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
At the start of the Finals, I thought the series would go to 7 games, which it did. I thought Vancouver would win and clearly that’s not what happened. In the end, Boston played a lot harder. Though the Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup, the Bruins hadn’t won it in my lifetime, so it’s definitely been a long time since the 1972 Stanley Cup win in Boston.
I thought it would be nice for Vancouver to win the Cup for the first time, but the whole series, I thought Tim Thomas (Conn Smythe winner, Stanley Cup Finals MVP) and his team deserved the Cup more. They were the harder working team and surely won over most fans who went into the Finals undecided about who they wanted to win.
The Bruins outscored the Canucks 23-8 in the 7 games of the Finals even though the Canucks had the same number of shutouts. Each team shut the other out two times, but Luongo and the rest of the Canucks did not rise to the occasion of the Finals and had to watch as the Stanley Cup was awarded to the Boston Bruins.
Alain Vigneault made some errors with keeping Luongo in a bit too long throughout the post season that seemed to come back to haunt him. The way he coached, he didn’t deserve to have his name on the Cup any more than the team that played with a pretty lackluster effort throughout the Finals and most of the playoffs.
I love seeing game sevens in the Stanley Cup Finals, but it’s a shame that many of the individual games weren’t that interesting. The Bruins’ wins were all blow-outs, so the only truly interesting games of the Finals were the first three in Vancouver, which the Canucks won. Tonight’s game was the first the away team won and Boston definitely picked the right time to turn that streak around.
The Boston fans are celebrating tonight, though they probably wish their team could have been awarded the Cup in Boston, so they could have watched it in person. There will surely be a big parade to celebrate the Cup win. Many Bruins fans weren’t alive the last time the Stanley Cup was won by their team. They’ve finally been rewarded.
Great job, Bruins!
Tags: Alain Vigneault, Bruins, Canucks, Conn Smythe Trophy, game 7, Hockey, MVP, NHL, playoffs, Roberto Luongo, shutout, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Finals, Tim Thomas
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
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
Tonight’s shutout of the Bruins in LA was Jonathan Quick’s 5th of the season. It was also the first time he won two games in a row since the Kings’ four game streak at the end of last month (Quick won the first two and last of the four). Their special teams have also been struggling. Until scoring against the best goalie (in save percentage and goals against average), Tim Thomas, on the power play tonight, the Kings had a 0-22 streak on the power play. Perhaps their special teams have finally started to click again. Ryan Smyth (who scored the power play goal about half-way through the first period, which ended up being the game winning goal due to Quick’s shutout) mentioned that the Kings had “capitalized on special teams tonight, which we’ve been lacking as of late.” Not only did the Kings score on the first of their three power play opportunities, but they were perfect on the penalty kill. Smyth also said he thinks the Kings have been creeping up to the level of play they’re at now in their last few games. The main question is whether the Kings will be able to sustain their high level of play and confidence. They competed for a full sixty minutes tonight, which is something I hadn’t seen from them yet this calendar year. Though they beat the Coyotes in Phoenix on Saturday, the Kings gave up a three goal lead to scare their fans first.
Boston has been a consistently good team, but the Kings have won their last five games against them. Most Kings fans are probably wondering why their team has to play down to the worse teams if they’re capable of beating the best goalie in the NHL. While it’s true that any team in the NHL has the capability of beating any other team on a given night, Kings fans have seen their team barely show up for games against some of the worst teams in the league this season, which is very frustrating. Some of the worst teams in the league try harder than the Kings do consistently and aren’t capable of beating many of the teams they face. I think that’s easier to take than watching such a talented team choose not to compete at a high level sometimes. Maybe beating Thomas will help the Kings regain their confidence and continue to climb back up the standings. In spite of being in 11th place as of tonight’s win, the Kings are only 3 points behind the 8th place Colorado Avalanche. The western conference is very tight, so the Kings are really only one decent winning streak away from being back in the playoff picture.
The Bruins don’t play in SoCal often, which explains why tonight’s sellout crowd was closer to the announced 18,118 than I’d seen it in quite a while. There’s more energy in Staples Center when it’s pretty full, which definitely helps the Kings face an opponent. I’m sure they realize that if they win more there will be more fans in Staples Center, which will make it easier for them to win… It’s definitely a better cycle than the one where losing makes fewer fans show up, which makes it more difficult to play a full 60 minutes and win games.
Tags: Avalanche, Bruins, Coyotes, fans, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, penalty kill, playoffs, power play, Ryan Smyth, special teams, standings, Staples Center, Tim Thomas
The NHL Awards will be in Vegas for the next three years. I know the traditionalists don’t like that the awards will be taking place in the US, but the nice thing about the awards moving to Las Vegas is that flights to Vegas are almost always very inexpensive. It’s also a great tourist destination, perhaps making it easier for more fans to attend the awards to see their favorites walk the red carpet. Some of the events surrounding the awards are open to the public. Tickets to the actual awards were very expensive, but the red carpet was free and (of course) the players have been seen in and around the casino and hotel by many fans.
There were a lot of fans outside getting pictures and autographs from their favorite NHL stars and I saw a group of girls following Alex Ovechkin around yesterday when I arrived to pick up my credentials. A lot of fans seemed to travel from outside the Vegas area for a vacation including their NHL stars.
Most of the awards presented tonight weren’t particularly surprising. I was a little surprised that some of the awards were won by large margins when I thought they might be a bit less of a blowout, but in the end the winner wins and the runner up doesn’t – whether the runner up was 3 points behind or over 700.
Some of the presenters seemed to have more issues reading their lines than in previous years, but they got through the show.
It was particularly nice to see Tim Thomas win the Vezina Trophy. I’ve never thought Thomas got enough credit for how well he plays and it’s really nice to see him recognized for his amazing performance.
Hopefully, the awards will be advertised a bit better next year and even more fans will be able to make it to Vegas to enjoy the NHL Awards.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, fans, Hockey, Las Vegas, NHL, NHL Awards, Tim Thomas