BACK TO BACK CHAMPIONS: THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The Pittsburgh Penguins had a 2-0 victory in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals making them the first team to win back-to-back cups since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998. Heck of an achievement!

Dreams were made last night. Ron Hainsey, who had played 906 NHL games and ZERO playoff games before he was traded to the Pens, has won his first cup aged 36. Cullen aged 40 has won for the second year running. Mark Streit has also won his first ever cup at 39 years old. Chris Kunitz, who was undrafted, has won his FOURTH Stanley Cup. Of course, Crosby won a load more for his trophy cabinet too.

Unfortunately there can only be one winner, and for Nashville the season ended with heartbreak. But for a non-traditional hockey city, Nashville showed they have the loudest fans with the most heart; the best anthem singers; and their guys – who were the bottom seed – went all the way to the end and forced a game six against the defending champions. There is nothing to be ashamed of in their performance. And we’ll always have the memory of sweeping the Blackhawks. Commiserations to the Nashville Predators – you fought a hell of a fight.

And to Pittsburgh… Enjoy the hangover!

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Congratulations! поздравления! Grattis! Onnea! Félicitations! Glückwünsche!

And that’s a wrap on the hockey season until October… but we still have the NHL expansion draft, the regular rookie draft, and the NHL Awards to get through.

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Our Lord and Savior, Christopher Kunitz

The Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins had to push things to the limit and so the series went to game seven THEN double overtime. The lord and savior of Pittsburgh, Chris Kunitz, fired home a shot to end the game 3-2 to the Penguins who stand victorious as the Eastern Conference Champions.

It’s nice to be able to contribute,” Kunitz said, “but we all know it’s a team game, and we’re all going to have to pull our own weight at some point.”

Incredibly, Kunitz hadn’t scored AT ALL in the playoffs this year until last night’s game where he scored the first and third goals.

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The Penguins will face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final. This is the first time the defending champions have made it to the final since the Detroit Red Wings in 2009 – and the cup hasn’t been won twice in a row since 1998 which is also held by the Red Wings. Big shoes to fill, Pittsburgh!

Whilst the Predators going all the way would be a fairy tale, the Penguins have plenty of their own.

  • Ron Hainsey, 36 years old, played 906 NHL games without EVER going to the playoffs. With his trade to Pittsburgh, he has experienced the playoffs and has gone all the way to the final.
  • Mark Streit, another veteran at 39, has never won a Stanley Cup either and how sweet would it be to win one with the Flyers’ biggest rivals after spending four years in Philly?
  • Matt Cullen is likely to retire at the end of the year, aged 40. He has already won cups in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, and last year with the Penguins – but wouldn’t it be nice to end your career with a hat-trick of Stanleys?
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Credit where it’s due… the Senators played a hell of a series. Karlsson was outstanding, as was goalie, Craig Anderson. Anderson’s wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with cancer in October last year so Craig took around three months off to care for her and their children whilst she underwent treatment. To miss such a big chunk of the season, go through hell with his wife’s health, and to get back and perform at the level he has is commendable – many times throughout the series Anderson kept the Sens in it. Congratulations to the team for making it so far – and best of luck to the Anderson’s in Nicholle’s fight with cancer. You can follow it here: http://www.stickbynik.com/

 

LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, YOUR WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS THE NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Huge congratulations to the Nashville Predators who are living the fairy tale! The team won the series against the Anaheim Ducks and have been crowned the Western Conference Champions. They will play the winner of the Penguins/Senators series for the coveted Stanley Cup.

The Predators are the first team to reach the final after being a 16th seed – impressive. Colton Sissons scored a natural hat-trick to give the Preds a healthy 6-3 series clinching win over the  Ducks. The team was without Ryan Johansen who underwent emergency surgery – but that didn’t stop him from watching the game with Kevin Fiala and captain, Mike Fisher, in the arena.

I told him I love him. We miss him. He’s a huge part of our team. He played a great playoffs and we miss him. I just told him we miss him, but he’s still a huge part of us – Roman Josi on Johansen

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The music city has lived up to its name during the playoffs with the national anthem being sung by Mike Fisher’s wife, Carrie Underwood, as well as Kerry Clarkson, Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood, and Lady Antebellum.

PK Subban who was traded by the historic Montreal Canadiens in return for Nashville captain, Shea Weber, is now set to play in his first Stanley Cup Final and had this to say:

I’ve never been on a team that works as hard for each other as these guys do.

All’s well in Smashville!

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Round Three

And now eight has turned to four. We are halfway through the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the remaining teams need only eight more wins to lift the coveted trophy. So, who have we got left?

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How is everybody’s brackets looking? A complete disaster like my own? Nice to know.

Ducks/Preds

The predators going all the way is something like a fairytale – pekkarinne.jpgand the ducks are most definitely the villain. They seem to be one of the most hated teams in the league, and if you ask a hockey fan who ought to win then the answer is likely to be “anyone but the Ducks”. The series kicks off on Friday, giving the Ducks very little chance to breathe or prepare as they only beat the Oilers in game seven last night. The two teams actually faced each other last year, and, eerily, the first two games were also played in Anaheim. Last year, Nashville won both and will be hoping to repeat that once more. The Preds will play defensively as it’s their strongest area. Kesler and Getzlaf – both very large, skilled, and experienced guys – did an outstanding job at smothering Draisaitl and McDavid to eliminate the Oilers, so they’ll be looking to do the same to the likes of Forsberg, Johansen, and Arvidsson. Nashville needs to take two early wins in Anaheim to shake the Ducks’ confidence then hammer the nails in the coffin on home ice.

Help us Pekka Rinne, you’re our only hope.

Penguins/Senators

Yet again, did anyone expect the Sens to get this far? Can anybody name more than five players on their roster? Whilst the team hasn’t got many big “superstars” like Crosby or Malkin, they do have captain Erik Karlsson who has been skating the entire playoffs on a broken heel though you wouldn’t know. At 26, he’s in his prime; he’s a two time Norris trophy winner and has points in all games of the playoffs except one. They’re not a particularly high scoring team – they finished 22nd in the league for goals per games – they’re very good at opportunistic breakaways when the opposition is napping, but these plays are often orchestrated by Karlsson. Locking Karlsson down will be key to keeping the Sens quiet. As for the Pens, they’ve just come off a game seven win against the Washington Capitals so confidence levels are high. Marc Andre-Fleury has been absolutely wonderful. Crosby, likely nursing a concussion still, is always dangerous – and the second part of the two headed monster, Evgeni Malkin is an intimidating presence on the ice and leads the team with 18 points in the playoffs. Like a hydra, you cut off one head and more appear… Guentzel, Rust, Kessel, Hornqvist, and Schultz are all firing the cannons in Pittsburgh. Ottawa needs to be water tight in defence, but with so many Penguins firing at them, it will be a tough sell. The Pens have a home ice advantage in the first two games, but after Crosby severed Marc Methot’s finger in the regular season, the Sens might be out for revenge.

One BIG reason to root for the Sens is that if a Canadian team win then Donald Trump will not get his hands on the Stanley Cup! LET’S GO SENS!

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Round Two

It’s with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to half of our teams until next season. See ya in October: San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, St Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and the Montreal Canadiens. But to the remaining eight… welcome to round two – four wins down, twelve to go.

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Preds/Blues

For the first time in NHL history, an 8th seed swept a first seed and I think we all became fans of the Nashville Predators for the way they took out the trash. When Shea Weber was traded for PK Subban, a lot of people thought it was a crazy move. Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews, certainly was relieved, but too bad… the lmao.pngPreds are more than one man! Elite goal tender, Pekka Rinne saved 123 of 126 shots he faced giving him a tasty .976sv%, but rival goalie Jake Allen has also been incredible with a .956sv%, and since Mike Yeo took over the Blues _ months ago, the team have allowed less than two goals a game average. Yet before players can get to the goal, they have to get past Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, and Subban, who have been defending spectacularly. Firing from the offense, Blues have Vladimir Tarasenko, Vladimir Sobotka, who has tumblr_oorr91sO9T1wngza3o1_500returned from three years in the KHL, and Paul Stasyny, back from injury. The Preds have Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Scorsberg Forsberg, and should hopefully have Colin Wilson back from injury after missing round one. This will be the tightest series in the Western Conference because the teams are so evenly matched.
Prediction: Blues win in seven (I’d really love it to be Nashville though…) 

 

Ducks/Oilers

The Oilers will be feeling pretty proud that they knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games as the Sharks were last year’s runners up, and the Oilers haven’t been in the playoffs for a decade. That being said, the pressure from fans is high, but they have captain Connor (McJesus) McDavid who has won the Art Ross trophy this year for most points – in only his second season. (Let us not forget that he spent a few months out in his rookie year following a dirty hit into the boards that broke his collar bone). The Ducks always surprise me when they consistently make the playoffs… I forget they exist because I never come across their fans (should have stayed as the Mighty Ducks). In their 22 year history they’ve made the playoffs 12 times, and of those twelve times, they have been the division champion a staggering six times, and won one Stanley Cup. They swept Calgary, so they’re doing something right. Talbot was outstanding in goal against the Sharks, and the Oilers have no significant injuries in the team, but they’re inexperienced – particularly in the playoffs – and up against a very physical, (sometimes dirty) experienced team with the likes of Kesler, Bieksa, Getzlaf, and Perry.
Prediction: Ducks win in six. 

Rangers/Senators

I’m not sure if anybody expected the forgotten Canadian team, the Ottawa Senators, to make it past the first round but the Bruins were sluggish this season and niggled by injuries, so they had an easier opponent. Last time the New York Rangers faced the Canadiens, the Habs were without Carey Price and were beat in six. They declared that if they had their brickwall of a goaltender they’d have beaten the Rangers; well they had him this time and they still got whooped by the Rangers. The Sens are carried more often than not by Erik Karlsson, but so far Bobby Ryan and ex-Ranger, Derick Brassard, are leading in goals and assists in the post-season. The Rangers are favourites to win here. In their last fifteen matches, NYR have taken ten of them. Rangers have good depth; Zuccarello led the team in points, but hot on his tail were Miller, Stepan, and Kreider then they also have the King of Sweden, Henrik Lundqvist in goal.
Prediction: Rangers to win in five. 

Penguins/Capitals

This is gonna be the best match up – without a doubt. I am biased as HELL but I’ll be cheering for Pittsburgh – but they have the players to back it up. They’re without Kris Letang and Carl Hagelin who are on injured reserve, as well as

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The End of Crochkin? Say it ain’t so!

Matt Murray who is unable to skate. Their fourth highest point scorer was Sheary with 53 points in his first full season… to put that into perspective Zuccarello, the point leader for rangers, had 59. Kessel notched up 70, Malkin had 72, and Crosby leads the league with an 89 point season. However, hot on his tail was all star Nicklas Backstrom with 86 points. Ovi scores 33 goals and 36 assists – don’t accuse him of not passing again. Big scorers all round in these battles. It’s not just about the points; both teams are notoriously close in terms of cohesion and play like well oiled machines. Whilst Holtby has a .925sv%, Fleury has the edge at .933sv% for the playoffs. However, the Pens are without Murray to back him up, and Fleury can be shaky at times during playoffs in previous years. The big worry for the Caps – besides the two headed monster and the other penguins – is that they tend to fall apart during the playoffs despite being a regular season juggernaut. Still, the Caps ended Toronto’s playoff dreams in game seven whilst Justin Bieber was in attendance in his Maple Leafs shirt, shame.
Prediction: Penguins take it in seven (I really hope)

 

 

 

RISE AND SHINE… IT’S PLAYOFF TIME!

The Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing which means hockey season is almost over. However, the race to sixteen wins is underway and the first round has already conjured up some expected and unexpected surprises.

For those unfamiliar with the NHL playoff format, after an arduous 82 game season (that’s per team – bit ridiculous, but if you’re a season ticket holder then at least you get your money’s worth) the top four teams in each division make it through to the play offs. The teams in the Western conference face off against each other, and same for the east then in the final, the champion of the West plays the champion of the East to be crowned the Stanley Cup Champion. Now, you need sixteen wins to lift that cup, four wins in each round – seems simple enough, but each round can go to a maximum of seven games which in theory means a team could have an additional 28 games in the post-season. When you consider pre-season starts up in September, these players give up almost their entire year to hockey.

Here’s how the first round is looking:

stanley.jpg  Toronto managed to sneak into the playoffs, so that city has already gone insane at the prospect of lifting a cup. However, Toronto is leading 2-1 against the Washington Capitals. The Caps are a juggernaut in the regular season, but seem to have a meltdown each year in the playoffs. Maybe one day Ovi will get his cup. What’s great about Toronto is that there are so many rookies on that team (Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Hyman, Kapanen, Brown, Zaitsev, Soshnikov, and Gauthier) who have a combined 112 goals, 283 points in the regular season. Even better is that if they got swept then a Chris Brown concert would have been played at the Verizon Center, however an over time win in game 2 forced a game five which will be played there and Chris Brown will be rescheduled, nice.

Last year no Canadian teams made the playoffs, this year Toronto and Edmonton make a long anticipated come back together with the Calgary Flames, the Ottawa Senators, and the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are leading 2-1 against the New York Rangers, another of the Original Six teams, so these two heavyweights have had many match ups in their illustrious history. Another Original Six team, the Boston Bruins are currently losing 2-1 to the Sens. All’s well in Canada so far…

Head west to Alberta and Edmonton are leading 2-1 against the San Jose Sharks, last year’s runners up. The Flames are truly going up in flames. They’re facing the Anaheim Ducks who are currently leading 3-0 in the series; the Flames have not won in Anaheim in THIRTEEN YEARS. Yikes!

Another FANTASTIC result is that Nashville are leading 3-0 against the Blackhawks. In the first two games, elite goaltender Pekke Rinne recorded two shut outs and two assists. A goal tender had more points than the entire Blackhawks roster, amazing. Of course, the motto of the Chicago Blackhawks is “one goal” so many memes ensued. Not only are Nashville on the verge of sweeping Chicago, their captain’s wife, Carrie Underwood, sang the national anthem last night and was incredible.

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Elsewhere, reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins are leading Columbus 3-0, and St Louis are leading 3-0 against the Minnesota Wild.

No matter what happens for the remainder of the post-season, we’re gonna see some really great hockey!