terms of lowering shot attempts against; Corsi has rendered all but useless thus far in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Seriously. The Calgary Flames made it as far as they did with the worse Corsi as a team (41.73 Corsi%) compared to the best in Corsi%, the St. Louis Blues (60.49)- and they lost in the First Round.

The bottom line- this series will be wide open and highly competitive. We’re in for some great hockey. Anaheim has a plethora of defensemen to enhance their stellar goaltending from Andersen and offensive ability from Perry, Kesler, and just about anyone else on any given night as they’ve shown since Game 1 against Winnipeg back in the first round.

Chicago has Kane, Toews, Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Crawford, and oh yeah- other clutch players- Johnny Oduya and well, practically everyone else on their roster. If needed, Scott Darling has proven that he can hold his own in times of trouble (or basically anytime Crawford gives up a lot of goals, high, glove side).

This series really won’t be about who is the better team, but rather, who has the puck luck at the right time. At the end of the day, whether it’s Anaheim or Chicago, either team has a much better chance of winning the Stanley Cup than the New York Rangers or the Tampa Bay Lightning.

If the Ducks are going to win this series, it’s going to be because everything kept clicking; Perry, Kesler, and Co. need to keep the ball rolling. If the Blackhawks are to win this series, it’ll be because Kane and Toews began putting on a show all on their own and controlled the Ducks.

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Preview

By: Nick Lanciani

2015 Eastern Conference Finals 

New York Rangers Logo1) New York Rangers vs. Unknown-12) Tampa Bay Lightning

Game 1 Saturday, May 16 1 PM EST on NBC

NYR- Round 1- defeated PIT in 5 games. Round 2- defeated WSH in 7 games. 3rd ECF finals appearance in 4 years (2012, 2014, and 2015).

TB- Round 1- defeated DET in 7 games. Round 2- defeated MTL in 6 games. 3rd ECF finals appearance in franchise history (2004, 2011, and 2015)- first time since 2011.

New York Rangers have home ice advantage.

Henrik Lundqvist is still searching for his first Stanley Cup. Yes, that’s hard to believe for a goalie of his caliber, but it’s true. He’s run into other teams on great runs, most notably the team the New York Rangers just beat on Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals. Some hockey writers argue that Braden Holtby has shown that he can be considered an elite goaltender.

Wrong.

He needs another year of performing just like he did this year to cement his status as a potential elite goaltender (fear not, Washington fans- before you bust out the fisticuffs- I think he is capable of doing it, he just needs one more year of stellar play to be considered elite).

But anyway, back to Lundqvist. He’s backstopped the New York Rangers and kept them in many games throughout the first couple of rounds of the playoffs and it seems as though they are beginning to understand now that you need to score in order to win. And scoring more than one goal is a good thing. Lundqvist has a .944 SV% and a 1.60 GAA in 12 games played so far, whereas Tampa Bay Lightning goalie, Ben Bishop, has a .931 SV% and a 1.81 GAA in 13 GP.

Both goaltenders have been superb. Bishop’s current run reminds me of Tim Thomas’s 2011 Stanley Cup run with the Boston Bruins in that he has been a large factor in Tampa’s game. The Lightning have had sparks of brilliance when all four lines and all three defensive pairs are rolling right along and things are absolutely fantastic to watch. The Triplet Line aside, the Lightning still have an incredible roster of youth, sprinkled in with some veteran talent and experience.

Also of note in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, there are numerous former Lightning players, now Rangers, and former Rangers, now Lightning, going head to head in this series. If that’s not enough alone to hype up, not only who won the trade (remember the Martin St. Louis fiasco?), but the sheer fact that those players were smart enough and lucky enough to leave one good team for another.

Despite the hype of the pure talent in the West, there is pure grit and heart in the East with amazing storylines of how careers came to be, were shaped, and how they currently are. St. Louis, Dan Boyle, and Dominic Moore all once spent time in Tampa. Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, and Anton Stralman have all spent time with the Rangers (please tell me you recall the St. Louis for Callahan trade now).

The Rangers are the current President’s Trophy champions are should show why they are, however have struggled to get the offensive power on full blast from a night to night basis. Their defense is solid and obviously their goaltending is the cream of the crop. Tampa, on the other hand, has leading goal scorer in the playoffs, Tyler Johnson, alongside the gifted goal scorer Steven Stamkos, and the rest of their powerful roster that can also score on any given night.

Tampa’s defense is similar to the Rangers, however Bishop certainly is no Lundqvist when it comes to the strength of their net. Should Bishop need to be pulled, Andrei Vasilevsky- A 20 YEAR OLD BACKUP GOALIE- certainly can play well, but is no match for New York’s backup, Cam Talbot (should Lundqvist have a rare off night when things count the most).

Forget Corsi in this series. Only three players (two from Tampa, one from New York) rank in the top 20 in the playoffs with at least 8 games played. But do remember goaltending, as New York ranks first in fewest goals against per game with 1.67 (Tampa ranks 5th with 2.15). Again, both goalies have left everyone in awe of their athleticism, but how will they respond facing even quicker teams than the ones they faced in the last round?

The Lightning have scored 2.62 goals for per game so far, meanwhile the Rangers only score about 2.00 goals for per game (15th out of the 16 teams in the playoffs, although technically they are tied for 13th, if that makes you feel better). Both penalty kills are evenly matched (NYR ranks 4th, TB ranks 6th) and as a matter of fact, so are their power play units (TB ranks 9th, NYR rank 11th).

No matter what, if the Rangers are going to win, they’re going to need their best players to start stepping up and holding their weight- Rick Nash. If the Lightning are going to win, they’re going to need to keep their momentum going and not get discouraged if Lundqvist robs them of a great scoring chance every now and then.

Forget October, Bring on July

By: Nick Lanciani

Granted, I’m always excited to watch a game and for new seasons to begin, but am I not the only one who is excited for this offseason? The high quality playing talent might not be on the market, but just about everything else will be and this is great for people like me that like to talk about all aspects of hockey. Plus it gives me something to write about and things to consider discussing in future podcasts, but that’s beside the point.

Second Round Bore

Yes last second goals are exciting; no 2-0 and 3-0 series leads for everyone are not. (Okay fine, I know that Calgary finally decided to make things interesting, for now and technically the Rangers and Capitals series is now going to a Game 6, but for the lack of a better part, things have been one sided across the Second Round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs).

Anaheim has been a dominant force in the Ducks versus Flames series. The Capitals and Rangers have had low scoring games that have shown puck possession domination and lots of zone time for Washington. Tampa Bay nearly blew Montreal out of the water and for God’s sake, Chicago went all Chicago on the Minnesota Wild and swept them.

Calgary’s quick methods of scoring in Game 4 proved to be something that they might be able to maintain in the series against the Ducks considering how they came back to win Game 3 as well, it’s not crazy to think that if they can respond to Anaheim’s strong roster and presence in the playoffs so far in Game 5- there will at least be a Game 6.

635664722267497367-USP-NHL-Stanley-Cup-Playoffs-Anaheim-Ducks-at-Cal
Courtesy: Candice Ward, USA TODAY Sports

Then again, in keeping with the dominance trend of this round, the Ducks can’t be stopped on home ice. Thanks for trying Calgary, you were great to watch and will probably be making a long run in the playoffs within the next few seasons if you keep it up.

For a team that added so much talent around the trade deadline and went on a rampage to the top of the league standings, laying claim to this year’s President’s Trophy title, the New York Rangers have been pathetic in offensive production in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They should know from last year, you can’t win the Cup if you can’t score goals. Or defend 2-0 leads, but at least Los Angeles isn’t in the playoffs this year to ruin New York’s hopes and dreams.

Instead, Braden Holtby, and the Washington Capitals look to do that. In somewhat anticlimactic fashion, given the oddities of every game in that series so far, might I add.

The Lightning have manhandled the Canadiens, with the exception of Game 4. But for all intents and purposes, the Bolts look like they will wrap this up before a Game 7 becomes necessary.

Front Office Changes, Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero, and the Boston Bruins possibilities

CDe-UaYWYAEj-V9
Courtesy: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Peter Chiarelli instantly makes the Edmonton Oilers better. Drafting Connor McDavid makes them even better and actually provides a speck of hope for the future of that organization. Chiarelli’s familiarity with some of the guys on the Oilers roster, such as current Edmonton captain and former Bruin, Andrew Ference, as well as former Boston forwards, Matt Fraser and Benoit Pouliot, will at least provide Chiarelli an opportunity to ease into the organization with comfort.

Edmonton’s outlook is finally hopeful. While they might not make the playoffs again next season, there’s a good chance they’ll make it in 2017. McDavid will have had a little time in the league and the attractiveness of Chiarelli as a GM (and the front office he puts together) will bring talented players to the Oilers organization in free agency. Assuming Chiarelli keeps up his recent trend of drafting well, Edmonton will finally have a foundation to build on in their minor league affiliates.

As long as Chiarelli can operate his strategies and tactics that worked well in Boston with Edmonton in the Western Conference, where the style of hockey tends to be radically different from the Eastern Conference currently, then he will have great opportunities for freedom to do as he pleases with the Oilers reigns.

In New Jersey, Ray Shero brings quality expertise as a general manager for the New Jersey Devils. The architect of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Championship is poised to make a quicker than expected turnaround out of the rebuilding Devils organization.

Shero understands that a team needs a mix of youth and veterans on a roster and will clearly have enough cap space to work with to attract the best that he can from free agency. Shero also has assets to trade, unlike Chiarelli in Edmonton, where other teams might be weary of what they’re getting in return.

184184902_slide-1
Courtesy: devils.nhl.com

A team looking for a veteran to complete their third line in an effort to make a deep playoff run, and successful regular season, would easily poke around at New Jersey’s roster for options. While he might be a shell of his former self, Michael Ryder comes to mind as someone that could use a fresh start in an organization that doesn’t expect that much from him, but just enough, and is looking for a long run.

Last but not least, the Boston Bruins are narrowing down their selection for their next general manager. It is rumored that Jeff Gorton and Don Sweeney are leading candidates for the position, especially after New Jersey hired Shero.

Gorton was a former assistant GM for the Bruins and had a stint as the interim GM in between the firing of Mike O’Connell and the hiring of Peter Chiarelli, in 2006. And yes, technically it was Gorton’s genius in the execution of the Andrew Raycroft for the rights to Tuukka Rask trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs (sorry Toronto).

While a return for Gorton to Boston would be pleasing for everyone involved with the organization, the New York Rangers have not let him speak to the Bruins for the open general manager position. Gorton is for now and likely will continue to be, the assistant GM for the Rangers.

600x400_Sweeney_Development_Camp
Courtesy: bruins.nhl.com

So what’s realistically going to happen, unless an unnamed individual appears out of nowhere, is the promotion of current Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney to the position. Sweeney already has an inside track of knowledge within the organization and is more than capable of taking control of the upper management decisions, having served as the assistant GM since July 2010.

It’s not a matter of who the Bruins hire to be their next general manager, but rather what do they do with their current roster that has clearly lost some of its touch. While the core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, and David Pastrnak won’t be disturbed, questions remain around forwards Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, Chris Kelly, and defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Kevan Miller.

The Bruins look to resign Carl Soderberg and should definitely pass on resigning Matt Bartkowski, but as to whether they need to move Lucic, Smith, Kelly, Seidenberg, or Miller for some asset remains to be unsolved.

Coaching Roulette

Todd McLellan, Mike Babcock, Craig Berube, Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher, and possibly Claude Julien all could be actively in the market for a new head-coaching gig. And hey, Paul MacLean and his glorious mustache is still out there too.

McLellan has been interviewing with the Edmonton Oilers, who have in fact, have even spoken with the coach they just fired. While Edmonton is a prime fit for McLellan if he is looking to remain in the Western Conference, he might be better suited for an Eastern Conference team in need of something to anchor the development of their players for even a few seasons, say the Buffalo Sabres or the Philadelphia Flyers for example.

Courtesy: thehockeywriters.com
Courtesy: thehockeywriters.com

Babcock is free to speak with anyone, given he’s at the end of his contract with the Detroit Red Wings. There is high speculation that he will end up in Toronto, and quite frankly, that might be the best fit for him. If the Maple Leafs can’t move Dion Phaneuf or Phil Kessel and continue to have disgruntled players on their roster, maybe Babcock can calm things down.

He can’t turn them into Cup winners in one season, but he can make a methodical procedure work for even the annual laughingstock of the NHL. If not, expect Edmonton, Buffalo, and other bottom feeders to be all over him. Realistically, he could deny them all and go to Philadelphia where things are just enough in shape to get better a lot sooner, if he doesn’t have the patience for Toronto.

The now ex-Flyers head coach, Craig Berube, is destined to end up with a team. San Jose, Buffalo, or Edmonton seem like he might make a good fit behind the bench and in the locker room. The Sharks could be Berube’s best fit, given their similarity to Philadelphia in that both teams have an array of youth and veterans that are capable of making the playoffs, but missed out this year.

Two coaches that might be making returns (and thereby playing spoiler this offseason) are Dan Bylsma and Guy Boucher. Bylsma has previously worked with Ray Shero in Pittsburgh and could end up back under his authority in New Jersey, however the Devils look to be set on keeping Adam Oates or Scott Stevens on board. Boucher on the other hand, is looking for a fresh start after having last been fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013. He most recently served as the head coach of SC Bern of the Swiss National League A and is signed on through their 2015-2016 season- pending the terms of that deal, he could attempt to jump ship.

Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports

Finally, as the Bruins near a decision on their next GM, it looks as though Claude Julien’s job is safe. Although there are a few names floating around for Boston’s next general manager, all signs are pointing towards Don Sweeney landing a promotion and Julien remaining in charge on the bench. But to think, the Bruins could have participated in the roulette of talented coaches if they wanted to- not that Julien isn’t already highly talented at what he does.

When others were on the witch-hunt for Chiarelli and Julien after the Bruins missed the playoffs this year, I sat back with a realistic view on things. You can get rid of one and that’ll be okay. It’ll hurt, but it’s manageable. Again, what really needs a second look is Boston’s roster and I’m sure they know that.

And oh yeah, this year’s draft is still one of the most hyped up Entry Drafts in a long time, so there’s always that to look forward to.

IMAGE: “Stanley Cup Playoffs logo” via NHL.com

Colby’s Corner- What’s next for the Wild? Will they ever beat Chicago?

Minnesota just couldn’t pull it off (again). So why haven’t things worked out for a team built through free agency? Colby Kephart explores the possibilities for the Wild to make sense of their season and make changes accordingly this offseason in this edition of Colby’s Corner.

The Story  Unknown

Chicago eliminated Minnesota from the Stanley Cup Playoffs again, again. This was the third year in a row that Minnesota was eliminated by Chicago. Even though the faces on both rosters have changed, what hasn’t changed is the team moving onto the next round. This year was even worse than the past 2 years, they got swept and lost on home ice. Last year they battled six games and the year before they battled for five games, having at least earned one win.

Minnesota landed big name forward, Thomas Vanek, in free agency on a multi-year deal to help boost their attack. They hoped with the development of their young talent and bringing in better role players would help them in the playoffs.

Then at trade deadline they added an upgraded defenseman in Jordan Leopold and another now former Buffalo Sabres forward in Chris Stewart. Devan Dubnyk also emerged with a spectacular performance and led the Wild to the playoffs, earning him a Vezina nomination (and now a finalist for this year’s Vezina Trophy).

So Minnesota fans had high hopes coming into the playoffs, with big name forwards Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund and others in company.

It was going as planned as they beat the St. Louis Blues in the first round, forcing a second round rematch with Chicago again. Then Patrick Kane and company showed the Wild why they have the rings and took them in 4 games with Kane getting a goal in all of them.

What’s next for Minnesota?

My Reaction

Minnesota has old players under huge contracts; most of them are from free agent signings similar to Vanek. The Wild can place the blame on Vanek for a lack of offense in the playoffs, but what about Mikko Koivu? Koivu had just as many point as Vanek (4). Thomas Vanek

It gets worse though. Charlie Coyle may be young, but last year he put up 7 points, this year Coyle had a whopping 2 points. Minnesota needs to make decisions on some of these forwards. They need players who feel like their playing for their job.

They don’t have the grittiness in their 3rd line that can spark the team. The only player who showed up offensively was Zach Parise. They need more from current players and they need players who want to be back next season.

suter-ryan-4_3

Defensively, Minnesota needs to bring help for Ryan Suter, who is useful in 5 on 5, penalty kill, and power play situations- if they could, he probably would play goalie for them too. Suter finished -8 in plus/minus, a career worst in the playoffs. Suter only had 3 assists, but it wasn’t only him who struggled.

Only one defenseman was positive in plus/minus, the Wild had another defenseman finish even, and the rest were all minuses. What bothers me the most is your best defenseman finishes -8, what does this say? Your best D unit didn’t cut it, you need to spend the money and land a true number two defenseman like Keith Yandle, who is a pending UFA at the end of this season.

Goaltending, I’m going to upset all you Wild fans with this one, but Devan Dubnyk is a ONE SEASON WONDER. I’m sorry, but this kid came from nowhere and I believe he will disappear again. Dubnyk bounced from team to team, and in most cases wasn’t even a backup. Minnesota was so desperate for a goalie, they gave him a chance. Just like Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov received in the years past. Dubnyk will repeat history again and Minnesota will be looking for another goalie.

Overall making Minnesota a team that can beat the Chicago Blackhawks will not be an easy process. They need to find a true number one goalie. They need to add a true partner for Ryan Suter, so they can lower his playing time. They also need to trade a big contract player, and bring in a clutch, sparking, scorer like Justin Williams, who is also a pending UFA.

Images courtesy of sportslogos.net, USA TODAY Sports, and nhl.com.

Colby’s Corner- Prust bust the Canadiens? Or was it the ref?

You know how the saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” Well apparently, someone could use a reminder. But who’s at fault? Colby Kephart investigates in this edition of Colby’s Corner.

The Story

Stupid penalties by Montreal were a major problem in Game 2 of the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens series. Tampa finally got their powerplay firing on all levels with 4 powerplay goals, while the Canadiens penalty kill was nonexistent. However, a story emerged in the post-game comments from Brandon Prust, who had received a game misconduct and totaled 31 penalty minutes for just himself in the game. Prust expressed his displeasure with the conduct of referee, Brad Watson, and told Sportsnet reporters:

“I thought the original call was kind of soft, and I let [Watson] know on the way to the penalty box. He kept provoking me. He came to the box and called me every name in the book. He called me a piece of you know what, a mother f***ing coward, said he’d drive me right out of this building. I just kept going, ‘Yeah, OK, yeah, OK, yeah, OK.’ He just kept on me, kept on me. I kept saying ‘Yeah, OK.’ I wasn’t looking at him. He teed me up. That’s the ref he is. He tries to play God. He tries to control the game and he did that tonight.”

Brandon Prust was fined $5,000 by the league. The NHL said Prust’s comments were demeaning to Brad Watson and baseless. Brad Watson is a 20-year veteran in the NHL and has high respect from other players and refs around the league.

My Reaction

Now can we say that Prust is completely a liar? I don’t think so. Prust might have some truth to his statement. However, where I believed he lied is when he states he only said “yeah OK”. If you’re going to claim that a ref is calling you every name in the book, obviously you are saying stuff back to him, or you said something beforehand to set him off.

Now, anyone who can read lips can see the abuse that refs put up with whenever they call a penalty. They get an f-off or derogatory names thrown at them. They get this treatment from the players, coaches and fans. How does anyone expect a ref to take this and never give it back? Personally, I love when a ref will give it back. Of the chirp videos listening in on the players during the game, my favorite video is when the ref decides to give both players a penalty and he says “F*** both of you, both going in the box”. (That video can be seen here. Fair warning, it’s full of expletives).

Even if the NHL finds out that Watson did call Prust a few names, I don’t think you can punish him for it. If we aren’t calling the players for cussing out the refs, we can’t punish the refs for giving a little back. Brad Watson only called the penalties he saw, he wasn’t calling fake calls. Prust took all the penalties that were called against him. If Montreal wants to stay in this series, they need to clean up their acts and let Game 2 go, otherwise they’ll be swept by the Lightning.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #3 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 Recap, Round 2 Outlook, and More

All three analysts present their thoughts on each series from the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and predict the outcomes of the second round. We also talk goalies and the top five picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. After a week off from the podcast, we are extremely proud to bring you our best yet.

Remember you can always contribute to the discussion using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver on Twitter and we’ll look at your comments, answer your questions, and read some great responses on future podcasts!

2015 Mock NHL Entry Draft (During the Playoffs, After the Draft Lottery)

By: Nick Lanciani

Based on the 2015 NHL Entry Draft Lottery from April 18th, 2015. There will be more versions of my mock draft as the playoffs continue to pan out and conclude.

200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svg1) Edmonton Oilers – C Connor McDavid, Erie (OHL)

Peter Chiarelli’s reign as GM of the Oilers begins with one of the most hyped turnarounds in hockey. Chiarelli’s leadership, combined with whatever decisions he makes in the offseason and drafting McDavid has talk of the Oilers making the playoffs, if not next season, then in the near future. A lot nearer than before. McDavid’s the best, period.

Buffalo Sabres Logo 2) Buffalo Sabres – C Jack Eichel, Boston University (H-East)

Eichel forgives Sabres GM, Tim Murray, on the stage with a professional handshake and is reunited(?- although they were never separated in the first place) with Evan Rodrigues. It’s possible that both make the roster on the same line.

Arizona_Coyotes.svg3) Arizona Coyotes – D Noah Hanifin, Boston College (H-East)

The plethora of talent youth in the desert continues to grow. Hanifin is the best defenseman in the draft and Coyotes fans are going to love him. Expect the Coyotes to continue to keep adding to their roster throughout the offseason. Keep in mind, however, that Arizona needs a solid starting goaltender at some point.

Unknown-34) Toronto Maple Leafs – C Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL)

Big, strong, great skating abilities- Strome is NHL ready in none other than the biggest market in the NHL. While McDavid and Eichel overshadow him in the leadup to the Draft, Strome finds his niche and competes next season for the Calder.

Carolina Hurricanes Logo5) Carolina Hurricanes – LW Lawson Crouse, Kingston (OHL)

6’4”, 211 pounds, and a physical force on the ice, brings a much needed power forward caliber to the Hurricanes lineup and adds size to their roster.

New Jersey Devils Logo6) New Jersey Devils – RW Mikko Rantanen, TPS (FIN)

He’s a big power forward that will provide some oomph in the Devils otherwise soft lineup. Rantanen’s a decent skater for his age and should be a part of New Jersey’s rebuild, because let’s face it, they have too many older players that didn’t do much for them this season.

Philadelphia Flyers Logo7) Philadelphia Flyers – C Mitchell Marner, London (OHL)

This guy is a really skilled playmaker with 128 assists and 185 points in 127 career OHL games. He’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane and Jordan Eberle, with great vision and passing skills. Not a steal of the draft, but a great player to draft.

Columbus Blue Jackets Logo8) Columbus Blue Jackets – D Ivan Provorov, Brandon (WHL)

Extraordinary at the 2015 World Junior Championship for Finland- 6’4”, 209 lbs, effective on the power-play, and difficult to move off the puck. Has hockey sense and hands that supplement his shot.

Unknown-39) San Jose Sharks – D Zachary Werenski, Michigan (BIG10)

The youngest player in NCAA history joins the youth movement in San Jose. He can block shots and adjust on the fly. He’s got some size to work with at 6’2”, 206 lbs. Werenski was named to the All-Big Ten Hockey First Team and the All-Big Ten Freshman Team this season.

Colorado Avalanche Logo10) Colorado Avalanche – C Pavel Zacha, Sarnia (OHL)

He effortlessly transitioned from the Czech Republic to North America. He’s 6’3”, 210 pounds, and can play a two way game. Think of him as this year’s bigger version of Boston’s David Pastrnak, if that suffices your hopes. Could fit well alongside Nathan MacKinnon on a line for the Av’s.

Unknown-211) Florida Panthers – LW Kyle Connor, Youngstown (USHL)

6’1”, 177 pounds, led the USHL in scoring with 80 points. His 34 goals ranked fourth in the USHL, with 9 game-winning goals and 32 points on the power play. Connor’s got quickness and hands that can do things with the puck on his stick.

Unknown-512) Dallas Stars – RW Timo Meier, Halifax (QMJHL)

Scored 44 goals in 61 games for Halifax this season. He can also be a playmaker as he had 46 assists this year too. Oh and he’s 6’1”, 209 lbs. Meier is exactly the player you want to covet if you are the Stars looking for substantial youth to build around.

Unknown13) Los Angeles Kings – C Mathew Barzal, Seattle (WHL)

Offensively minded, Barzal was injured for a lot of WHL action. The Kings luck out on a player that just may be able to make those around him better. He’s a 5’11”, 175-pound right shot forward with vision, playmaking skills, and had 12-45-57 totals in 44 games. Barzal also scored 4 times in 6 WHL playoff games.

Unknown14) Boston Bruins – D Gabriel Carlsson, Linkoping Jr. (SWE-JR)

6’4”, 183-pounds, this left-shot defenseman is big and intelligent for his position. He’s a stay at home defenseman, something the Bruins need in one of their younger defenders. Carlsson uses his size and strength as well as you need him to. He’s not an immediate replacement for the tremendously conditioned, Zdeno Chara, but Boston’s definitely thinking about Carlsson a few years down the road.

Picks 15-30 TBD with the conclusion of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Down the Frozen River(.com!)