Though I still think the Winter Classic (in Philadelphia on January 2nd this year at 8pm) is the NHL’s big moment to gain fans, I also think the move to Vegas in 2009 was a good move and the NHL seems to be presenting the awards better every year. They don’t seem to know where the awards will be in 2012, but I’m hoping they get a new contract here in Las Vegas. Everyone seems to like it. The players get an excuse to come hang out and have fun together in Vegas and the fans have a great place to enjoy surrounding their trip to watch the awards and see their favorite players. Each year the number of players (along with their families and friends) attending and parties for them to attend seems to be growing. It seems like a perfect relationship for the NHL – hopefully, it will continue for a bit longer. I’m generally not a fan of visiting the Vegas heat at this time of year, but as long as you stay inside most of the time, it’s a lot of fun.
Corey Perry lost out to Daniel Sedin for the player-voted Ted Lindsay award, he won the one Daniel Sedin himself described as the “greatest award you can win as an individual” (he went on to say that “it’s been a fun life, so I can’t be disappointed”). Perry won the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded every year to the MVP of the NHL as voted on by members of the NHL Hockey Writers’ Association. The emotional Ducks’ scoring leader said it was his team that got him there. A lot of his family and friends were able to travel to Vegas to see Perry win the award, which definitely makes this moment all the more special. Perry said when he heard his name, “it kinda shocked me – you don’t really believe it.” I’m sure the accomplishment will set in after a bit of celebrating with everyone who came to Vegas to enjoy this with him.
Dustin Brown took home the NHL Foundation Player Award this year, his third year nominated. Clearly, the third time was the charm for him and his charity KaBOOM. I’m sure Kings fans were also happy to see Ian Laperriere (always a favorite ex-King) win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, for the player exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, & dedication to hockey.
Daniel Sedin (2011) and Henrik Sedin (2010) became the first brothers to win back to back Art Ross Trophies (awarded for leading the league in scoring). It was also great to see Tim Thomas get the Vezina for the best goaltender again – especially in the year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Though I know the voting takes place before the playoffs, no one deserved the Stanley Cup more than Tim Thomas the way he performed and during the regular season he did the same thing for the Bruins night after night. It was great to see him rewarded for that hard work.
On a personal note, I enjoyed seeing Dan Bylsma win the Jack Adams award for coach of the year. I think what he did with the Penguins in spite of all their injuries was truly an amazing accomplishment, even though they clearly wanted to do better than they did getting knocked out in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If you get a chance to catch one of the re-airings of the NHL Awards on Versus or the NHL Network, I’d highly recommend it. I’m glad I recorded it, so I’ll be able to watch some of the bits I missed, due to running around and talking to the winners. Apparently, there was a USA vs. Canada part two and I’m looking forward to seeing that when I get home from Vegas tomorrow. For now, it’s almost time to go enjoy more of this fun city!
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Corey Perry, Dan Bylsma, Daniel Sedin, Ducks, Dustin Brown, Henrik Sedin, Hockey, KaBOOM, Kings, Las Vegas, Lightning, NHL, NHL Awards, Penguins, Stanley Cup, Tim Thomas, Versus, Winter Classic
For the conference finals, I did as well as a coin would have done, so not that great. I did get the western conference correct, since the Canucks are going to be in the Stanley Cup Finals and the Sharks will again miss their first trip to the Finals. The Bruins just barely beat the Lightning in 7 games, but they did make it to the Finals this year.
Now, it’s time for my Stanley Cup Final predictions…
Stanley Cup Finals
Canucks vs. Bruins
Canucks in 7 – Before the season started, I predicted that the Vancouver Canucks would win the Stanley Cup. Once it became clear they were winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record of the regular season, I questioned this pick and thought they’d be knocked out before they got to the Finals. At this point, I’ve gone back to thinking they’ll pull it off and win their first Stanley Cup this year.
The Sedin twins have hit their stride and Tim Thomas is the best goaltender heading to the Finals. It should be quite the showdown.
The Canucks looked shaky against the Blackhawks in round one and Predators in round two. Both times it looked like the Canucks might be eliminated, but they fought back. Vancouver was a lot stronger against the Sharks and perhaps they were given a gift by the Sharks managing to take the Red Wings out of the competition before the conference finals, but the Canucks have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in their history. Perhaps the third time will be the charm. It is the first time the Canucks have been in the Finals against a non-New York City based team (they lost to the Rangers in 1994 and the Islanders in 1982).
The Bruins looked shaky in their first round, great against the Flyers, and just barely beat the Lightning. I think the Bruins are having trouble again when they need to be on top of their game to win the Finals, but the Canucks have pulled things together in time to get past Tim Thomas and win the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Enjoy the Finals!
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Hockey, Lightning, NHL, Presidents' Trophy, Sharks, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Finals, Tim Thomas
Last round, I definitely thought most of the series’ would go the other way. The only one I predicted correctly was the Lightning/Capitals series, though I thought the Caps would win a couple games. Both of the eastern conference teams swept their last series and both of the western conference teams struggled. This round should be interesting.
Now, it’s time for my conference final predictions…
Bruins vs. Lightning
Lightning in 6 – The Lightning have looked good consistently this playoff season. The Bruins have been hit or miss. The first round, it looked like the Bruins were going to get knocked out. They came back, advanced, and then swept the Flyers, but both of these teams depend heavily on their goal tending and Roloson of Tampa Bay has been the better goalie this post season. Boston’s Tim Thomas was the best in the regular season, without a doubt. However, the regular season doesn’t matter any more and Roloson has looked great in the playoffs. When you add that to their superior playoff offense (St. Louis, Lecavalier, & Downie are all in the top ten, while the Bruins only have one player in the top ten) and I think the Lightning will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. It won’t be an easy battle, but this round should be more interesting than the last round in the eastern conference. No one at this level should sweep.
Canucks vs. Sharks
Canucks in 6 – I think the Canucks were given the gift of being able to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals when the Sharks won game seven against the Red Wings last night. The Canucks and Sharks both struggled in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but I think in their most recent games the Canucks have looked more prepared. Nabokov was blamed for years when the Sharks lost in the playoffs. They’ve never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, but I don’t think they’ll make it with Niemi this year, either. Perhaps if that happens, Thornton will finally get a bit of the blame.
A lot of emphasis has been placed on how little the Sedin twins have done in the post season compared to the regular season. I think that could actually be dangerous for the Sharks, though. If the Sedins both get hot, think of how much better the Canucks would look at that point. Before the season, the Canucks were my pick to win the Cup this year. I changed that when they won the Presidents’ Trophy, since a small percentage of teams best in the regular season take the Cup home. I’m not sure if I think the Canucks can win it all yet, but I do think they’ll make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Antti Niemi, Bruins, Canucks, Daniel Sedin, Dwayne Roloson, Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Sedin, Hockey, Joe Thornton, Lightning, Martin St. Louis, NHL, playoffs, Presidents' Trophy, Sharks, Stanley Cup Finals, Steve Downie, Tim Thomas, Vincent Lecavalier
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the first to advance to conference finals tonight. I expected them to beat the Capitals, but I thought it would be a fairly close series and it would take them six games. The teams I wanted to win most in the first round didn’t do well, but at least the team I’ve decided will be my backup’s backup team for the playoffs swept the Capitals and await the outcome of the Bruins/Flyers series. Right now, the Bruins lead that series 3-0. Who would have thought after a few game sevens in round one that round two would be so boring in the eastern conference? One team swept and the Bruins have a chance to do the same Friday night.
The Sharks are leading their series 2-0 against Detroit and are playing the Red Wings in the first game of the series in Detroit now. At least the Predators/Canucks series has been interesting. It’s had two games end in overtime (one in the second OT) and has actually had both teams in the series win at least one game (Vancouver’s leading the series 2-1).
Hopefully, this round will get a bit more interesting soon. Some of the individual games have been pretty interesting, but sweeps are never very entertaining overall.
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Capitals, Flyers, Hockey, Lightning, NHL, overtime, playoffs, Predators, Red Wings, Sharks, sweep
The First round of the playoffs, I was much better with my eastern conference predictions. Sadly, the only prediction I got wrong was the one for my favorite team, the Penguins, who lost in 7. The Pens were the only home team to lose game 7 and the only eastern conference home team to lose in the first round. The only prediction I had exactly right was the Capitals and the only western conference prediction I had correct was the Canucks. Of course, I thought they’d win in 5 (or perhaps 4) and they just barely won in 7 games.
Now, it’s time for my second round predictions…
Capitals vs. Lightning
Lightning in 6 – Both teams have had great post season goaltending, but I think Roloson is more likely to be able to sustain that performance. Unlike Washington’s offense, the Lightning offense doesn’t center around one player. Alex Ovechkin is only 10th in the playoffs when going by points per game, so if he really hits his stride in this round it might make the difference for the Caps, but I think the Lightning will still win this one.
Flyers vs. Bruins
Flyers in 6 – Both teams looked shaky in round one, but managed to pull through in game seven. Tim Thomas has not been the number one goalie of the playoffs (or even in the top five) and he was the reason I thought Boston would be unbeatable in the first round. Now that they have to face the Flyers, I can’t see them surviving this round.
Canucks vs. Predators
Predators in 6 – The Canucks just barely managed to win game seven in overtime after allowing Chicago to tie the series at three. Luongo looked better in game seven than he had his previous few games, but I still think he’s shaky and the team seems to look to him a bit too much. When Luongo is shaky, the rest of the Canucks follow suit. Daniel Sedin is the Canucks’ only player in the top 10 for playoff scoring and that’s only because they’ve played 7 games. When you sort by points per game, Daniel Sedin is tied for 16th. Mike Fisher of the Predators is tied at 16th with D. Sedin in points per game and the Predators are known more for their defense and Pekka Rinne’s goaltending. Rinne was not the top notch goaltender of the regular season in the first round, but I think he’ll be more solid in round two of the playoffs.
I also think the Predators want it more. They’ve never made it to round two of the playoffs before, so they’ll be very motivated to advance to their first conference finals.
Sharks vs. Red Wings
Red Wings in 5 – The Sharks did not look very strong in round one and the Red Wings have had a week to rest up for round two. Resting can be bad for teams in the playoffs, but generally benefits the older teams and the Red Wings should be well rested and ready to face the Sharks. San Jose’s number one goaltender (Antti Niemi) has been horrible. He’s ranked near the bottom in goals against average and save percentage. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard is just middle of the pack, but that should be enough to hold off San Jose.
The Sharks looked horrible in the first round of the playoffs (I believe if the Kings had worked a bit harder they would have been able to capitalize on San Jose’s shaky performance and eliminate them from the playoffs). In contrast, the Red Wings were dominant. The Coyotes never knew what hit them as Detroit swept them out of the playoffs in four games. The Red Wings had the only sweep in round one and I can’t imagine the Sharks pulling themselves together enough to eliminate Detroit from the playoffs. I hope the series goes longer, and could see it perhaps going to 6 games, but I think Detroit will continue to dominate and the Sharks will go home.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Bruins, Canucks, Capitals, Flyers, Hockey, Jimmy Howard, Lightning, NHL, Pekka Rinne, Penguins, Predators, Red Wings, Sharks
Tonight’s game at the Honda Center in Anaheim was definitely exciting at times. Ducks fans got to see Bobby Ryan score one of the most amazing goals, but at the end of the first period their team was behind, they were tied after two periods, gave up the lead with just 36 seconds to go in the third period (with Shea Weber’s goal), and lose just only 1:57 into the first (and only) overtime period. Clearly, it would have been worse for the home fans if they’d had to wait until double overtime like the Lightning and Rangers fans (who lost to the Penguins and Capitals respectively). I’m sure that’s little comfort to the announced SRO sellout crowd of 17,385 (definitely the most full I’ve seen Honda Center this year). They were surely feeling good about their team with under a minute to go in the third period and then had to see their team collapse before their eyes.
Instead of being proud of a goal that will surely be played even on sports broadcasts that normally ignore the NHL, Bobby Ryan was upset by the heartbreaking loss. When asked about his amazing goal, Ryan explained “he had no stick, so he was a little vulnerable” and how Ryan himself didn’t have a lot of speed, so he tried to cut back as many times as possible and was a little lucky that he got it up over his pad, but “it’s kind of a moot point now.” Bobby also said you don’t have time to sulk at this time of year, since you have to prepare for the next game.
Good news for Ducks fans is that their team has won every other game so far of the post season, so it seems odds are pretty good that their team will be back at Honda Center for game seven Tuesday night. The down side is that the Ducks have been winning the even games and if they continue to only win even numbered games, they’ll lose the series to the Predators in seven games. In order to move on to the next round, the Ducks must win two games in a row. They need to win in Nashville Sunday (3pm Pacific) and then win again at home Tuesday. Like all hockey fans with teams still in the playoffs, all Ducks fans can do is hope and wait to see what will happen to their team.
Tags: Bobby Ryan, Capitals, Ducks, fans, highlights, Hockey, Honda Center, Lightning, NHL, Penguins, playoffs, Predators, Rangers, sellout, Shea Weber
Here they are – my playoff predictions for the first round. Some of these were difficult for me to pick, but here are my thoughts.
Capitals vs. Rangers
Capitals in 5 – I don’t think this will be at all challenging for the Capitals given the way the Rangers have been playing lately. I think the Rangers will win a game, hopefully at home for their fans. I may not like the team, but I think all fans deserve a win at home in the playoffs.
Flyers vs. Sabres
Flyers in 6 – The Sabres have been playing amazingly well lately and have the best record in the last ten games out of all the teams in the NHL, but I still think the Flyers will prevail in the end. They’re a strong team and I think they may be the team that’ll make it out of the east.
Bruins vs. Canadiens
Bruins in 5 – With Tim Thomas (who should get the Vezina again) in goal, I don’t see how the Bruins can go wrong here. The Canadiens only won half of their last ten games and certainly don’t seem to be in playoff form at the moment.
Penguins vs. Lightning
Penguins in 6 – The Pens ended their season with the second best set of 10 games in the NHL and in spite of not having team captain Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin healthy, they have been finding ways to win. There’s still hope that Crosby might be able to return at some point during the playoffs, though clearly the Penguins will be careful not to rush him back too quickly. If Sid returns, who knows how well the Penguins will be able to do with him back in the lineup.
Canucks vs. Blackhawks
Canucks in 5 – The Blackhawks almost didn’t make it into the playoffs. They were 5-4-1 in their last ten games and only made it into the playoffs, since the Stars lost their last game of the season, too. I could see the Canucks sweeping the Blackhawks, but I think the Blackhawks will be able to win one game. The Canucks aren’t perfect and if the Hawks play well they’re an amazing team.
Sharks vs. Kings
Kings in 6 – I’ve heard some people say they think this will be the year the Sharks do well in the playoffs. It’s bound to happen one of these days and perhaps Nabokov was the reason they weren’t able to do well in the past. That might be true, but I don’t think so. These Sharks are definitely different than the Sharks on the last few years, but the Kings split their series with the Sharks including a win in the last month of the season. Of course, if the Kings who played the last two games of the season against the Ducks show up, I have to change this prediction to Sharks in 5. Anze Kopitar is definitely out until next season and though Justin Williams has been skating, he’s still an unknown. If he ends up getting back in time, he could help the Kings survive the first round.
Red Wings vs. Coyotes
Coyotes in 6 – The Red Wings have the worst record of the 8 teams who made it into the playoffs in their last ten games of the season (4-4-2) and have had some goaltending issues. The Red Wings look tired and I think the fact that they have quite a few older players and their goaltending isn’t as good as it has been the last few playoff runs. It took the Red Wings seven games to beat the Coyotes in the first round last year and I think the Coyotes will be even more motivated this year and will upset the Red Wings.
Ducks vs. Predators
Ducks in 6 – When Hiller got injured, a lot of people (including me) thought that would be the end of the Ducks’ playoff hopes. Hiller had been keeping the Ducks in the mix and very few thought they could manage without him. Anaheim proved us all wrong. Corey Perry (#1 goal scorer in the NHL this season with 50 goals) and Lubomir Visnovsky (the top scoring defenseman with 68 points) really stepped up. The Ducks have two of the top ten scorers in the NHL this season (and Getzlaf is tied for 11th) – if you resort by points per game, all three of their top scorers are in the top 10. I think that is what will get them past the Predators (whose top scorers are tied for 91st in the NHL). Pekka Rinne (the #2 goaltender in save percentage) has carried the Predators through the season, but I think he’s met his match in the Ducks’ offense. I don’t think it’ll be a super easy series, though I could see the Ducks winning in 5 games, too.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Blackhawks, Bruins, Canadiens, Canucks, Capitals, Corey Perry, Coyotes, Ducks, Evgeni Malkin, Evgeni Nabokov, Flyers, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Justin Williams, Kings, Lightning, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, Pekka Rinne, Penguins, playoffs, Predators, Rangers, Red Wings, Ryan Getzlaf, Sabres, Sharks, Sidney Crosby, Teemu Selanne, Tim Thomas
Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t give up 5 goals in a game often, but when he does it seems to be in surprising situations (like to the NY Islanders early in the season). Lundqvist has two shutouts in his last seven games and hadn’t given up five goals himself since November 24th in Tampa Bay. He faced only one more shot than Dan Ellis and gave up three more goals. I’m sure that’s not what Rangers fans were expecting after the display against the Flyers Sunday. Most Rangers fans are probably wondering what team will show up for the game in San Jose and whether their team will squeak into a playoff spot in the east or drop out of the playoffs, since many teams around them have a couple games in hand against them.
Ducks fans are also dealing with a roller coaster watching their team play lately. The Ducks were shut out against the Canucks (the number one team in the league, but the way they played was more disturbing than the score), but won four of their last five games. The down side, of course, is that before the last five games the Ducks had lost five in a row. Before that, they’d won five in a row, though. The team has been very streaky all season and fans are hoping they can make that a winning streak for long enough that they’ll end up in the playoffs. Their win tonight put the Ducks back in 10th place in the western conference. The playoff battle is definitely going to go down to the wire again this season. The Kings won tonight and the Stars got a point in the standings with an overtime loss.
Lubomir Visnovsky has five goals and two assists in his last three games. He had a hat trick and an assist against Dallas and two goals and an assist against the Rangers. Lubo hitting his stride is something Ducks fans are hoping will help their team squeak into the playoffs this season. They missed the playoffs last season and don’t want their team to be sitting at home after the regular season again.
Tags: Canucks, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, Flyers, Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, Islanders, Kings, Lightning, losing streak, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, playoffs, Rangers, standings, Stars, winning streak
The Los Angeles Kings are back in 1st place in the NHL (the Flyers were there for a few hours until the end of the Kings game). Before tonight, the Lightning had never lost at Staples Center and their goaltender Mike Smith had never lost a game to the Kings. The Kings had also not lost at home this season (4-0-0). Los Angeles hadn’t started 4-0 at home since the 1988-89 season. Clearly, something had to give tonight – at least one of the streaks had to end. The Lightning & Smith’s streaks gave way as Jonathan Quick stopped all 24 shots he faced (including 3 by NHL leading scorer Steven Stamkos) and extended the Kings’ home winning streak to 5-0-0 so far this season. Jonathan Quick also ended Steven Stamkos’ 7 game point streak.
In spite of the low score, tonight’s game in LA was a lot more exciting than the game the Lightning played in Anaheim last night (where they lost to the Ducks 3-2 in overtime). Tonight’s game had the potential to be one of the best hockey games in the NHL this season. Two of the top teams in the country (who were #1 and #2 in the NHL before any of tonight’s games were played) faced each other for the only time this season. Hockey fans everywhere were interested in this game and it was definitely more exciting than last night’s game. The Kings’ 4th sellout of the season was definitely more full than most of the sellouts in southern California hockey.
Dustin Brown got hit hard into the boards from behind pretty early in the game… not exactly the birthday present he was looking for tonight, but I’m sure the win helped make today a great birthday for the 26-year-old Kings Captain.
The Lightning players were a bit tired after last night’s game in Anaheim, but a great team usually rises to the occasion when facing another great team and the Lightning seemed to have plenty of energy tonight. The Kings had been off for four days, which can also make it difficult to keep energy levels up. They came out with all cylinders firing and looked really good at the start of the game.
The game got very chippy at the end. There had been some tough hits already and Downie clearly wanted to fight someone, but when he went after Doughty Mitchell stepped in. Downie missed, but Mitchell had to send a message. Fans always like to see players sticking up for each other. Things were definitely very chippy near the end of the game, but there were only two fighting penalties in the game (when Mitchell and Downie fought). Things seemed a bit out of control near the end of the game, but no one was seriously injured.
Justin Williams’ goal was the only goal of tonight’s game. It extended his goal streak to tie his career high of four games. His goal was a beautiful goal with a great pass from Smyth to start it off. Williams continued to be the Kings’ best offensive player this season. Williams talked about how important it was to have Drew Doughty, the Kings’ most important defensive player, back tonight and how well Quick played.
Naturally, Jon Quick talked mostly about how great the team in front of him performed and didn’t take much credit for his stellar performance tonight. That’s the kind of guy he is, but Kings fans know how important it is to have a solid goaltender and so do the players on the team.
The Kings host the Predators at Staples Center on Sunday in a fairly rare 7:00 pm start. They’ll try to be the second team this season to start out 6-0-0 at home (the Blues have won all six of their home games this season). The Lightning head to San Jose to face the Sharks on Saturday and try to win at least one game in California on their west coast trip (they’re 1-1-1 in their road trip so far and I’m sure they want to head back to a win before heading home).
Tags: Drew Doughty, Ducks, Dustin Brown, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Justin Williams, Kings, Lightning, Mike Smith, NHL, Ryan Smyth, Staples Center, Steve Downie, Steven Stamkos, Willie Mitchell
The Kings will finish the season with 79 points. Just 8 points ahead of last year’s finish of 71 points. Last season, the Kings were 15th in the western conference and 29th in the NHL. This season, they’ve moved up to 13th or 14th in the western conference and 24th- 26th in the NHL. (Games later today and tomorrow will control their final place in the conference and league. Not a significant improvement over last year, most argue. I can see that line of reasoning when you only look at the points and where they’ve finished in the standings. Not a big step forward. A lot of people at last night’s Ducks game were talking about how I should go to today’s Kings game and be sure to say farewell to Dean, since he’ll get fired. I hope not.
Did the Kings make the playoffs this season? No. Did they finish not far behind a playoff spot (as I thought they would)? No. However, they also didn’t finish that close to last in the NHL. Last season, they were tied in points for last place in the NHL, but won the tie breaker with Tampa Bay. This season, Tampa Bay finished in 28th or 29th place (we won’t know what place until later today or tomorrow and how many points ahead of the Islanders will be determined when the Islanders end their season tomorrow). They haven’t made many improvements, though they definitely spent a lot more money. Did they do a better job than the Kings as some suggested at the beginning of the season? Definitely not! Granted, doing a better job than the Lightning is clearly not a good argument for Lombardi being a good GM or for him to keep his job. However, it does show that Dean’s got a level head and is trying to build the Kings the smart way.
For the complete story, see the Defending Dean (Lombardi) HockeyBuzz blog.
Tags: Dean Lombardi, defense, Hockey, Kings, Lightning, NHL, standings, Terry Murray