NHL playoffs benefit from both Cinderella teams and 'dynasties'

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Thumbnail image for yzerman.jpgWhen people talk about sports, they love to talk about two types of teams: dynasties and Cinderella teams. Sure, there’s something to be said for those New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers juggernauts in the ’80s and the Montreal Canadiens in the ’70s, but who doesn’t love those teams who caught lightning in a bottle? That ’94 Rangers team didn’t exactly have a long run of dominance, did they?

The genius of the NHL playoffs is that they provide a hybrid; on one hand the Detroit Red Wings check in for their annual playoff run while each playoff tournament seems to produce a Halak-Habs, Giguere-Ducks or various iterations of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ryan Kennedy wrote an interesting article on the very real possibility of the Red Wings’ second round dissolution and how badly sports leagues need dominant teams, something that I disagree with on a few accounts. Here’s a snippet.

As for the riff on parity, I don’t see the logic. Dynasties are what draw people to a sport, not parity. The NFL is the exception because gambling plays a big role in its popularity, but what would baseball be without the Yankees and Red Sox? Can you imagine the NBA ever giving the cold shoulder to the Lakers or Celtics? Even most European soccer leagues revolve around two or three teams each (Chelsea, Barcelona, etc.).

And think about your hockey history: There’s a treasure trove of memories built up around the early-1980s Islanders, the mid-’80s Oilers and the Canadiens of the 1970s. No one ever waxes rhapsodic about ‘that amazing stretch when Detroit, Dallas, New Jersey, then Colorado won Cups.’ No disrespect to any of those teams, but it’s tough to build much mythology out of that. And it won’t bring in the casual fan.

I couldn’t disagree more with a couple of those points. Let me break them down for you after the jump.


yankeeswin.jpgMLB, NBA = way too predictable

I can’t see how the enormous payroll difference between the Yankees, Red Sox, a few other teams and everyone else is a great thing for baseball. Sure, it’s great if the Red Sox and Yankees meet in the playoffs, but most years only one of those teams make a real run. 

And come on, aside from the most wildly devoted fans, who ever thinks that the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates have even an acid dream’s chance of making the playoffs? No professional sport has more hopeless fan bases than baseball and it must hurt the sport.

The NBA is in a slightly better spot, but I find myself bored to tears by the first two rounds of its playoffs, if not more. You can count the big upsets of the last 20 years on your two hands. Every year it’s the same handful of teams gunning for the title. Ho hum.

“No one waxes rhapsodic about the stretch when Detroit, Dallas, New Jersey then Colorado won Cups”

Ummm … what? No one looks back to the Detroit Red Wings-Colorado Avalanche rivalry? Ask Brandon and other Stars fans how they feel about that 5-or-so year stretch when their team was one of the big boys in the league. If anything, people don’t “wax rhapsodic” about those years because the Dead Puck Era often generated some of the most boring hockey in decades.

As usual, the answer is somewhere in between. It’s good for brand loyalty that the Penguins and Red Wings are fixtures while other teams like the Sharks are Capitals are lingering around the top. That being said, the unpredictability of hockey gives almost any hockey fan reason to dream about a deep Cup run. When every fan base has reason to believe, but there’s still a cream of the crop, then your sport is in great shape.

It’s part of why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are my favorite tournament in all of sports.

Chance the Rapper plays clueless hockey reporter on ‘SNL’ (Video)

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Chance the Rapper hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night and in skit he played Lazlo Holmes, a New York Knicks reporter for Madison Square Garden network filling in for the usual New York Rangers reporter who’s on paternity leave.

Holmes quickly discovers that the temperature for hockey is a tad different than that of a hoops game, and that some of the names in the sport are pretty tough to say for an outsider, like Brady Skjei, for example.

It’s not quite Tim “Little Hockey” Meadows bemoaning the 1994 NHL lockout, but it was good for some chuckles.

Hopefully next time NBC has a coach mic’d up for a pre-game speech, he lets fly with “let’s do that hockey!”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

USHL goaltender scores goal, makes most of celebration (Video)

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It was a pretty eventful night Saturday in Sioux Falls as the USHL’s Stampede beat the Muskegon Lumberjacks 7-4 to sweep a weekend series.

After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Stampede scored five unanswered times en route to the win. Along the way, their first goal started the teddy bear tossing and the game’s final tally came off the stick of goaltender Mikhail Berdin. Not only did the kid make history by becoming the first goalie in franchise history to ever score, he followed it up with an impressive celebration.

Berdin, a 19-year-old sixth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2016, went with the bench fly-by, did some fist pumps, saluted the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center crowd and ended it with a Vince McMahon strut. That kid knows how to celebrate.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Monahan the man, torrid Tavares

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Choice PHT Cuts:

Canadiens, Maple Leafs did NOT play nice.

If you didn’t think Alex Ovechkin was tough …

*Rubs eyes* A winning streak … for the Coyotes?

Connor McDavid and Oilers are sad pandas.

Players of the Night

  • Anthony Duclair‘s hat trick is well-covered here, so check that out. Duclair gets one edge on Sean Monahan in that Duclair scored all of his team’s goals on Saturday, but Monahan combined his first career hat trick with an assist, helping his Flames win in OT much like Duclair did for Arizona.

Monahan slightly upstaged Johnny Gaudreau (one goal, two assists) who was pumped to play in front of a crowd in Philly.

  • Paul Stastny collected three assists to help the Blues beat the Canucks in overtime. Check PHT on Sunday morning for an in-depth look at Brayden Schenn, who kept his hot streak going with the OT-clincher.
  • John Tavares just continues to ride high with a goal and two assists. The real stars might be the Islanders as a whole, however, as they beat the Lightning and kept Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov pointless in a 5-3 Isles win.
  • Frederik Andersen has achieved back-to-back shutouts, helping the Leafs make the Habs extra-miserable. He made 33 saves, so you could argue Montreal deserved better than a 6-0 fate.

Heel of the Night?

While Connor McDavid absorbed an odd portion of the Oilers’ blame in defeat despite a three-point night, Antoine Roussel really played up his villain cred. He collected three points of his own and did this:

Highlight of the Night

Going off script a bit here, let’s go with Alex Ovechkin bouncing back from this:

And Corey Crawford being OK despite this bump from Evgeni Malkin.

Both players helped their teams seal up wins as a bonus. (Feel free to share your favorite highlights from tonight, even if they don’t involve near-injuries.)

Factoid of the Night

Congrats, Antti Niemi. Kind of.

Here’s a free joke regarding that situation.

Scores

Flames 5, Flyers 4 (OT)
Stars 6, Oilers 3
Coyotes 3, Senators 2 (OT)
Jets 5, Devils 2
Kings 4, Panthers 0
Hurricanes 3, Sabres 1
Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 0
Islanders 5, Lightning 3
Blackhawks 2, Penguins 1
Capitals 3, Wild 1
Predators 5, Avalanche 2
Blues 4, Canucks 3 (OT)
Bruins 3, Sharks 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Nasty hits, fights, and a blowout in Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens

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First, the Edmonton Oilers fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars. Next: the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely throttled the fledgling Montreal Canadiens in a game that was ugly even beyond the 6-0 score.

It’s been a bad day for embattled GMs of teams who’ve made polarizing moves in hopes of solidifying Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers (7-11-2) and Canadiens (8-11-2) even finish the night with nearly identical records, just to really hammer home their parallel pains.

You almost wonder if something is in the air this week (spoilers: not love), as nastiness has really ratcheted up since the Calgary Flames – Detroit Red Wings line brawl. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs boast one of the NHL’s richest and bitterest rivalries, and it showed on Saturday.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Nazem Kadri played a major role in one of the most explosive moments, taking his frustrations out on Shea Weber. Weber and Jordie Benn wasted no time in going after Kadri.

(Criticisms of the hit are totally fair, but it seems strange to go too heavy on “turtling.” Who would be able to stand up to both Weber and Benn? In the heat of the moment, I’d wager most people would go with flight over fight.)

That was the most bombastic moment, but there was also this seemingly unlikely bout between Nikita Zaitsev and Paul Byron:

This absolute dismantling comes after Claude Julien was steaming mad from a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. It’s tough not to read all of this as an indictment of the moves Marc Bergevin has made, especially considering the fact that their rivals dominated them for their sixth win in a row. If you’re the type to draw big conclusions from about a month of a season, you’d look at it as how to build a contender vs. how to waste Carey Price‘s prime.

That’s a little harsh … but either way, these are tough times for Bergevin.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski passed along an interesting take from Julien, who wishes he could bag skate his bumbling players. OK, then.

Auston Matthews was definitely part of the fun for Toronto in his return from injury, including scoring this goal:

(You almost wonder if Mike Babcock was rolling the dice even having his star players out there amid all that carnage, but that goal was a sweet reward.)

[MORE: Why Toronto needs Matthews back for a tough stretch]

Yes, this is an 82-game season, and we’re only at about the first-quarter-mark. Still, teams like the Oilers and Canadiens came into 2017-18 with big expectations and big questions, and so far fans and management can’t like the answers.

By the way, asking for a well-dressed GM: what’s the opposite of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

Yikes.