Cleat Geeks

Winged Wheel Watch: Expansion Draft Possibilities

With the Stanley Cup playoffs and the 2016-17 season officially in the rear view mirror we now sit less than a week away from the NHL expansion draft, where the Vegas Golden Knights will officially take shape. The season was riddled with speculation of which players from each team would head west for the 2017-18 season.

The case was no different in Hockeytown. GM Ken Holland confirmed on Wednesday that the Red Wings will take the approach of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, leaving the rest of his eligible players vulnerable.

So who will stay and who will be offered up for the taking? Let’s dive right in.

Exemptions

Not every player on the Red Wings roster is eligible for Vegas’ taking. Rules of the expansion draft state that any player with two or fewer years of experience at the professional level (AHL or NHL) are exempt. Meaning Dylan Larkin is not eligible and will be able to remain on the roster without taking up a protected spot. Also protected are key pieces from the Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins, including Tyler Bertuzzi, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Joe Hicketts, among others.

Additionally, all players with no-move clauses are required to be protected, no that it technically falls under “exemptions.” This means that Frans Nielsen will be required to take one of the seven forward spots that the team can protect.

Forwards

Protect: C Henrik Zetterberg, RW Anthony Mantha, C Andreas Athanasiou, LW Tomas Tatar, RW Gustav Nyquist, C Frans Nielsen, LW Tomas Nosek

Zetterberg is coming off of one of the greatest seasons of his career. Couple his eye for setting up goals with his leadership and he’s essential to the start of the rebuilding process. Nielsen has to be protected, so there’s no way around that. Mantha is a future cornerstone of this franchise with the potential to be a 40-goal scorer, something the Wings haven’t seen in a while. Exposing him to the expansion draft is senseless and would be cause for dismissal of the entire front office. Same with Athanasiou, who has the potential to be a perennial 20-goal scorer. Tatar is the only proven scorer the Wings have right now. At 26, he’s still young but has enough experience to serve in a leadership role with the rise of Larkin, AA, and Mantha. Nyquist, while he hasn’t scored goals like many expected, has proven to be a fantastic setup man akin to Henrik Zetterberg, which can serve well down the line as Z continues to wage war with Father Time. And let’s not forget that he has goal-scoring ability, regardless of whether or not it has shown over the last two years. The 24-year old Nosek, though he’s seen extremely limited time at the NHL level, has potential. Though his scoring ability is yet to flourish he plays at both ends of the ice, as evidenced by his +/- numbers over his time in Grand Rapids.

This would mean exposing Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan, and Luke Glendening, among others. Helm is a no-brainer, with injury issues hampering him and limiting his playing time over the last few seasons. Whether or not Vegas will gamble on him because of that, coupled with his age, is yet to be seen. Glendening is reliable but also expendable. With a contract extension kicking in next season he would be a good candidate to get some salary off of the books.

Photo By: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As much as I like Sheahan, it’s sensible to expose him. But it’s a win-win, whether he stays or goes. If Vegas takes him they acquire a young forward with the potential to be a solid second or third-line scorer and the Wings dump salary. If they don’t the Wings have the potential of dealing with a bounce-back from their 25-year old center. Abdelkader may be the most surprising name here, but he makes sense to be exposed. Granted, a six-year albatross of a contract presents an immediate challenge, as do injury problems that have nagged the Wings’ alternate captain. But he’s a capable player with scoring ability and grit that would serve Vegas well, albeit at a price. The Wings would do well to get his salary off of the books if they can, as they have little cap space as it stands right now.

Defense

Protect: Nick Jensen, Danny DeKeyser, Xavier Ouellet

Ouellet was one of the more reliable defensemen for the Red Wings last season. At only 23 he will be an important presence on the blue line looking ahead. DeKeyser, though pricey, is entering into the prime of his career and has quietly been reliable. Jensen is another solid blue line defensive presence that has offensive capability.

This leaves Mike Green, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Ryan Sproul exposed. Green is going into the last year of his $6 million a year contract. While he’s the best offensive blue liner the Wings have there’s no reason they keep him beyond his current contract. They could trade him at the deadline in 2018, but what if his production dips and they are unable to fetch any favorable return? Getting the money off of the books would be a huge step forward and would allow for more regular playing time for someone like Robbie Russo of even Joe Hicketts if he develops quickly. Kronwall is a shell of his former self. Once the notorious heavy-hitter on the back end, Kronner is now injury-prone and cannot play as physically as he once did. At 35, his age and injury history will make him a tough, if not impossible, sell, but it’s huge if the Wings get rid of his $4.75 million salary.

Ericsson is a huge body but he never plays up to his size, which has severely limited him. He’s a bigger cap hit and is tied up until the 2019-2020 season. Throw in injury problems that have arisen and you have another tough sell for Vegas, but they have nothing to gain or lose from exposing him. Sproul is a young gun with a cannon slapshot but he’s not the best presence on the blue line among the Wings’ crop of defensive prospects. He’s the odd man out of the bunch. He’s a promising piece for Vegas. The Wings will benefit should Vegas pass on him, but they shouldn’t lose sleep over the potential of losing him, either.

Goaltenders

Protect: Petr Mrazek

Mrazek had an off year in 2016-17, but there’s no reason to panic about it. We’ve seen what he’s capable of doing and it’s incredible. The Wings will bank on the old Mrazek returning, but it’s not a bad situation to be in.

This leaves Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau on the outside. Howard is unlikely to be selected, given his age, salary, and injury history. Howard looked much like his old self during many of his appearance in 2016-17, which could hold value for Vegas if they want to add a veteran netminder to work with a potential younger player. Coreau is tough to leave out. He’s a huge presence in the net at 6’6″ and he’s agile given his size. He looked very good during his time at the NHL level last season and was a key piece to the Griffins’ Calder Cup run. I’d love for the Wings to keep him but there can be only one. And I put my personal trust in Mrazek at this Point. Vegas would do well to take him but it’s still unlikely they take him, given the crop of goaltenders that is expected to be available.

As it was announced earlier today, here is what the Detroit Red Wings did with their players before the NHL Expansion Draft.

DETROIT RED WINGS

Available
Louis-Marc Aubry (F)
Mitch Callahan (F)
Colin Campbell (F)
Martin Frk (F)
Luke Glendening (F)
Darren Helm (F)
Drew Miller (F)
Tomas Nosek (F)
Riley Sheahan (F)
Ben Street (F)
Eric Tangradi (F)
Adam Almquist (D)
Jonathan Ericsson (D)
Niklas Kronwall (D)
Brian Lashoff (D)
Dylan McIlrath (D)
Xavier Ouellet (D)
Ryan Sproul (D)
Jared Coreau (G)
Petr Mrazek (G)
Edward Pasquale (G)
Jake Paterson (G)

Protected
Justin Abdelkader (F)
Andreas Athanasiou (F)
Anthony Mantha (F)
Frans Nielsen (F)
Gustav Nyquist (F)
Tomas Tatar (F)
Henrik Zetterberg (F)
Danny DeKeyser (D)
Mike Green (D)
Nick Jensen (D)
Jimmy Howard (G)

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who do you think will be protected from or exposed to the expansion draft? Let me know in the comments below!

Follow me on Twitter @milz_chris and follow @cleatgeeks for more hockey and sports news.

 

Winged Wheel Watch: Next Names in the Rafters

The Detroit Red Wings hold claim to one of the most storied traditions in professional hockey: an Original Six team with the most Stanley Cup wins of any team based in the United States, not to mention 25 years of the trademarked Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, arguably the greatest to ever lace up the skates, sporting the iconic Winged Wheel for 25 years. And I’d be remiss to not mention the recently snapped 25 consecutive playoff appearances that produced four of those 11 Stanley Cups.

Other legends have proudly sported the Detroit red and white on their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Among those names are Howe, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel, Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio, and other more recent names like Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. These gentlemen, though products of different eras in Red Wings hockey, share a common bond: their numbers hang from the rafters, never to be worn again. Some hung from the Olympia, all of them at the Joe, and going forward to the new Little Caesars Arena.

But who’s next? Who from these recent eras of Red Wings hockey will be the first new additions as the team enters a new arena in the fall?

Let’s take a look at the top candidates.

Pavel Datsyuk

While some fans are less than pleased with the Datsyuk’s departure from Hockeytown in the midst of injury-plagued seasons on a lucrative contract it cannot be argued that the Magic Man is one of the greatest to ever wear the Winged Wheel.

Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Named to the NHL’s centennial list of the 100 greatest players in league history, it’s hard to argue Datsyuk’s place in the rafters. His nickname, the Magic Man, came from his absolutely dazzling play handling the puck and his scoring ability. From handing the puck end-to-end through an entire team’s defenses to seeming impossible scoring setups and shots, it’s not surprising that the only term to describe his abilities was “Datsyukian” (a term coined by Red Wings’s TV play-by-play man Ken Daniels). His slick moves with the puck earned him 918 career points (314 goals, 614 assists).

In addition to his silky offensive play he was no slouch on the other end of the ice. He was a two-way forward, akin to fellow Russian and former Red Wing Sergei Fedorov. Datsyuk became known as one of the peskiest defenders in the NHL, with effective stick lifting ability and physical play coming out when it was needed. Notable instances of Datsyuk’s physicality include an instance with then-Predators defenseman Shea Weber. After a couple of possessions that saw Weber muscling Datsyuk off of the puck, Pavel went at him a third time, but he was ready and gave Weber’s muscle right back to him, knocking him to the ice.

Pavel Datsyuk is arguably the greatest Russian player to see time in the NHL, among names like Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Ovechkin. If he holds this high of a place around the league as a whole then it should be a no-brainer that we’ll one day see #13 hanging from the Little Caesars Arena rafters.

Henrik Zetterberg

To be fair, I may be jumping the gun on this one.

Right now Z is the only current member of this Red Wings squad that clearly deserves his place of honor among Hockeytown’s greatest. Selected as the man to lead the team, following in the footsteps of Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom, it’s obvious how much Zetterberg is respected among the Ilitch family and the Detroit Red Wings organization. His leadership has proven essential since his first earning of even the alternate captain’s “A” in the 2000s. His part as a 40 goal scorer for the 2008 Stanley Cup team and solid play during the 2009 finals run cannot be overlooked. It can be argued that without him those don’t even happen. Zetterberg is older now but is still producing as one of the best setup men in the NHL. At age 36 he’s coming off of one his best seasons of this decade, notching 68 points and appearing in all 82 games to a 15 +/- rating.

Even with injuries that took away much of his 2013-14 season, a cancelled 2004-05 campaign, and a shortened 2012-13 season, Z sits at 904 career points in 14 seasons, all of which have been spent with the Red Wings. He’s reliably been a top contributor at the top of the lineup in Detroit. Given his age and contract it’s unlikely that we ever see him in anything but a Red Wings sweater. And that’s just fine.

Zetterberg deserves to be remembered as part of Detroit hockey lore, both as the fantastic player he is and as the next in an illustrious line to captain this historic franchise. #40 will see it’s day to fly among those who preceded him in the captaincy and it will happen very quickly after he skates his final game.

Sergei Fedorov

I had some influence from Detroit sports radio’s Mike Valenti in creating this article, due largely to his addressing of the fact that Fedorov, seemingly a no-brainer to have his #91 retired by the Red Wings, is yet to receive the honor from the franchise to whom he gave so much during his career. There was talk that Fedorov would see his day before the Joe Louis Arena closed its doors to hockey in April. But here we sit, months away from the opening of Little Caesars Arena and Fedorov’s #91 remains available, though it has not been worn since he left the team following the 2002-03 season.

Fedorov is undoubtedly among the top echelons of players to ever play for the Red Wings. The leader of the famous Russian Five of the 1990s, Fedorov was a key component to the rise of the Red Wings as perennial Stanley Cup contenders during his 13 years in Hockeytown. He scored over 100 points twice, including a 56-goal, 120 point performance in 1993-94, on his way to 400 career goals and 954 career points during his Red Wings career. In Red Wings history Fedorov ranks fourth in goals, fifth in total points and goals created, seventh in assists, and second in career plus/minus. Additionally, Fedorov is the all-time NHL-leader in overtime points.

While Fedorov’s numbers and contributions to the three Stanley Cups won under Scotty Bowman are hard to overlook, there is the possibility of underlying bitterness from the Ilitch family stemming from Fedorov’s restricted free agency in 1998, a subject of controversy. Other bitterness may stem from his leaving Detroit to sign with the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, though there is no reason for bitterness, as the NHL is a business above all else.

To me, Sergei Fedorov’s #91 should be the first new number to the rafters at Little Caesars Arena. If I had my way I’d make sure that it would happen. I think it will. Out of anyone in Detroit hockey with a comparable resume Fedorov is the only one not immortalized in the rafters. And that needs to change.

Who do you think should be the next number to fly with the likes of Mr. Hockey and Stevie Y? Let me know in the comments below!

Find me on Twitter @milz_chris and follow @cleatgeeks for more hockey and sports writing.

 

Dually Noted: How Can the Blues Beat the Predators in Round 2?

The St. Louis Blues advanced to the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by defeating the Minnesota Wild in a 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday. However, it didn’t come without some bumps in the road. The Blues’ offense had trouble getting started and their goaltender, Jake Allen had to stop several scoring chances from an aggressive Minnesota Wild team. As a result, he became the star player of the 1st round .While Allen stopped a lot of shots and the Blues managed to garner enough offense to advance to the next round, every player must bring their best games to beat the Predators.

A big concern for the Blues is how both teams advanced out of the first round. The Predators pulled off a huge upset by beating the Chicago Blackhawks in four straight games to give them an early exit. The Blues beat the Wild three games to one. The Blues relied mainly on Jake Allen to get them through while the Predators were dominant in every aspect against the Blackhawks. Allen was solid in the first round but he must have help from the rest of his team if they are to have any success in this series and advance to the Conference Finals for the second straight year. They can’t rely on what got them past Minnesota.

The Blues could use more help from one of their big shooters. Vladimir Tarasenko needs to find his shot again. So far, he has only managed one goal and two assists in all five games. He is too important to the Blues’ offense at this point. The Blues have received goals from Joel Edmundson, Magnus Paajarvi and Vladimir Sobotka.  The Blues already beat Pekka Rinne a little quicker than the Hawks did but for the Blues offense to get going, Tarasenko needs to start scoring.

ST. LOUIS, MO – APRIL 18: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates after scoring an empty-net goal for a hat trick against the Minnesota Wild during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on April 18, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The thing that has hurt the Blues the most in the playoffs is their time spent in the penalty box. It hurt them against the Wild and it has already begun to hurt them against Nashville. A couple of Nashville’s goals in Wednesday’s Game 1 came on the power play and once again the Blues have relied a little too much on Jake Allen to get them out of tough situations. The penalty kill is ineffective thus far in clearing the puck and Jake Allen can only do so much. The key is for the Blues to play clean 5 on 5 hockey while also keeping up the promising pressure they showed on Wednesday.

It is never easy in St. Louis, especially when it comes time for playoffs but the important thing to keep in mind is that the Blues have only dropped one game against Nashville as of Wednesday. There’s plenty of time for the Blues to get some momentum back. They’ve already accomplished more than the Blackhawks did. All they have to do is play smart, help Allen and stay out of the penalty box. This series is tough but for the Blues, it’s winnable.

The Blackhawks Backhand

Change is coming to the Blackhawks. During Saturday’s end-of-season news conference at the United Center, general manager Stan Bowman said he was “frustrated and angry” at the team’s first-round playoff sweep at the hand of the Predators and vowed to make the necessary changes in an attempt to avoid such a “complete failure” next season. Bowman would only guarantee that coach Joel Quenneville would be back. Beyond that, Bowman said he would not rule making sweeping changes to the roster if that is what an internal review of the season concludes.

“This was a tough, tough loss for us all to take,” Bowman said. “Standing here April 22 is not the way we expected our season to end. And it’s a complete failure when you measure it against the expectations that we have of ourselves. We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here. And that’s unacceptable.”

“Any successes that we did experience this year are completely overshadowed by the abrupt ending to our season. It’s not close to good enough for anybody.”

Bowman wouldn’t go into specifics on what changes he would make. Beyond Quenneville’s return, it sounded as if everything is on the table.

The Blackhawks have approximately $59.34 million in salary-cap room tied to nine players next season: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa, Corey Crawford and Artemi Panarin. The cap was $73 million this season, and if it goes up for 2017-18, it likely won’t be by much. All but one of those contracts — Panarin’s — includes a no-movement clause. That means those players would have to agree to a trade before Bowman could make the move.

“Top to bottom, we need more. This is unacceptable to be where we are (Saturday),” Bowman said. “There will be change. Change comes in many different ways. So the specifics of how we’re going to change things into next year are not really meant for this forum.

“But I can promise you we need to be better. Joel is our head coach. He will continue to be our head coach. And Joel and I are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”

Bowman did not rule out potential changes to Quenneville’s staff, though Quenneville said Saturday that he didn’t envision making any. Bowman also said the salary cap would not be an excuse — or stand in his way — of making moves.

“We have to find a way. We need to get better,” Bowman said. “Our expectation is to win, and we didn’t win. I don’t buy into that. We have to find a way.”

Winged Wheel Watch: Who Stays and Who Goes

One thing is obvious in Detroit for the Red Wings: changes are coming.

Following the end of their 25 year playoff streak the Red Wings look ahead to the future, a future that may not hold playoff appearances for a few seasons. And that’s OK. In fact, it’s probably how it should be so a proper rebuild can take place.

But with a rebuild, along with the expansion draft looming on the horizon, Ken Holland has decisions to make on who stays and who goes. There are some obvious pieces that will remain and some others that, I think, may be surprising to some.

Let’s dive right in.

Staying

Dylan Larkin: This is obvious. After a bit of a dropoff in 2016-17 there’s still no doubt that Larkin is going to be an integral part of this team for the future. Going forward Larkin will play a more natural center position, a move that already benefited him towards the end of the season, where he looked and reportedly felt very comfortable. This also presents the opportunity for Larkin to play on the same line as Anthony Mantha. Throw in Tomas Tatar on the left wing and you’ve got a very deadly first line.

Anthony Mantha: and Andreas Athanasiou: Like Larkin, these two are obvious centerpieces going forward for the Red Wings. Both have the potential to be 20-goal scorers, something the Wings need. Mantha’s scoring ability and Athanasiou’s scoring ability and speed make each invaluable in their own ways.

Frans Nielsen: No-move clause. Simple as that. At least for this next year, when a modified clause sets in. But he had moments and is valuable as a set-up man working with younger players. He could prove to be valuable as a veteran presence among the aforementioned onslaught of youth.

Henrik Zetterberg: Z is coming off of one of his best seasons. His eye for setting up his teammates was as sharp as ever, with some solid goal scoring coming in to boot. His leadership, as well, is potentially his biggest attribute as he shepherds the likes of Larkin, Mantha, and Tatar into future slots of the legendary franchise.

Tomas Tatar: A scorer. One of the best the Wings have. Incredible potential and still relatively young. Unless an absolutely irrefusable deal comes along for him there is no logical reason for Ken Holland to part ways with Tatar.

Nick Jensen: A young defenseman with upside. Something the Wings direly need. Jensen did not look bad during his time in Detroit this season and, even though a future on the second line is likely in store for him, he will be valuable and adds in decent offensive prowess in addition to solid play on the blue line.

Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek: Howard looked better than he has in recent years. And his contract and injury history factored in with his age will likely keep him off of Vegas’s radar as the expansion draft approaches. Mrazek, despite his struggles, is still the goalie in Detroit as they look to the future.

Niklas Kronwall: A no-trade clause keeps Kronner around. Though exploring the idea of long-term IR-ing him is a possibility the Wings would do well to explore, due to his ever-increasing vulnerability to injury and ineffectiveness.

Others staying: Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser

On The Fence

Mike Green: The Wings would do well to explore the potential of moving Green and his contract, which expires after next season. Once an elite offensive D-man, he has lost some of his touch and has not added a lot on the blue line. Shedding his salary would give the Wings more room to rebuild through free agency along with the draft. But his no-trade clause makes that difficult, unless they can find the right deal that would make him want to waive it.

Gustav Nyquist: I do like Nyquist. His set-up ability shined this season, though many wanted him to be a goal scorer. I still think he can do that. But if the right offer comes along for Nyquist then Ken Holland would do well to take advantage of it for the sake of his franchise’s future.

Robbie Russo, Ryan Sproul, and Xavier Ouellet: I really like Russo and Sproul. Russo is a top young defensive prospect with plenty of talent on the blue line. Sproul has potential on the blue line but shows more promise as an offensive d-man with an incredible slapshot. Ouellet has been reliable when called upon and would serve the Wings well going forward. But with the likes of Joe Hicketts and Vili Saarjarvi moving up through the Wings’ system, as well as no-trade commitments to Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Mike Green the young trio all face potential of being the odd men out. Not because they aren’t talented, but because they have to be. All three would be enticing pieces to any team looking to bolster their defensive depth via trade of for Vegas in the expansion draft. And the Golden Knights would be wise to act on any of these three, should they be available. But it’s ideal that the Red Wings hold onto as many of these three as possible.

Darren Helm: Helm has great speed and showed some scoring touch before injury sidelined him. His contract, however, puzzled many due to its value and length. His talent would serve a team like Vegas well but his injury history and age will make them take a second look before acting on him. The Wings would love to have his salary off the books, that’s for certain.

Photo By: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Riley Sheahan: It took him until game 82 to score his first goals of the season, but they loom large in Red Wings folklore as his second was also the final scored at Joe Louis Arena. His name has often been mentioned as an offering in the expansion draft, as well as in trade talks at the deadline. Sheahan has potential and I would love to see him flourish in Detroit. But perhaps a change of scenery will do him well if it comes down to it.

Others on the fence: Luke Glendening, Ryan Sproul

Going

Joe Vitale: Acquired as dead weight in the Pavel Datsyuk trade with Arizona, Vitale walks as an unrestricted free agent.

Drew Miller: Re-upped before the 2016-17 season on a one-year deal. Served primarily as a fourth-liner and on the penalty kill for the Wings last season. Walks as an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to be re-signed.

It’s highly possible that the Red Wings return much of the same team as last season, barring any veterans waiving their no-trade clauses, thus allowing for the shedding of salary and infusion of youth into the regular rotation.

What moves do you think the Wings make this off-season? Who will be Vegas-bound? Let me know in the comments below!

Find me on Twitter @milz_chris and follow @cleatgeeks for more sports writing!

 

 

The Burgundy Breakdown (Season Finale)

Welcome to the last Burgundy Breakdown of the 2016-2017 season, which recaps the Colorado Avalanche’s final week of the season.

The Avalanche’s final week started on a good note, as they defeated the Western Conference’s top team, the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3, in OT. Erik Johnson scored the OT winner, but it would be the last game the Avalanche would win. It was followed by three straight losses, first a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on April 6, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on April 8, and finally, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on the final day on Sunday.

In 2013-14, the Avalanche had 52 wins. This season, the Avs had 48 points. Overall, the Avs lost 60 games, with 56 of them coming in regulation. Yet a few of the team’s 22 wins came against the cream of the crop in the league, including victories against the Blackhawks, Canadiens, Blue Jackets, and the defending champion Penguins. The only good thing about such a bad season is that the Avalanche have nowhere else to go but up. The burning question:  What will be done during the off-season to make sure the team vastly improves?

That is the final Burgundy Breakdown of the season! Enjoy the playoffs!

Duelly Noted: Allen is Ready for the Play-offs

Playoff hockey is a very enjoyable yet stressful time for many a hockey fan. For the Blues faithful. it is no different. In their 50th season as a franchise, the St. Louis Blues are looking to finally hold the greatest prize the NHL has, the Stanley Cup. Game 1 of the 2017 playoffs finished up on Thursday as the Blues edged out a 2-1 overtime victory against the Minnesota Wild. While Vladimir Sobotka and Joel Edmundson scored those 2 goals, game, there is one man who deserves credit for turning his game around to get the team where they are now and that man is their goalie, Jake Allen.

Ever since the staff changes that the Blues underwent midway through the season, there is no denying that the team has played on a higher level than many expected. Jake Allen is living proof. Before Mike Yeo took over in the middle of the season, it looked like he was in a funk and letting in a lot of goals. When Martin Brodeur stepped in with Ty Conklin to share goalie coach duties, his performance improved a great deal and many fans could tell it.  He got better and better and the rest of this team followed him. Allen’s improvement in net and Brodeur’s likely influence are huge factors in why the Blues are in the playoffs and not waiting until next October to try again.

One player does not make a team. The Blues must tighten up defensively to have success in the playoffs. In Wednesday’s game, the Minnesota Wild proved persistent as Jake Allen made over 50 saves and held the Blues slim lead for all but 22 seconds of the game single-handedly. While this is a great accomplishment for any goalie, the rest of the Blues must help get him and his backup goalie, Carter Hutton some insurance goals. The goalies can only carry the team for so long.

After Game 1, it’s apparent that the Blues still have a lot of work to do as a unit if they want to get the wins necessary to hoist the cup over their shoulders. They squeaked by the first game but to prove they are ready to become Stanley Cup Champions, they must work as a unit and face down the tough challenges that lie ahead. Playoff hockey is never easy but rising to the occasion when your team needs it most is what champions do. Jake Allen proved it and he is ready. All his team has to do is help him.

The Blackhawks Backhand

The Blackhawks will open the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team’s ninth consecutive appearance in the postseason, against the Nashville Predators in a best-of-seven First Round series. The Blackhawks finished the 2016-17 regular season with a 50-23-9 record (109 points) and earned the top seed in the NHL’s Western Conference. It also marks the 16th division championship in franchise history as the Blackhawks took home the Central Division crown. Chicago has reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs for nine consecutive seasons and currently holds the second-longest active postseason appearance streak (Pittsburgh, 11). The Blackhawks are the only team to post seven 100-point seasons since 2008-09. Chicago recorded a 4-1-0 record against the Predators during the 2016-17 regular season. This marks the third Stanley Cup Playoff match-up between Chicago and the Predators; the Blackhawks won the most recent series in the 2015 Western Conference First Round, 4-2. In 2010, Chicago topped Nashville in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, 4-2.

ICYMI:

The Blackhawks announced last week that they recalled defenseman Gustav Forsling from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The Burgundy Breakdown

Welcome to the Burgundy Breakdown, which recaps the previous week in action featuring the Colorado Avalanche!

The Avs returned home for two games, beginning with Wednesday’s meeting with the top ranked Washington Capitals; a team the Avs hadn’t seen since the third game of the season. The Avs fell to the Caps, 5-3, but on Friday, the team defeated the playoff bound St. Louis Blues, 2-1, via shootout. The win was the Avs’ first SO victory of the season. After that victory, however, the Avalanche headed to Minnesota on Sunday, and suffered a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Wild, who are also playoff bound.

The Avalanche’s final week of what has been an abysmal season begins tonight with four more consecutive divisional games. Tonight, the Avalanche host the Blackhawks, and Thursday will be the team’s final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild. After that, the Avs head to Dallas on Saturday, and will end the season in St. Louis on Sunday.

That is the Burgundy Breakdown! Until next week!

 

The Blackhawks Backhand

 

The Blackhawks clinched the 16th division championship in franchise history as well as the best record in the Western Conference with a Minnesota Wild loss on Saturday to the Nashville Predators. The Central Division championship is Chicago’s first since 2012-13. The division title, along with clinching the best record in the Western Conference, ensures the Blackhawks home-ice advantage for the first three rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks­ currently have 107 points and a 50-21-7 record with four regular-season games remaining. Chicago will be making its ninth consecutive trip to the postseason, the second-longest active streak in the NHL to Pittsburgh (11 straight).

Patrick Kane was named NHL’s third star for March. Kane ranked second in the NHL with 10-12-22 in 16 games as the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks (50-21-7, 107 points) posted an 11-3-2 March to clinch their ninth consecutive playoff berth. He registered at least one point in 12 of his 16 contests, seven of which were multi-point efforts. That included a trio of three-point performances, highlighted by his fourth career hat trick March 1 vs. PIT. The 28-year-old Buffalo native and reigning Art Ross Trophy winner places second in the NHL with 34-53-87 through 78 games this season, including a League-leading 19-19-38 in 26 outings since February 1st.

The Blackhawks announced that tickets for the 2017 National Hockey League Draft will go on sale to the general public on Friday, April 7, at 12:00 p.m. CT. The tickets will be available exclusively at ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. The Blackhawks will host the 2017 NHL Draft™ at the United Center, marking the first time the organization and the city of Chicago host the event. The Draft will be held over two days – Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24, 2017. NHL club executives, scouts and coaches will be present on the NHL Draft floor while more than 15,000 fans and hundreds of print, television and radio media are expected to attend. In addition to the Draft, the Blackhawks will host an outdoor festival at the United Center throughout the two-day event. The festival will feature the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, which is an interactive traveling fan experience that honors a century’s worth of extraordinary players and teams, remarkable plays, and unforgettable moments. The NHL Centennial Fan Arena includes a museum truck, entertainment truck, a ball hockey rink, never-before-seen virtual reality Zamboni experience and the Stanley Cup. Additional information about the outdoor festival will be announced at a later date.

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