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In this corner: The Presidents' Trophy winning Capitals (56-18-8, +57 true goals differential), moving on to the second round for the fifth time in eight years. They've lost each of their previous four visits, including three that went to Game 7.
And in this corner: The Penguins (48-26-8, +42), a team packed with elite talent that stumbled out of the gate before changing coaches and transforming into a powerhouse
In round one: The Capitals raced out to a 3-0 series lead on the Flyers before losing two straight to resurrect the ghosts of playoff collapses past; they ended that talk, at least temporarily, by closing out the series with a 1-0 win in Game 6. The Penguins speed-bagged Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers in a five-game series.
Injury report: The big name is Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins' goalie who missed the entire first round with a concussion. He's been skating lately and could return at some point, but until then the Pens will rely on rookie Matt Murray, who played well against the Rangers. The Penguins did get Evgeni Malkin back during the opening round, and the rest of the key names are relatively healthy.
The Capitals are also in fairly good shape, although they've been missing veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik and winger T.J. Oshie looked shaken up by a high hit in Game 6 (but did return for the third period).
Dominant narrative: Ovechkin Crosby Ovechkin Crosby Ovechkin Crosby Ovechkin Crosby Ovechkin Crosby Ovechkin Crosby. The NHL spent years trying to market these two as the Magic vs. Bird rivalry of their era, but they've only actually met in the playoffs once before. That was in 2009, a seven-game Penguins win that many consider one of the best series in recent memory.
The big question: Which secondary stars show up? Crosby and Ovechkin will get the spotlight, and rightly so, but this matchup is just packed with elite talent. If Crosby stumbles, the Penguins still have Malkin and Phil Kessel. If Ovechkin goes cold, the Caps have Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom. Any of those guys are skilled enough to take over a game or two single-handedly.
The Penguins have one thing the Caps don't: a true blueline stud in Kris Letang (John Carlson isn't quite there yet). But the Capitals have an all-star in goal, while the Penguins... well... let's get to that.
One player to watch: Matt Murray. With Fleury still experiencing concussion symptoms, it looks like Murray will be the guy, at least early on. The rookie was up to the challenge against the Rangers, outplaying Henrik Lundqvist. But the Capitals aren't the Rangers, and there won't be much margin for error for a kid with just 16 NHL games under his belt.
Key number: 16—Combined powerplay goals for these two teams in the opening round. They each had eight, while no other team had more than six. Discipline and staying out of the box are important in every series; in this one, it will be absolutely crucial.
Old YouTube clip to get you fired up: Ovechkin and Crosby both record hat tricks in a high-scoring Game 2 during the 2009 showdown.
Prediction: Nine of the Capitals' 12 series since 2008 have gone the distance. This one is no different. In the most exciting series of the playoffs, the Penguins win a seven-game classic.
Bonus prediction that is oddly specific: The winning team loses more games in this series than they do in the next two rounds combined.
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In the NHL, the month of February is a time when teams and General Managers have one last chance to look at their rosters and decide if they want to go for it all or sell off and hope for next season.
This year the trade deadline is March 2 and everyone is eager to see what their favorite NHL team will do.
The NHL trade deadline has become so hyped up that some die hard fans have deemed this day a national holiday. Fans love to see their team bolster it's lineup. It's a vote of confidence from the organization and a will to win. Will your team make a deal or will the competition steal your player?
If you are planning on taking the day off, tune into your local sports TV provider and they will most likely have a panel of sports broadcasters on air, checking their twitter feeds, e-mail accounts and text messages to see which players are on the move.
If TV is not available to you (because you are at work), there are even websites that will list all of the nhl trades that have occurred (in real time) so you can follow directly from your desk.
In most cases, the deadline deals are close and both teams get fair value but there have also been a number of completely crazy and lopsided deals over the past 30 years. Below, we’ll be looking at some of the worst nhl trades made at the deadline and maybe you can help us figure out what the GM or team was thinking at the time.
What were these hockey teams thinking? Why did they make the trades at the time? I guess, as an NHL fan, you must be careful what you wish for, if your team's general manager pulls the trigger on the deadline day, cross your fingers the deal does not end up on next year's "Worst NHL Deadline Deal" list.
If we missed any deals that you think should be on this list, let us know!
The Best RIVALRY in Hockey (Current and Historical)
Here’s a great question: What is the best rivalry in hockey and why? Can it only be considered the best if the games happened in the postseason? Does there need to be an unbelievable bench clearing brawl? Or, do the games just have to be close and competitive? We are going to list our two favorite rivalries (current and historical).
All you have to do is spend a few minutes watching a recap of the epic 2012 playoff series between these two Keystone State enemies. It will clarify and you will understand how this is one of the most heated rivalries in hockey and all of sports.
These 2 Pennsylvania teams have met in three playoff series since 2008 and the Penguins won and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final after the first two meetings. However, despite those two matchups, the Flyers gained ground in this amazing rivalry in 2012 after one of the most violent playoff series in the history of the game.
The current record has Philadelphia winning this battle with a 147-93-30 record.
You just can’t deny that this hockey rivalry isn't one of the top 10 sports rivalries of all time. These two teams have been battling on the ice since 1917, and together they have hoisted 35 Stanley Cups. Unfortunately for Toronto, Montreal has recently had the last laugh. The Red, White and Blue (Bleu, Blanc et Rouge) seem to have the edge in every important category. You should also note that some of the greatest players in hockey have battled one another over the many decades these teams have been facing off. Check out this video, see what the players think!
The current record has Montreal edging Toronto with a 383-313-88 record.
We believe that they are the best because they trully have a mix of everything good when it comes to hockey (tense games, brawls, hatred, hard hits and more…). If you feel we left a hockey rivalry off our list, let us know why. We look forward to your thoughts!
We teamed up with Montreal Canadiens' star Brandon Prust and had him design a cool and stylish Hockey T-Shirt for the true grinding & hustling hockey fans. By purchasing this amazing hockey t-shirt, fans will also be doing some good because a portion of the proceeds from this shirt will be going directly to Prusty 4 Kids.
We are officially 1 week into the young NHL 2014-2015 season and last week we posted our NHL Eastern Conference predictions. This week we will shock you with some of our BOLD Western Conference predictions.
After the first week, we will admit there are some usual predicaments, the Edmonton Oilers are still losing (0-3) and the the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks are atop the regular season standings with 3 victories a piece. So, what is going to change over the next 5 months or so?
With so many changes, who will end up "in" and who will end up "out"?
Anaheim Ducks: 2 key moves in the off-season, but basically cancel each other out. The Ducks lost Teemu Selanne, however added the great two way player Ryan Kesler. Will it be enough to get them to the Stanley Cup Finals? We think they remain, status quo. They will advance to the second round of the playoffs but will not be in the the Cup Finals this year.
Arizona Coyotes: New name (no longer the Phoenix Coyotes) is not the answer! They lost 2 legitimate offensive scoring forwards in Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribeiro (combined 36 goals).They will need to lean heavily on defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver -Ekman-Larsson. Not enough scoring in the desert and they struggle all year.
Calgary Flames: The Flames added Goalie Jonas Hiller, and will depend heavily on their youth. 19 year old, center, Sean Monahan (sixth pick in the 2013 draft), scored 22 goals as a rookie, and Calgary also drafted top center Sam Bennett with the No. 4 pick this past June (2 months after signing Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau, 21). There is a lot of competition in the West and these 3 will learn that quickly. This will be a learning season for the youngsters.
Chicago Blackhawks: Always a powerhouse in the West and they added veterans and offensive weapons in Brad Richards and Michal Handzus. If you also add third-year winger Brandon Saad to the mix, a 21-year old who scored 47 points last year. You'll immediately notice that this team has 3 incredible lines and tons of depth. Anything short of the Stanley Cup finals should be considered a disappointing year.
Colorado Avalanche: The Cinderella story from last year and still a very young team. Tons of potential but injuries will play a big role in the outcome of their season. They also lost some quality players over the summer, most notably 28-year-old center Paul Stastny, but they added experience, acquiring a trio of 30-something vets—forwards Daniel Brière and Jarome Iginla, and defenseman Brad Stuart. Matt Duchene must stay healthy to give them a chance in the playoffs.
Dallas Stars: The Stars added Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky but who’s on the blue line keeping the puck out of their zone and net? Defense will be their Achilles heel and leaves them on the outside looking in.
Edmonton Oilers: What do Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Taylor Hall all have in common? They were all drafted 1st overall but none of them have ever played a minute in the NHL playoffs. That commonality continues this year. They still have huge gaps in their defence corps and need to develop something other than scoring.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are a very good team, bottom line! Having won 2 of the last 3 Stanley Cups (like Chicago), if they do not reach the Stanley Cup finals it will be a failure of a season. Tanner Pearson (drafted 30th overall in the 2012 draft) is off to a hot start with 6 points in 4 games.
Minnesota Wild: A solid, defensive NHL team added a 40-goal scorer in Thomas Vanek. Will that be enough to get them deeper into the playoffs? We think so.
Nashville Predators: The Preds added James Neal and he will most likely play with newly acquired Mike Riberio (from the Arizona Coyotes). They have several young stars like Calle Jarnkrok, Filip Forsberg, Seth Jones, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis but we believe they do not have enough to get into the playoffs this year. Oh yea, and Barry Trotz is gone too!
San Jose Sharks: Basically the same lineup as the last few years and most likely the same results, stellar regular season and dismal results in the playoffs. Joe Thornton is no longer the captain and that move does nothing to get them winning in the playoffs. Another playoff failure.
St. Louis Blues: Two straight first round playoff exits for the St. Louis Blues, so is this the year that St. Louis Blue advance? They added Paul Stastny (already 1 goal and 3 assists in 3 games). He gives some much needed depth to their offence and we believe they move forward this year.
Vancouver Canucks: The Sedins are still there and that means the Vancouver Canucks are still relevant. They added Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata we believe they will be back in the playoffs in 2014-2015.
Winnipeg Jets: Winnipeg has some great young talent in forwards Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele and defenseman Jacob Trouba, but we believe that they just do not have enough firepower or depth to compete in the Western Conference this year.
NHL Western Conference Predictions
Here are our Western Conference playoff teams (in no particular order):
Los Angeles Kings
St. Louis Blues
San Jose Sharks
Our Western Conference prediction has Chicago grinding hard with the St. Louis Blue in the conference finals, and ultimately winning in 7 games. The Blackhawks will advance and play the Montreal Canadiens in an epic original six Stanley Cup finals, the 2nd original six matchup in 3 years. (The Bruins and Blackhawks fought hard in 2013, with Chicago coming out on top).
Unfortunately, we believe that the following teams will miss the playoffs this year:
What are your thoughts?
Stay tuned for our NHL Player Award predictions!