Cheering on the Blackhawks this past Cup Final series was a very strange one for a plethora of reasons. First, as a casual Blues fan and an avid David Backes fan, I practically need to hate every ounce of the Blackhawks as if they killed my family. I even had a small speech ready if ever had the pleasure of meeting Brent Seabrook. Secondly, I blame Patrick Kane for the cluster-eff that was the 2014 Bronze Medal game in Sochi. I mean, to miss two penalty shots? I don’t hate the photo of him crying that may or may not be saved as a favorite in my phone.
Of course, these two notes paled in comparison to the fact that I’m not big enough of a person to cheer for the team that eliminated mine, especially when their coach makes my skin crawl. And when the Hawks did raise the Cup, I was very happy for people like Kimmo Timonen and Dan Carcillo (if you haven’t seen his Player’s Tribune submission, go now. Seriously, put this post on hold and go. Grab some tissues, too), and got choked upon seeing Carcillo’s fiancee in a Steve Montador jersey. But I was never super enthused for Kane, and I shall explain why. Read More→
A common thread among sports fans is that they’ve had a role in all of our lives, no matter how unimportant or trivial they seem in the big picture. Many of us have always been a fan, though it’s not a requirement to be a “true fan,” despite the pretentious attitudes of some people. You could like one team, many teams, many players, many plays… but you like the sport, and that’s what draws you to it.
Growing up, I was a diehard baseball fan. I practically grew up at Shea Stadium (yes, it’s still weird that it’s Citifield all these years later), buying cheap tickets in the low of the Mets lows and “sneaking” down from the loge section to catch a better glimpse of whichever scrubs the Wilpons threw together. The Mets broke my heart over and over, but I was a fan of the game and, moreso, what it meant to me. Read More→
Since free agency has begun, there have been some blockbuster trades made around the league that have the potential to drastically change not only the league, but specifically the Metropolitan Division.
Shifts in teams are commonplace, and some of the trades were foreseen due mostly to cap space, but some of these will undoubtedly ensure the Rangers have some preparation to do during training camp. The trades of Phil Kessel, Brandon Saad, TJ Oshie, and, last night, Patrick Sharp are all NHL-News-Alert-on-your-phone worthy. The first three are now menacing the Metro and will be familiar foes against the Rangers come October.
Larry Brooks has reported that Glen Sather will be stepping down as the Rangers’ general manager. There is a conference call scheduled for 4pm today in which it is expected that Jeff Gorton will be introduced as the new GM.
Sather’s last move as GM was to sign former Rangers’ defenseman Raphael Diaz to a contract this morning. Diaz filled in nicely as the 7D during the 2013-14 season with New York.
There has been a flurry of activity today around the league ahead of the pending free agency madness.
Chicago trades F Brandon Saad and prospects to Columbus for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and a fourth-round pick. 22-year-old Saad is a RFA and, according to reports, is looking for a long-term contract in the ballpark of 6M per year. Chicago, who are in a bit of a cap bind, got a good return for the power forward. Dano tallied 21 points in his rookie season after being a 2013 first round pick and Morin makes his return to Chicago after a trade to Columbus last season. Saad is a big, powerful forward with good scoring ability (23-29-52 during the regular season, 8-3-11 during the Cup run, winning his second Stanley Cup) who may grow to be a nuisance in the Metropolitan Division for years to come.
Vancouver trades D Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim for a 2016 second-round pick. Bieksa has spent his 10-year career as a Canuck, and is set to make $2.5M next year in the last year of his contract. This may be the writing on the wall for Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin, one of the few unrestricted free agents who was expected to make moves beginning tomorrow.
Anaheim names Paul MacLean an assistant coach. MacLean was relieved of his duties of head coach in Ottawa in December. MacLean was with the Senators for three and a half seasons before being fired. He had a 114-90-35 record with the Senators and was 8-9 in the playoffs.
Last Saturday was a very, very strange day in Rangersland. So many of us were either angry, or in denial, or still numb to the incredulous feeling of losing a Game 7 at the Garden. I thought for sure one thing would be true, with 2012 as a good indicator: the 2014-15 NHL season was over.
Laying out beside a pool with two of my diehard Ranger fan friends, we went through most of the motions of grieving. There was anger, questioning, bargaining, heck I think I got choked up once or twice… but then something strange happened. We remembered that there was a Game 7 that night, and we made plans to head out that night to watch it.
How could that be? We’re Rangers fans, man, this was our year. We can’t watch anymore. The only benefit of losing in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final is that after that, it was over, there was no worrying about who you wanted to win the Cup. Sadly, last year also taught us that the offseason is very, very long. When you get excited to watch a replayed TOR-ANA game live in a bar in Toronto, you know the withdrawal is real.
Although the grieving period for many Rangers fans is still in some of the early stages, hockey continues on tonight with Game One of the Stanley Cup Final. At least one former Ranger will hold Lord Stanley’s Cup in victory within the next two weeks, and here at BSB, we guess which one(s) that is.
Suit and Justin were still too upset to predict.
Dave’s Pick: Blackhawks in 7. Both teams are skilled, fast, and deep. Both teams have issues on the blue line. Both teams have question marks in net. The Bolts are weak on the blue line after their top pair, and the Hawks have four defensemen that don’t get Stu Bickel’d. In the end, I think experience wins over the new kids.
Chris’ Pick: Blackhawks in 6. Both teams are skilled fast and deep… hold on, Dave already said that? Well it’s true. Arguably the two best offensive teams in the league are the last teams standing but you can never have too much experience and the Hawks will not be fazed for one second, given they’re on the cusp of a modern day dynasty. Tampa can take over games and Johnson and Stamkos are every bit the match for the Hawks top end talent but in Toews, the Hawks have the best leader in hockey, in Keith they have a stud on the blueline at the very top of his game. This figures to be a high scoring affair, and I give the edge to Chicago. If they start fast, it could be done in 5.
Kevin’s Pick: Blackhawks in 7. Tampa has been very impressive all year, but you have to go with experience, right? I keep going back and forth on this because I envision the Triplets stealing a game or two by themselves, which would make things really interesting. But in the end, I’m not picking against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.
Becky’s Pick: Blackhawks in 6. I’m a completely biased fan, but after watching a lot of Central Division hockey (c/o being a casual Blues fan), I have seen what the Blackhawks are capable of. Coach Quenneville is not afraid to put in his backup goalie if he feels unsure about Corey Crawford, and as special as the Triplets and Anton Stralman-Victor Hedman are, Ben Bishop looked shaky at best despite shutting out the Rangers in Game 7. Jonathan Toews is the definition of clutch, and he’s been here several times. The Hawks are speedy and can throw some hits. I think they’ll take it in five, but let’s be safe and say six.
The Suit’s Pick: Tampa in 7. Stanley Cups often come down to goaltending and I’m betting on Bishop to rebound this series and steal it from Chicago. Chicago’s deeper, more offensively gifted, yada, yada, yada, but I think Tampa will pull off the upset. Beating the best team in the NHL (cough, cough) may have put enough wind back in their sails to weather the storm. I’ll be rooting for them.
Sports have been a part of society for as long as we’ve been keeping track. Ancient texts have the Olympic games starting as early as the year 175, with Greek mythology dating them far before then. Look at the Coliseum in Rome: a huge venue for fans to watch games being played — however questionable the morals of those games are.
Another fun thought: the word ‘fan’ is actually short for ‘fanatic,’ defined as a person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity. Obsessive enthusiasm makes for some pretty fun clients. So since sports are a (high revenue) business, and some very intelligent people exist to make money off of obsessive enthusiastic people, fantasy sports (among other things) came to life.
With fantasy sports comes armchair GMs. It seems anywhere you go, someone knows how to manage a team better than Glen Sather, or coach the Rangers better than Alain Vigneault. My personal favorite activity at the Garden is to appreciate all the coaches around me and feel extra blessed that I paid to hear all of their opinions.
Everyone has heard of fancy stats, which we’ve gone over ad nauseam here. Heck, there’s even a metrics tab to explain the basics. Most of the time, they’re a good indicator of play that the naked eye can’t see because, as humans, it’s difficult to stay objective all the time. Naturally our emotions will get involved in some of what we see, and aside from this, it’s easy to forget ten great plays if a player makes one bad play, or even a flukey play that leads to a goal.
Last summer, I wrote an article about the Oilers hiring a fancy stats-loving coach in Dallas Eakins, and I compared front offices looking at these stats in the same light that MLB GMs viewed moneyball. The similarities have a lot to do with formulas and equations and math, statistics that can be measured in a spreadsheet and should follow a trend. This has worked for the Oakland A’s for a long time, and possession-driven statistics have worked for certain teams (though not the Oilers, and Eakins was let go) in the NHL as well.
As we look at the Rangers, now facing potential elimination tomorrow night in Tampa, there have been tons of articles posted about their possession numbers, along with posts about how fearsome their defense is, even people stating that Henrik Lundqvist has unrealistic stats that lend the Rangers’ advanced stats to be altered favorably and inaccurately. There is a simple explanation to all of this: the media need to post continually in order to drive readership, and they seek topics about anything. Great writers can argue a position from beginning to end no matter how bananas it may be.
On the day before another Rangers elimination game, in a postseason where they have come back from a 3-1 deficit, the only stat we have to remember is this: the team that scores more goals in 60 minutes wins. It isn’t a measure of whose possession is better after offensive zone starts, or whose defensemen have a higher scored-adjusted corsi for. It’s also not about your personal vendetta against Marc Staal and as such, noticing only that he took a penalty and not that he blocked a shot that Henrik wasn’t set up to save. It’s about the team that scores more.
The Rangers better be that team tomorrow night, or there will be tons of questions for management and players alike to answer, and a long offseason looming.
Halfway there! For those of you who survived without anxiety/panic/heart attacks — or those of you who didn’t, but are home from the hospital — it’s time for some more high pressure fun! The Blueshirts host the Bolts today at 1. Here at BSB, our flawless predictions are ready for your reading pleasure. Spoiler alert: we’re all too scared to pick against the home team, and most of us don’t get how the Ducks are still in it. Look out for constant coverage, as games are every other day throughout Memorial Day Weekend.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New York Rangers
Dave’s pick: Rangers in 7. The games these teams played in November are meaningless. They were 7 months ago, and both sides had injuries. TBL has a talented and deep group of forwards that can practically score at will and a goalie that has been lights out against New York. Their D is their perceived weakness, but it’s not much of one. The Rangers are still, probably, without Mats Zuccarello, which is a huge hit to their offense. I really don’t like this matchup. I’m a homer though.
Justin’s pick: Rangers in 7. After another 3-1 comeback, I’m in full on homer mode. No objectivity whatsoever here. That said, Tampa is going to be an incredibly difficult out. I think in the end, Henrik Lundqvist is the difference.
Becky’s pick: Rangers in 6. My original bracket, of which the West is a hot mess of red but the East is pretty in tact, says that this matchup ends with Tampa taking the cake. That was obviously before the playoffs started. The Bolts have had extensive offensive input from their fetuses (feti?) and could be dangerous should Steven Stamkos come alive, but inexperience paired with the long haul of the playoffs and beating a barely there Red Wings team followed by the Price-only Habs don’t impress me much. The Rangers – King Hank, specifically – are locked in. They know how to adapt, something we’re not sure of the inexperienced Bolts. Call me crazy, but I think/hope the boys in blue spare us the heartache.
Suit’s pick: Rangers in 7. Four teams left, former Torts disciples scattered throughout these organizations. It’s cool, no correlation there. This is the matchup I was hoping for. Not because they made us look silly during the regular season, but because of obvious narratives, the make up of these rosters, and the systems employed on both benches. These teams are evenly matched in so many respects it’s hard to pick who will come out on top. In the end, Hank will stand tall.
Kevin’s pick: ??? This is the one matchup I was afraid of. The Rangers had no answer for Tampa Bay’s speed and skill during the regular season – and though they are a better team now, I’m not sure that’s going to change. It’s not even Steven Stamkos that has me worried, it’s the Ondrej Palat/Tyler Johnson/Nikita Kucherov line that’s going to be a real handful. Henrik Lundqvist is in hero mode, so it’s certainly possible he could steal a couple games and swing the series. But I’m not sure the Blueshirts can score enough to keep up with TB without having Mats Zuccarello in the lineup. And for the record – I am refusing to make an actual prediction.
Chris’ Pick: Rangers in 7. Fans shouldn’t expect anything less stressful than the series before. Tampa are faster, deeper and more skilled than the Caps. They share the same (if not more) high end talent and both Ben Bishop and Tampa have owned the Rangers recently. Fortunately experience still counts for something. The Rangers won’t be fazed by the occasion and if they can tidy up their breakouts, if they can stay disciplined and if they can get some secondary scoring I can see the Rangers sneaking the series but it will be close either way. If the Rangers can limit the Johnson line and don’t let Callahan come back to haunt them, Rangers in seven. Only just.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Anaheim Ducks
Dave’s pick: Blackhawks in 6. I don’t understand the Ducks at all. Their blue line and goaltending are both huge question marks.They don’t have the bottom-six depth to match up. But they keep winning. Meanwhile, the Hawks are a team built for deep runs. Crawford is a question mark, but as is Andersen. I give the edge to the Hawks though.
Justin’s pick: Blackhawks in 6. I agree with Dave, in that the Ducks’ continue to flummox me. They have a ton of talent up front, but the back end and goaltending is suspect. They also haven’t really dealt with a high-end opponent yet. I think Chicago catches the Ducks off guard and punches another ticket to the Final.
Becky’s pick: Blackhawks in 6. I don’t really believe that the Ducks have faced too much of a hard time in these playoffs, and I think that Andersen’s ability hasn’t quite been tested yet. Patrick Kane is a beast and the Hawks have proved that both of their goaltenders are capable of backing up their offensive talent. Half of me thinks that the Hawks clean up in five, but it’s the conference finals, so let’s stick with six.
Suit’s pick: Ducks in 6. I’ve been picking the Ducks since the beginning, so I’m going to stick with them, even though on paper it probably doesn’t make sense. With that said, they have skill and they have grit that can skate. Defense and goaltending aren’t all-time, but they seem to bare down when it matters. Their power play has been unstoppable. The Hawks are the Hawks, but ‘keep the puck away’ from our goalie can only work so many times. Ducks in 6.
Kevin’s pick: Blackhawks in 6. Boy did I underestimate both of these teams, and I feel like an idiot for it. Chicago just didn’t feel the same during the regular season, but I should have realized this team is more than capable of flipping the switch come playoff time. I’m still not totally sold on Anaheim and think the Ducks have really benefited from two easy matchups. Chicago just has too much everything, so unless the Blackhawks’ goaltending implodes again, they’ll take this one in six.
Chris’ pick: Blackhawks in 7. Are the Hawks the closest thing to a dynasty we’ve had in recent times? Another conference final and/or a trip to the SCF would get them close to such a lofty status. The hawks are deeper but the Ducks look unstoppable as Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf seem to be doing what they want when they want. This series will be a test of Anaheim’s depth – can they go toe to toe with Chicago? – the Hawks may be the deepest team in the league. If Anaheim can overpower the Hawks physically they could force their way past the Hawks but the Hawks have too much pure talent for me and will survive another long series.
Two Game 7’s later and it feels as though Anaheim’s and the Rangers’ first rounds ended an eternity ago. Here at BSB, we’ve collected our round two predictions to check out how we see the next four-to-seven games will play out for the eight remaining teams.
Calgary Flames vs. Anaheim Ducks
Becky’s Pick: Ducks in 5. The Flames did a great job taking down the talented
Sedins Canucks, but the Ducks are just too big and too strong for the small, resilient Flames. I think this run was fun for Calgary, but I don’t see the C of Red, no matter how much young talent they’ve got in Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan, taking out the veteran Ducks.
Dave’s Pick: Ducks in 4. I don’t know how the Flames keep winning, and I am rooting very hard for them, I love watching them. But they don’t match up to Anaheim, as the Ducks are better in every facet of the game.
Kevin’s Pick: Ducks in 5. Calgary is really fun to watch and there are big things in store for these Flames, but right now they just don’t have the personnel to match up with Anaheim. Too many wily veterans, too much size.
Suit’s Pick: Ducks in 6. The Ducks manhandled the Jets in a very crazed atmosphere in Winterpeg. There’s something to be said for that. It’s going to take more than a sea of red though to knock Anaheim off their game. The Honda Center on the other hand isn’t a tough place to play. I could see the Flames stealing one in Cali to make this series interesting enough to get you to watch it. However, depth and goaltending win playoff series and I’m not sure the Flames are there yet.
Justin’s Pick: Ducks in 5. Oh man, I want more than anything to pick the Flames in this series. I didn’t think they would make it past Vancouver, and they keep defying the odds. I do think they will be fairly manhandled by the Ducks, though.
Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Becky’s Pick: Hawks in 6. The Blackhawks organization is familiar with winning, whereas the Wild still have a thing or two to iron out and learn before they can go too far. Devan Dubnyk has been a genius, but I’m not sold yet; I think that had the Blues advanced, they would lose to the Hawks, who seem to have the Central Division’s collective number throughout. My gut says this only takes five games, but I’ll give the Wild the benefit of the doubt with an extra game.
Dave’s Pick: Wild in 6. Minnesota is scary hot right now. Chicago has goaltending issues, which gives the advantage to Vezina finalist Devan Dubnyk. Up front, both teams are skilled, deep, and play solid possession games. I think this is a toss up too, but I’m going with the hot hand.
Kevin’s Pick: Wild in 7. It just feels like destiny at this point – Minnesota is white hot. The Blackhawks had an easier time with Nashville than I expected, but I think Minnesota’s speed, and Devan Dubnyk, will spell the end for Chicago.
Suit’s Pick: Blackhawks in 6. I have a ton of respect for Mike Yeo, the coach of the Wild. He was on the verge of getting fired a few seasons ago so he decided to completely restructure his system from a grind it out style to a more skilled game. It paid off. This team can fly. Still, Dubnyk is a bubble waiting to burst and Chicago has a tendency to make good goalies look bad.
Justin’s Pick: Blackhawks in 7. I haven’t been sold on Devan Dubnyk’s elite status yet, and I’m going to continue to believe that bubble will burst. I do like Minnesota’s team, though, and they will give the Hawks a big test. I still like Chicago’s chances in this series, which will come down to experience, depth and secondary scoring.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Becky’s Pick: Lightning in 7. In the series I least want to watch but definitely will, I think that my original pick to come out of the East will take it. Ben Bishop proved that he could shake the playoff jitters and throw a stellar performance last night. The Bolts have more depth than the Habs, who went 6 games against a streaking team with AHL goaltending, replaced by a freezing cold Craig Anderson who threw out some amazing performances. Bolts may take it in 6, but I’ll go conservative.
Dave’s Pick: Lightning in 6. I picked Ottawa over Montreal last round, and my lack of faith in the Habs continues. This is a team that is deeply flawed and riding an absurd season from Carey Price. Tampa Bay is skilled, deep, fast, and solid defensively. Price won’t be enough to win them this series.
Kevin’s Pick: Lightning in 6. That seven-game war with Detroit was a really good lesson for Tampa Bay’s young players, and now the Lightning get a rematch against the team that smacked them in the first round last season. I made the mistake of picking against Carey Price once, and I’m doing it again. Tampa is so much deeper than Montreal, and come on, you know the hockey gods are going to make Rangers/Lightning happen.
Suit’s Pick: Lightning in 7. Despite Tampa being better on paper than the Habs, Montreal is still a tough place to win a playoff game. I think this series goes the distance. I’ll give TBL the edge in 7 only because I’m partial to Cally, Boyle, and Stralmania who have been around the block before.
Justin’s Pick: Canadiens in 7. Every ounce of my being tells me to pick Tampa Bay in five or six. They are just the all-around better team. However, at this point I simply cannot bet against Carey Price. Ever since the 2014 Olympics, the guy has been superhuman.
Becky’s Pick: Rangers in 6. The Capitals do have an upgrade in coaching under Barry Trotz, but this Rangers team is on a mission this year. They’ve rested and didn’t just see seven games against a team with two of the hardest hitters in the NHL The loss of Mats Zuccarello hurts, but the beauty of the 2014-15 Rangers it that they have depth. The Rangers beat the Capitals to close out the regular season while resting three of their guys; I’m confident they take it in 6.
Dave’s Pick: Rangers in 7. The Caps scare the jeebus out of me because Braden Holtby is good, the Caps are actually playing defense, they push puck possession, and their powerplay is downright lethal. The Rangers are without Mats Zuccarello, which is a huge loss, but are better on defense and in net, and have the better depth. This won’t be an easy series, and I think it’s really a toss up. But I’m a homer.
Kevin’s Pick: Rangers in 7. I’d feel much, much better about this pick if Mats Zuccarello was healthy. As I wrote yesterday, this isn’t the same Capitals team. They’re a real handful on both ends, and if the Blueshirts again don’t get anything out of their power play, then they could be in real trouble. This pick comes down to one man: Henrik Lundqvist.
Suit’s Pick: Rangers in 7. Dave mentioned it yesterday, but this isn’t the 2012, 2013, or 2014 Caps. The team is finally committed to playing both sides of the puck and their heavy forecheck is scary. Any team that can play dump and chase and still end up positive in puck possession will be a tough out. Holtby doesn’t scare me though and he’s susceptible to some bad rebounds. Whoever wins the crease will take this series. My money’s on our boys, obviously.
Justin’s Pick: Rangers in 6. I know the media are really trying to play this series up as marquee, but I don’t like this matchup at all for the Caps. The Rangers took the season series 3-1, and haven’t seen meaningful statistical production from Rick Nash, Chris Kreider or Marty St. Louis yet. The Rangers speed is going to be very difficult on the slower Washington blue line, so as long as they stay out of the box, I like their chances. I know the loss of Zuccarello is going to hurt, but the Blueshirts have the depth to cover.