Top 5

Kyle Clifford

Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford is known for taking — and receiving — some of the most punishing checks in the NHL. He lists teammates Dustin Brown and Matt Greene among the hardest hitters in the game. Who are his hardest-hitting opponents?



  1. Ryane Clowe

  2. Milan Lucic

  3. Niklas Kronwall

  4. Cal Clutterbuck

  5. Alexander Ovechkin



NHL Confidential

Mike RichardsLake of the Woods, known more as a remote wildlife habitat straddling Minnesota and Canada, is also a summer favorite of Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards. The former Flyers captain has become an avid wakeboarder/wakesurfer at the lake when he's not on the ice. "It’s starting to" catch on, Richards said. "It’s relaxing to get out there with all your friends and spend a day on the lake."

JP

Posts Tagged ‘Hockey’

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.

Frozen Four: Was it worth the wait?

ST. PAUL – It took 15 years, but my journey as a college hockey fan had finally reached its destination. I attended my first Frozen Four at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild.

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Previewing the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

2018 stanley cup playoffs

Las Vegas is Spanish for “the gardens.” Its hockey team, the Golden Knights, have already planted the seeds of of a surprising season. Now comes the playoffs, and we’ve predicted a few surprises still to come:

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My time at Kraft Hockeyville USA.

Photo by Ryan Stieg

Photo by Ryan Stieg

The crowd slowly filed into the old but refurbished arena last Tuesday night, eager for the main event. They had been anticipating it for months and after a long process, the big game had finally arrived in Marquette, Michigan.

Most of those fans had been in Lakeview Arena before, some back during its glory days of the eighties and nineties where the thin tin roof held in the noise of the raucous crowds that made opposing teams nervous to face Northern Michigan on the road.

However, Lakeview had seen better days since then. The roof was rickety, the compressor didn’t work properly, the Zamboni needed to be upgraded and then there was the smell. It was the foul stench of sweaty hockey gear that lingered around the rink, surrounding it like an invisible cloud that was inescapable no matter where you ventured.

Improvements to the arena had been needed for years, but money is hard to come by in an isolated small town located in the heart of the Upper Peninsula. To be able to complete all of the tasks that the city hoped to accomplish, it would take years unless it received a massive donation to speed up the process. Last April, that’s exactly what Marquette got.

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NHL conference finals offer fresh blood and the promise of a first-time champion.

Stanley Cup playoffs logoFresh blood: that’s the easiest way to describe the four teams remaining that still have Stanley Cup dreams on their mind. The San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins represent impressive turnover in the NHL’s final four playoff slots with three new teams for 2016.

They are a true representation of the league’s Salary Cap era, but the Conference Finalists in the 2010s were rarely made up of fresh faces. The usual suspects, near dynasties Chicago and Los Angeles, and perennial favorite the New York Rangers in the East, bowed out in the first round.
Replacing Chicago and Los Angeles in the West are two of the most star-crossed franchises in the NHL.

Emerging from the Central Division was the usually disappointing Blues, a squad that has been stuck in neutral over the past few years trying to outlast the Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators in easily the league’s toughest grouping. However, this is St. Louis 2.0, a retooled team that combined its prior size, grit and outstanding blue line with new skilled young offensive weapons.

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My visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the ground floor of history.

Gordie Howe jersey

Gordie Howe is so cool, he got his first and last names on the back of his sweater. This fact is not lost to history thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame. (All photos by J.P. Hoornstra)

TORONTO — My knowledge of the Hockey Hall of Fame prior to today consisted of two facts: One, it’s in Toronto; two, it’s where the Stanley Cup stays when it isn’t out on the road (which is rather often). Safe to say I carried an open mind into Brookfield Place.

So, about Brookfield Place. Let’s start there.

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Saturday surprises as NCAA Tourney begins.

2016 Frozen FourHeading into this past weekend, I had a pretty good idea of how the NCAA brackets would look this year. By the time Saturday night rolled around, my idea went out the window thanks to some topsy-turvy conference tournaments.

As I sat isolated in a corner putting together the Sunday paper, things got wacky. In the WCHA, Ferris State surprised analysts by punching their ticket. The Bulldogs, who barely earned home-ice in the first round, managed to shut out top-seeded Michigan Tech and defeat second-seeded Minnesota State to make the NCAAs. As a result of its loss to Ferris, Tech ended up on the outside looking in after winning their first conference title since 1976. Minnesota State, the WCHA preseason favorite, was also left out, while Northern Michigan was left wondering what might have been. A late-season swoon caused the Wildcats to lose home ice to Ferris in the first round and the fact that the Bulldogs ended up running the table had to be like salt in an open wound.

Across the country in Hockey East, Northeastern ended up surprising analysts as well. The sixth-seeded Huskies upset Notre Dame in the first round, Boston College in the semifinal and UMass-Lowell in the final to earn the automatic bid. It was also Northeastern’s first conference tournament title in 28 years and now that the Huskies have made it, all of the Beanpot teams will be represented this year in the national tourney.

This year’s pairings are interesting. They are the hardest ones that I have had to pick since I started writing about them for this website. So after analyzing stats, putting aside any biases, and turning my head away from an exciting NCAA men’s basketball tournament, I’m ready to make my picks.

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Watch: Connor McDavid toe-drags his way into our hearts.

One day into the “second half” of the NHL season, Connor McDavid reminded us why he was the number one pick last summer by shredding the Columbus Blue Jackets defense for a beautiful breakaway goal. Thanks, Connor.

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