Top 5

Jonas Hiller

Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller was born in Switzerland and is fluent in German, French and English. Here are his Top 5 cities in Europe:


  1. Bern, Switzerland

  2. Prague, Czech Republic

  3. Paris, France

  4. Barcelona, Spain

  5. Rome, Italy

NHL Confidential

James NealTravis Mathew Apparel specializes in casual menswear for on and off the golf course. It’s a favorite of Wayne Gretzky as well as current NHL stars James Neal, Dustin Penner, Scottie Upshall and Ryan Getzlaf. “That laid-back, SoCal athletic vibe resonates with a lot of guys who want to look good during an off-day on the golf course,” said Leif Sunderland, the marketing director for the Seal Beach, Calif.-based retailer. travismathew.com.

JP

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2019 Stanley Cup Final Preview

2019 Stanley Cup playoffs

For two-plus rounds the San Jose Sharks were the story of the 2019 playoffs. The Sharks were certainly a serious contender despite suffering several key injuries during their quest. However, what San Jose will be remembered for most during this postseason is helping rewrite the NHL yearbook. The Sharks caught break after crazy break, including a hand-of-god play in overtime of Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals that gave San Jose a 2-1 series lead against the St. Louis Blues.

Amazingly, that would be the last game San Jose would win. St. Louis added another painful chapter to the Sharks’ playoff history by winning the next three games to return the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 49 years. This Blues team, which sat in last place on Jan. 3, is hardly a fluke. After posting the best record in the NHL in the second half of the season, St. Louis discovered yet another level at the end of its series with San Jose.

The Blues’ finals opponent just happens to be the same team they played back in the spring of 1970—the Boston Bruins. The same Bruins that years ago swept the upstart Blues and won on arguably the most famous goal in NHL history, Bobby Orr’s flying through the air overtime winner.

Boston, six years removed from its last Final appearance, will again be a favorite against the Blues after whipping around upstart Carolina like a ragdoll in a four-game Conference finals sweep. However, the time around the margins should prove to be extremely tight, with little separating either team. I think St. Louis will match up even better with Boston than San Jose, who I picked to reach to the finals and face off against the Bruins.

Stanley Cup Final Preview

Boston Bruins (First Round: Defeated Toronto 4-3; Second Round: Defeated Columbus 4-2; Third Round: Defeated Carolina 4-0)
vs. St. Louis Blues (First Round: Defeated Winnipeg 4-2; Second Round: Defeated Dallas 4-3; Third Round: Defeated San Jose 4-2)

The Bruins are playing their best hockey of the season, even better than during their 19-game unbeaten streak at the beginning of 2019. Goaltender Tuukka Rask (12-5-0, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage) is extremely locked in, and the clear leader for the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player. Rask, who got hot toward the end of round one against Toronto, has allowed a remarkable total of just one goal in the three clinching games for the Bruins, earning two shutouts. After a slow start against Columbus in the second round, Boston’s top line is now hitting on all cylinders. Patrice Bergeron (team-leading eight playoff goals), David Pastrnak (15 points) and Brad Marchard (team-leading 18 points) dominated Carolina. The trio provided the exclamation point on the Eastern Conference Final, scoring all four goals in Boston’s 4-0 clinching Game 4 win. The Bruins’ forward depth, including trade deadline acquisitions Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, and defense led by Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy, have been nearly as good as the top line.

If there is a concern for the Bruins, it would be one of two: first, captain Zdeno Chara missed Game 4 against Carolina due to injury (he is expected to be at full strength). Second, Boston had a massive layoff after knocking out Carolina on May 16—11 days before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Winning a Cup for veteran David Backes, a former captain and longtime member of the Blues, might be enough to engage the rusty Bruins right away on Monday night.

Much like Boston, St. Louis is peaking at the right time. The Blues played great hockey on a tough road to the Conference Final, but found another gear against the Sharks after Erik Karlsson’s hand-aided overtime winner in Game 3 marked the turning point. St. Louis allowed just two goals from that point forward, winning three games in dominating fashion with rookie goaltending sensation Jordan Binnington (12-7-0, 2.36 G.A.A., .914 S.P.) leading the way. The extremely deep Blues utilized players like Tyler Bozak, Oskar Sundqvist and hometown hero Patrick Maroon in knocking off Winnipeg and Dallas in the first two rounds. Their stars started to shine against San Jose. Sniper Vladimir Tarasenko now has eight goals and 13 points in the postseason. Ryan O’Reilly has 14. The Blues’ offensive catalyst is Jaden Schwartz, a talented 26-year-old who bounced back from an 11-goal regular season to lead the Blues with 12 goals and 16 points. Even with Tarasenko, O’Reilly and Schwartz all playing well, St. Louis’ strength remains its blue line. The Blues’ top six of Alex Pietrangelo (14 points), Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn and Robert Bortuzzo are all terrific. At times they absolutely stifled the Sharks, Stars and Jets.

This should be a terrific final round. Little separates the two teams. Boston has a slight edge as far as top-end talent up front and in goal. St. Louis has a slight edge as far as top-end talent on its blue line and in its overall size and physical play. Each team has solid depth and a fourth line playing great. Each team is battle-tested after tough roads to the finals. The only clear edge in the Stanley Cup Finals is experience: Boston’s core is making its third finals appearance in eight years, while this is St. Louis’ first trip in 49 years. That is the edge that I think will make the difference as Boston will win the Stanley Cup in seven exciting but exhausting games.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals Preview

2019 Stanley Cup playoffs

The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are setting up to have few rivals as far as unpredictability and tight match-ups.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Division Finals Preview

2019 Stanley Cup playoffs

Remember those fearless predictions about the Stanley Cup playoffs I made about the Stanley Cup playoffs, just two weeks ago? That bracket might as well get tossed through the shredder. The top seeds in both conferences, Tampa Bay and Calgary, won exactly one first-round game between them. All four division winners, including last year’s Stanley Cup champion Washington and perennial contender Nashville, are out. Pittsburgh, Winnipeg and Vegas, all contenders with recent long playoff runs, are no longer alive.

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Frozen Four preview: Welcome back to Buffalo

After 16 years, the Frozen Four is finally returning to Buffalo.

Some might say it’s been far too long for college hockey’s main event to return to upstate New York.

Minnesota fans, who I’m sure have fond memories of the city, probably feel the same way. After all, the Golden Gophers won their second straight national championship in Buffalo back in 2003. However, Minnesota won’t be returning this week. It ended up getting bounced in the Big Ten Tournament last month and missed the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

2019 Stanley Cup playoffs

After an 82-game National Hockey League (NHL) regular season, one team stands alone as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup: the record-tying Tampa Bay Lightning, who finished with 62 wins and ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy.

Fortunately or unfortunately, two of the Lightning’s biggest rivals, Boston and Toronto, will face each other in the first round. In the Metropolitan Division five teams separated by just six points all made the postseason, including the defending champion Washington Capitals. The Capitals are a dangerous squad again this year, as are the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the Cup in 2016 and 2017.

In the West, the defending conference champion Vegas Golden Knights lost a bit of luster after their incredible ride one year ago. Strong arguments can be made for six of the eight squads — Calgary, San Jose, Nashville, Winnipeg and St. Louis, as well as the Golden Knights, to emerge and reach the Finals.

Despite the balance out West, the 2019 Stanley Cup is Tampa Bay’s to lose. However, if something goes wrong along the way for the Lightning this postseason, there are plenty of teams ready to swoop in to stake their claim for hockey’s Holy Grail.

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NCAA hockey preview: It’s going to be a wild season

NCAA men's ice hockey

It’s that time of year again.

The puck dropped on the college hockey season this weekend. After months of waiting, I can say that it’s about time.

I’m guessing that those of you still reading my hockey columns after all these years are probably thinking along the same lines. I didn’t write a season preview last year. I got too bogged down with things at work and by the time I found some free time, the season was two weeks in and I felt like dispensing my predictions at that point would be kind of pointless.

However, this year I decided to do it – and that was due to popular demand. Family members, relatives and friends have wondered why I don’t write as much for this site anymore. The primary reason is that life has gotten a little crazy, especially with my wife going back to school full-time. When I went back to Minneapolis a couple weeks ago, some people told me that I needed to get back to writing this stuff on a regular basis and that they look forward to reading them. After hearing that, I realized that I needed to do it again this year. I’m glad I did.

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31 NHL Team Previews in 31 Words or Less

Steven Stamkos

Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning look up to no one in 2018-19.

2017-18 saw the long awaited coronation of Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, as well as the amazing breakout success of the Vegas Golden Knights. 2018-19 promises to be another terrific season, with several teams primed to take a run at the Cup. Here are my predictions for all 31 NHL teams this season, in just 31 words or less!

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Memo to hockey players: it’s okay to use the word ‘I.’

ESPN.com’s Emily Kaplan wrote a fascinating story today about a linguistic quirk among hockey players: how they never refer to themselves in the first person in interviews. It’s a quick read, do yourself a favor and go check it out.

I’ve observed this quirk myself over the years, but never taken time to ask players about it. Kaplan’s piece left one of my longstanding questions unanswered, too.

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2018 Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

2018 stanley cup playoffs

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2018 NHL Second Round Playoff Preview

2018 stanley cup playoffs

The first round of the NHL playoffs managed to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Now all of the eight remaining teams  Nashville, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Vegas or San Jose – are legitimate threats to win another 12 games. I still like a Nashville versus Tampa Bay final, with the Predators winning their first title, but two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh is still dangerous, as are the amazing upstart Golden Knights, who have yet to lose a playoff game.

Atlantic Division Final

1. Tampa Bay (54-23-5—113 points) vs. 2. Boston (50-20-12—112)

Tampa Bay looked very strong in an opening round five-game decision over the overmatched New Jersey Devils. Yet, for whatever reason the Lighting (who finished in first-place in the Eastern Conference) are flying a bit under the radar. The Bolts balance exceptional top-end talent like Nikita Kucherov (five goals and 10 points in the opening round) and Steven Stamkos (six points), who both had great starts to the playoffs, while Andrei Vasilevskiy did his part in goal. Now Tampa Bay will face a much tougher task in Boston, and especially the Bruins’ top-line. Victor Hedman will likely log a ton of ice time and his play along with Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev should determine if the Lightning move on or not.

Boston’s top line of Patrice Bergeron (eight points in six games), Brad Marchand (nine points) and David Pastrnak (playoff-leading 13 points), were the difference in a classic seven-game series win over Toronto. When that line played, the Bruins out-matched the Maple Leafs. Goaltender Tuukka Rask had some rough patches but played well most of the time. Meanwhile, the Bruins’ solid defensive game, anchored by Zdeno Chara alongside Torey Krug (nine points) and rookie Charlie McAvoy, were exposed a bit by Toronto’s speed. Facing a much deeper Lightning squad will test this defensive group’s resolve.

There is not much separating the Atlantic Division’s top two teams offensively or in goal. Therefore this series will likely come down to the blue lines. I think Tampa Bay has a slight edge here, and a slight edge in overall depth. The Lightning also have a true No. 1 defenseman capable of matching up against Boston’s top line. Therefore, I like Tampa Bay to win this series in seven games.

Metropolitan Division Final

1. Washington (49-26-7—105) vs. 2. Pittsburgh (47-29-6—100)

Washington got off to a terrible start to the playoffs and seemed primed for an upset at the hands of Columbus. Down two games to none, coach Barry Trotz replaced Philipp Grubauer with Braden Holtby in goal, and the Capitals woke up on the road. Defenseman John Carlson (nine points) stood out in slowing down the Blue Jackets, while Washington’s big three of Alexander Ovechkin (team-leading five goals), Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom were terrific.

With its offense in high gear, Pittsburgh rolled past Philadelphia in six games. Though Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin got hurt and will miss time in the next round, the combination of Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel were on fire, each posting six goals and 13 points. Matt Murray was fresh in goal, but had a pair of rough games against the Flyers. He and the Penguins’ defense, anchored by Kris Letang, will need to be better to slow down Washington.

For the third straight year Washington and Pittsburgh will face off with the Metropolitan Division on the line. Each team features roster that’s a little bit thinner this time around, and the Capitals are a little weaker on defense. With the Penguins banged up a little bit, this will be Washington’s best shot to finally break through. I think a strong series by Murray and the Crosby-led offense will be enough to carry the Penguins through in seven games.

Central Division Final

1. Nashville (53-18-11—117) vs. 2. Winnipeg (52-20-10—114)

The Nashville Predators needed six games to dispatch young and determined Colorado. Goalie Pekka Rinne had his hands full against the Avalanche’s top snipers, and will need to be much better against the deeper Winnipeg Jets. The positives to take out of round one: top scorer Filip Forsberg (team-leading four goals) was brilliant, and Nashville’s depth on offense shone through as third-liners Austin Watson and Colton Sissons led the team with seven points. The Predators’ defense, led by Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi, played well too and will likely contribute even more offensively.

The Winnipeg Jets bull-rushed the undermanned Minnesota Wild in a convincing five-game series. The size and strength of the Jets was on full display as Dustin Byfuglien (team-leading five assists) and Mark Scheifele (team-leading five points) each had great series, as did top scorers Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine. On defense, Tyler Myers and Byfuglien were great, and Winnipeg showed solid depth at every position. The team’s X-factor, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, showed no signs of let-up after a great season.

Featuring the two top teams in the NHL during the regular season, this should be a titanic second-round series. Winnipeg proved it was legit as a Stanley Cup contender, despite not making the playoffs a year ago. Nashville was hardly perfect in the first round, but did not need to be. The question is whether the Predators can turn on the switch in round two, which I expect them to do. Nashville outlasts Winnipeg in seven epic games.

Pacific Division

1. Vegas (51-24-7—109) vs. 3. San Jose (45-27-10—100)

Though Vegas proved it was for real in the first round, Los Angeles hardly put up a fight with the exception of a double-overtime loss in Game 2. The experienced Kings were completely stifled by the Golden Knights’ defense led by Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt. Vegas also struggled to score, but William Karlsson got a big tally in Game 4. The Golden Knights rolled four lines relentlessly. Marc-Andre Fleury, an experienced goaltender, makes Vegas dangerous. He was absolutely brilliant in round one, giving up just three goals.

San Jose embarrassed a potential contender in Anaheim, dumping the Ducks in four short games, including an 8-1 blowout in Game 3. The Sharks skated circles around the Ducks and had enough brawn, thanks in part to newcomer Evander Kane, to match up physically with Anaheim. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl all played well, while the unheralded defense led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic held its ground. Martin Jones, a possible question mark going into the playoffs, was great in goal.

Two well-rested squads will go head-to-head with the Pacific Division playoff crown on the line. San Jose will have the clear experience edge and presents considerably more depth than Los Angeles. Vegas completely shut down Los Angeles, but the question mark is whether the Golden Knights and Fleury can withstand a much more game offensive club. Sharks knock off Vegas in six games.

The Rest of the Playoffs

East

Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh in five games.

West

Nashville over San Jose in five games.

Stanley Cup Finals

Nashville over Tampa Bay in six games.

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