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

Brad RichardsonVancouver Canucks forward Brad Richardson, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche, recommends John Elway's restaurant in suburban Denver. "It’s the best prime rib I’ve ever had," Richardson says. "Have it with the creamed corn."

JP

Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Cup’

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.

Predicting the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Stanley Cup playoffs logoIf the Los Angeles Kings capture the Stanley Cup, they will have won it three times in five years. The San Francisco Giants accomplished a similar feat in baseball. Call it a “California dynasty.”

Read on to see Jason Karnosky’s complete predictions through to the Final:

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Debating the meaning of ‘dynasty’ in today’s NHL: Do the Blackhawks measure up?

2015 Chicago BlackhawksMy inner cynic and my inner romantic were going after each other pretty good tonight after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.

(Congratulations, Chicago.)

(Now back to me.)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman humorously declared “you have a dynasty” tonight, and my inner cynic practically choked on its sarcasm-flavored Kool-Aid.

Thanks, Mr. Commissioner. Where can I pick up the keys to my dynasty?

Oh, God. Really? Is this the sort of dynasty I should have a doctor look at?

Does this dynasty come with french fries? I’d like to super-size it.

Here’s the thing: It was Bettman who fought to institute a salary cap in 2004. It was a salary cap that forced the Blackhawks to jettison some of their best players (Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and ultimately Antti Niemi) after winning the first Cup of their alleged dynasty back in 2010. You want a real dynasty? Show me a Chicago Blackhawks team that didn’t have to eject half of its young core, then pin its hopes on a group of six players, then hope it guessed the right six, then hope those six stayed healthy, then hope the salary cap remained stable enough that it didn’t have to trade any of the six over the next half-decade.

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The UND proposed mascot list is fascinating — and the beginning of an era.

When I was a student at the University of North Dakota, the NCAA passed its resolution banning “hostile and abusive” school nicknames. When it happened, I, like many others, was outraged — not because of the name change, but because of the hypocrisy of the organization. Some schools were allowed to keep their logos, mascots and nicknames, while others were not.

Florida State, who has a white guy dress up like a Seminole and run around on a horse with a flaming spear, could keep its name. North Dakota, which doesn’t have a costumed mascot, could not.
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2015 NHL playoff predictions: Round 2 and beyond.

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs saw my original 2015 Stanley Cup pick, St. Louis, collapse at the hands of Minnesota, while my choice in the east, Tampa Bay, essentially stole its first round series from Detroit. However, I did correctly predict both series in two of the four divisions and five of eight series overall. Considering the parity in the current NHL, 62.5% isn’t too bad! Take out the coin flip Central Division, which pitted four potential Cup winners, and I batted 83%.

With how impressive Minnesota was in the first round, it would be easy to jump on the Wild’s bandwagon as this year’s new Cup threat, but I think I’ve seen the light on Anaheim. The Ducks are not the NHL’s best team, or even close to the most analytically sound team, but they are also not playing in the stacked Central or Metropolitan Divisions; instead they enjoy a spot in a surprisingly weak Pacific Division. For that reason I think they will be the last team standing when the dust clears on the 2015 postseason.
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Last team in, last team standing.

Providence men's ice hockey

Even before they won, Providence College shouldn’t have been considered such a huge underdog against Boston University. (Photo courtesy Friars.com)

The puck was in his glove and then it was in the net. Just like that, one team took control of the game, while the other was left shaking its heads and wondering what just happened.

Last week’s NCAA National Championship game was something else.

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Ten years later, awakening the lost NHL season: Part II

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two pieces hypothesizing what might have happened if the 2004-05 season hadn’t been cancelled.

It is September 2004. NHL training camps have opened for business. The surprising Tampa Bay Lightning are the defending champions. Hope springs eternal across Canada, where the national Stanley Cup drought has reached a seemingly interminable ten seasons. Across the Detroit river, the Red Wings are looking strong. That’s been the case most years of late — every year from 1996 to 2000 the Wings either won the Cup or were eliminated by the Avalanche — but no, this season is special.

A miraculous 11th-hour bargaining session allowed the NHL to avoid a work stoppage, ensuring a full 82-game season. The miracle was in the details. The players’ union agreed to an unprecedented salary-cap structure, taking a small step toward achieving competitive balance among markets large and small. The owners agreed to tweak the rules to improve the style and speed of the game. The era of so-called “clutch and grab” hockey is dead. Speedy skaters can speed without fear of mutilation at the hands of gargantuan defenders. The game is faster and more exciting. More scoring could be in store.

What transpires is only partly predictable.
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Ten years later, awakening the lost NHL season.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two pieces hypothesizing what might have happened if the 2004-05 season hadn’t been cancelled.

What if I told you that the 2004-05 lockout was just a nightmare and didn’t actually happen?

No, I’m not making an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, although it’s tempting. At this point, there’s a new documentary about anything remotely significant.

This NHL season will mark the 10th anniversary of the 2004-05 lockout, and I figured it would be fun to imagine what might have occurred if the NHL had the common sense not to cancel an entire season by virtue of labor strife. In case you all forgot, in 2005 the Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded for the first time since 1919. A Spanish Flu epidemic swept across the globe in 1919 and forced the cancellation of the playoffs. That’s a more valid premise than a ridiculous labor dispute.

Anyway, my point isn’t to force anyone to remember the pain of a lost season. It’s to wonder who would have hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2005.
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The Rangers and Kings return to the Finals, and this time it’s different.

2014SCchampionsTwenty years is a long time. It didn’t hit me until this weekend that’s how long it’s been since the Rangers went to the Stanley Cup Finals. I was 10 years old when that happened and although I was somewhat pulling for Vancouver (I liked their logo, and we all did dumb things when we were younger), I remember being happy for New Yorkers when the Rangers won. The celebration was massive. ESPN — ESPN! — showed the victory parade. I’ve only rarely seen a city so grateful to win a title.

That 1994 squad was led by center Mark Messier, defenseman Brian Leetch and goalie Mike Richter and its top-to-bottom depth was impressive. New York ended up winning the President’s Trophy that season and set a team record for points in a season. After easily dismissing the Islanders and Capitals, the Rangers had to gut out a memorable seven-game series against the Devils. Once the Finals rolled around, New York was in control before teasing the Canucks with the possibility of a Game 7 upset at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won the game 3-2 and the series 4-3.
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Why the Boston Bruins will beat the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

The Bruins-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Final matchup has storylines galore. It’s an Original Six matchup, the first games between an Eastern and Western Conference team all year, and pits the season-long favorite from the West against the gritty underdogs from the East.

Here’s a look at how the two teams got here, how they stack up, and what to watch for.
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