F the Penguins, go Predators!

Written by :
Published on : May 29, 2017

 

 

It’s almost time for another group of warriors to drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup of destiny. The defending champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins are annoyingly back in the trophy round. Their opponent, the Nashville Predators, are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. And I for one, am rooting for the new guys. All across sports, we see the same major market teams always hoisting the championship hardware. Let someone else have a turn for once.

 

I really wanted the Ottawa Senators to make the Final. They pushed the Penguins to the brink. Double overtime in game 7 but alas, Pittsburgh proved yet again they are one of the best outfits on ice. That final score bummed me out. No Canadian team has made the Stanley Cup Final since Vancouver in 2011 and the last Canadian team to win it was Montreal all the way back in 1993. That’s sad. They invented the sport but are relegated to watching the Stanley Cup instead of competing for it. And our northern brothers will have to wait at least another year before recapturing hockey’s top prize.

 

 

If you aren’t from Pennsylvania, then the Penguins should be the obvious villains in this series. They have been dominant in the sport for the last few years, they are defending champs, have a roster full of stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray. Plus those black jerseys with that menacing mascot of theirs. I just hate them. Crosby especially. He is so good but he has a face that you just want to smash. Phil Kessel is cool though. Like a goal-scoring teddy bear but will buy you a beer. But seriously, Penguins please don’t win again. That would be great. Thanks.

 

Now, let’s meet the good guys. The unlikely crew from Nashville taking the playoffs by storm. In the net, is Pekka Rinne the Finish goaltender who is absolutely crushing it right now. He leads the postseason in every major goaltending stat (GAA, Save %, Wins, Shutouts). Rinne is the number one reason the Preds have made it to the Finals. But Nashville is a sneaky deep squad featuring ballers like PK Subban, Mike Fisher, James Neal, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen and Mattias Ekholm. All the tools are here. Let’s hope they can put it together.

 

 

In terms of the matchup, you have to give the advantage to the Penguins just based on experience. They’ve been here before and they know how to win a Cup. But that may not be an issue if Rinne keeps up his level of play. Part of me wants to see Pittsburgh get swept but that won’t happen. The series will probably need 6 or 7 games to determine a winner. Which is fine because that sounds like a great Stanley Cup. Let’s just hope we get the right ending. F the Penguins.

 

Music city.

 

 


The 2016 NHL All-Star Game Was One For The Books

Written by :
Published on : February 3, 2016

 

 

This past Sunday, the 2016 NHL All-Star game was played in Nashville, TN and it might have been the most memorable NHL All-Star game in recent history. This was made possible by one man, John Scott.

 

For those of you that have been living under a rock the past month or so, John Scott, the 6′ 8″ 260lbs enforcer with only 5 career goals, was voted into the All-Star Game via fan vote. This was thanks to an online campaign with the aim of exploiting the voting system. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know who John Scott was before this whole thing started. I barely knew that he briefly played for the Rangers. When it was announced that Scott would captain the Pacific Division team, it was received with mixed opinions. Personally, I was genuinely happy for the guy. I thought it would add an interesting dynamic to the usually dismal All-Star Game.

 

NHL all star 2

 

Then the reports came out that Scott had been traded to the Montreal Canadiens and subsequently sent down to their AHL affiliate, the St. John’s Ice Caps in a multi-player deal that seemed to be orchestrated by the league themselves. This was all supposedly in an attempt to keep Scott out of the All-Star Game after he refused to bow out on his own.

 

 

Well after this, I was 100% for John Scott and his participation in the All-Star Game…and so was the rest of twitter. Within a few hours #FreeJohnScott was trending and people were demanding he be allowed to play.

 

Eventually, the NHL was tired of being the bad guy and did the right thing. They announced on January 19th, that John Scott would captain the Pacific Division team in the ASG, citing “a determination to maintain the status quo for the All-Star weekend in order to preserve all parties’ pre-existing expectations, including Scott’s desire to participate.”

 

NHL Allstar3

 

Then the news broke that Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews both pulled out of the All-Star Game just days before puck drop because of previous injuries.

 

Fast forward to the skills competition…

 

The night started off with Dylan Larkin, the 19 year-old Detroit rookie, breaking the fastest lap record in 13.172 seconds.

 

 

Then came the breakaway challenge, which P.K. Subban won for this Jaromir Jagr impersonation.

 

 

And who can forget Brent Burn’s Chewbacca impersonation.

 

 

The Eastern Conference team ending up dominating the Skills Competition and won 29-12.

 

The All-Star Game opened up with Atlantic vs. Metropolitan in the new 3v3 format. The Atlantic pulled away with a 4-3 win over the Metropolitan. Dylan Larkin notched a team-leading three points, and was the only multi-point player for his team.

 

Next up was Central vs. Pacific. James Neal opened up the scoring for the Central. Then the unthinkable happened…JOHN SCOTT SCORED A GOAL.

 

 

His celly might have been the highlight of my night (and everyone else’s). Then in the second half, John Freaking Scott decides he wants to score AGAIN on a breakaway.

 

 

The Pacific went on to defeat the Central on a score of 9-6.

 

The final matchup of this new tournament-style All-Star Game pitted Pacific against Atlantic for all the marbles. No scoring in the first half courtesy of some excellent goaltending by Jonathan Quick and Roberto Luongo. Scoring opened up in the second with a goal by Corey Perry, which proved to be the game winner. Pacific Division wins it 1-0.

 

 

And that’s not even the best part…

 

Thanks to yet another online campaign that was supported by multiple official NHL team twitter accounts, John Scott was voted MVP of the All-Star Game.

 

 

I mean how can you not be happy for this guy? He was really the highlight of the entire event. His All-Star Jersey sold out in 30 minutes. The St. Johns Ice Caps even changed their twitter name to “St. JohnScott Ice Caps.” His All-Star helmet is currently being displayed at the Hockey HOF. It’s just an incredible story.

 

Scott has, more than anything, proven to be someone the NHL should be proud of having in its family. The way he carried himself throughout the weekend was truly amazing. And seeing how everyone enjoyed it, from the fans, to his family, to the fellow players, makes it almost unthinkable that the NHL initially considered his presence a bad idea.

 

NHL all star 4

 

This has always been a chance for the league to show a little more life and personality, and that’s exactly what Scott brought to the table. We may never have an All-Star Game exactly like this again, even if 3-on-3 is here to stay (I hate to admit it but it was pretty awesome even though it wasn’t a gongshow like I expected), but man, this was special.

 

P.S. Read this article Scott wrote for The Player’s Tribune.

 

 

 


2015-16 NHL Season Preview: Central Division

Written by :
Published on : October 3, 2015

 

Welcome to ScoreBoredSports.com’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview for the Central Division. Early last year, people wondered whether or not the Central was a division that featured seven playoff-caliber teams. The defensive profligacy of the Stars, continued stagnation in Winnipeg, and a dismal Wild season only saved by the heroics of a castaway goaltender, destabilized that dream. This year, the division’s outlook is not as rosy, with the customary dismantling of the Championship Blackhawks underway, questions surrounding uneven rosters in Colorado, Winnipeg, and Dallas, and the all-important question of when Patrick Roy will finally kill a man on the ice by the sheer venom of his hubris.

 

 

central division
Image by Roger Pretzel

 

Central Division:

  • Blackhawks
  • Avalanche
  • Stars
  • Wild
  • Predators 
  • Blues 
  • Jets

 

Falling

 

Chicago Blackhawks:

Quenneville and Toews will need to do a lot to keep the Blackhawks contending this year.

 

Well, might as well get this out of the way: the Blackhawks will not be as good this year. As salary cap issues forced Stan Bowman and co. to dismantle this fantastic roster, so, too, did their Stanley Cup aspirations crumble. They’ve shed key championship pieces like Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya, Antoine Vermette, and Brandon Saad. Gone, too, are Kris Versteeg and Patrick Sharp, each of whom played valuable minutes in a spectrum of roles. More pressing is the cloud that looms over the season in the form of a sexual assault allegation against Patrick Kane. No matter the outcome, nor the increasingly troublesome nature of the case, this inexorably will affect the team’s ability to concentrate and focus on the games at hand, whether Kane is present or not. But if any team has the structure to withstand such turmoil, the stalwart Hawks are the squad to do it.  When a team is a dynasty on the level of these Hawks, every player tends to ooze leadership.  The overall fall from surefire contender to a low playoff seed is an easy fall to predict, but make no mistake: this team still features the game’s best defenseman in Duncan Keith, the game’s best leader in Jonathan Toews, and the game’s best coach in Joel Quenneville. They added players on the cheap that have good potential to be productive, such as Ryan Garbutt and Artem Anisimov, and Trevor Daley might slot into a second-pair defensive role quite nicely.   They are likely to make the playoffs, but fight for every inch along the way.  It’s an ever-crowding West, but the Hawks still have too much on their roster to be silent come playoff time.

 

Winnipeg Jets:

There’ll be a lot more of this from Pavelec and the Jets this year.

 

I’m mainly concerned that this team is what it is, which is not a contender — and stagnation kills in the NHL. Trading Evander Kane for Tyler Myers may have shielded the tender fans in Winnipeg from whatever hangups they had about Kane, but Myers looked uneven in the playoffs. I’m just not convinced he’s Chara 2.0, or ever will be. I can see the appeal of a towering defense featuring Dustin Byfuglien and Myers, with massive slap shots and punishing hits aplenty; but I can also see, just beyond the hulking giants, a terrible goalie in net. Ondrej Pavelec is not an NHL starter, but boy has he started a lot of NHL games. I know you might be thinking “but look at his numbers last year, they’re quite good!” Maybe, but he’s not. He will be bad this year, don’t trust this false hope of a 50-game blip. Pavelec will be bad again; Michael Hutchinson has offered tepid promise, but remains far from a proven commodity.  The team’s above-average PDO (tied for 8th in the league) also suggests that the returns their forward crop offer may too be diminishing. This is a team that performed above average and is unlikely to shoot or stop the puck that well again, plain and simple. Their off-season of doing essentially nothing but reintegrating 23 year-old KHL refugee, Alex Burmistrov and re-signing the aging but adequate, Drew Stafford is a paltry re-load for a team that didn’t look like much in the playoffs. They’ll need continued development from young Mark Scheifele after a promising first full NHL season last year, but even so, I don’t see it this year in Winnipeg.

 

Rising

 

Nashville Predators:

Colin Wilson and the team celebrate the fact that I know who he is now.

 

Here’s an interesting fact: Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher, and Craig Smith are different people. Who knew? In researching the Nashville Predators roster, I must have done at least three major spit-takes, ruining my wife’s computer (twice). Contrary to my initial impression, those aren’t randomly-generated white guy names; they are, apparently, all unique individuals that each score between 30-50 points a year, are usually good for around 20 goals, and can play multiple positions. That’s so incredibly useful now that Nashville has a first line of players to reliably score in Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, and breakout All-Star candidate, Filip Forsberg. This marks a potentially powerful triumvirate if Ribeiro can continue to provide steady distribution, Neal re-ignites his potent shot, and Forsberg continues to develop on his current track. Throw in useful players like Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom to provide spine and leadership, and a reclamation project in Cody Hodgson, and this team is balanced and versatile. Most importantly, take a look at that loaded defense. Remember top draft pick Seth Jones? Yeah, he’s still that good. Shea Weber trudges along mercilessly firing 20 goals in a year while bludgeoning everyone in his path. There’s all kinds of depth and skill in Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and newly-inbound veteran Barret Jackman, siphoned from a division rival, no less. Most importantly, Pekka Rinne is back and, barring another serious health condition like the one that robbed him of his 2014 season, should continue to be one of the game’s elite keepers. It says a lot that he was able to bounce back from that scary bacterial infection following hip surgery, and put up one of the best seasons of his career. Watch out for Stanley Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette to harangue his way to some serious contention for home ice in the West.

 

Contender

 

St. Louis Blues:

Tarasenko re-signed to win some Stanley Cups and drink some beers…. And he’s all out of beer.

 

Will this be the year that Ken Hitchcock finally finds the right X’s and the perfect O’s for the perennially-underachieving Blues? Since he assumed the head coaching position in St. Louis, they have been consistently excellent in the regular season, finding enough firepower to accent a stalwart defense. Yet they’ve never been past the first round, and have foolishly ridden an ever-rotating goalie carousel toward soft playoff exits. Last year, they looked to be a powerful force against an inexperienced Wild team, yet squandered home ice in game five against a still-scorching Devan Dubnyk. Vladimir Tarasenko was about the only player who came out of the series looking good for the Blues.  This past summer didn’t spell doom, but rather, an ultimatum: last chance.

Looking at this year’s squad, there’s some potential for addition by subtraction in losing Barrett Jackman, as his off-season departure opens up space for younger players like Petteri Lindbohm and Robert Bortuzzo to step in and add a bit of pace in the back end. Other than that, they mainly added depth in Kyle Brodziak, and secured Vladimir Tarasenko for eight years.

This is a team that tended heavily toward defensive play last year, with a 49.5% ratio of offensive to defensive zone starts (essentially a composite of how and where each player on the team is deployed and used). This indicates that King Kenny’s attention to defense hasn’t fallen away like his career as a world-renowned breeder of exotic birds. And though it may not be true that Ken Hitchcock was ever a decorated breeder of tropical birds, doesn’t it feel like he should develop a passion outside of hockey? I just worry.

Anyway, in spite of the Blues’ craven history of disintegrating at crucial moments, the future looks just as bright as last year’s Division-winning team’s could have been. The aforementioned Tarasenko is the crown jewel in an offense laden with high-level two-way players like David Backes, and the newly-acquired Troy Brouwer, but it seems like they’ll need more pure offensive value out of Paul Stastny, who, on balance, had the worst season of his career in 2015. The Blues continue to have questions in their goalie rotation, with Brian Elliott losing favor to Jake Allen in the last third of the year and into the playoffs (until Allen turned in some poor performances of his own). Yet the answer doesn’t appear to be on the horizon, so the hope is that Elliott can regain his peak form and Allen can use his time as a backup to learn what it means to be a true NHL starter. With a loaded roster and a championship-winning coach, the sky isn’t even the limit; only the Blues can hold themselves back at this point.

 

Other Thoughts:

  • As much as I’d like to offer some insight into the Wild’s season, I feel like Devan Dubnyk’s incredible run in net last year disrupts my ability to really figure out what kind of team this is. Unfortunately, my highly sophisticated intuition tells me that it will be nearly impossible for Dubnyk to reproduce such a run.  However, late-career goaltending surges are not out of the question.  Dwayne Roloson, somehow, took a 2011 Lightning team to within a game of the Cup final at age 41; this came after an up-and-down career in which, excepting another strange run to the Cup final with Edmonton five years earlier, he never really established himself as a top-tier keeper.  Probable Ted Nugent disciple, Tim Thomas, burst out at age 33 from being a spotty starter to a four-time all-star, Stanley Cup, Vezina, and Conn Smythe winner.  So there’s some hope that Dubnyk, now 29, will take that seemingly random leap into excellence.  Smart money says that won’t be the case, and the Wild might re-discover some of their early-season malaise from 2014-15.  One thing I do know: Jason Zucker needs to pass the fucking rock.  Dude had 21 goals and 5 assists last year.  That’s like, Rick Nash-level selfish, bro.  I’M OPEN ON THE POINT, ASSHOLE.

 

  • Once again, Colorado boasted high puck luck with one of the NHL’s best PDO numbers, yet still managed to be a big mess.  A clue: the Avalanche had the league’s second-worst Corsi percentage, also known as Shot Attempts on NHL.com (the stat combines shots, shot attempts, and blocked shots, the idea is to measure how a player impacts the team’s ability to direct the puck at the other net).  But beyond any of the numbers, the Avs just sucked last year, so we can’t really say they’re falling.   Picking up veteran blueliner Francois Beauchemin should strengthen the hapless defense, and the addition of Blake Comeau, who had excellent possession numbers last year with a high personal Corsi percentage, should hopefully help in that department.  Ultimately, Patrick Roy is a an inflamed gonad and he will always be lesser than a Red Wing;  never forget 12/02/95, you Stanley Cup-winning chump!

 

  • Did you know that, according to the Weather Channel, it will be 86 degrees and partly cloudy in Dallas, Texas, on the opening night of hockey season??  I’m deeply tempted to leave my comments at that for the Stars, but they’ve done enough to at least intrigue me over the summer.  I don’t think they’re due for a significant push forward, nor a slump, but there’s potential for some impact with the summer acquisitions of skilled Cup-winners Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya, and former Cup-winner Antii Niemi in goal.  But each of those players is on the wrong side of thirty, and who knows how much is left in the tank.  The Stars again play it cavalier with a thin defense, especially after losing one of their few NHL-ready defenders in Trevor Daley in the trade for Patrick Sharp.  Under the guidance of their General Manager, former Detroit Red Wing head of scouting and all-around hockey savant, Jim Nill, the Stars strengthened their team through the middle last off-season, acquiring Jason Spezza as a formidable second-line pillar.  The problem is that they neglected to carry six viable NHL defenders, and the team looked ghastly out of the back last year, allowing 257 goals, good for 4th-worst in the NHL.  I don’t really see enough movement on this front to shift the terrain in any significant direction; the goaltending situation continues to compound the team’s defensive woes, now with two potentially over-the-hill Finnish keepers bringing great experience, but diminishing skills.  Even the strong development of promising rookie D-man John Klingberg would be insufficient cover for such a porous defense.  Yet, with the likes of Tyler Seguin and unlikely Art-Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn, the team have an elite duo of firebrand offensive talent atop solid cast of top-six forwards.  The questions persist: can this Dallas team mature and take care of the puck in their own end? Does the combination of Kari Lehtonen and Niemi have enough in the tank to turn out wins with a shaky defense in front? Does the influx of former Chicago Blackhawk championship teammates create some sort of old-man spark?  Can you see the ice around my enormous cowboy hat made of beef jerky?

 

Stay tuned to your favorite internet tube for part 3, coming soon! 

 


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