Why They Can Win: NHL Stanley Cup Final Edition

Written by :
Published on : May 30, 2016

 

Well, it’s that time of year again. After months of grueling playoff action, it’s time for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, pitting the San Jose Sharks against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s been a long time coming for San Jose players and fans alike. This will be the first time in franchise history that the Sharks will play in a Stanley Cup Final.

 

It will be a thrilling time for the Sharks, particularly veteran forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Marleau has been in San Jose since he was the second player selected at the 1997 NHL Draft; he has played 1,411 regular-season games with the Sharks and another 165 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thornton arrived in 2005 in a trade with the Boston Bruins. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns has emerged as one of the better defensemen in the NHL and was recognized last month when he was named a Norris Trophy finalist. Burns had 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in the regular season. So let’s take a look at both teams and talk about how either one of them could be hoisting the greatest trophy in sports.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins:

I hate to say it, but the Pens have a pretty good chance at hoisting the Cup.

 

The Penguins have been a different team since Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as coach 28 games into the season. Sullivan has allowed the Penguins to use their speed to their advantage, and top players like centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, right wing Phil Kessel, and defenseman Kris Letang have thrived. Crosby scored 36 goals and had 85 points during the regular season, and he and Malkin each have 15 points in the playoffs. Letang has 10 points and a plus-4 rating.

 

 

Matt Murray has supplanted Marc-Andre Fleury as the No. 1 goalie in Pittsburgh after the latter sustained a concussion March 31. Fleury had a chance to grab his job back in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he allowed four goals on 25 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss. Murray turned 22 on May 25 and has 28 games of experience between the regular season and postseason on his resume, but he has shown the poise of a veteran and his teammates have full confidence in him.

 

Crosby will always be the first name mentioned when it comes to Pittsburgh’s offense, but the Penguins are loaded up front. The acquisition of Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer has paid dividends; Kessel enters the Final as Pittsburgh’s leading scorer this postseason with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in as many games. Monday, he’ll play his first game in the Final.

Kessel is part of what has been dubbed the “HBK Line,” consisting of left wing Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. Bonino has 12 assists in 18 games, and Hagelin, one of the League’s fastest skaters, has five goals and seven assists.

 

 

Bryan Rust is going through the playoffs for the first time, but he sure doesn’t look rattled. Game 7 against Tampa Bay arguably was his best of the postseason; he scored each of Pittsburgh’s goals in a 2-1 win. Rust likely will skate with Malkin and Chris Kunitz, who has 10 points in 18 games.

 

It’s no secret Pittsburgh’s defense begins with Letang, who is one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL. Letang is averaging 28:46 of ice time in the playoffs and has two goals and eight assists in 17 games. But he had two points in the Eastern Conference Final, and the Penguins may need more from Letang on the score sheet against the Sharks if they hope to finish this off.

 

Letang’s main defense partner, Brian Dumoulin, who scored his second goal in 116 career NHL regular-season and playoff games in Game 5 against the Lightning, is steady defensively and plays more than 20 minutes per game.

 

San Jose Sharks:

Marleau and Thornton will dominate the early storylines in this series, but center Joe Pavelski was born for this time of year. Pavelski has 13 goals in 18 games this postseason, including four game-winners. The first-year captain’s leadership on and off ice undoubtedly is one of the biggest reasons San Jose has gotten over the hump and reached the Final.

 

 

Center Logan Couture and Thornton are first and second in the NHL in assists this postseason, with 16 and 15, respectively. Each is extremely creative and a weapon on the power play. Couture’s 24 points lead the NHL.

 

Right wing Joel Ward is doing everything Sharks general manager Doug Wilson hoped he would when he signed him as a free agent on July 3. Ward has brought grit to San Jose and has 11 points in 18 playoff games. He is very familiar with Pittsburgh going back to his days with the Washington Capitals, so Ward should know what to expect in this series.

 

Ward’s line is centered by Chris Tierney, a 21-year-old who had seven goals in 79 regular-season games and has five in the playoffs. Swedish left wing Melker Karlsson continues to be a solid third-line left wing who is responsible in each end.

 

Burns is the star of San Jose’s defense and is capable of getting on the score sheet every time he’s on the ice. He enters the Final as the Sharks’ third leading scorer with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) and is averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time.

 

 

Burns isn’t the only elite player on San Jose’s back end. Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been spectacular this postseason, shutting down the opposition’s top forwards one series after another. Vlasic blanketed the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, who had 13 points in his first 14 games this postseason in the Western Conference Final, helping to hold him off the score sheet until Game 6. Vlasic is paired with Justin Braun, who was plus-3 in Game 5 against St. Louis and played 22:23 in the series-clincher.

 

San Jose’s power play has improved since the regular season, when it was third in the League at 22.5 percent, and is ranked second in the NHL this postseason at 27.0 percent. If the Sharks can keep the puck in the Penguins’ zone and Thornton can continue to find players like Pavelski and Marleau in the slot, their chances of winning the Cup increase dramatically.

 

 


Quest for the Stanley Cup: The Final Four

Written by :
Published on : May 14, 2016

 

 

Then there were four. Only four bands of bearded warriors left in this epic quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. In case you just woke up from a hundred year slumber, here is the situation. First, out of the West we have St Louis Blues battling the San Jose Sharks and out of the East we have the Tampa Bay Lightning clashing with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Winners of these series will meet for a chance at historic greatness. Let’s meet each team and get caught up as we speed toward the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

St Louis Blues

 

If the Blues do finally capture their first Stanley Cup, the opening chapter of that story is how they overcame the Blackhawks in the first round. That was a herculean feat. Seems like every solid Blues team in the past is always bounced out of the playoffs by Chicago, Detroit (before the conference shift) or whoever had the hot hand. Not this team. Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes and Troy Brouwer are scoring. Plus goaltender, Brian Elliott, looked excellent against Dallas. St Louis will be singing at the end of the year, but it might not be the usual blues. Look out.

 

San Jose Sharks

 

I really don’t like these guys. They are loaded with firepower and seem to score goals at will. The tv tells me this is Joe Pavelski’s team now and it’s different. Maybe that’s true. But I still don’t like him, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton. Though, I do like Joe Thornton’s beard. This offense is scary. If you play them, you better play clean because you don’t want to give them an extra skater. Their power play is killer.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Those uniforms make them look very superhero-esque and they have been playing like it. GM Steve Yzerman has built a wicked team that is young and talented. Last season, the Lightning lost to the Blackhawks in the finals. Now they are looking to rebound and take that next step. If Tampa Bay does win its second Stanley Cup (first was 2004) it will be on the back of goalie Ben Bishop and the stick of Nikita Kucherov.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

 

Pittsburgh is the only franchise of the four that has won a championship (2009) in the last decade, so they seem like the de facto favorites. It’s Crosby, Kessel, and Malkin doing work as usual. They only needed six games to get past a very complete Washington Capitals crew that looked primed for a deep playoff run. Tampa Bay will have their hands full. Sounds dumb, but stop sleeping on the Pittsburgh Penguins. I feel like most hockey fans outside of Pennsylvania aren’t ready to see Sid the Kid lift another Cup. Yuck.

 

So which crew will be drinking champagne out of Stanley’s Mug? It’s a tough call. I don’t want the Penguins to win again. I hate the Sharks. Tampa Bay has Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman running the team but they’ve knocked the Wings out of the playoffs the last two years and I don’t want a hockey trophy to live anywhere in Florida. So, by process of elimination, the St Louis Blues will hoist the Cup. It’s cosmic sports retribution for the Rams leaving (too soon?). The city loses a football team but gains a Stanley Cup to help cushion the blow. Makes sense to me.

 

 

Go Blues.

 

 


Flyers Fans Prove To Be The Most Disgraceful Fans In Hockey

Written by :
Published on : April 20, 2016

 

 

On Monday night, the Flyers and their fans intended to honor founder Ed Snider, who died last Tuesday due to bladder cancer before they faced-off against the Capitals in Game 3. The organization gave away light-up bracelets and painted Snider’s initials behind the goals. Lauren Hart, the team’s longtime anthem singer, sang “God Bless America” with Snider’s name and 67 on the back of her team jersey.

 

But Flyers fans, some of whom had reportedly been tailgating since the early afternoon, showed disgraceful behavior that only got worse as the the Caps continued to score well into the third period.

 

It was undignified. It was an embarrassment. It was– as Al Koken best put it– a “clown show.”

 

Here’s the recap:

 

Before warm-ups even began, one Flyers fan went down to the glass by the Caps bench and taunted Braden Holtby.

 

 

Before puck drop, a moment of silence held for Ed Snider was interrupted by a fan yelling f-bombs at the Capitals.

 

 

 

Screaming “Lets Go Flyers” during the anthem is one thing. Screaming curses at the opposing team during a moment of silence for the man that built your organization is just complete disrespect. Classless move by the Flyers fans to start off an all-around embarrassing night for the organization.

 

As the second period began, one Flyers fan flipped off the Capitals bench for a photo.

 

 

Soon after that, Brooks Orpik got injured after a huge hit by Ryan White. As Orpik was helped off the ice and into the locker room, Philadelphia fans booed him (Pens fans did the same thing after Hank took a stick to the eye in Game 1).

 

 

Hard to believe, but it got worse…

 

After John Carlson put the Caps up 4-1, Flyers fans decided to abandon their team and headed for the exits.

 

 

With under eight minutes left to go in the very one-sided game, Flyers forward Pierre-Édouard Bellemare checked Dmitry Orlov headfirst into the boards. Fans responded by throwing their light-up bracelets onto the ice.

 

One bracelet hit Dmitry Orlov in the face while he was being looked at on the bench.

 

 

After this, the Flyers PA Announcer had enough of the Flyers fans and told them to “have some class.”

 

 

You would think that MAYBE the Flyers fans would settle down at this point but no. Instead, they threw beers. After they were warned by their own PA announcer, Flyers fans continued throwing trash on the ice, forcing officials to call a bench minor against the Flyers.

 

 

Here’s Mike Richards knocking a bracelet away from center ice.

 

 

Even Flyers players had enough of their own fans.

 

 

After the game, “Embarrassing” was trending in Philly.

 

 

Just an overall disgraceful night for the Flyers organization. This just proves what a terrible fan base Philly has. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for Game 4 when the Caps sweep them.

 

 


Rangers Drop Game 3 to Pens

Written by :
Published on : April 20, 2016

 

 

Coming off a big win in game two at Pittsburgh and great start to game three, the inability to keep the momentum going into the third period is what cost the Rangers a win. After nearly two periods of great hockey by both teams, the Rangers gradually let the game slip away from them. The Pens defense, especially in the neutral zone, came up big for them and they allowed only 17 shots on goal the entire game. Henrik Lundqvist had another strong game in net, but could not make up for the lack of offense.

 

Having only 17 shots on goal in an entire playoff hockey game is just embarrassing. The Rangers did nothing to make back-up goaltender Matt Murray feel uncomfortable. It’s only a matter of time before Marc-Andre Fluery comes back, so taking advantage of opportunities like an unexperienced goaltender is key if you want to win.

 

During the early stages of the game, the Rangers had a clear advantage in the Penguins’ zone. Halfway through the first period, it looked as if the Rangers were going to take an early 1-0 lead after Kreider beat Murray near-side, something that would’ve been well deserved. But the Penguins challenged the goal for offsides, and after review it was ruled that J.T. Miller was offsides when the puck crossed the blue line.

 

 

The no-goal call had a visible effect on the Rangers’ momentum as the first period came to a close. Thanks to a great play by Kevin Klein that knocked the puck loose in the defensive zone, Nash was able to motor in on a partial breakaway and plant an absolute snipe right under the crossbar to make it 1-0 game.

 

Throughout the rest of the second period the Rangers seemed to control most of the game. They played well defensively, blocking the shooting lanes and keeping the Penguins to the outside. Late in the period Marc Staal was called for a hooking penalty on Carl Hagelin. The Pens didn’t waste anytime to capitalize on their man-up opportunity. Kessel’s shot was deflected in by Crosby to tie the game at 1-1 late in the second.

 

 

The third period is where the Rangers saw the most drastic decline in momentum. 4:16 into the period, Cullen scored on a breakaway after Boyle and Yandle collided at the blue line. The Rangers never fully recovered from this goal and it just got worse from there.

 

Following the goal that put Pens up 2-1, the Penguins completely shut down the Rangers in the neutral zone, and gave them absolutely no opportunity to create a scoring chance while entering the offensive zone. The Rangers attempted to make one final push after pulling Lundqvist, but they were unable to get any good shots on net. Letang was able to seal the deal with the empty net goal with less than 15 seconds remaining, and gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the series.

 

The Rangers will face the Penguins again for Game 4 of the series on Thursday night at MSG. If the Rangers can get another good start to the game and keep the momentum throughout, then they have a great shot at winning.

 

Let’s Go Rangers!!!

 

 

 


Rangers Set To Face Penguins in Round 1

Written by :
Published on : April 13, 2016

 

 

“The men of the New York Rangers, and we their fans, know that there are no easy victories. That’s how we play the game, that’s how we live our lives, that’s how we like it.”

 

 

Detective Steven McDonald said it best during his speech at MSG last week. Nothing was easy for New York this season and with the Rangers set to face the Pens in first round for the third straight year, this theme will certainly carry over to the playoffs. Facing the high-flying Penguins will be no easy task for the Blueshirts, especially with their top blueliner, Ryan McDonagh, out for the foreseeable future.

 

 

And while many people (myself included) may have wanted the Rangers to take the easy way out (like the Islanders did) and take a loss to the Red Wings in their season finale, that’s not how the Rangers, and New Yorkers for that matter, do things. It’s the hard way, but that’s how we like it. When Marc Staal was asked about the Rangers 3-2 win on Saturday, this is what he had to say:

 

“You don’t lose to play somebody else. If you do that, bad things happen. You play to win. We’re not scared of anybody.”

 

Hell yeah, Marc Staal. The Rangers knew EXACTLY what they were doing. They knew that the hottest team in the NHL was waiting for them on the other side of that win, but they didn’t care. Instead of running away like the Fishsticks, they came out ready to face their challenge head on. If that doesn’t speak to the type of team the Rangers are, then I don’t know what does.

 

 

I can go on and on about numbers and statistics but, to be honest, I don’t think it matters. The playoffs are a whole new season and anything can happen. The Rangers are ready to do things the hard way and every New York Rangers fan is right there behind them.

 

So here’s to the greatest time of the year and another shot at the greatest trophy in all of sports. We Want The Cup!

 

LETS GO RANGERS!!!!

 

 

P.S. Check out Keith Yandle’s article for the Player’s Tribune

 


Rangers (Finally) Clinch Playoff Berth

Written by :
Published on : April 6, 2016

 

 

Well it took long enough…

 

 

 

After going on their first losing streak of 2016, the Rangers punched their ticket to the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-2 win against the Blue Jackets. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen without incident

 

 

Nothing has been easy for the Rangers this season, and it doesn’t look like the playoffs will be any different. A night where the Blueshirts finally lockup their playoff spot happens to be the same night they potentially lose their captain for what could be playoff series or two. If it’s a broken bone then odds are we’re looking at 4-6 weeks without #27.

 

McDonagh is easily the best blue-liner the Rangers have in their lineup. So hopefully they’ll have him back on the ice for Game 1. If in the meantime, Brady Skjei has been called up from Hartford to fill McDonagh’s skates. Yandle will probably be bumped back up to the top line where he played well during the Captain’s past two injuries.

 

But enough with the doom and gloom. With only 3 games left in the regular season (one being against the Isles on Thursday), it is time to gear up for the best months of hockey. Forget the past, the playoffs are a whole new season. It’s time to bring the cup back where it belongs.

 

 

 

LETS GO RANGERS!!!!!

 

 


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