For the second straight year, the Minnesota Wild have unfortunately passed away after game five of the first round. Sixteen of the Wild’s last twenty playoff games have ended in a loss, and the team has now failed to move past the first round for three straight years.
Six seasons removed from making history as the first #8 seed to win the Stanley Cup, the L.A. Kings are in the record books once again. However, this year it’s for their unfortunate demise at the hands of the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights, as the Kings failed to pick up a single win in their first-round series and become the first team to be swept by an expansion franchise. While only allowing seven goals all series, the squad from Los Angeles only found the scoresheet three times in the four-game sweep. Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was made to look like the second coming of a sturdily-built brick wall or a Shooter Tutor with no holes; he was simply unbeatable. The Kings popgun offence looked atrocious throughout the series, with only four forwards able to scratch the scoresheet.
Written by: Liam Horrobin & Ian Sheppard
Apparently, defence doesn’t exist in day four of the Stanley Cup playoffs with 27 goals being scored in the first three games and five in the final game of the night.
Tampa continued to buzz against the Devils, and Nashville nudged out the Avs while the Bruins dismantled the Leafs, and the Sharks outlasted and outmuscled the Ducks.
Here’s how they went:
After months of going back and forth, the Washington Capitals made the decision yesterday that Philipp Grubauer will be the teams #1 goalie when their playoff run begins tomorrow.
Whether it be via free agency, a trade or locking up some of the talent already on the roster, there will undoubtedly be a long shopping list for General Manager Peter Chiarelli this off-season.
The Oilers are projected to have roughly $13.7 million in cap space heading into the 2018 off-season.
This past couple month, we’ve seen Connor McDavid play some of the best hockey of his young career which seems bizarre to say considering how dominant he has been since coming into the league.
Since January 11th, the Edmonton Oilers captain has been racking up the points jumping from 10th in league with scoring with 48 points to number 1 with 99 on March 25th. During that spell, fans have been watching him not only distribute the puck in classic McDavid style but also light up the lamp multi times a night. Right now, McDavid sits on 39 goals, a career high, with six games remaining this campaign.
He’s obviously going to his 100 points that’s not even a question. The real question is, could Connor McDavid score 50 goals this season?
At this point last season, the Hart trophy winner was sitting at 225 shots with 27 goals. Right now, McDavid has 251 shots with 39 goals with nine of those coming in his last ten games. In those ten games, he’s been scoring on every fourth shot on goal.
In the Oilers final six games they’ll take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Vancouver Canucks twice, Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, and Las Vegas Golden Knights. In the past, we’ve seen McDavid score memorable goals against these teams from his dangling threw the Blue Jackets defence in his rookie season to put his elite speed display against the Flames in the season opener. This season, in 12 games against the final five opponents Captain Connor has eight goals. As for his career, McDavid has faced those teams 37 times combined scoring 22 goals. The ratios may not be the greatest, but we’ve also never seen him shoot as well and as much as he is right now.
He scored one against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday and now sits at an even 40 goals. He needs to average two goals a game from now until the end of the season.
As for his opponents, McDavid has only not scored against the Vancouver Canucks this year in two attempts and only has a single assist. He’s scored well against the other three, though, with three in four against the Flames, two in two versus the Wild, and two in three when matched up against the Golden Knights. The goaltending in both Vegas and Minnesota could prove to be a roadblock, but even with that being said it hasn’t effected McDavid much in the past.
Is it a stretch for this to happen? Maybe, but we are also talking about the best player in the world right now.
The NHL’s GM’s are set to meet in the next few weeks and one topic that always seems to arise is how the league can help boost scoring.
Finding ways to improve the league, while not upsetting the traditional values of the game is tough. There has always been talk about making the nets bigger, but that’s died off recently. You can also look back at the attempts to try and shrink goalie equipment, but those didn’t make too much of an impact.
The idea that I’m about to pitch is weird, to say the least, and is far from traditional, but I think it’s actually a decent way to improve the way the game is played. Hear me out:
In a recent interview on TSN 1260, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun shared his laundry list of goals that he would try to accomplish if he were the NHL’s Commissioner.
His list included changes such as: abolishing the all-star game, moving the start of the year to the middle of September and starting free agency the day after the draft. All sound like great ideas and it inspired me to compile my own list of changes that I would make if I was in charge of the NHL.
Over at BTI HQ, we were trying to think of a way to pass the dog days of the hockey off season. As you can imagine, trying to find content to write about in August can be tough.
We decided to start a bracket. But a simple bracket of who is the best player in the NHL would end one of two ways: Connor McDavid defeating Sidney Crosby OR Sidney Crosby defeating Connor McDavid in the final. So we switched it up a little.
Most recently, Brent Burns was joined by Patrick Kane in the second round after he took down Stars forward Jamie Benn.
Who will be next, Seguin or Tarasenko?
THE CASE FOR TYLER SEGUIN
The common thought is that Vlad Tarasenko is more of an elite finisher and produces more offense. That statement would be false. In the past 3 seasons, Seguin has played 14 FEWER games than Tarasenko and they have the EXACT SAME amount of points over that span (222).
My argument for Seguin to win this matchup is fairly simple: versatility. If you want him to centre your top line, he’ll do it. If you need him to shift to the wing, he can do that as well. That’s something Tarasenko simply doesn’t offer.
While Tarasenko may score more goals, Seguin does a better job of complementing his linemates and making those he plays with much better.
Where Tarasenko may be the sexy pick, ask yourself: If you were starting a franchise today, who would you choose? I would go with the versatile centerman who has put up over a point per game in 3 of his last 4 seasons.
THE CASE FOR VLADIMIR TARASENKO
Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the game’s best finishers and has proven so over the past three seasons; only Alex Ovechkin (136) has light the lamp more than him – Tarasenko scored 116.
Also throughout those three seasons, the Russian winger has single handedly carried the Blues’ offense scoring 222 points with the next closest, Alexander Steen, coming in with 167 points. Only one other team in the Western Conference had a bigger gap between their highest scorer and their second highest scorer: the Chicago Blackhawks with a 77 point gap.
Tarasenko has played on much less talented teams, offensively, compared to Tyler Seguin who has been able to play alongside somebody as talented as Jamie Benn.
Although Tarasenko may not be as versatile as Tyler Seguin, if he can go out there and score my team 30 plus goals a season you simply cannot complain about that.
Image courtesy of ESPN
Not again you were thinking. The Washington Capitals aren’t going to be knocked out before the conference final AGAIN! Sure enough, you wake up to the same story.
Caps ousted by Pens…What will Capitals do after another early exit? Ovechkin to…Vegas?!
Everyone’s autopsy report of the Capitals situation shows something different even a week later. Fire the coach. Trade Ovechkin. Do very little or nothing. But with a number of free agents – restricted and unrestricted – change is coming. What the change will look like however, is anyone’s guess.
The Capitals trading Troy Brouwer for T.J. Oshie in the summer of 2015 proved to the hockey world Washington had a two-year window with this new core of players to win a championship. The problem is they didn’t win and now comes the difficult personnel decisions. Signing players like Brooks Orpik to five million dollar plus deals hurts when youngsters Burakovsky and Kuznetsov need big raises. The list of meaningful free agents isn’t that long but carry a lot of salary.
Capitals RFAs: Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Brett Connolly, Nate Schmidt, Philipp Grubauer
Capitals UFAs: T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, Daniel Winnik, Paul Carey, Kevin Shattenkirk, Tom Gilbert
From the free-agent list, it’s clear restricted free agents will set the tone for the Caps moving forward. Whichever contract comes first between Evgeny Kuznetsov and Leon Draisaitl will be instrumental in how restricted contracts will go this summer as the two youngsters seem to be comparable. Kuznetsov is going to want similar money, if not more than Draisaitl and vice-versa for the Oilers forward who is just coming off his 77 point season, the same career high Kuznetsov had in 2015-16 when he finished tied for 9th in league scoring.
They aren’t similar players though. Kuznetsov hasn’t scored more than twenty goals in a season, while Draisaitl nearly hit 30 goals this campaign. They should get similar deals regardless, but whichever one comes first sets the precedent for the other. I would say 6.5-7.5 million is the ballpark figure, but one thing about the NHL offseason is you can never truly know what a contract is going to look like.
Nikita Kucherov’s contract was larcenous last summer, coming off of back-to-back mid 60 points seasons, the twenty-three-year-old signed for three years at $4.7M per season. Ouch. Maybe each team can take a page out of the Lightning playbook and say you need to take a pay cut to stick around. This methodology makes sense for the Oilers as they need to sign McDavid’s extension sooner rather than later and hope you get the number in the low double-digits. But it likely won’t work for the Capitals who’ve stumbled many times on the championship path.
The Caps must consider moving someone from the veteran forward core to insulate a “new wave” of Washington playmakers. Burakovsky seems like a great asset moving forward and looked good for several shifts playing in Ovechkin’s stead on the top line. If the Capitals are wise, the 22-year-old will get a deal with term and reasonable money to set the tone. If they could get him in the high three million to low four million range, I think they’d be happy. Richard Panik is worth $2.8 Million for example and Burakovsky has tons more upside.
Any trade the Capitals pull off would appear to be bold (insert Craig MacTavish jokes) but if you need to move a forward that has value and a high cap hit, I would trade Nicklas Backstrom. As the rumour mill swirls and swirls about Ovechkin’s whereabouts in the playoffs – how about Backstrom’s? He’s been a part of all the same postseason unluckiness shall we say, does he get let out of the hook?
Backstrom has lots of value as a 29-year-old, first line center, coming off an 86 point season and an insanely consistent career as a top flight NHL player. Since entering the league Backstrom has played in 734 games and has 728 points. 2010-11 might be his worst season besides his injury ridden 2011-12 (where he put up more than a point a game). He only scored 65 points that year.
Considering the tepid free agency pool and the general uncertainty with Las Vegas, would Nicklas Backstrom wet the appetite for a team that misses on Ilya Kovalchuk or Martin Hanzal in the UFA category? Perhaps. His value should be high. Is it a deal the Capitals would look at if they’re serious about a shakeup?
The Leafs made the Capitals defense look loose often and the way the Metropolitan Division is going, they might try a straight across defenceman trade to synthesis someone else into their lineup. That appears to be the only way a new established NHLer comes into their defense.
The Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik contracts came with big prices in 2014 that won’t allow them much flexibility to bring back both Dmitri Orlov and Karl Alzner.
If it comes between the two the Capitals must side on the wave of youth if they’re serious about a team rehaul. Orlov, 25, is three years younger than Alzner and would appear to have much more upside than the plateaued first rounder from 2007. Orlov might be cheaper too depending on the general manager and whether Alzner, unrestricted, wants to test the market.
Behind teammate Kevin Shattenkirk, Alzner could be the second best defenseman come July 1. Alzner would be cheaper than Shattenkirk and doesn’t appear to have much of an attitude problem or issues in the dressing room. Teams don’t like rock-the-boat players.
My guess when it comes to Shattenkirk is the Rangers sign him because it’s July and it’s the New York Rangers. It’s what they do.
The word seems to be the Caps won’t resign Justin Williams which would clear over $3M on the books, roughly the same amount of money they need to placate the raise for Burakovsky. But big holes in the top six remain if T.J. isn’t returned. Recently, Oshie expressed he wants to stay in Washington and you’d assume there’s mutual interest. Losing your top two right wingers for nothing is something must teams couldn’t handle. But where does the money come from for Oshie who is likely due for a pay raise from four million dollars?
Washington could bring back most of their big names and again be a cap team, but they would be a top heavy roster and have to get clever quick on how to find no-name players who can plug holes for them.
Pittsburgh does it with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Chicago has done it forever before them. But if the Capitals can’t win with established players, what makes you believe they would be able to do with these guys?
Frankly, the Capitals are going to need to look hard at their core group and decide if they keep spinning the tires on them.
I know nothing about the Washington Capitals fan base. But a quick search on Reddit found a thread, not a day old titled “Number of years this team has taken off your life.” Yikes.
Caps fans are ready for a shoe to drop. The boldest of them would be somehow trading Ovie/Backstrom, which is tough. A long summer lies ahead of Washington. And a team like Ottawa getting through to the third round with their talent pool and notorious owner won’t ease any frustration for an already ailing fan base.