Category: nhl

Tampa Bay Lightning Clinch Playoff Spot

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their historic season. Aside from being the first team to 50 wins and 100 points this season, they have yet to lose 15 games all year. And last week they tied the Detroit Red Wings (1995-96) as one of the fastest teams to reach 50 wins. The Lightning accomplished this feat in 66 games.

With 12 games remaining if the Lightning were to win every game but two they will go down in NHL history for most wins in the regular season. The Lightning are 8 wins away from the Flyers home wins in a season record (1975-76), they are 8 wins away from most road wins in a season. With 12 games remaining and a possible 24 points on the table the Lightning could be second all-time in most points in a season.

The Lightning as we all know by now clinched a playoff spot the other night with the Blue Jackets and Canadiens both losing in regulation Wednesday night.

Right now it is looking to be a Lightning vs Canadiens first round match up, the other two still in a potential playoff wild card hunt are the Blue Jackets and Flyers. No matter who the Lightning play first round I think we can assume it will be a series win for them.

With 12 games remaining the Lightning have Detroit (today), Toronto(2) Detroit, Washington (3), Arizona, Carolina, Boston(2), St. Louis, Ottawa, Montreal. Attempting to predict the future, I think we see the Lightning end with 126 points around that marker.

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St. Louis Blues G Jordan Binnington The New Andrew Hammond (Aka Hamburglar)?

Jordan Binnington, the 25-year-old, 2011 3rd round pick has been quite the story this season. Binnington came onto the Blues this season when the Blues were in last place and looking to be a guaranteed top-5 draft pick for this years NHL draft.

Well, the one thing the Blues lacked was goaltending and it played a major role in their failures in the early part of the season. Along came Jordan Binnington. Much like the Ottawa Senators and Andrew Hammond aka “The Hamburglar” when he took the league by storm from mid-February to early April in 2015. Hammond was one of the hottest goalies in the league and completely changed the fate of the Senators season during his run. During his run when the Senators had Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner sidelined, Hammond posted a 20-1-2 record, 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Hammond propelled the Senators into the playoffs placing them fourth in the division that year but they eventually lost to Montreal 4-2 in the first round.

Well, it seems Jordan Binnington is on that same type of run. Right now Binnington is 15-2-0 with a 1.61 goals against, .936 save percentage in 18 games started. He earned NHL star of the week accolades just two weeks ago and just earned Rookie of the Month for February.

But, I don’t think the Blues want Binnington to be the next “Hamburglar”. After Hammond had his famed season he went onto post a 7-11-4 record with a 2.65 GAA and .914 save percentage the following season. And since his 2014-15 storied season he has played in 26 games total.

Either way Binnington has helped shoot the Blues back into playoff contention, in the top three in the difficult Central division and now a legitimate playoff team that many will over look. Binnington continues his unbelievable season, he has lost 1 game in the last month and 12 starts. Following his first lost of the season on Jan. 21, Binnington went to win the next nine games he played in. Binnington seems to show an uncanny amount of confidence in net and with the media after and before games. The 25-year-old phenomenon continues to impress and hopefully for the Blues he is not just a one hit wonder.

My Reaction Following John Tavares Return To Long Island

As we all know by now the Islanders beat the Leafs 6-1 and John Tavares return to the Coliseum was a very hostile environment. Islanders fans, nearly all of them did not take Tavares return lightly. The stadium was filled with Islander fans wearing Tavares jersey with his name crossed out or written over his name on the back, the emotion was high but the hatred was even higher. I attended the game in section 234, wearing a Tavares jersey without his name crossed out.

Wearing a Tavares jersey without his name crossed out was essentially equivalent to wearing, pink shoes, a pink hat, pink shirt and pants. You stuck out like a sore thumb and everyone was looking at you and laughing. I may have been better off and safer wearing a Rangers jersey to this game. I had numerous fans come up to me and say “why are you wearing that?” or “get a new jersey he is not on the team anymore” or people talking behind my back saying “you see this non Islander fan wearing a Tavares jersey, what a troll”.

My takeaway from this game though and after hearing a lot of Islander fans opinions. 90% of Islanders fans are clues about the game of hockey, I am convinced a majority of the fan base has never stepped foot on ice, played hockey, or played competitively before in there life. The Islanders fan base is the fan base that picked up hockey when they were about 30+ years old, skated a few times play in the men’s league C division and think they could have made it to the NHL or be a coach if “they got their chance”. I have never been surrounded by so many clueless fans before in my life the lack of hockey knowledge and sense by these fans was embarrassing. The Islanders fan base is the fan base that scream shoot any time the player holds onto the puck for more than 2 seconds in the offensive zone. Say hit anytime someone goes in a corner and cheer for every bump or nudge on the ice and say skate anytime a player looks to be skating at half speed. Section 234 really made me think twice about the Islanders fan base…

More importantly. I understand I only heard/saw a handful of Islanders fans but the more important part of this discussion. The Islanders hatred for John Tavares. Yes, he left, yes “he lied”, yes he did not get traded so you can get assets for him. We get it Islanders fan he said he was going to stay forever but did not. He left the organization but how can you put all the blame on him. I can guarantee if Lou Lamoriello was the GM last season and this was the case, Lou would have made Tavares tell him what he was going to do and figure out his intentions.

The blame has to be partially on Garth Snow he did not find out what Tavares was doing or demand him to give the Islanders an answer therefore he can trade him. Lou would have made Tavares give them an answer. Lou would have said you have until x date to give us an answer or we are moving on from you. The same thing is happening in Columbus right now but you know what the Blue Jackets GM is doing he is not sitting there with his hands tied and slucking about the situation. He is building around Panarin to give him a ton of players to work with, making the Blue Jackets a better team and adding top players therefore if Panarin does walk, they will be able to re-sign Duchene and Dzingel so the walking of Panarin will not be so painful.

I was just completely blown away by the fact that no one, or very few Islanders fan in attendance did not even clap for the tribute video. I was blown away by the fact that Islanders fan chanted “JT sucks” the whole game. The Islanders are so bitter that he “lied” to them. Jeez, I guess these people never got lied to before. They are making it like Tavares killed someone in their family and got away with it. Islanders fan need to move on, 90% of these fans would not be fans of the team if it was not for Tavares. Most of them would not know the game if it was not for Tavares. No one off of Long Island would know what the Islanders are if it was not for Tavares. Also what was even more disgusting was some fans throwing snakes at Tavares while he was warming up and throwing a jersey at him as he was exiting the ice towards the locker room.

Look at the LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown situation both star players, won super bowls with them and just picked up and left. Look at the Ilya Kovalchuk situation, signs a 13 year contract and leaves after like 3 years. The Islanders fan base took a major hit last night and I definitely do not have the same respect for them as I once did.

John Tavares Returns To Nassau Coliseum Thursday Night

The New York Islanders and Islanders have had this day circled on their calendar the moment Tavares left and the schedule was released. Returning to the Barclays Center would not have been as emotional of a return but the Coliseum where Islander fans fell in love with Tavares, where Tavares made his name as an Islander is going to make for a whirlwind of emotions.

Some Islanders fan will have mixed feelings about Tavares return but some will not. Their is going to be a thank you video on the big screen before the game but this is going to make for one hell of a game. I will be sure to capture any video or material I can when I am at the tailgate and at the game and report back the next day. Also, I will be supporting a Tavares jersey (Islanders of course) there to see what others have to say about it.

John Tavares played nine seasons with the Islanders, he was their first round first overall selection in the 2009 draft. Immediately when Tavares came to the Islanders he buried 24 goals for 54 points in 82 games. Catching the eye of every Islanders fan. Tavares went onto to score 24+ goals for the next 8-years of his career in New York. The moment Tavares put up 81 points, 31 goals and 50 assists in 82 games during his third year. The word was out on Tavares and all of Long Island fell in love with him (except some Rangers fan on the island). There are many fond moments of Tavares during his early years on the Island and it was during his early years the Islanders struggled yet Tavares was still a top talent in the league. Tavares was one of, if not the sole reason the Coliseum filled seats during their down years and it will be like that once more as he returns for a game vs the Islanders sporting a Leafs jersey.

But, why could it be that Islanders fans are so bitter about Tavares leaving? I’ve heard some arguments supporting his decision but mostly disgruntled fans saying his legacy as an Islander is tarnished. Without Tavares during those first six years of his career I don’t think anyone off of Long Island would have known what the Islanders were. Tavares spent nine seasons with the Islanders in that time the Islanders posted a 289-251-82 record, appearing in the playoffs three times (1 of them in 2012 was the lockout half year) winning one playoff series and missing the playoffs his first three years and 5 of the 9 seasons total.

Was it really unrealistic to think Tavares deserved better? He muscled through the years from 2009-2013 when the only time the Islanders made the playoffs was because half a season. He dealt with numerous coaching changes, dealt with the move to the Barclays center and being the generational talent he is. That is a lot to deal with and to still continuously show up year after year and be a top-10 NHL player, hats off to Tavares. Also, it is worthy to the note the only Islanders playoff series win in 23 years came in 2015-16 vs the Florida Panthers all due to a John Tavares overtime game-winning goal.

It just seems like the Islanders fans are being extremely bitter about the situation. Almost like when your girlfriend breaks up with after nine years because “you guys are just not fit for each other”, sure be bitter but you don’t need to have a nineteen page report from Tavares describing why he left the Islanders. I think it was pretty clear he wanted to win, he knows he is getting up here in age. Toronto is his home town. It made total sense to me but to some Islanders fans not so much. Plus how can you be bitter at someone who brought you so much joy and happiness, I mean listen to the crowd and the announcer in that video. One of the only good thing Islanders have going for them is that playoff win in 2016.

It’s just a little odd to me a guy that a six time All-Star, nine-time 24+ goal scorer with the Islanders, four time 70+ point player with the Islanders. A big reason some of you even like Islanders and follow the team to this day, a reason some of you even play or played hockey and a big reason why some of your kids play or played hockey. Tavares did so much for Long Island and to say his legacy is tarnished is beyond me. Let the guy be, enjoy the Thank You clip during the game Thursday, if you don’t like him, great but at least be an adult about it Go and cheer the Islanders on and be happy you still have a good team without him and let the walking of Tavares this summer go. I say this because TSN released a video showing Islanders fan talking bad about Tavares and his return to the Coliseum Thursday, only a few fans but if you agree with those people you probably kicked rocks and played outfield in little league.

Western Conference Winners & Losers At The NHL Trade Deadline

The Western Conference has better overall teams right now but they usually are the division that beats the hell out of each other and the Eastern Conference team takes advantage of that. The West this season have four of the 10 top teams in the NHL. All these teams are just trying to one-up each other and a lot of trades occurred within this conference. Almost all of them.

Winners: 

  1. Nashville Predators: A very big day for the Predators, they added the perfect model for playoff hockey and a great third line, second line winger, power play guy in Wayne Simmonds. As well add some a solid two-way forward in Mikael Granlund who will come in and play on the second line right away. The Predators bolster that offensive front end even more now. With the additions of Simmonds, Granlund and Boyle the Predators seem like the Blue Jackets of the West. The Predators are really one piece away from a Cup. They have the best back end in hockey, a solid goaltender and now a very deep front end. I would be shocked not to see this team deep in the playoffs.
  2. Winnipeg Jets: Adding more forward depth in Kevin Hayes immediately makes the Jets a stronger team. With the addition of Hayes it allows for now three producing forward lines. The Jets nine look like, Wheeler, Scheifele, Connor, Hayes, Laine, Ehlers, Little, Perreault and Roslovic cannot be disappointed in that front nine. The Jets are a very good team and are going to find their stride here soon but also the addition of Nathan Beulieu and Matt Hendricks add some depth that will be needed come playoff time.
  3. Vegas Golden Knights: Anytime you add a 30-goal scorer you immediately are a winner and that is what Vegas did. They win the Stone sweepstakes and now make their top-nine very dangerous. Pairing Stone on that first line with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault will be interesting to watch. Which also means that Riley Smith moves to the third line and Cody Eakin and Brandon Pirri, Smith third line is pretty solid. Could have used a minor defenseman move but the Knights add a very good playoff player and an overall great teammate and competitor in Stone that is going to make this team a lot better.
  4. San Jose Sharks: Adding Gustav Nyquist is very big. Nyquist is a veteran forward who can play top-six minutes, power play and is a great play maker. Pairing him with Joe Thornton and Kevin LeBlanc will pay off but Nyquist gets paired with a goal scorer like Kane, Couture, Hertl or Pavelski it could be big for the Sharks. A great move by the Sharks to add Nyquist a guy in his prime time, loads of experience and a versatile player come this push for the playoffs. This will be a trade we look back on and say really helped improve the Sharks roster the 2019 playoff run.

Losers: 

Calgary Flames: After you miss the playoffs and then bounce back and have this year, the Flames should of done something. They added a depth defenseman but that is not going to be the make or break between winning a playoff series vs Winnipeg or Nashville. The Flames are good young team that probably did not want to ruin the chemistry but still adding some depth on the front end would have been big. Adding Kevin Hayes would have been really big, Hayes and Gaudreau have such a chemistry too that you would think it would have been easier to land Hayes. For a team that turned it around like this and did nothing is a little disappointing.

Chicago Blackhawks: Could use a defenseman or bottom-six forward. The team is being held together by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane they will not be able to carry this team for the rest of the season. Perhaps Bowman figured they were a done deal and did not want to risk any assets but the Blackhawks missing the playoffs this season never looks good. I just deem them as losers because they have been playing very well these last few months and could possibly make a playoff push too.

Edmonton Oilers: If you are an Oilers fan this has to be a sign that the GM has thrown in the white flag and just waiting for the off-season. Sure they are a done deal right now but with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on that roster it is tough to see them consistently miss the playoffs and they have not done anything to make this team better or help these superstars in Edmonton out. Very bad showing by Edmonton.

 

Eastern Conference Winners & Losers At The NHL Trade Deadline

The Eastern Conference has been the better of two divisions over the last few years. And looking at the division now with the Tampa Bay Lightning already at the 100 points 62 games into the season, the Eastern Conference has the biggest fish in the sea right now. Which means all the other contending teams have to go out and improve to make themselves compete vs Tampa Bay.

Winners: 

  1. Columbus Blue Jackets: No argument here. The Blue Jackets only have 3 draft picks this draft but they acquire a top-30 NHL player(Matt Duchene), an up and coming forward (Ryan Dzingel) who will need no time to adjust to the NHL as he has proven to be a top-six guy. In addition they add Keith Kinkaid who has had a rough season in New Jersey this year but a lot of that is due to the players in front of him. Never hurts to add a back up goalie. Finally, Adam McQuaid, depth is big in the playoffs and so is physicality and size. The playoffs are a different game and it gets more physical and guys like McQuaid who can kill a penalty and play the number six/seven role on Columbus is a perfect fit. In all honesty, with the way the Penguins and Capitals have looked this season, the Blue Jackets now have a legitimate shot at the Conference finals. As long as the Islanders do not upset them and Sergei Bobrovsky comes to play.
  2. Boston Bruins: The Bruins are well aware that they are not the top-dog in the East anymore. They have to make their roster especially their front end just as good if not better than Tampa Bay and Toronto. They did exactly that by adding Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. Johansson now slots in at line two with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk and Coyle is a third line center. Depth down the middle and on the wing is big. Johansson is not the biggest playoff performer but he is finally getting healthy and could hit his stride here for Boston.
  3. Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres back end is really their biggest concern they lack consistency and depth there is no denying that. Their offense can definitely be more consistent too but the Sabres are losing games 5-4 too often. With the addition of Brandon Montour it really helps bolster this blue line for a possible playoff push but also further down the road. Montour provide his worth at the NHL level last season and has 25 points this season already on pace to surpass his 32 points last season.

Losers: 

  1. Florida Panthers: They are out of a playoff spot perhaps but they needed to do something in my opinion, maybe they are waiting for the off-season but the Panthers have Mike Hoffman, Alexsander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadanov on the front end they should be a better team. Adding some depth up front or a goalie would have been smart but the Panthers again stay still and do not improve and miss the playoffs.
  2. Washington Capitals: Coming off a Stanley Cup and all you add is Carl Hagelin is not going to cut it. Sure, Hagelin has playoff experience and adds some depth but the Capitals have been a disaster on the back end, they needed add some defensive depth and not doing so really hurts them. I don’t think we see this team play the same way they did last playoffs come this playoff run. For sure losers by adding just a bottom-six forward.
  3. Carolina Hurricanes: Currently in a playoff spot, have not made the playoffs in nine years, so much talk about re-location. Give the fans something to look forward too maybe a playoff series that is? Not just the hopes of a playoff spot. The Hurricanes have so much cap room too that they are just not using or waiting to spend on Aho. They did Nino Niederreiter but they need a little more fire power on the front end. A guy like Kevin Fiala could of helped, Tanner Pearson, Derick Brassard, Marcus Johansson. I don’t know for a team that is playing well and has a chance to sneak in and make the playoffs to do nothing is not great. They may have been bounced in the first round but at least making the playoffs gets the fans excited and puts the Hurricanes some what back on the map.

Readdressing The New York Rangers Rebuild

The Rangers are in the first full year technically of their rebuild. Although some could say that they were rebuilding last season in the months of November, they were not officially in a “rebuild” phase at that point. The Rangers went into the 2017-18 season with expectations to make the playoffs and around the 2018 NHL trade deadline is officially when the Rangers went into full rebuild mode.

It has been exactly a year since the start of the Rangers rebuild. Trading Ryan McDonagh, JT Miller, Rick Nash, Nick Holden, Michael Grabner began the rebuild. And now as everything has come full circle and the 2019 NHL trade deadline has come and gone the Rangers have traded two more long-time Ranger players for picks and prospects.

Since the 2018 NHL trade deadline we have seen a number of players leave the Rangers…

  • Ryan McDonagh
  • JT Miller
  • Nick Holden
  • Rick Nash
  • Kevin Hayes
  • Michael Grabner
  • Mats Zuccarello

Five of these seven names were all known as veterans or played a vital role in the success and make up of the Rangers franchise over the last 10 years.

As the Rangers have been a .500 team this season (to the surprise of many) they are still just getting started in this rebuild phase. The Rangers have two guaranteed 1st round picks this season. They also have two guaranteed second round picks.

*** Also have another second round pick but the contingency is if the Lighting win the Stanley Cup the 2nd rounder becomes a first this year if they do not win it sticks as a 2nd. 

Then the Rangers have a third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Bring the total to 10 picks this NHL 2019 draft and looking at another ten in the 2020 draft (1 first, 1 second, 2 thirds, 1 fourth, 1 fifth, 1 sixth, 3 sevenths). Therefore combined between the next two draft years the Rangers have twenty draft picks. And they are definitely not done trading, as next years deadline could feature depth forwards like Jesper Fast, Jimmy Vesey and Vladislav Namestikov to be traded that will potentially yield more draft picks.

Has a rebuild been different for many and most New York Rangers fans? Sure. Can we be upset with the direction the Rangers are going? Probably not, I have seen a lot of discredit and frustration towards Jeff Gorton regarding the Mats Zuccarello deal. But the Rangers received a 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, a 3rd round pick plus Brenden Lemieux for Hayes and Zuccarello. Could we possibly have got more for Zuccarello, perhaps but I doubt Gorton was sitting there denying better deals.

Looking at the Rangers prospects pool may also make some Rangers happier.

Rangers defensive prospects

  • Ryan Lindgren: From the looks of it Lindgren is a physical defenseman, not a lot of offensive upside but is very good and responsible in the d-zone. Has potential to be a four/five defenseman.
  • Rob O’Gara: Another defensive minded defenseman with not a lot of offensive upside that will be a fifth defenseman
  • Libor Hajek: One of the more highly sought out Rangers prospects. Hajek was very successful in the WHL but has not transitioned well to the AHL only collecting 5 points this season. He does have potential to be a number four defenseman.
  • Julius Bergman: Another physical defenseman who has been traded a few times and his stock has taken a toll, although he was a second rounder. Bergman could be a solid NHL defenseman if he stays disciplined.
  • John Gilmour: A defenseman that is one of the Rangers more underrated prospects, a very good skater, strong and has offensive upside. Can play power play and has potential to be a number four defenseman)
  • K’Andre Miller: Rangers first rounder last season and looking to be the Rangers next best defenseman. Miller is a very good two-way defenseman, when he cleans up his play on the defensive side of the puck will be a very good NHL defenseman)
  • Nils Lundkvist: Much like Miller has a lot of upside on the offensive side of the puck, a great skater (probably better than Miller) but needs work on the defensive side of the puck and upside to be a top four defenseman.
  • Nico Gross: Too early to tell as he still playing in the OHL but putting up very solid numbers for a defenseman.

The Rangers have some solid upside on their back end as long as they do not rush the process of Miller, Lundkvist and Lindgren the Rangers just in those three guys have a bright future on the blue line. Gilmour and Hajek are one of the more underrated Rangers prospects that could came out and provide some solid sturdiness to that blue line in a few years.

(My underrated defenseman that will pan out for the Rangers)

Rangers forward prospects:

  • Vinnie Lettieri: If used correctly he can be a great third line forward. We have seen Lettieri at the NHL level and he is not a flashy player, very simple, gets to the dirty areas and plays like a Ryan Strome almost.
  • Ryan Gropp: We have not seen him yet but reports say he has potential to be a top-six forward.
  • Ty Ronning: He has consistently performed better year by year and could be a top-six forward depending on adjustment to NHL game.
  • Vitali Kravstov: Rangers former first round pick, many are hoping to be a solid goal scorer at the NHL level. He is playing in the KHL and the Rangers planned to bring him up this season if he did not get injured.
  • Gabriel Fontaine: Having a better year already in the AHL compared to last season. In 2-3 years he could be a third line forward.
  • Filip Chytil: As we have seen this year Chytil can be a very good forward at the NHL level, consistency may be an issue but it is still very early.
  • Lias Andersson: He’s bounced around a bit and has not been all that successful at the AHL level, my guess is Andersson is at best a third line center at the NHL level.
  • Brendan Lemieux: Newly acquired forward from Winnipeg. He has played 44 games with the Jets this season collecting 9 points. A former 2nd rounder and potential to be a top-six winger.

Kravstov, Chytil will be the focal point of this offense come a few years. Ronning and Gropp if they make it before being traded will be (depending on this years draft) possible second line/more so third line guys. Andersson and Lemieux I could see paired together in two years and Lettieri a fourth line center.

Rangers goalie prospects: 

  • Brandon Halverson: He’s bounced around the ECHL and AHL a bit but at 22-years-old it is still early. A probably fringe starter at best)
  • Igor Shestyorkin: The Rangers 2014 4th round pick has spent his last five years in the KHL for the best team in the league. He has been the best goalie in the KHL for quite sometime, but who knows when the Rangers will see him. Potential to be a number one.
  • Alexander Georgiev: We have seen Georgiev play completely fine at the NHL level the last two years now. A definite potential for number one but a Shestyorkin and Georgiev sounds nice.

I think the upside to this all is that the Rangers prospects are not all off in foreign countries playing professional hockey there or all off at the major junior level. Of there 16 forward/defenseman prospect eight of them are playing together in the AHL right now. It may not mean a lot but the guys are building some chemistry and it is good to see players go through to the system and progress that way instead of potentially throwing them into NHL action too soon.

The Rangers are 27-26-9 this season with 63 points, a lot better than what I thought they were going to be. The Rangers have a lot of upside to their situation right now and they come into the NHL 2019 draft with 10 picks, six coming in the first three rounds. The Rangers will not be a playoff team for another three years I’d have to assume so get used to looking forward to prospects, drafts and the term rebuilding. Plus don’t buy any jerseys because who knows what Jeff Gorton will do.