The same old champs

Written by :
Published on : June 15, 2017

 

The Golden State Warriors have just won the 2017 NBA Championship. Congrats to them. They pulled it off in just five games against a very good Cavs team led by superstar LeBron James. This is the Warriors second trophy in just three seasons (three straight finals trips) and from the looks of the roster, they should be highly competitive for years to come.

 

Just days before that, the Pittsburgh Penguins became back-to-back Stanley Cup champs after beating the Nashville Predators in six games. It was a hard fought series but the experience and leadership of Sidney Crosby was too much for a young Preds crew to overcome. That now makes five Stanley Cups for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Three since 2009. That’s dominance.

 

 

The 2016 sports season is finally over. All the hardware has been handed out and now we can finally look back and spot the trends. The data tells a simple story. The same jerks who always win, won again. In the four major professional sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB), only the Chicago Cubs were not a recent champion of the 2016 winners (Patriots, Warriors, Penguins). What’s the deal? Why do we only ever see the same few organizations on the podium? It’s a drag to always see the same guys celebrating.

 

In football, the 2016 season ended with yet another New England Patriots Super Bowl victory. Yawn. Don’t get me wrong, the actual game was great and historic. Seeing the Pats climb back was a sports memory no one will soon forget but the overall outcome was boring. Brady wins his fifth ring in fifteen years. Give someone else a turn.

 

 

Thank God for the Chicago Cubs. If it wasn’t for them then we would be stuck watching sports re-runs of the same victory parades over and over again. The Cubbies made history and ended one hell of a drought. That’s a good story. That’s what we need. Redemption, the under dog, the cinderella story. Something new!

 

But baseball isn’t always the outlier. The San Francisco Giants have three World Series wins since 2010. Overall, the MLB seems more wide open than the other sports but maybe that’s just the perception. So what now? It’s clear that across sports there is an upper class of franchises and these teams are the ones that win the big games. What’s the lesson? Steal the model. Copy what’s working. Steal away their coaches and personnel. Change your culture. Whatever it takes.

 

As we enter the summer months where we only have MLB action to hold us over or as many call it, the dark days, we can only hope that this year will see some new faces on the Wheaties box.

 

Champs.

 

 


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 New Sports Rivalries

Written by :
Published on : November 6, 2016

 

 

Everyone knows about Yankees vs. Red Sox and Michigan vs. Ohio State. Those and many other old rivalries are classic. Important parts of the fabric of sports history. But what are the new beefs? The modern day feuds? We look in every major sport and highlight the contemporary era of rivalries.

 

Toronto vs. Cleveland

Hear me out, first the Cavs bounced the Raptors out of the playoffs last year and just a bit ago, the Cleveland Indians said goodnight to the Toronto Blue Jays. Maybe this rivalry is a little one-sided but be sure, Drake and all of Toronto are looking forward to their next chance to get revenge on Cleveland.

 

Patriots vs. Broncos

 

Want to win a Super Bowl? Chances are you have to beat one of these guys to do it. Things really started cooking when Peyton joined Denver. Manning vs. Brady part two. Featuring new team colors. Even with Peyton retiring, this matchup is still serious. I could easily see both franchises back in the AFC Championship game.

 

Detroit vs. Everybody

This attitude is almost out of control. And I’m part of the problem. The Detroit fanbase can be salty but it comes from a place of love. It just doesn’t always shine through. The vs. Everybody campaign has its merits, I like the galvanizing quality but it can get pushed into hostile territory that will leave us Michigan sports fans without any sympathy from anyone outside the state. NOTE, not really an issue in the Red Wing world. People hate us but that’s because we are awesome at hockey.

 

Russ vs. KD

It’s Batman trying to kill Robin. Kevin Durant and the Warriors are the favs in the west but don’t tell that to Russell Westbrook. This dude is looking to drop a triple-double in every game until he meets KD and company in the playoffs. Everyone wants to see that.

 

Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor

mayweather mcgregor

 

They have never fought. Probably never will. But they are rivals. No doubt about that. Since we may never get a pay-per-view, our only hope is that these two both meet in a Vegas nightclub and they fight on the dance floor. Video provided by iPhone.

 

Penguins vs. Capitals

This is more than just Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby. These two crews have been battling it out for the last few seasons and it’s been some of the finest hockey you can watch. Not a huge fan of either team but the product they put forward is top shelf. But please, someone just put Crosby into the boards already.

 

Cavs vs Warriors

The best and most epic of the new school rivalries. They have met in back-to-back NBA Finals and a third meeting is inevitable. That win will end the argument until they met for a forth of fifth time. Right now, this is the greatest show on floor. Damn, that saying doesn’t really work in basketball.

 

All it takes for a new rivalry to be created is one great game. You can’t tell me the players don’t feed off that kind of stuff. Drop your favorite rivalries in the comments and let’s keep this conversation going.

 

Heated.

 

 


The Pens Won the Stanley Cup and No One Cares

Written by :
Published on : June 25, 2016

 

 

You may not have noticed, but the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup and no one (outside of Pennsylvania) seems to care. I dig hockey and I only saw a few games of finals. As stated before, I don’t like either the Penguins or the San Jose Sharks very much but still, something was off here and it wasn’t just me. Most of my hockey loving friends were equally checked out. What was going on? Why wasn’t there more excitement for the biggest stage of NHL competition? I asked a few buddies and tried to figure it out.

 

First stop, SBS’s resident hockey expert, Antoine Poutine. I was certain he would have something super thoughtful and revealing to say. I was kind of surprised by his answer:

“The Stanley Cup was a classic matchup between one of hockey’s all-time great bitches, Sidney Crosby, and hall-of-fame caliber bitch Joe Thornton. I watched it a little bit until it started burning when I peed, which is usually how I react to Crosby. Turning it off was soothing.”

 

 

Next, I talked to Steven, our Pittsburgh fan. At least he must be into it, right? I mean it’s a hometown championship. His words were few but spoke volumes to the phenomenon we are experiencing:

“Well, now I know what it’s like to be a Patriots fan.”

 

Maybe it’s because the Pittsburgh Penguins are so good that it’s boring. Both the outcome and the gameplay seem old hat. Look, I’ll give Phil Kessel his props, but I’m just not that interested. Maybe everyone just really hates the Sharks and Pens. I continued polling the staff and most seemed to agree with the frustration felt by Antoine.

 

Alex:

I could only dislike this more if it was the Blackhawks winning a Stanley Cup.”

 

Noah:

“As soon as Pittsburgh clinched a berth to the Stanley Cup Finals we knew it was over.  Props to SJ for making it interesting but overall I think people cared more about Warriors vs Cavs.”

 

 

Mike:

“It’s baseball season.”

 

Phred:

“I’d be more inclined to keep up with the Stanley Cup if ESPN showed any interest. They’ve got two analysts that cover the entire sport.”

 

Sandy:

“I’m just glad the Sharks and Warriors both lost so the Silicon Valley engineers could stop pretending they like sports and get back to work on the next social media app to look at boobies.”

 

Damn. that’s a lot of shade being thrown around. But all these different voices are pointing at something. A flaw. The NHL would be wise to closely monitor this situation. Looking beyond the ScoreBoredSports staff, we find proof backing up our claim. 2016 saw a steep drop off in TV rating for the Stanley Cup finals. SportsMediaWatch states a 29% drop in viewership since last year. That’s massive. I’m not sure what the league can do beyond pulling strings to keep Pittsburgh out, but it must do something or hockey will be headed for ruin.

 

Leave your thoughts about the Cup, the Pens, the Sharks or how you think we can fix this problem in the comments below.

 

Bored.

 

 


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.

 

 


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!!!

 

 

 


2015-16 NHL Season Preview: Metropolitan Division

Written by :
Published on : September 27, 2015

 

 

Greetings, and welcome to ScoreBoredSports’ first annual NHL Season Preview. It’s an honor to be tapping out a few words on the state of mankind’s greatest game: hockey.

 

I wasn’t born on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, as the game itself was, but I am originally from the suburbs of Detroit (which is kind of close). I’m from a wintery land that sprawled across great distances of strip-mall flatness, but united under the banner of Hockeytown. So there is no need to mask this great love I have for the Detroit Red Wings, the most consistently excellent sports franchise of the last quarter-century.

That being said, I will either lay aside or lay bare my biases; it’s the game itself we love in the end anyway, dammit. So let’s break down this upcoming season, division-by-division. There will be a vague method to the madness. Important factors to consider will include roster movement, player development, goaltending, a glance at the advanced stats, and other observations.

 

*A quick note about those advanced metrics: I’m not an expert. I can barely count.  Yet I find many advanced metrics are useful, and quite reliable in predicting trends such as “regression towards the mean,” otherwise known as “not getting lucky all the time.” But context is vital. For example, some statistics, such as War-On-Ice’s Goalkeeper Adjusted Save Percentage, might suggest that Jonas Gustavsson (92.52) is a better goalie than two-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Quick (92.50).

 

GustavsonFail

 

Jonas Gustavsson is not a better goalie than Jonathan Quick. We know this because we have eyes (see above).  And brains, which we will never forget to use. Just look at how out of position he is on this play.

We’ll begin by discussing the Metropolitan Division, mainly so I get writing about Crosby out of the way as soon as possible, that knave.

 

NHLMetroPretzel
Image By Roger Pretzel

 

  • Hurricanes
  • Blue Jackets
  • Devils
  • Islanders
  • Rangers
  • Flyers
  • Penguins
  • Capitals

 

Rising

 

Blue Jackets:

Can Foligno repeat his all-star worthy 2014-15 campaign?

 

Interesting situation in Columbus, and no, I’m not talking about Ohio State graduates’ curious behavior of eating paste — Columbus is a team with some indicators for serious progress. Yet, as with anything that happens in Ohio, the franchise has a cyclical history of failure.  I’m always curious about players that possess the puck as well as Brandon Saad, a recent outcast of Joel Quenneville’s Blackhawk dynasty that emphasizes speed and puck control (I liked Coach Q better when he was choking against Scotty Bowman every year, for the record). Their overall team PDO — combination of shooting percentage and save percentage, and frequently-reliable indicator of luck — was below average last year. With the inclusion of a player like Saad, perhaps the team will find a more potent and fluid offensive game, and maybe more puck luck.

The major question is whether Nick Foligno can sustain the kind of offensive production we saw last year in his breakout campaign, and what kind of progress is made in the defensive corps. Jack Johnson never turned out to be a world-beater, but he’s a competent first-pairing defenseman, and David Savard looked to be able to put up numbers, scoring 11 goals and racking up 105 hits on the year. Beyond those two, Fedor Tyutin hasn’t played a full season since 2011, and there’s not much else to speak of in terms of talent. The cupboard is fairly barren in the organization’s depth, too. There may be some room to sneak into the playoffs in the Eastern conference, as Ottawa is unlikely to repeat their miracle run another year, Boston has molted, and questions abound in Pittsburgh.  Yet another riser in the Buffalo Sabres may present new challenges.  I see this team rising, but only enough to squeak into the playoffs and likely lose to whoever they face in the first round.

 

Islanders:

The Islanders have a stable of young talent, including the electrifying, Jonathan Tavares

 

Speaking of underlying advanced metrics, it surprised me greatly to discover that the Islanders, a playoff team that narrowly missed a second-round berth, tied for the sixth-worst PDO number in the NHL last season. The logic follows in some senses, as many of the Isles key skill players were injured for stretches, and a lot of highly-skilled but inexperienced youth, such as Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome, played heavy minutes. But there’s no real evidence that shooting percentage increases with age, and those kids made the playoffs! Look at Halak’s save percentage, too: it checks in at a reasonable .914 in a highly successful, 38-win campaign. This tells me that with a healthier stable of elite skill players (Okposo, Leddy, Boychuk), this is a team poised for continued excellence.

Looking at the roster, nearly every important player on the team is around 25 years old, including perennial Hart Trophy candidate Jonathan Tavares. Add the recently signed, offensively-gifted octogenarian Marek Zidlicky, and you have an experienced and versatile defensive corps.  Depending on their progress, the inclusion of high-level talent from the team’s development system may provide that extra spark in a tight playoff series.  First-round draft prospects such as Josh Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle, and goal-scoring D-man Ryan Pulock (who led the Isles AHL affiliate defenders in scoring despite missing a quarter of the season) have all sorts of talent, but may have trouble breaking into a deep lineup.   I’d dare even call them… Contenders?

 

Contenders

 

Rangers:

Rick Nash. Talk about punchable faces.

 

Until the day he’s not, Henrik Lundqvist is the handsomest most charmingly reminiscent of a younger Bradley Cooper is a reliably brilliant net minder. Only recently has the question of his health, with a scary throat injury, come to the fore. But if he’s healthy, this team looks like it could return to the top echelon of the Eastern conference yet again. There’s room to grow in their possession numbers; I wonder what sort of effect the transition from former coach John Tortorella’s block-everything mentality to Alain Vigneault speed-oriented breakout game has had on the team’s mediocre team Corsi figure. The most interesting layer may be if Keith “the Candle” Yandle will start to affect what was a surprisingly lackluster power-play last year, which connected on only 16.8% of its opportunities (good for 21st in the NHL). The team will conversely have to cope with the loss of tiny legend Martin St. Louis, whose salt & pepper wisdom was surely a locker-room boon. Yet there’s enough young or emerging talent across the team boasting speed and skill, like Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and the surging Derrick Brassard, that the loss may prove to be addition by subtraction. Otherwise, this is a team with an elite defensive corps and my least favorite NHL player, Rick Nash.

 

Capitals:

I see more celebrations in Ovechkin’s future.

 

They continue to add talent to a roster that was already full of high-level talent. Losing Mike Green won’t hurt so much in a Barry Trotz system that emphasizes responsibility, defense, studious back checking, and fiscal planning. Bringing on Justin Williams to replace their own playoff producer, Joel Ward, is a smart move at a relatively low cost, even though we all know Williams won’t be scoring 30 goals during the regular season. This is still a team with Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, and a top-flight defensive crew, with tremendous younger talent in players like Johansson, Kuznetsov, and Burakowsky. My one sticking point with this team’s summer is the trading of Troy Brouwer for TJ Oshie, which I found to be un-needed as Brouwer seems as likely to plop in 20 goals as Oshie, only he brings hits and plays more games. Nonetheless, Trotz is a good coach and I could see this being the year he sneaks into the finals.

 

Other Thoughts:

  • Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world, I understand. But is there any more sniveling, dirty, hot-headed star in recent memory? Sure, he’s the best player, but how can you root for Crosby? He routinely slashes his opponents on weak spots like ankles, wrists, and crotches. He loves to face-wash opposing players, even tough guys, as if anyone in the NHL wants to be the guy that turned the Face Of The League into a pile of quivering viscera, snot, and tears. Crosby knows this, yet he dangles his untouchability in front of everyone, flaunting the fact that his brain is probably one jolt away from retirement in front of dudes who would relish the chance to pummel him. So, you can’t touch the league’s proverbial money-maker, even as it shakes in your personal space. It makes me hugely hopeful for the success of Connor McDavid; that, Lord Stanley willing, he turns out to be less of an arrogant penis.
  • I do wonder what will happen with the pairing of Crosby and Kessel in terms of interviews and TV presence. It already sounds like the most unwatchable buddy sitcom pairing, but I just feel for the people of Pittsburgh’s overall entertainment quotient. My advice? Just mute the games and watch the hockey, because it may be very fast and full of a lot of goals, but not charisma.  I’m sure they’ll survive.
  • The growth of Philly’s first line over the last few years would be more pleasurable to watch if the Flyers weren’t an evil organization of haggard witch-trolls. But I can’t help but glance at the foundation of Giroux and Voracek as championship-caliber. Giroux is easily one of the five best all-around players in the league, and Voracek has improved every single year, and is young enough to continue that pattern.  Wayne Simmonds is a wrecking ball that just happens to wreck up the other team’s plans for a shutout about thirty times every year.  Can anyone else step up to fill in the secondary scoring roles on a consistent basis?  The defense, while brimming with burly players, seems to have an odd fulcrum in Michael Del Zotto.  He had a decent year in 2015, and is still only 25 despite being in the league for a while.  Might he be an unlikely candidate to rise?
  • The New Jersey Devils and The Carolina Hurricanes are NHL hockey teams featuring some players. Corey Schneider is a very good goalie.  They are neither rising nor falling, because they were and are bad.  That’s about it.

 

Stay Tuned for Part 2, Coming Soon! 

 

Stats and info courtesy of NHL.com, hockeysfuture.com, rotoworld.com, and war-on-ice.com.

 

 


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