Tag Archives: Brenden Morrow

Down the Frozen River Podcast #115- Welcome to Arby’s

Nick, Connor and Pete decide Connor should name his first kid “Tkachuk” while revealing their top-10 left wingers of their lifetimes. Also, Ray Emery, Arby’s and Marian Hossa.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify.

January 16 – Day 93 – Defense vs. Offense

Happy Martin Luther King Day! What better way to celebrate than with hockey?

In all seriousness, he did a lot of powerful things for not only the United States, but the world as a whole. All people, regardless of color, ethnicity, race, religion or any other variable have a lot to thank King’s effort for.

Putting our attention back on hockey, seven games will be waged today, starting with two at 1 p.m. (the New York Islanders at Boston [SN] and Dallas at Buffalo). The matinees continue at 3 p.m. with Montréal at Detroit [RDS], followed an hour later by another pair of contests (Tampa Bay at Los Angeles [SN] and Winnipeg at San Jose). Washington at Pittsburgh (NBCSN/SN/TVAS) drops the puck at 7 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Arizona at Edmonton – waiting until 9 p.m. before getting underway.

Short list:

  • Montréal at Detroit: For those who love their Original Six hockey, here’s your game of the day.
  • Washington at Pittsburgh: Eastern Semifinals rematch? Check. Rivals? Check. Just met last Wednesday? Check.

I would apologize for featuring yet another CapsPens matchup, but the reason we watch these is because they’re always exciting. To PPG Paints Arena we go.

Washington Capitals Logopittsburgh_penguins_logo

 

Thanks to beating the Flyers 5-0 yesterday for their ninth-straight victory, the 29-9-5 Capitals are not only the hottest team in hockey, but also the best in the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference and league.

Though it’s taken a little longer than many expected for them to reach that position in the table, they’ve done it on the back of their incredible goaltending that has allowed only 82 goals, the fewest in the NHL.

That goaltender is 21-8-4 Braden Holtby, winner of last season’s Vezina Trophy. He’s found his success on a .933 save percentage and 1.85 GAA – the third and second-best efforts, respectively, in the NHL with at least 17 appearances.

He’s certainly been good, but with blueliners like Washington‘s, all he has to do is act as a last-line-of-defense. Led by Karl Alzner‘s team-high 81 blocks, only 27.8 shots-per-game reach Holtby’s crease, sixth-fewest in the league.

That success has carried into the penalty kill, where the Caps are second-best in the league. Much of the reason they don’t yield a power play goal on 86.5% of opposing opportunities is due to Alzner’s 21 shorthanded blocks, the most on the club.

Playing host this evening are the 26-11-5 Penguins, the third-best team in the Metropolitan. Losers of their past three games, when the Pens find success they play some phenomenal offense. They’ve scored 143 goals already this season, the second-most in the league.

As we’ve come to expect since they started playing together in the 2006-07 season, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been the two-headed monster known as the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even though they don’t share a line in even-strength play, both skaters have notched a team-high 46 points. Of course, Crosby has been the more dangerous of the two with a team-leading 26 goals to his credit.

As for the power play, Pittsburgh is also a very formidable foe. They’re successful on 22.8% of attempts, the fourth-highest conversion rate in the NHL. This is where Phil Kessel and his team-leading 18 power play points shine, but Crosby is once again the main goalscorer, with nine extra-man goals in his pocket.

The main spot the Penguins still need to improve on is their unattractive penalty kill. Even with Ian Cole‘s team-leading 19 shorthanded blocks, Pittsburgh prevents only 78.2% of opposing power plays, the sixth-worst rate in the league.

These clubs have already met three times this season, and Washington has a 2-0-1 lead in the series. Although the Capitals have beaten Pittsburgh by at least three goals the last two times they’ve met, both of those games were at the Verizon Center. Pittsburgh won on Opening Night on their home ice, albeit in a shootout.

Some players to keep an eye on include Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (26 goals [most in the league] among 46 points [tied for third-most in the NHL]), Kessel (28 assists [tied for sixth-most in the league]), Malkin (46 points [tied for third-most in the NHL], including 28 assists [tied for sixth-most in the league]), Matthew Murray (.925 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the NHL] for a 2.28 GAA [10th-best in the league]) and Justin Schultz (+20 [tied for ninth-best in the NHL]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (30 assists [fourth-most in the league] among 42 points [10th-most in the NHL]), Holtby (six shutouts [most in the league] on a 1.85 GAA [second-best in the NHL] and a .933 save percentage [third-best in the league] for 21 wins [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]), T.J. Oshie (+21 [tied for seventh-best in the league]) and Alex Ovechkin (21 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL]).

Thanks in part to having a home ice advantage this evening, Vegas favors the Penguins at -120. That being said, the Capitals are playing out of their minds right now and I expect them to complete the upset this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Brenden Morrow (1979-) – The 25th-overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Dallas, this left wing played most of his 15-season career with the club that drafted him. By the time he hung up his skates, he’d notched an impressive 575 points.
  • Jason Ward (1979-) – Although drafted higher than Morrow at 11th-overall by Montréal in the same draft, this right wing did not find as much success. He only played eight seasons in the NHL to accumulate 81 points.
  • Jamie Lundmark (1981-) – This center was the ninth-overall pick by the Rangers in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, and although he played most of his games in New York, he actually spent one more season in Calgary. He finished his six-year NHL career a point shy of 100.
  • Matt Duchene (1991-) – Colorado selected this center third-overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and with the Avalanche he’s played all his 532 games. Although he has 402 points over his career, this has not been a great season for assists. His .32 assists-per-game this campaign is the second-worst of his career.

Thanks to three-straight unanswered goals, the Wild can truly claim to be the best in the west, beating Chicago 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

It was the home Blackhawks who got on the board first, thanks to a wrister from First Star of the Game Patrick Kane (Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin) at the 4:33 mark. It was the lone goal of the first frame.

4:16 after returning to the ice, Chicago doubled their lead when Kane (Anisimov) buried another wrister, but it wasn’t long (2:07, to be exact) before Third Star Nino Niederreiter (Mikael Granlund and Jonas Brodin) scored a power play wrister to pull Minnesota back within a goal. With exactly nine minutes remaining in the second period, Chris Stewart (Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Suter) pulled the Wild even with a wrist shot. The two-all score held into the second intermission.

Only one goal was struck in the third period, belonging to Jason Pominville (Marco Scandella) 5:08 after play resumed for the winning goal.

Second Star Devan Dubnyk earned the victory after saving 33-of-35 shots faced (94.3%), leaving the loss to Corey Crawford, who saved 29-of-32 (90.6%).

Minnesota‘s victory is the the third-straight by the road team in the DtFR Game of the Day, setting the series record at 49-32-14 in favor of the hosts by four points.

Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Dallas Stars

By: Nick Lanciani

I continue to explore an important element of the game and what retired numbers around the league may look like in the future. While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.

Many thoughts went through my head in each and every consideration. Feel free to agree or disagree- I want to know what you, the fans, consider worthy when evaluating a player, their career, and whether or not their number should be retired by a franchise. I am interested in seeing what you have to say, assuming you are actually a fan of the team and/or player that you argue for or against. Drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.

CJhyiLmKDallas Stars

Current Retired Numbers- 7 Neal Broten, 8 Bill Goldsworthy, 9 Mike Modano, 19 Bill Masterton

Recommended Numbers to Retire

10 Brenden Morrow

Whenever Morrow decides to hang up the skates, this would be a classy move from the Stars organization for a classy player that spent so much time with Dallas and his counterpart, Mike Modano.

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have made a dynamic duo for Dallas, reminiscent of Mike Modano and his linemate's heyday. Photo via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Images
Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have made a dynamic duo for Dallas, reminiscent of Mike Modano and his linemate’s heyday. Photo via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Images

14 Jamie Benn

When Benn retires, it’s likely that the Stars will retire his number as well- he’s that kind of a player for Dallas. I mean, he wasn’t the Art Ross Trophy winner for nothing last season.

91 Tyler Seguin

Seguin is sensational in Dallas and as long as he keeps out of trouble and spends the rest of his career, if not majority of his career, with the Stars, he’s a shoe in to have his number raised to the rafters in Dallas someday.

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.

Bishop, Lightning, 2015 Eastern Conference Champions

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

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

A Game 7 with emotions running high resulted with the Tampa Bay Lightning beating the New York Rangers 2-0. Alex Killorn scored the first of Tampa’s two 3rd period goals (his 7th of the playoffs), while the second came late in the period from Ondrej Palat.

Ben Bishop recorded his second shutout at Madison Square Garden in this series, stopping all 22 shots faced on Friday night. He also became the third goalie in NHL history to post two Game 7 shutouts in the same postseason, joining Patrick Roy (2002) and Tim Thomas (2011).

A high tempo, high energy, first period saw end-to-end action that ended scoreless. Both teams had their adrenaline pumping as the game experienced craziness with the fans screaming their heads off- right in tune with the game. The New York Rangers took a page out of Tampa’s book as they dressed 11 forwards and 7 defenseman (or so everyone thought).

Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh, was experiencing some issues and had actually gone back to the locker room before the game began. McDonagh returned shortly into the 1st period. It was later revealed that he was playing with a broken foot for the last few games. The captain was usually carrying a heavy load on the blueline for the Rangers, but finished with a measly 3 shifts and 1:47 of ice time in Game 7.

Unknown-1Bishop and Henrik Lundqvist looked prepared for this big game, as they kept shot after shot out of their net. New York had a few quality scoring chances, despite having 5 shots on goal. The Lightning had more chances with 9 shots on goal. One opportunity forced a big save by Lundqvist as the shot deflected off of a New York stick, off Lundqvist’s glove, and over the net.

The goaltender battle continued during the second period as Tampa started with quick chances. Ryan Callahan gathered the puck on a rebound and threw it towards the net, but Lundqvist got his pad on it. The Lightning became undisciplined and unwound for a short period of time when Brenden Morrow took a questionable call for hooking at 3:41 of the 2nd period.

Ryan McDonagh got some time on the power play and generated a chance for his team off his hard shot, but Bishop was there to make the save and Tampa quickly cleared it towards the corner.

Tampa found themselves shorthanded again about four minutes later with a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 7:46 of the 2nd period. The Lightning’s penalty kill unit proved their worth and only allowed a few chances, including one from Keith Yandle as he skated down from the point and received a backdoor pass, but shot the puck wide of the net.

New York Rangers LogoThe last 5 minutes of the period saw both teams generating multiple chances as the action went all over the rink. The Lightning established the zone, giving Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov chances that Lundqvist could only shoulder away. Jason Garrison also had a great chance at 16:04, when he received a backdoor pass, only to be denied, once more, by Lundqvist.

McDonagh continued to get more minutes as he battled through playing with a broken foot. He had a little over ten minutes of ice time by the end of forty minutes of play, adding almost 9 full minutes in the period. At the end of two, the Lightning outshot the Rangers 19-11. Both teams were throwing their weight around pretty equally with New York slightly outhitting Tampa 22-21. Faceoff wins were one sided in favor of the Rangers 26-14.

The third period saw a fast start for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who scored 1:54 into the 3rd period. Alex Killorn snuck his backhand, five hole, between the pads of Lundqvist as the puck trickled across the line. The Rangers tried to answer by throwing pucks towards the net and hoping for rebounds, yet Ben Bishop remained strong with great rebound control and denied second and third chances. He finally gave up a few chances at the halfway point when a mad scramble ensued, but managed to freeze the puck.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Tampa managed to double their lead at 11:17 of the period when a wrist shot from Ondrej Palat beat Lundqvist top shelf. Palat’s goal was assisted by Tyler Johnson and Ben Bishop. Momentum began swinging out of New York’s favor as the reality of being down 2-0 in Game 7 with not much time remaining- potentially in their season- set in.

Ben Bishop made numerous saves, stopping everything thrown at him. New York was forced to pull Lundqvist with 3:44 remaining in the game for an extra attacker. Bishop, once again, remained strong and withheld the Rangers from a goal on the scoreboard.

Henrik Lundqvist in what became his final game of the season, brushed aside 23 of the 25 total shots on goal by the Lightning. Both teams shook hands with ease and tradition, as is long established in sportsmanship, after the long seven game battle for the Eastern Conference championship. Former Rangers captain, Ryan Callahan, shook hands with the man who he was traded for, Martin St. Louis, with Callahan moving on and St. Louis, for the second year in a row with the Rangers, failing to capture one more Cup.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals for their second time in franchise history. The last time Tampa made the Stanley Cup Finals, in 2004, they won the Cup. The Stanley Cup Finals start June 3rd at 8 PM with national broadcast information to be released soon. The Lightning will face the winner of Saturday night’s Western Conference Finals Game 7 between the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rangers Force Game 7, Win 7-3 in Game 6

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

New York Rangers LogoThe New York Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Amalie Arena. The first line for The Rangers combined for 13 points with Derick Brassard earning 5 points, with a hat trick and two assists. The Rangers chased Ben Bishop from the game early in the third period.

The first period witnessed the Rangers making the most of their chances facing elimination. The game started with teams exchanging chances, including an early breakaway by Jesper Fast that was broken up by Victor Hedman. The Lightning then brought the puck to the other end and Alex Killorn tried a wrap around that was blocked by Dan Boyle. At 3:36 of the 1st period, Derick Brassard received a great pass from JT Miller and shot it five hole on Ben Bishop, scoring the game’s first goal. It was Brassard’s seventh goal in the playoffs, and tied him for the team lead with Chris Kreider.

Puck luck began to bounce in Tampa’s favor as they got a variety of chances from many players. Hedman had a few chances as he began skating the puck into the offensive zone and putting shots on goal, but Henrik Lundqvist had the answer every time. Another chance came from Ryan Callahan, after he took and sent a shot towards the twine. Again, however, Lundqvist made the save. A few moments later, Marc Staal took the game’s first penalty and was sent to the box for holding the stick of Brenden Morrow.

On the following power play, Steven Stamkos got a point blank opportunity, which was denied by the pad of Lundqvist. The Rangers then killed off the penalty and used the momentum of the moment to go the other direction and score another goal. This time it was a shot from Keith Yandle from the point, which found the back of the net by screens.

This sparked Tampa’s first line as they began throwing their weight around with hit after hit. Steven Stamkos delivered a questionable hit on Ryan McDonagh, which made Chris Kreider try to take disciplining Stamkos into his own hands thereby taking a cross checking penalty. A scrum ensued between Stamkos and Derek Stepan and as a result, both took cross checking penalties with 3 minutes remaining in the period, giving the Lightning a power play.

Unknown-1Ben Bishop sent the puck to Anton Stralman, who found Ryan Callahan on a breakaway. This time Callahan didn’t make a mistake and put it by Lundqvist on the backhand. Tampa had dominated the offense in the first period outshooting New York 16-7. The Rangers made the most of their chances and had the 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

The second period was a quiet period, except for the crashing of the bodies into the boards. The physical play escalated quickly into the gams as from the opening faceoff of the second period. The teams exchanged chances with both Ben Bishop and Hendrik Lundqvist playing excellent; keeping both teams off the boards in the early minutes of the period.

About seven minutes into the period, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov took a hooking penalty and gave New York a power play, which Tampa was able to kill off. The Lightning had some chances after the penalty kill, as Brian Boyle and JT Brown each had chances that were turned aside by Lundqvist. With 3 minutes left in the 2nd period, Brenden Morrow was sent to the box for hooking. On the dying seconds of the penalty kill, Tyler Johnson got a chance, but Lundqvist shut the door and denied a goal. Tampa is still outshooting the Rangers by a big margin, but Lundqvist has been there to answer all of the shots. Lundqvist to this point has stopped 28 of 29 in the game.

New York dominated the third period from puck drop. The Rangers ran out and amassed chance after chance. The Rangers doubled their lead when JT Miller scored his first playoff goal with assists from Brassard and Rick Nash. The Rangers weren’t done yet as James Sheppard got his first of the playoffs at 6:02 of the 3rd period, after winning a battle in the crease.

New York continued to pour it on Tampa as Brassard picked up his second of the night, a minute and fourteen seconds later, with a tap in. The Lightning finally had enough and had to pull Ben Bishop and replace him with Andrei Vasilevskiy, in what was Vasilevsky’s second appearance in the playoffs.

Tampa, discouraged, got going a little as a minute later Nikita Kucherov added his 8th of the playoffs off a faceoff won by Tyler Johnson. Tampa’s Nikita Nesterov took a penalty for slashing Derick Brassard. This time, New York’s power play unit was successful, putting out Tampa’s spark, as Rick Nash scored a PP goal with help from Yandle and Miller halfway through the period, making it 6-2. Unlike the rest of his teammate’s, Nikita Kucherov didn’t give up as he scored again from a beautiful saucer pass from Tyler Johnson to make it 6-3.

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

With almost 6 minutes remaining in the period the Lightning pulled their goalie for a man advantage. At 15:36 of the 3rd period, Dan Girardi took a penalty for delay of game giving the Lightning a power play and a two man advantage with the net empty. The Rangers killed off the penalty and 18:19 of the 3rd, Derick Brassard hit the empty net to complete the hat trick and cap off a 5 point night.

The Rangers line of Brassard, Nash and Miller had a tremendous night with Brassard leading the way with 3 goals and 2 assists. However, Nash and Miller helped out too, with each getting a goal and 3 assists. Henrik Lundqvist also had a decent performance, with help from the Rangers defensemen. The Rangers numbers abounded broken up passes and Tampa’s offense couldn’t get anything started when every pass was broken up. Game 7 will be at Madison Square Garden on Friday, May 29th, 2015 with coverage on NBCSN at 8 pm.

Rangers, in Dominant Fashion, Take Game 4 and Tie Series 2-2

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

New York Rangers LogoThe New York Rangers bounced back from Game 3 to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 in Game 4 at Amalie Arena on Friday night. The stars for the Rangers showed up with two goals from Rick Nash and one from Martin St. Louis. Henrik Lundqvist had 38 saves, while only allowing one goal. The Rangers also managed to keep Tampa’s Triplet Line off the scoresheet altogether.

The first period saw a better defensive performance from the Rangers as they limited the chances for Tampa. The Lightning’s first true scoring chance came 4 minutes into the period when Nikita Kucherov found the puck in front of Hendrik Lundqvist and shot it over the net. New York took the first penalty of game 8 minutes into the first period when Martin St. Louis was sent to the sin bin for interference.

Tyler Johnson then got a great chance on the power-play, as he found the puck in the front of the net and rang it off the post. About 4 minutes later, Tampa’s Anton Stralman took an interference penalty of his own on a hit delivered to Kevin Hayes. Tampa managed to kill the penalty without even allowing on shot on Ben Bishop. With under 3 minutes left in the period Rick Nash snapped his cold streak with a power move, in which he slid the puck past Bishop’s leg pad into the net. Both teams finished the first period equal in shots on goal with seven apiece.

The second period saw the undisciplined Rangers show up from the first minute when Marc Staal took a holding penalty on Cedric Paquette. While on the penalty kill the Rangers had a great chance with a 2 on 1 that ended up with Nash trying another power move that was denied by Bishop’s pad. Just a few seconds later, Alex Killorn had a breakaway from a stretch pass sent by Victor Hedman on the power play and was denied by Lundqvist. The Rangers killed the penalty, but a few minutes later Killorn got another chance while on a 2 on 1, but the puck slipped off the end of his stick and went wide of Lundqvist.

Unknown-1At this point in the game, it was all one way traffic in favor of Tampa. The Rangers found themselves down a man again, when Chris Kreider took a penalty for tripping Brenden Morrow. Tampa had a few chances on the power play, but the Rangers managed to kill it off again. The Lightning couldn’t be kept off the board long after that though, as Steven Stamkos managed to beat Lundqvist with a slap shot from the slot.

The game didn’t stay tied for long, however, as just 3 minutes later New York regained the lead. Kreider managed to find his 7th goal of the playoffs on what was yet another rebound goal. The Rangers weren’t done however, as two minutes later Keith Yandle got his first of the playoffs, sending a shot that bounced off Hedman past Bishop.

Tampa continued to fire at the net, but Lundqvist remained superior and continued to shine through two periods. After forty minutes of play, Lundqvist had 25 saves on 26 shots. While at the other end of the ice, Bishop was having a rough game, stopping only 10 shots on 13 shots against.

The third period started similar to the second period, as Tampa continued to shoot without any rewards to show for it. The Lightning took their second penalty of the game just 4 minutes into the period with Nikita Nesterov high sticking St. Louis. On the ensuing power play, St. Louis finally got his first of the playoffs, putting a shot in the open side of the net on a back door pass from Derick Brassard.

Halfway through the period Tampa’s Brenden Morrow was called for hooking. The Rangers capitalized again with Yandle’s shot from the point deflected on goal by Kevin Hayes and banged home on the rebound by Nash, past the legs of Bishop, for his second of the night.

The game finished with a lot of scrums from frustrated Lightning players, culminating in a barrage of penalties. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Carl Hagelin, and Ryan McDonagh all received roughing penalties. Severl game misconducts were handed out to a few players, including Nikita Kucherov, Kevin Klein, Morrow, Tanner Glass and Paquette. Eventually time expired, ending Lundqvist’s great night- stopping 38 of 39 shots on goal. It also brought the end of Ben Bishop’s rough night- only stopping 19 of 24 shots on goal.

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

This game saw the appearance of all of the Rangers superstar’s, Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Henrik Lundqvist. All of them had amazing games in Game 4. St. Louis finally got the all-important first goal of his playoff run, and his play changed immediately afterwards, as he continued to create chance after chance.

Rick Nash had a two goal night, and his form looked as it did during the regular season. Keith Yandle also had a terrific night with a goal and two assists in the best performance of these playoffs for him. The first star of the game still goes to Lundqvist who had a huge bounce back after Game 3’s uncharacteristic performance.

Tampa’s Triplet Line and big stars had a lot of chances, but couldn’t find a way to put the puck to the back of the net. Ben Bishop struggled and the puck didn’t bounce in his favor on Friday night. The series is now tied at 2-2 with it now effectively becoming a best of 3 to see who will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2015 Stanley Cup finals. Game 5 is Sunday at 8 PM with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Lightning Strike 6 Times, Triplet Line Dominates in Overtime Win: Tampa Leads Series 2-1

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 3 Recap

*Editors Note: I delayed this post because I was watching Letterman. Thanks, Dave. -NL

By: Colby Kephart

Unknown-1The Tampa Bay Lightning triumphed the New York Rangers 6-5 in overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The game was a wild shootout with both teams lighting up the scoreboard. The goalies weren’t the story in Game 3, but both teams can’t question the offense. Nikita Kucherov scored the winner just 3:33 into overtime. Tampa, for the first time in the series outshot the Rangers 40-28.

The first period saw a fast start to the game for the New York Rangers. Tampa didn’t help themselves out when Cedric Paquette took a roughing penalty only 26 seconds into the first period. Derick Brassard capitalized on the ensuing power play, scoring a power play goal assisted by Dan Boyle and Derek Stepan just over a minute into the first period.

Tampa had a chance to answer with a power play of their own after Dominic Moore took a cross checking penalty 3 minutes into the game. The Rangers managed to kill the penalty and the physical play picked up a notch with big hits from Steven Stamkos and Keith Yandle. A few minutes later, Jesper Fast turned over a pass from Chris Kreider, and exchanged it for a breakaway; scoring a beauty with a great deke past Ben Bishop.

The Rangers had reached their post-season goals-a-game average with 2 goals in the first period. But a minute after the Fast goal, Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn got a 2 on 1 and Stamkos scored on the rebound off Killorn’s shot. This got the Lightning on the board and made the game 2-1 New York. The Rangers were behind in shots 12-9 heading into the second period.

The second period saw goals on goals on goals and the continuation of lack of discipline with both teams. The period started without Tampa’s, Matt Carle, who was not on the bench and unable to return. Then Tampa took a too many men on the ice penalty just 2 minutes into the period. Tampa managed to kill off the penalty, but found themselves shorthanded again just 4 minutes later. The penalty kill for Tampa got it done again, killing off another New York Rangers power play.

New York then took a penalty about halfway through the period- Derick Brassard for hooking- but didn’t have the same luck as Tampa on the penalty kill as Ondrej Palat scored just seconds after the penalty was taken. A few minutes later Brenden Morrow (Tripping) and Keith Yandle (holding) took coincidental minors resulting in 4 on 4 hockey for 2 minutes. Tampa made good use of fewer men on the ice with the playoff leading scorer Tyler Johnson scoring again.

This gave Johnson 4 goals in just 3 games of the Eastern Conference Finals and tied a franchise record for goals in the post season (12). Tampa doubled their lead a few minutes later with Alex Killorn scoring a beautiful goal, as he stalled and moved the puck through a few defenders before releasing a shot past Henrik Lundqvist. Tampa had scored 3 goals on just 10 shots at this point of the game.

New York Rangers LogoJust when it looked like Tampa would dominate the game, Jesper Fast scored his second goal of the game on a rebound off of Kevin Klein’s shot. This was one of the few times the Rangers have scored more than 2 goals in the playoffs this year. 3 goals were scored in a little over a 7-minute span in the second period. Tampa was up one after two and still outshot the Rangers 24- 16.

The third period started similar to the first period. Andrej Sustr took a tripping penalty 2 minutes into the period. New York figured out their power-play issues when Ryan McDonagh’s one timer beat Bishop. This was the Rangers second power-play goal of the game, with assists came from Kevin Hayes and Keith Yandle. The game then slowed down to 5 on 5 hockey for a decent amount of time. With 5 minutes remaining in the period Ondrej Palat scored his second of the night with a great effort to beat Lundqvist.

At this point it looked like Tampa would take Game 3, but then the Rangers got ready to pull Lundqvist with 2 minutes left and found a way to answer. Keith Yandle drove a shot from the point deflected by JT Miller and Dan Boyle got his stick on the puck and forced it to the back of the net sending this game into overtime. At the end of regulation, Tampa outshot the Rangers 35-22. Tampa was also outhitting the Rangers 37-27.

Overtime saw an explosive start by Tampa as they were skating well. The first chance came from JT Brown, who was denied by Lundqvist just 2 minutes into the period. Then the final triplet scored the game winner. Nikita Kucherov sniped one from the slot and beat Lundqvist from distance.

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

The “Triplet Line” of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov made up for 4 of the 6 goals scored by Tampa. These 3 men were together for most of the season and played this well for most of it. In Game 3 the Triplets had a 7 point night; Palat had two goals and an assist, Johnson had a goal and an assist, and Nikita Kucherov had the most important goal and an assist.

This game didn’t fit the New York Rangers style of play, because they don’t score a lot of goals. If Games 4 and 5 are like this you might see the Rangers going out in 5 games. The Rangers need the goaltender battles and the close game to force this series deeper and stand a chance to make the Stanley Cup Finals. Game 4 will be Friday May 22nd at 8 pm still in Tampa, Florida. Coverage will be on NBCSN.

Viable Trade Options- Part One- Atlantic Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Atlantic Division Standings

  1. TB 71 pts. (33-16-5)
  2. MTL 69 pts. (33-15-3)
  3. DET 69 pts. (30-12-9)
  4. BOS 63 pts. (28-17-7)
  5. FLA 56 pts. (23-17-10)
  6. TOR 50 pts. (23-27-4)
  7. OTT 49 pts. (20-22-9)
  8. BUF 35 pts. (16-34-3)

Unknown-1 Tampa Bay Lighting (1st in the Atlantic Division, 54 GP 33-16-5 record, 71   points) Not buying or selling.

Have you heard about the Tampa Bay Lighting recently? No? That’s okay, neither   have I- with the exception of some of the highlights from Steven Stamkos on any  given night. The Lightning are cruising along a successful season currently as the first place team in the Eastern Conference. Tampa’s putting up points consistently this season in one of the most inconsistent divisions (if not conference) in the league, yet they haven’t taken the talk of the town by storm.

Despite their young goaltending in Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevsky, the Lightning seem ready for a playoff run. I question their goaltending based on their youth alone. Bishop is a solid starter that can at least be good on any given night with shut down defense in front of him and blazing offense producing goals (two things Tampa Bay has nailed this year). Some might consider Vasilevsky too young to be a backup.

After being swept by the Montreal Canadiens in last year’s playoffs, this Lightning roster gained valuable playoff experience that can only help them approaching this time of the season. However, the Lightning are currently short a regular lineup defenseman, or two, due to injury.

Their best option this year at the trade deadline is to go out and acquire a veteran defenseman with rental player status. Their best asset in doing so would be to trade Brett Connolly for a defenseman. If we’re talking matching age for age, the other plausible option would be to trade Brenden Morrow for an older defenseman. Otherwise, a straight up defenseman for defenseman swap could hamper the integrity of the Lightning’s current roster.

Unknown Montreal Canadiens (2nd in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 33-15-3 record, 69 points) Buying on sale.

The Montreal Canadiens are having themselves a decent run so far, currently  seated in the last divisional spot in the Atlantic Division for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They haven’t had any major bumps in the road in the injury department or in the any player severely lacking in performing their job.

With that said, the Canadiens look to improve upon their Eastern Conference Finals run in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yet the Habs don’t exactly have any players they’re looking to trade and they certainly don’t have that much that they are in dire need of acquiring. Their forwards are young for the most part, and their goalies are young as well- aside from being untouchable given that Carey Price is their starter and how Dustin Tokarski has lived up to his role as the Habs backup.

So what could Montreal do to better their team? For starters, there is always the age old saying “defense wins championships”. For a twenty-four-time Stanley Cup winning franchise that hasn’t seen hockey’s holy grail since 1993, one would think that the Canadiens would be pressing for some type of complete roster. Only three of Montreal’s defensemen are under the age of 32.

Mike Weaver and Andrei Markov are both 36 years old, Tom Gilbert is 32, and Sergei Gonchar is 40 years old. Only P.K. Subban (25), Alexei Emelin (28), and Nathan Beaulieu (22) are under the age of 32. The Habs could certainly use Weaver as trade bait for a younger rental defenseman that could help ease time on ice duties, relieving Markov and Gonchar on the blueline.

The Canadiens are also interested in the hunt that everyone seems to be in right now- the quest for landing Antoine Vermette. While the versatile center- that can also play wing- would fit in with the roster, the asking price might be a bit much for the Habs to cough up. Could it be possible that Montreal moves Manny Malhotra and another forward and/or a draft pick for Vermette, certainly, but Vermette seems a bit out of reach for the Canadiens, given their status and outlook heading into the playoff run.

Another highly touted player currently being shopped around is Jaromir Jagr, though it seems next to impossible to envision Jagr in bleu, blanc, and rouge. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Canadiens pulled off a surprising steal at the deadline, given how they acquired current Minnesota Wild forward, Thomas Vanek, last year from the New York Islanders. The New Jersey Devils would probably do better rebuilding with someone like Manny Malhotra, who is a bit younger than Jagr and has a few more years left in him (although the ageless wonder that is Jaromir Jagr does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon).

One thing is for sure; Michael Ryder probably isn’t going back for a third stint in Montreal.

Unknown-1 Detroit Red Wings (3rd in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 30-12-9 record, 69 points) Buying on sale.

There’s not that much to worry about this season for the Detroit Red Wings. Their scorers are scoring, their checkers are checking, and their goaltenders are goaltending- which has pretty much been the Red Wings system for eternity it seems. Like the Lightning, the Red Wings are quietly producing.

None of this should come as a surprise really, with guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Kronwall, and Jimmy Howard on the team. Thus none of it should come as a surprise to say that the Detroit Red Wings don’t really need anything.

The lack of a right handed shot on defense hasn’t shot the Red Wings in the foot this year, unlike preseason speculations feared. Could the Red Wings try to land a right-handed defenseman in a deadline deal? Yeah sure, but then again, anyone could if they wanted.

Despite their early playoff exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins last year, the Red Wings don’t need that much to stockpile for a playoff run this year. They’ve got plenty of playoff experience in the depth of their lineup and they’re on top of things (for the most part) right now. I’m not suggesting that Detroit should take the rest of the season lightly (and the playoffs, for that matter). I am merely stating that from a management perspective, they’ve got the team they want to go with for a successful outlook in terms of a playoff run.

Unknown Boston Bruins (4th in the Atlantic Division, currently 2nd Eastern Conference Wild Card, 52 GP 28-17-7 record, 63 points) Buying and selling.

Despite the recent turnaround, there is no doubt that the Boston Bruins so far this year have been a disappointment compared to recent years. After a dismal December, the Bruins found themselves on the brink of a drastic identity change. Now after the month of January, the Bruins, while still not perfect, are trending in the right direction, especially considering that they are in playoff contention.

Patrice Bergeron has been Boston’s most consistent player, as usual, and Tuukka Rask has kept them in games. During the opening months it appeared as though the Bruins were shooting themselves in the foot. They aren’t as much of a Jekyll and Hyde team currently, although some aspects are still lacking. It would be in Boston’s best interest to patch some holes in their roster- they still need a winger and could probably use a defenseman. Especially after some of the small holes in their game pestered them and ultimately plagued them in last year’s playoffs leading to their demise to their archrivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

Everyone wants Antoine Vermette. He could be the solid addition the Bruins are looking for in the short term, but they’d need a little more of a guarantee in the long term. However, could a rental player be enough to suffice for this season with Ryan Spooner and Seth Griffith about a year away from making the roster on a nightly basis? And what would it take to get Vermette?

Certainly if the Bruins wanted to work on a deal for Vermette and Keith Yandle, they’re going to have to offer the Arizona Coyotes something worthwhile. This is where Chris Kelly may be expendable for Vermette and Yandle if the Bruins throw in someone like Matt Bartkowski and a draft pick. As always, though, there’s the salary cap to consider.

In terms of other potential forwards the Bruins could chase after, there’s the whole Chris Stewart or Zack Kassian dilemma. Any deal for Kassian would make the Bruins worse (that’s all you need to know about my position on Kassian). Even if Boston offered the Vancouver Canucks Matt Bartkowski and something else that might sweeten the deal. The Buffalo Sabres have all the advantages in the world given their situation and trying to move the potentially useful Stewart.

They could be demanding and not budge from a high asking price, meaning that the Bruins would have to part with a piece from their core, which isn’t an ideal situation for Boston (yes, even if it were a one for one Milan Lucic for Chris Stewart trade. Take a look people, Lucic is a better player). Besides, Buffalo wouldn’t want someone they hate anyway, right?

But along the lines of Buffalo, I can only wonder how much a guy like Cody Hodgson runs for. Hodgson doesn’t solve the first or second line (depending on the night) right wing that the Bruins need, but he does carry some value as a third or fourth liner- which also an area the Bruins could use some retouching.

While it’s a stretch, Cody Franson would look like a good replacement for the months departed Johnny Boychuk, however Franson would be a next to impossible piece to land, especially if the Toronto Maple Leafs insist they only move him to a Western Conference team. But if the Bruins are looking for an extra, young, defenseman (and believe me, they are) Edmonton Oilers defenseman, Jeff Petry, might solve that problem.

Then again, general manager, Peter Chiarelli, might see adding another veteran blueliner as an easier option for the short term. Someone like Andrej Sekera or Marek Zidlicky. Sekera wouldn’t take much to pry from the Carolina Hurricanes and Zidlicky would probably require even less from the New Jersey Devils, who will no doubt be forced to sell like there’s no tomorrow, considering the dividends the race to the bottom will pay out in this year’s Entry Draft (Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel).

Given Chiarelli’s track record, the Bruins could very well go out and try to strike a deal with the Ottawa Senators for Marc Methot. Methot is a versatile defenseman that could bring an edge to Boston’s blueline without tampering with it too much.

Whatever the Bruins end up doing, they’re well aware they need to do it now (or by/on March 2nd).

Unknown-2 Florida Panthers (5th in the Atlantic Division, 50 GP 23-17-10 record, 56 points) Selling used parts.

The Florida Panthers are average. Now there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d write this year (or ever). Last year’s deadline deal brought stability in net in the form of Roberto Luongo. Their youth is starting to come around and general manager, Dale Tallon, has made moves that have begun to payoff on defense.

Yet there is still a major overtone hampering the Panthers from getting any better. A friend once told me that a player only goes to Florida when they know their career is pretty much over. While the Panthers have done a decent job riding themselves of many 35+ club players, Florida has some moveable parts in that demographic.

In order for their youth movement on the blue line to improve, Brian Campbell has got to be swapped for a mid-aged defenseman that brings in the right amount of youth and experience- Cody Franson, perhaps? Again, the problem lies with mid-aged defenseman being a hot commodity and the Panthers being a less than ideal trading partner.

In terms of forwards, Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, and Derek MacKenzie are all available options for working out a decent trade. If the Panthers could pull off a move by trading any one of these players for a younger player or two, they could continue to build their roster from within (youth) and bring in young players from outside of the organization (experience, be it elsewhere or in the playoffs). No matter what, Florida has to keep chasing after the right combination of a youthful, energetic, and experienced roster if they want to crack the code to the playoffs.

If anything, for once they don’t have to worry about goaltending heading into the deadline, draft, free agency, off-season, and well pretty much for the next couple of seasons.

Unknown-3 Toronto Maple Leafs (6th in the Atlantic Division, 54 GP 23-27-4 record, 50 points) Sell, sell, sell.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to commit once and for all to something. That something is the process of a rebuild. I’m not saying they dump their entire roster around the league, but moving players like Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, Daniel Winnik, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, and James Reimer just might be part of the answer in the long run. Especially if it means that the Maple Leafs would have a chance at landing the next Connor McDavid, presuming that they don’t obtain the 1st overall pick in this year’s draft, but rather the 2016 draft.

Life without Phil Kessel in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform seems to be getting all the more real as every minute passes. As the rumors swirl around Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson, Phil Kessel’s name is bound to be tossed around in serious consideration as well.

I’m not saying that we’d be looking at a monster deal involving Kessel, Phaneuf, and Franson heading to the same team, but then again, I’d find it hard to imagine that it wouldn’t make sense if the right conditions were in place. If Toronto feels like dishing the trio to the same place and out of harm in the process of their rebuild, then the Edmonton Oilers must look like a golden opportunity for a seemingly farfetched deal.

The likes of Kessel, Phaneuf, and Franson being swapped for Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, and Jeff Petry might be exactly what Toronto is looking for, but just out of reach. Likewise, a trio deal to Dallas wouldn’t be able to attract the right return either. Or would it? Perhaps a trade with the Stars wouldn’t give the Maple Leafs immediate replacements for Kessel, Phaneuf, or Franson, but rather a defenseman, a forward, and a 2015 first or second round draft pick.

The options for the Maple Leafs run dry in trying to get Mike Richards from the Los Angeles Kings, considering how Richards is slumping and bringing in the another David Clarkson wouldn’t be optimal for Toronto at this time. While Phaneuf, or Franson alone, might be enough of an asset for the Kings to consider, they’d surely pass on any package that offered either defenseman and Phil Kessel.

What’s likely to happen for Toronto is three separate deals where they can disperse the talents of the players among Western Conference teams (after all, Toronto desires a deal with any Western Conference team).

Nazem Kadri and Daniel Winnik, on the other hand, would be the typical deadline trades to be made for any team looking to improve for a playoff run. Winnik isn’t as valuable in the long run as Kadri might be, but he might be the perfect fit for a playoff contender’s third line.

And one last thing, good luck trading James Reimer, Toronto. Unless they’re thinking a one for one swap with Vancouver for Eddie Lack seems like a good idea, although the Canucks seem intent on making Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom their go to netminders.

Unknown-2 Ottawa Senators (7th in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 20-22-9 record, 49 points) Selling used, buying new.

As much as the Ottawa Senators could be sellers at this trade deadline, it is my belief that they won’t be selling out and cashing out on this season entirely. There isn’t that much hope for making the playoffs this season for the Sens who last made the playoffs in 2013. However, the pieces are in place for success with their roster, all they need is a little time.

That’s where taking advantage of the most they can get out of this season comes into play. Ottawa probably isn’t going to attract the best deal at the deadline this year, but they’ll more than likely be active in the offseason trying to figure out who’s worth signing and who isn’t.

It is plausible to see the Senators move Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Chris Phillips, or Marc Methot by March 2nd. Condra is one of those players that could be attractive to a team looking to make a run at the playoffs and needs to add some depth in forwards. The same goes for Greening. Both Condra and Greening have spent their time well in Canada’s capital, yet moving them could make room for a prospect or the right young player brought in a deal.

Marc Methot is an attractive option for any team that needs a defenseman. At 29 years old, he fits the mid-aged defenseman status with the right combination of experience in the league and hint of youth left. Chris Phillips, on the other hand, is 36 years old and would likely become a sixth or seventh defenseman on a team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs. But then again, that might just be what he wants and exactly what the team looking to get him needs.

The Dallas Stars are exactly the kind of team that could prosper from either Methot or Phillips (or both). Given their interest in Cody Franson and Dion Phaneuf, however, the possibilities of working a deal with Ottawa might be hampered. Then again, the Sens and Stars are trading buddies, having completed the Jason Spezza deal this offseason. Maybe it’s time both GM’s get on the phone with one another again.

Regardless, things aren’t as dire in Ottawa as other Canadian markets (Edmonton and Toronto, namely). An effective run to the end of the season that builds on learning and gaining experience should put the Senators on track for a possible playoff run next season or a 4th or 5th place finish in the Atlantic Division next year.

Unknown-3 Buffalo Sabres (8th in the Atlantic Division, 53 GP 15-34-3 record, 33 points) Selling unwanted parts.

The Buffalo Sabres are without a doubt likely to land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Pairing either player with any of their players in the fountain of youth is sure to make them a legitimate contender within one to three years as not only a productive team, but a destination for veterans looking to bring the right amount of experience to a youthful team longing for success.

The Sabres have been in serious talks recently with the Anaheim Ducks concerning a move that would involve Tyler Myers. Trading Myers while knowing the future outlook is a risky move. Myers is still one of Buffalo’s youngest defenseman and is one of their largest (1st in height, tied for 2nd in weight- 6’8”, 219 lbs).

If the Sabres are to move a defenseman, trading Andre Benoit, Mike Weber, or Tyson Stratchan would be better options. Benoit is by far, their worst defenseman. Weber could be a key asset for a playoff looming team and the right price for the Sabres to get something valuable in return. Stratchan, likewise, could bring back something of use for the Sabres- a draft pick if anything.

Chris Stewart is nowhere near the player that he “used to be” if that term can even loosely be used. However, he is drawing significantly enough interest for the Sabres to bargain effectively in both terms of trying to bring something in return and providing security for the future (a second round draft pick, for example).

While the Boston Bruins seem like a prime suitor for Stewart in that they have a plethora of forwards that they could swap and a second round draft pick from October’s Johnny Boychuk trade with the New York Islanders, the Buffalo Sabres could use that knowledge as enough of a factor to drive up Stewart’s selling price.

Among forwards that the Sabres could move, Matt Ellis, Torrey Mitchell, Cody Hodgson, and Drew Stafford seem like reasonable assets to offer to other teams. Ellis and Mitchell are getting in the way of potential roster developments. Likewise, Hodgson is slumping too much to hold onto for the future.

If the Sabres and Stafford think it would be a good idea to reunite former teammates Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville with Drew Stafford in Minnesota, then by all means, there is enough to pick and choose from the Wild organization.

Had Cody McCormmick not been on the injured reserve, then by all means, the Sabres might have been able to do something with him. Although, perhaps the fourth liner could stick around another year or two solidifying four lines in Buffalo.

The only other debate is between Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth in goal, with Matt Hackett and the long list of developing goaltenders in mind for the Sabres. Neuvirth could be worth dealing for the right goalie. Then again, he could be exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning need for added security in net heading into this year’s playoffs.

The Sabres best bet at improving in goaltending is through free agency and the entry draft, despite the time required to develop the next best starter that they could go with. Finding a solid backup goalie in free agency shouldn’t be a hard thing to do for a team that has a bright future just on the verge of the horizon, despite what many say about the currently at the bottom of the standings organization. At the very least, Buffalo is not Edmonton, where surely the light of day isn’t showing for the next million years.

Buffalo has a tough road ahead, but fortunately it can be navigated properly with the development of either McDavid or Eichel in this year’s draft, coupled with young stars like Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Gregorenko, and Nikita Zadorov.

St. Louis Blues 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the St. Louis Blues. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

St. Louis Blues (52-23-7, second in division, third in conference)

After yet another early exit from the playoffs (fourth time exiting the playoffs in the first or second round since 2008-‘09), the Blues look to do more than reclaim the division title taken from them by Colorado last season. Although GM Doug Armstrong resigned Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, Associate Coach Brad Shaw, & Assistant Coach Ray Bennett, he pulled the plug on Assistant Coach Gary Shaw & Goaltending Coach Corey Hirsch. In their place, he hired Kirk Muller (ex-head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, amassing a record of 80-80-27) as Assistant Coach & Jim Corsi as Goaltending Coach.

One of the major turnovers from last year for the Blues is between the pipes. Last season’s leading goalie in games played & wins was Jaroslav Halak, who was traded to Buffalo with Chris Stewart, William Carrier, & two draft picks for Steve Ott & goalie Ryan Miller. Miller was acquired on the last season of his contract & has since signed with Vancouver, leaving the Blues with only Brian Elliot within their system with playing time last season. The Blues have called up Jake Allen from Chicago to be a second goalie for the Blues. Based on last season’s stats, I believe that this preseason could be a major factor in the decision for who is defending the crease against the Rangers on October 9.

Brian Elliot has the experience, playing 31 games last season (double Jake Allen’s career NHL appearances). He amassed a record of 18-6-2 last season. Of those 18 wins, four were shutouts (over 22% of wins were as a result of a shutout). He blocked 92.2% of all shots last season, allowing an average of 1.96 goals per game, .07 better than Allen’s 2013-’14 campaign.

On the other hand, Jake Allen played in 52 regular season games last season for the Chicago Wolves for a 33-16-3 record. Of those 33 wins, seven were shutouts (over 21% of wins were shutouts). He blocked 92.8% of all the shots he faced last season, .6% better than Elliot, allowing 2.03 goals per game. A main thing Allen has over Elliot is recent playoff experience. Although it was not for the Stanley Cup, Allen played nine games for Chicago, amassing a 3-6 record & allowing 3.29 goals against per game. His save percentage also dipped in the Wolves’ quest for the Calder to 87.9%, dropping almost 5%.

The Blues come into the season having lost some big names, most notably Vladimir Sobotka (signed with Avangard), Brenden Morrow (signed with Tampa Bay), & Derek Roy (signed with Nashville).

They lost two of the top 10 players with most regular season games with the Blues last season in Derek Roy & Roman Polak (traded to Toronto) both playing over 70 regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost five of the top 20 players with the most playoff games with the Blues last season in Vladimir Sobotka & Roman Polak (both played in all six playoff games), Adam Cracknell (five, signed with Los Angeles), Derek Roy (four), & Brenden Morrow (two). The Blues are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Chris Butler (Calgary) & Carl Gunnarsson (traded from Toronto), who both played 80+ games last season.

The Notes are not bringing back three of their top 14 shot takers this year as Derek Roy (114), Vladimir Sobotka (102), & Roman Polak (83) are not returning. These three players accounted for over 12% of the Blues’ shots last regular season. Looking at only postseason numbers, five of last playoff’s shot-takers are not returning, as Vladimir Sobotka (13), Derek Roy (nine), Adam Cracknell (six), Roman Polak (five), & Brenden Morrow (one) are not returning. These shooters accounted for almost 16% of the shots taken in the postseason.

Over 5% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Brenden Morrow (13) is with the Bolts. The Blues have added Paul Stastny (25, signed from Colorado) & Joakim Lindstrom (23, signed from Skellefteå) to almost quadruple his goal production.

Two of the leading 11 assisters will not be with the Blues this season as Derek Roy (28), & Vladimir Sobotka (24) are not returning. The Blues have profited by signing Joakim Lindstrom (40), Paul Stastny (35), & Jori Lehtera (32, signed from Sibir Novosibirsk). These new additions double the totals of Roy & Sobotka, hopefully providing even more opportunities for Alexander Steen (33 goals), David Backes (27 goals), Paul Stastny (25 goals), & Jaden Schwartz (25 goals).

Vladimir Sobotka (14), one of the top nine +/- guys in the 2013-’14 regular season, will not return for this one. Included in that, the Blues also lost three of the top seven +/- players during the playoffs. Without Vladimir Sobotka (two), Brenden Morrow (zero), & Adam Cracknell (zero), the Blues would have scored a lowly -27. To try to improve upon these numbers, St. Louis has signed Carl Gunnarsson (12), & Paul Stastny (nine). The two additions provide decent improvements that will hopefully continue their success in St. Louis.

The Blues lost one of the top six penalty minute earners in Brenden Morrow (76). Sadly, the Blues picked up Joakim Lindstrom, who had minutes (72) almost equal to Morrow’s, so no major improvements have been made in that regard. New hires Paul Stastny & Jori Lehtera only served 22 minutes in the sin bin last season each, which averaged out to a little less than 19 seconds per game for Stastny & 27.5 seconds per game for Lehtera.

Present roster consists of 32 forwards, 16 defensemen, & four goalies (52 men).