Kukla's Korner Hockey
Time to catch up.
If the playoffs started today, which team would be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup?
Craig Custance: It's the Washington Capitals. Without a doubt. I'm not letting franchise history that has nothing to do with this current group cloud reality. This is the best team in the NHL. They're deep in every position. They have a franchise center in Nicklas Backstrom turning in a Hart-worthy season. They have a game-breaker in Alex Ovechkin. Yes, they have the burden of disappointing playoffs from the past, but they're good enough to overcome it. The San Jose Sharks had to deal with the same issues and that didn't stop them from advancing to the Stanley Cup finals last year. I expect a similar and better breakthrough for the Capitals this spring.
Scott Burnside: It's been fashionable for many springs to pick the Capitals to win their first Stanley Cup. Hasn't happened. In fact, as is often repeated, since Ovechkin joined the team in 2005-06, the team has never advanced beyond the second round. Shocking but true. That streak ends this spring. And for me, it doesn't matter whether they finish first in the Metropolitan Division or not. Too deep. Too ready. The fact they will likely earn the Presidents' Trophy for a second straight year is just further reason to pick the Caps. But I'd pick them regardless.
continue for more opinions....
from Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star,
The rise of analytics — in particular the statistic known as Corsi, which measures five-on-five shot attempts — owes a great deal to the fact that the best teams by that measure typically make the playoffs.
The NHL even says so in the introduction to what it calls Enhanced Stats and Shot Attempts Percentage Close, another term for Corsi.
But not this year.
Some of the best Corsi teams are not making the playoffs, starting with the leader: the Los Angeles Kings, who sit at 54.24 per cent. That is to say the Kings, for every 100 shot attempts (including blocks and misses), typically outshoot opponents 54-46. In other words, they carry the play.
from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times,
As much resilience as the Lightning has shown recently, this looked pretty darn bleak.
Like season-over bad.
With any loss potentially crippling Tampa Bay's perilous playoff hopes, it fell behind 4-1 midway through Monday's showdown with the Blackhawks. The Lightning's No. 1 goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, had already been pulled and re-inserted into the game. The large portion of red-clad Chicago fans drowned out the sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena.
Cooper summed up the feeling perfectly: "This (stinks).'"
But the Lightning didn't sink. It surprised — again —roaring back for a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over Chicago. Tampa Bay's third consecutive come-from-behind victory was a significant swing in the standings. It pulled the Lightning one point ahead of the Islanders and within one point of Boston for the final wild-card spot with seven games to go.
"We didn't quit," Cooper said. "We just kept hanging around, hanging around, hanging around."
Said wing Yanni Gourde: "We knew we could come back. We've got the firepower."
Gourde, a rookie who was in the ECHL just a few years ago, was the unlikely hero, scoring the overtime winner on a breakaway with just under a minute to go.
Watch the game highlights below...
Home Team in Caps
Detroit 4, CAROLINA 3 (OT)
BUFFALO 4, Florida 2
Nashville 3, NY ISLANDERS 1
TAMPA BAY 5, Chicago 4 (OT)
ST. LOUIS 4, Arizona 1
CALGARY 4, Colorado 2
LIGHTNING MOUNT COMEBACK, CLOSE GAP IN EASTERN CONFERENCE
Jonathan Drouin (2-0—2) and Anton Stralman (1-1—2) combined for three goals in a span of 4:39 in the second period and Yanni Gourde scored the first overtime goal of his career (15 GP) to help the Lightning overcome a 4-1 deficit and earn their third straight victory.
* Tampa Bay (37-29-9, 83 points) moved within a point of Boston (39-30-6, 84 points) and two points of Toronto (35-24-15, 85 points) – whom they will visit on April 4 and 6, respectively – for third place in the Atlantic Division.
* Nikita Kucherov (0-2—2) registered multiple points for the fifth straight game (7-4—11). Kucherov (38-42—80) has recorded career-highs in goals, assists and points, and moved into a share of fourth in League scoring with Brad Marchand (37-43—80). Elias notes that Kucherov is the first Lightning player with five straight multi-point games since Steven Stamkos accomplished the feat from Feb. 9 - March 2, 2010 (5-6—11 in 5 GP).
* Per Elias, Tampa Bay overcame a three-goal deficit to win for the first time since Nov. 6, 2011 (4-3 W vs. FLA).
* Victor Hedman (0-3—3) recorded three assists for the fourth time this season to reach the 50-assist plateau for the first time in his career (15-50—65).
The NHL explanation.
from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,
Some of these stars will move on due to salary cap restraints, younger talent and decreased playoff hopes. Others will be retained at any cost (but, y'know, within reason) and subjected to rounds of Twitter rumours.
The Capitals, Sharks and Flames, in particular, are about to face some tough choices.
Here is a look at the NHL's Top 17 unrestricted free agents of 2017, plus a list of the other household names whose next job is on the line.
more, Kevin Shattenkirk is #1 on the list followed by T.J. Oshie...
NEW YORK (March 27, 2017) – Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen and Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending March 26.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation remains hopeful for an NHL Olympic resolution but again made it clear that skipping the tournament in South Korea in 2018, then coming back to play in Beijing in 2022, is not the way to go.
"We have previously stated that the NHL can't just pick and choose which Olympics to participate in," Rene Fasel said in a statement to ESPN.com from the IIHF on Monday. "Our discussions are focused on going to Pyeongchang, and any discussion about Beijing can wait until this has been settled.
"Building ice hockey's profile in Asia is one of the top mandates of my current presidential term. There is a rising interest in the sport within Korea, and we would miss a huge opportunity to grow the game if we didn't have a best-on-best showcase in this country."
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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