Tag Archives: Hamilton

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 15

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer – unless noted otherwise –  is Connor Keith.

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 2

By: DtFR Staff

After trailing 3-1 in 3rd period, the Ottawa Senators completed the comeback with a 4-3 victory on an overtime goal from Dion Phaneuf shortly after the Boston Bruins killed off a delay of game penalty against captain Zdeno Chara.

Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 25 saves on 29 shots faced for an .862 save percentage in the loss, while Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson made 26 saves on 29 shots against for an .897 SV% for the win.

Still tied 0-0 entering the 2nd period, the Bruins struck first on a goal from Drew Stafford (1) at 9:47 of the period. Stafford’s goal was challenged by the Senators, who thought it was offsides, but after review it was determined that there was not enough evidence to overturn the call on the ice. David Backes (1) and Chara (1) tallied the assists on Stafford’s goal.

Clarke MacArthur (1) hit the twine for his first playoff goal since his comeback from injury (and first in two years) on a power play at 10:57 of the 2nd period. MacArthur’s goal tied the game, 1-1, and was assisted by the hot hands of Bobby Ryan (1) and Derick Brassard (1).

Tim Schaller (1) picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal on a shorthanded opportunity at 12:39 in just his 2nd career NHL playoff appearance to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Dominic Moore (1) recorded the only assist on Schaller’s goal.

With 3:59 remaining in the 2nd period, it looked like Boston had the game all but put away as Patrice Bergeron (1) redirected a shot from David Pastrnak past Anderson for a two-goal lead for the Bruins. Pastrnak (2) and Ryan Spooner (1) were credited with the assists on Bergeron’s goal.

Boston went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead, but came out looking flat for the final twenty minutes of regulation. And it ultimately cost them.

Chris Wideman (1) fired a shot past Rask— who had been partially screened by his own rookie defenseman, Charlie McAvoy— to make it a one goal game just 5:28 into the 3rd period. Phaneuf (1) had the only assist on the goal and recorded his first point of a three-point night (one goal, two assists).

A mere 2:20 later, Brassard (1) received a pass from Erik Karlsson and sent it behind Rask on a one-timer goal. Karlsson (2) and Phaneuf (2) notched the assists on the game-tying tally not even halfway into the final period of regulation.

After Chara sent the puck over the glass and earned an automatic two-minute minor penalty for delay of game, the Bruins managed to kill off 1:48 of the remaining time on the penalty kill that had carried over into overtime.

Eleven seconds later, it was all over, however, as the B’s were caught in their own zone, while the Sens pressured their will onto their opponent.

Phaneuf (1) sent one behind Rask on a pass from Mark Stone (1) almost two minutes into overtime and tied the series 1-1 with his game winning overtime goal.

The series shifts to TD Garden in Boston on Monday night with Games 3 and 4 hosted by the Bruins before the now necessary Game 5 will occur in Ottawa on Friday, April 21st.

Again, Game 3 is Monday at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen nationally on CNBC in the United Stats and SN/TVAS in Canada.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 2

Led by First Star of the Game Kasperi Kapanen‘s two-goal night, the Maple Leafs were able to level their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Captials at one-all with a 4-3 double-overtime victory at the Verizon Center.

When a playoff game requires overtime, some believe that most of the regulation action doesn’t matter. Kapanen probably doesn’t prescribe to that theory, as his first career postseason goal was almost as important as his second.

With 5:35 remaining in the second period, the rookie right wing (Matt Martin and Brian Boyle) scored a turn-around backhander five-hole on Braden Holtby from right in front of his crease. That tally pulled then the Leafs even at two-goals apiece.

Of course, the one he’ll remember for a long time is the first game-winner of his short NHL career – playoffs or otherwise. To beat the current holder of the Vezina Trophy, you have to be quick, and that’s exactly what Kapanen and co. were. The play started when Martin won a battle near the far corner behind Holtby’s net. He managed to force a pass behind the goal to Boyle, who one-touched the puck with a backhander back towards to far post. Kapanen was streaking towards the crease, so he was more than able to collect the pass and pound it home behind an unsuspecting Holtby, who thought Boyle still had the puck.

This series is turning nasty in a hurry. Though it’s only two games deep, 32 penalty minutes have been served between these two clubs – 24 of which were Saturday night.

All those opposing power plays put pressure on goaltenders, but both Frederik Andersen and Holtby performed rather amicably. Andersen saved 47-of-50 (94%) on the night for the victory, leaving the overtime loss to Holtby, who stopped 47-of-51 (92.2%).

Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 2

As far as seeding is concerned, the Central Division is an absolute mess in the first round, as the Predators beat Chicago 5-0 Saturday at the United Center to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup as the series transitions to Nashville.

Nashville is playing the Blackhawks like a fiddle right now. Led by Austin Watson and his eight blows, the Predators threw 48 hits to get under the top seed in the West’s skin. And as you’d expect, that’s yielded penalties, and lots of them. The Hawks served 16 penalty minutes – almost all of them in the all-important third period.

Nashville was able to convert one of its three power plays into a goal, though it was the ultimately unimportant fifth goal – a Kevin Fiala (Second Star of the Game Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban) wrist shot from the far face-off dot to beat Corey Crawford stick-side with 107 seconds remaining in the game.

No, the winner came off Third Star Ryan Ellis‘ (Johansen and Roman Josi) stick. Only 3:44 into the contest, he fired a one-timer from the blueline so hard the rebound off Crawford’s pad came right back to him. If at first you don’t succeed… Ellis went right back to work, firing another slap shot to beat the netminder glove side.

Even when Chicago was able to run its offense, it ran into one major problem: First Star Pekka Rinne. The goaltender saved all 30 shots he faced for the third postseason shutout of his career, and second straight.

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks – Game 2

Thanks to a power play tally late in the third period, Anaheim beat the Flames 3-2 at the Honda Center to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup.

No penalty is a good penalty when it turns into a power play goal. Just ask Dougie Hamilton, who was caught holding Corey Perry‘s stick with 5:27 remaining in regulation. Only 41 seconds later, First Star of the Game Ryan Getzlaf (Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves) miraculously ricocheted a pass-turned-shot off Lance Bouma‘s skate for the freak game-winning goal.

Those Calgary mistakes were further compounded when T.J. Brodie cross-checked Kesler with 2:38 remaining in regulation. Though Mikael Backlund (Michael Frolik) managed to bury a shorthanded wrist shot with 96 seconds remaining in the first period to then pull Calgary back within a 2-1 deficit, goals while down a skater are tough to come by – especially at the end of games.

If not for their 17 penalty minutes and miserable 41% face-off percentage, the Flames were doing a lot of the right things to win. They matched the Ducks’ physicality by throwing 34 hits to their 38, while also managing almost 40 shots on goal. Though it has yet to win a game, Calgary still is a dangerous foe for the Pacific champions.

March 31 – Day 163 – Keeping it in Alberta

Welcome to the penultimate Friday in the NHL’s regular season. Unless you’re a fan of one of the 16 teams heading for the playoffs, there’s not much hockey left to be watched so make sure to catch the rest of this season’s games!

Tonight’s festivities start with Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers (SN) at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by New Jersey at the New York Islanders. 8:30 p.m. marks the puck drop of Columbus at Chicago,  with two more (St. Louis at Colorado and San Jose at Calgary) getting underway at the top of the hour. Two contests – Los Angeles at Vancouver (SN360) and Washington at Arizona – share the role of nightcap and get started at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Pittsburgh at New York: Not only is it a rematch of last year’s Eastern Quarterfinals, but the Blueshirts could pull within four points of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
  • Columbus at Chicago: Two of the three best teams in the league? Yes please.
  • San Jose at Calgary: Thanks to the Sharks‘ loss last night, the Flames are only three points out of third place in the Pacific Division.

I’d love to watch the Hawks and Jackets square off, but it doesn’t have major playoff implications – and that’s what we’re all about this time of year. As much as I dislike repeating teams on back-to-back nights, it looks like we have to catch the Sharks‘ plane to Calgary for another important Pacific tilt.

 

If the Sharks can be happy about anything right now, it’s that today is the final day in what has been a dreadful March for them. Their 6-9-0 mark is tied with Arizona for the sixth-worst record in the month, and being compared to Coyotes in anything is usually a sign of trouble.

What makes the recent struggles an even harder pill to swallow is that it is spoiling an overall solid regular season. When the final game in February was played, San Jose was not only leading the Pacific Division by five points, but also trailed Minnesota by only seven points for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Thirty days later, the 43-27-7 Sharks sit alone in third place in the division, and four teams separate them from home ice throughout the conference playoffs. It leaves a club and fan base that entered the season on a quest to hoist its first Stanley Cup wondering if they can even escape what will be a very trying quarterfinals matchup against the Ducks, Flames, Oilers or possibly even the Blackhawks.

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s been an nearly all-inclusive collapse (defense notwithstanding) by the Sharks that has resulted in their horrendous run over the past 15 games.

Since 33-32-6 Martin Jones was in net last night, I’d assume 10-6-1 Aaron Dell will start in goal tonight (of course, I tabbed Dell to start yesterday and I was wrong, so who knows?). Dell has actually been a solid backup all season, as his .928 save percentage and 2.09 GAA are not only better than Jones’ effort, but also rank (t)third and fourth-best in the league among the 56 netminders with at least 16 appearances.

Whether we get that Dell or the Dell that has seen his save percentage drop to .915 in March remains to be seen, but you can plan on Justin Braun and San Jose‘s defense playing as strong as ever.

All season the goal has been to keep pucks off Dell and Jones’ crease as much as possible, and they’ve done an excellent job in achieving just that. All year, they’ve allowed only 27.5 shots-against per game – the third-best rate in the league – and they’ve actually been slightly better of late, allowing only 27.1 per game in March.

No Shark deserves more credit for that than Braun. He’s been the defensive stalwart of the club all year, and it shows in his team-leading 154 shot blocks. Another that has done well defensively is Joe Thornton, but he does his work before the opposition even thinks about firing at the net. He leads the squad in takeaways with 64 (tied for eighth-most in the league), including 13 this month.

The goaltending issues have proven to be especially detrimental to San Jose‘s penalty kill. Since it has been only an average effort on the season as a whole (80.8% kill rate is 15th-worst in the NHL), taking away the luxury of a usually-reliable backstop has dropped the Sharks to ninth-worst in March, neutralizing only 78% of their infractions. Dell has saved only 85% of the power play shots that have come his way this month, the 14th-worst effort among the 38 goalies with at least six March appearances.

Special teams seem to be a struggle for Peter DeBoer’s squad this year, as his power play has actually been worse than his penalty kill. The Sharks rank seventh-worst on the season with their 17.1% success rate with the man-advantage.

It’s surprising that San Jose has been so poor, mostly because they have one weapon few can match: Brent Burns. The offensive-minded blueliner has notched 24 points on the power play this campaign, which ties for 16th-most in the NHL.

Perhaps the Sharks‘ mojo has relocated itself to Cowtown. Currently in possession of a 43-30-4 record and the West’s first wild card, the Flames have earned a 15-4-1 record since February 15. That ties Columbus for the best mark in that time, though I’d argue the Flames have been better with one fewer game played.

I may actually be on to something regarding San Jose‘s mojo, as Brian Elliott has been fantastic during this run. After a rocky start to the season, he’s reclaimed the starting job in Calgary and made it his own. Since mid-February, he’s earned a .933 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA, the fourth and fifth-best marks in the league, respectively, among the 33 goalies with at least nine appearances in that time.

Tonight is the fourth of five games between these clubs this season, and the Flames have the opportunity to clinch the series victory with a win tonight. They’ve gone 2-1-0 so far against San Jose, including the last time they met on January 11. It was a closely contested affair, but Dougie Hamilton scored with 2:19 remaining in regulation to earn a 3-2 win for the Flames in the Saddledome.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Johnny Gaudreau (42 assists for 59 points [both lead the team]) and Mark Giordano (176 blocks for a+22 [both lead the team]) & San Jose‘s Burns (73 points [eighth-most in the league]) and Jones (33 wins [seventh-most in the NHL]).

It’s hard to argue with recent success. Vegas has marked the Flames a -130 favorite to win tonight. Just like I said yesterday, the Sharks‘ rebound has to start in the crease. While Calgary certainly doesn’t pose the offensive threat the Oilers did a night ago, the Flames‘ confidence should be enough to get past whichever goaltender DeBoer decides to go with.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bud MacPherson (1927-1988) – For seven seasons MacPherson roamed along Montréal‘s blueline, and he was rewarded with one All-Star Game and the 1953 Stanley Cup.
  • Gordie Howe (1928-2016) – There’s no discussion: this right wing is one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. Named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 – seven years before his last season in the league – he played in 23 All-Star Games over 26 NHL seasons (all but one with Detroit) and won both the Hart Memorial and Art Ross Trophies six times apiece, not to mention his four Stanley Cups.
  • Bob Pulford (1936-) – Another Hall of Famer, this left wing played all but two seasons of his 16-year career in Toronto. He won four Stanley Cups in the process, including three-straight from 1962-’64.
  • Bill Hicke (1938-2005) – Spending most of his time in Montréal, this right wing played 13 seasons in the NHL. The three-time All-Star was good for almost as many penalty minutes as points contributed, but that didn’t stop him from being a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
  • Gilles Gilbert (1949-) – Selected by the North Stars 25th-overall in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft, this goaltender played 416 games over his 14-year career. Spending most of his time in Boston, he earned a 192-143-60 record before hanging up his pads.
  • Tom Barrasso (1965-) – Buffalo selected this goaltender fifth-overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, but he played a majority of his career for the Penguins. He played well for both clubs, as he earned the 1984 Calder Memorial and Vezina Trophies and the 1985 William M. Jennings Trophy with the Sabres and back-to-back Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh.
  • Pavel Bure (1971-) – Though only selected in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver (his longest-tenured club), this right wing had a highly successful career. In addition to six All-Star Game appearances, he won two Maurice Richard Trophies and the 1992 Calder. All of that added up to a Hall of Fame induction in 2012.
  • Michael Ryder (1980-) – Montréal selected this right wing in the eighth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played most of his 11 seasons. That being said, he was wearing the crest of the arch-rival Bruins when he hoisted his lone Stanley Cup.
  • David Clarkson (1984-) – A longtime right wing for the Devils, this Toronto-native played 10 seasons in the NHL. He could’ve been playing his 11th this year with Columbus, but he was denied the opportunity to practice with the club due to failing his physical.
  • Steve Bernier (1985-) – The 16th-overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose, this right wing has played 633 games over 11 seasons in the league. His longest -tenured club is New Jersey, with whom he scored 28 goals for 65 points.
  • Jakob Chychrun (1998-) – This rookie defenseman was the 16th-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by Arizona. He shows promise on the offensive end of the ice, as he’s provided 19 points already this year, the third-most among Coyotes blueliners.

Thanks to Second Star of the Game Cam Talbot‘s 38-save effort, Edmonton was able to best the Sharks 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day to improve into second place in the Pacific Division.

Though Talbot had a strong night, it didn’t start off the best way. He allowed Jannik Hansen (Paul Martin) to score only his eighth goal of the season 1:01 into play to allow the Sharks to take an early lead. Fortunately for him, Third Star Patrick Maroon (First Star Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) provided a game-tying goal 9:21 later. Though Zack Kassian was sent off the ice for hooking birthday boy Marc-Edouard Vlasic with 3:24 remaining in the period, McDavid (Oscar Klefbom and Drake Caggiula) was able to score a shorthanded backhander only 52 seconds later to give the Oil a 2-1 lead it would not yield.

Maroon (Kris Russell) provided what proved to be the game-winning goal 7:51 into the third period with a tip-in. It became the winner with 6:01 remaining in regulation when Joe Pavelski (Vlasic and Hansen) scored a tip-in of his own, but the Sharks were unable to find another tally before the final horn.

Talbot earned the victory after saving 38-of-40 shots faced (95%), leaving the loss to Jones, who saved 19-of-22 (86.4%).

We’re all squared up once again in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as both home and away teams in the series have an identical 189 points. Road sides still have more wins with their 83-59-23 record.

February 1 – Day 105 – Get your brooms ready

Last night was beyond busy in the NHL. While those types of evenings are fun, sometimes it’s nice to only have a few games to keeps tabs on. Tonight is one of those nights, as only six teams drop the puck. Boston at Washington (NBCSN/TVAS) gets things started at 8 p.m., and is basically the only game going on during that time-frame. The next game to get underway is Minnesota at Calgary (SN360), but that isn’t until 10 p.m. The nightcap is right behind, as Colorado at Los Angeles (NBCSN) gets started only half an hour later. All times eastern.

Not only do I not like repeating teams twice in a row (sorry Washington!), tonight’s contest in Calgary could act as a playoff preview. Off to Cowtown we go!

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It’s hard to argue with those that believe Minnesota is the best team in the Western Conference. Riding a three-game winning streak, their 33-11-5 record is five points better than second-best San Jose, and they’ve been led by an impressive goaltender that has allowed only 109 goals this season, the second-fewest in the NHL.

Since Darcy Kuemper played last night in Edmonton, 27-8-3 Devan Dubnyk will be more than ready to go this evening. That’s bad news for the Flames, as his .936 save percentage and 1.88 GAA are both the best marks in the league.

What makes Dubnyk’s season so impressive is that the bluelines playing in front of him are nothing more than average, as they allow 30.6 shots to reach his crease per night – tied for the 12th-most in the NHL. Jared Spurgeon and his 90 shot blocks have been at the head of the defensive front and tie for 32nd-most against the rest of the league.

Combine those two aspects of the defensive end, and you find a club that has the sixth-best penalty kill with a 83.8% success rate. Mikael Granlund has been the most effective skater on that effort, as he leads the Wild with 13 shorthanded blocks.

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also the home of the 10th-best power play in the league (ok, they’re technically tied for 10th), finding success 21.3% of the time. Granlund is apparently the Wild‘s special teams ringer, as his 12 power play points are tops in the dressing room, but Nino Niederreiter has been the one scoring all the goals. He has six man-advantage tallies to his credit, the most in Minnesota.

Playing host this evening are the 25-24-3 Flames, the ninth-best team in the Western Conference thanks to Los Angeles beating Arizona last night. That being said, simply making it to overtime tonight would move them back into playoff position.

The reason Calgary finds itself on the bubble is due to its lackluster defense and goaltending, which has allowed 147 tallies so far this season, the ninth-most in the NHL. That starts with 16-12-1 Chad Johnson, who has a .913 save percentage and 2.5 GAA – the (t)27th and (t)18th-best effort, respectively, among the 49 goalies with at least 15 appearances.

A decent GAA paired with a below-average save percentage is usually the mark of a decent defense, and that’s exactly the case the Wild will find this evening in the Saddledome. Led by Mark Giordano‘s 116 shot blocks (tied for sixth-most in the league), the Flames allow only 28 shots to reach Johnson’s crease per game – the sixth-best effort in the game.

Although they’re the ones currently sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in, it’s been the Flames that have dominated the season series between these clubs so far this year. Calgary has yet to drop a game to the Wild even if their most recent meeting on December 2 required a shootout to determine the 3-2 result.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Mikael Backlund (34 points [leads the team]), Troy Brouwer (98 hits and .16 shot percentage [both lead the team]), Giordano (116 blocks [leads the team]), Dougie Hamilton (144 shots and 25 assists [both lead the team]) and Sean Monahan (16 goals [leads the team]) & Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (1.88 GAA on a .936 save percentage [both best in the league] for 27 wins [second-most in the NHL], including five shutouts [tied for second-most in the league]), Matthew Dumba (+22 [eighth-best in the NHL]), Granlund (+26 [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Mikko Koivu (+26 [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]), Spurgeon (+28 [tied for third-best in the league]), Ryan Suter (+30 [tied for the NHL-lead]) and Jason Zucker (+30 [tied for the league-lead]).

Vegas has marked Calgary a slight underdog, placing a +105 next to their name. Personally, I’d take that bet. Not only do they have the history beating Dubnyk this season, they’re playing at home after a nice long All-Star break, compared to the Wild who just played last night. I like the Flames to complete the season-sweep and get back into the playoff bracket.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mark Recchi (1968-) – Although drafted in the fourth round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by rival Pittsburgh, this right wing spent most his career in Philadelphia. That being said, none of the seven-time All-Star’s three Stanley Cups were with the Flyers.
  • Kyle Palmieri (1991-) – Another right wing, Palmieri was drafted 26th-overall by Anaheim in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the first five seasons of his NHL career with the Ducks before moving on to New Jersey before the 2015-16 season.

The wins just keep rolling in for the Islanders. They won their third-straight game 3-2 last night against the league-leading Capitals in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

It’s only made sweeter by the fact that it was a comeback victory. That’s because Evgeny Kuznetsov (Justin Williams and Brooks Orpik) was able to bury his snap shot only 4:41 after the game’s initial puck drop. That was the lone tally of the first period.

With a power play slap shot 2:41 after returning to the ice for the second period, Second Star of the Game Alan Quine (Third Star Andrew Ladd and Calvin de Haan) leveled the contest for New York. Once again, it was the lone score of the frame to set up a deciding third period.

The Isles responded well coming out of intermission, with their surge completed by First Star Ryan Strome‘s (Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier) wrister to give them the lead. The game remained 2-1 until Johnny Boychuk (Casey Cizikas and John Tavares) took advantage of an empty net with 68 seconds remaining in the contest. Impressively, Alex Ovechkin (Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov) was able to make it only a one-goal differential with his slap shot, but the Capitals were unable to level with the remaining 47 seconds.

Thomas Greiss earns the victory after saving 28-of-30 shots faced (93.3%), leaving the loss to Philipp Grubauer, who saved 26-of-28 (92.9%).

Not only is the Islanders‘ victory their third-straight, it is also the second-straight win by the home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series. That advances the hosts’ record in the series to 56-35-16, seven points better than the roadies.

April 6 – Day 174 – Home sweet home… one more time

A point is better than nothing, right?  It all depends how the Red Wings play today, as Boston lost 2-1 in the shootout to Carolina in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Canes struck their lone goal of regulation with 1:06 remaining in the first period on a Third Star of the Game Jaccob Slavin wrister, assisted by Justin Faulk (his 21st helper of the season) and Nathan Gerbe.

Boston waited to level until the 1:45 mark of the third, courtesy of a Loui Eriksson wrister (his 29th tally of the season), assisted by John-Michael Liles.  Neither team could find the back of the net again, whether in the remaining regulation time or overtime, so we moved into the shootout.

It took five rounds before the Hurricanes struck their game-winner of sorts.  Noah Hanifin was last night’s hero, scoring on a backhander.

First Star Cam Ward earns the win after saving 35 of 36 shots faced (97.2%), while Second Star Tuukka Rask takes the shootout loss, saving 27 of 28 (96.4%).

After such a busy Tuesday schedule, we need a little breather, so the NHL only scheduled three games today.  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with two games dropping the puck (Vancouver at Edmonton and Columbus at Toronto), followed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Philadelphia at Detroit (NBCSN/TVAS).

Vancouver at Edmonton is the only divisional rivalry being played this evening, while Philadelphia at Detroit is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

In most cases, I’d usually go PhillyWings (and you should no doubt watch it, it’s a huge game), but tonight is a night of incredible, bittersweet memories and optimism centered around the best rookie Alberta has seen since the Great One, as this is the last Oilers game to be played in Rexall Place.

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Welcome to my EDM/House lounge, I’m DJ Connor bringing you all my favorite tunes.  *Bonus* if you haven’t, you need to listen to the entirety of Daft Punk’s Discovery album.  This is the one that made them big time, and still probably my favorite of their four records.

And you thought you visited this site just for hockey info.

Anyways, tonight’s game is the last NHL hockey game to take place in Rexall barring any terrible setbacks in the completion of Rogers Place or severe damage to the new facility.  Rexall is the second oldest active arena (opened in 1974), and third smallest (16,839 capacity).  Rogers will be 14th biggest in the league.

Rexall has seen a lot in its 42 years.  Five times have the Oilers won the Stanley Cup, and four of those series clinching victories took place on this ice.  In fact, Rexall Place has never seen a visitor clinch the title on its surface, as both of the Oilers‘ Stanley Cup shortcomings were finalized on the east coast.

The 1989 All-Star Game took place in Edmonton, as well as the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.  Of course, those events pale in comparison to even just a single game featuring the likes of Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Al Hamilton, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Adam Oates, Jacques Plante, Chris Pronger, Glen Sather and Norm Ullman, all men who either have their numbers retired by the club or are honored in the Hall of Fame.

This building will be sorely missed by those reminiscing about the past, but the new Rogers Place is a new start for a franchise that looks nothing like its elite past, although a certain rookie has intentions to change that for the better.

The visiting 30-36-13 Vancouver Canucks are the fifth best team in the Pacific Division (read that as third worst) and 12th in the Western Conference (again, read as third worst).  To get there, they’ve played the 10th worst defense, paired with the second worst offense.

Led by Chris Tanev’s 165 blocks, Vancouver has allowed only 2534 shots to reach 17-23-9 Ryan Miller and co., but they’ve collectively only saved 91.8% for 227 goals against, the 10th most in the NHL.  The lack of success absolutely cannot be blamed on the defensive special teams, as the penalty kill has neutralized 82.35% of their infractions, allowing 42 power play goals in the process, the 10th best rate in the league.

Daniel Sedin’s 254 shots has led the squad to firing the puck 2229 times, but only 8% have found the back of the net for 182 goals (led by Sedin’s 28 tallies), the second fewest in the league.  You know what I said about the Canucks‘ penalty kill not being responsible for defensive shortcomings?  Yeah, that doesn’t apply to the power play, which is successful on only 16.17% of attempts, good for 38 extra man goals (led by Sedin’s eight power play tallies), the fifth worst rate in the league.

As poorly as they’ve played all season, Vancouver is actually entering tonight’s game riding a three game winning streak, with their most recent being the 3-2 win over the visiting Kings on Monday.

The 30-43-7 Edmonton Oilers are, once again, the worst team in hockey (okay, they’re tied with Toronto for that honor, but the Leafs have a game in hand).  They play the sixth worst offense paired with the fourth worst defense.

Led by Taylor Hall’s 283 shots, the Oilers have fired the puck a measly 2310 times, with 8.2% finding the back of the net for 194 goals, the sixth fewest in the NHL.  Once again, that is partially to blame on the power play, which is successful on only 17.39% of their attempts for 30 extra man goals (led by Jordan Eberle’s seven power play tallies), the 11th worst rate in the league.

Led by Andrej Sekera’s 153 blocks, the Oil have allowed 2480 shots to reach 20-27-4 Cam Talbot and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91% for 239 goals against, the fourth most in the league.  The special teams strike out again (did someone mention baseball season starting?), as they’ve killed only 80.16% of opposing power plays for 49 extra man goals against, the 11th worst rate in the league.

Edmonton enters tonight’s game on a three game losing skid, with their most recent being Saturday’s 5-0 home loss to the rival Flames.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Edmonton‘s Hall (61 points, 21 of which are even-strength goals and 36 are assists, with 30 at even-strength, 283 shots and six game-winning goals [all lead the team]) and Sekera (12 power play assists and 153 blocks [both lead the team]) & Vancouver‘s Jannik Hansen (+16 and a .191 shooting percentage [both lead the team]), D. Sedin (61 points, 28 of which are goals, including six game-winners, consisting of 20 at even-strength and eight on the power play and 254 shots [all lead the team]) and Henrik Sedin (43 assists, consisting of 28 at even-strength and 15 on the power play [all lead the team]).

Given each team’s streak, I’m worried that Vancouver might win this one.  I expect a tight game regardless of the winner, but in honor of the occasion, I am pulling for the Oilers so they may end their years at Rexall on a high note.

It’s Time for a Second Look

By: Nick Lanciani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year, New Beginnings (or Revivals)- Part 2 Return to Hamilton

With the dawn of the New Year upon us I decided to explore the possibilities of relocation and expansion. In this excessively informal post, I’ve taken a look at what some of the best concept jerseys are for teams that no longer exist, but should (or possible expansion teams). In each case, I’ve looked at numerous designs, courtesy of Icethetics.co and the forums over at Chris Creamer’s Sportslogos.net, and highlighted the ones that I would pick if I were the owner of a new franchise looking to establish its identity.

If you missed part 1, you can read about it here.

Truthfully I find it odd that Hamilton does not have a hockey team when compared to similar sized markets- off the top of my head and in terms of fan support- like Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Calgary. Then again, being smack dab in the middle of the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs had enough to do with that; similar to the chances of the Hartford Whalers returning, given that the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders are all right in Hartford’s backyard. Regardless, let’s say the Hamilton Tigers came back to life. These jerseys are both appealing and retro enough to convey a sense of connection to the once existent Hamilton Tigers of long ago. Similar in nature to the Minnesota Wild, none of these jerseys are close enough to being related to one another, yet they aren’t far enough away from being unrelated. They’re somewhere in-between, just like the physical location of Hamilton, Ontario; somewhere in-between Buffalo, New York and Toronto, Ontario.

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But for you snafu’s that would rather see a more traditional set of jerseys, the Tigers wouldn’t go wrong with these. Quite frankly, I would be inclined to use the yellow home jersey as the third jersey for the set above.

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