Steven Stamkos’ impending free agency has the NHL in a fervor. Sabres fans should embrace the fun. (Getty Images)
– Evan Sally (@Evan_Sally)
Last week, one of the most, if not the most, highly respected hockey journalists out there sent Sabres fans into a bit of a frenzy. When TSN’s Bob McKenzie said Buffalo could be the one of the best options for free agent-to-be Steven Stamkos, Sabres fans got very excited and understandably so. McKenzie has a reputation like no other, and even though the video clip that traveled around Twitter like wild fire was less of an official report and more of his opinion, his reputation in the hockey universe gave it a lot of weight. It’s been reported since the news of Stamkos’ disillusionment with the Tampa Bay organization that his ultimate goal would be to go to his hometown Maple Leafs, in a LeBron James-ish type maneuver, and lead them to championship glory. To hear that maybe the Sabres could be a monkey wrench in our rival’s plan made the McKenzie video clip that much more stirring. An opportunity to send the Sabres rebuild to light speed while slowing down the Leafs? Where do I sign up? I assumed this was a sentiment shared by most, if not all, of Sabres fans. Continue reading →
– The Hard Foul Sports Team
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
This has the potential to steal the show of the two final series in the NHL and NBA. That’s right, the NHL actually may be able to steal the show. Now, granted there won’t be any dueling television nights, but the bottom line is this series will have sports fans buzzing. The Hawks have the star power. We all know what Toews and Kane brings on the front end and what Keith and Seabrook will provide the back end. Look for Patrick Sharp to try and continue to raise his trade stock (the Hawks are in serious cap trouble come this offseason) and Marian Hossa to show he still has gas left in the tank. Tampa is extremely skilled, but if Steven Stamkos doesn’t show up for a game or two, you are now relying on too much youth and inexperience to lead this team.
Who wins: Chicago in 6 Continue reading →
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Thoughts on the NHL Eastern Conference Finals: Lightning vs Rangers
Lightning lead the series 2-1
The Triplets Coming Out Party
Thinking about the Tampa Bay Lightning usually conjures an image of Steven Stamkos. He’s their undisputed best player, their talisman, their leader. As he goes, so do the fortunes of the Lightning. And yet even though he’s collected 4 points in the first 3 games of the series, he’s been overshadowed by the play of the line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, who’ve supplied 8 of the Lightning’s 13 goals so far this round. Lightning coach John Cooper has dubbed them “The Triplets” because of their similar size (small), speed (very fast) and incredible skill level. Their speed in particular gave the Rangers fits, opening holes and causing odd man rushes throughout the game with a devastating forecheck. Game 3 was particularly evident, as they combined for 7 points and Kucherov scored the game winner in OT to give the Lightning a 6-5 win in a wild game. The Kucherov goal was a beauty. He came through the neutral zone with speed on the right side, attacked the slot in front of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, was surrounded by 4 defenders that had no idea what to do with him, and he fired a shot past Lundqvist. Each of them are capable of outstanding individual efforts like this and they also play so well together, making them extremely dangerous. The Triplets line combined with Stamkos has made the Tampa offense a joy to watch if you’re a neutral fan. And if you’re a Rangers fan? They’ve been a nightmare.
King Henrik Dethroned
Henrik Lundqvist is arguably the best goaltender in the NHL. Henrik Lundqvist has not played like it the past two games. He’s given up 12 goals in games 2 and 3 combined, the same amount he gave up in the ENTIRE last series against the Capitals. In Game 2 he gave up 6 goals on 26 shots for a paltry .760 save percentage. I can’t imagine how concerning that must be for Rangers fans who are used to Lundqvist being their rock when all else fails. New York’s defensive collapse can’t just be blamed on goaltending however, they’ve been a mess in their own zone. Particularly in Game 3, when they gave up 40 shots, and were routinely victimized by the speed of the Lightning. While the Rangers offense did get going in Game 3 scoring 5 goals, Dan Boyle, Ryan McDonagh (who were each -2 in Game 3) and the rest of the Rangers D-core have to get their house in order before Game 4 or else they’ll be heading back to Madison Square Garden on the brink of elimination. The Rangers cannot afford to waste great offensive games from a team that’s scored 3 or more goals in a game only 4 times in 15 playoff games so far.
Posted in evansally, NHL
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