2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Four odd predictions for the finals

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Pronger1.jpgWe’ll have our more ‘normal’ predictions and picks up on PHT later
this week, but just as there will always be a top scorer, a better
goaltender and an ultimate victor in the Stanley Cup finals there will
also be some unforeseen events that leave you scratching your head some
or just basically fall outside the normal “why would anyone have
predicted that to happen”.

Well, I’ll try. Knowing my luck at predictions, I doubt I get any
of these right.

The leading scorer in the series will not play
for the Stanley Cup champion.

I know, this one makes no
sense. But here’s my reasoning.

Both of these teams have developed
incredibly deep scoring in the postseason; the Blackhawks were built
that way and the Flyers have seen some heroes emerge the past two
series. For either team to win the Stanley Cup, they’ll have to continue
to be deep on the scoreboard and receive production from their
secondary scoring. The Flyers and the Blackhawks have the ability to
shut down a top line or a leading scorer, it’s the team that responds
with better scoring depth that will ultimately have the best chance to
come out on top.

If one team is relying on one big scorer for all
of their offense, then chances are they’re being shut down everywhere
else. The team that is able to spread the scoring around the best will
ultimately win the Cup.

By Game 3, we’ll be debating whether
Chris Pronger will be suspended

Okay, maybe this one isn’t so
bizarre or outlandish. So far, Pronger has been on his best behavior in
the playoff and has yet to resort the leg-stomping, skull crashing plays
that have earned him such a great reputation. Yet as he gears up for
the Chicago Blackhawks, you can almost guarantee this is one team that
knows exactly how to get under his skin.

Dustin Byfuglien and the
Hawks are masterful at agitating, and it’s likely they’ll be taking
their antics to new heights against Pronger is an attempt to knock him
off his game and eventually off the ice.

We’ll see Brian
Boucher at some point in the series

This isn’t to say that the
Flyers will lose, or that Michael Leighton will be benched. Yet the
Flyers have yet to face an offense the caliber of the Blackhawks and
there’s a good chance that one of the first few games will get out of
hand for the Flyers.

Despite the great postseason by Philadelphia,
they’ve shown that they do have the ability to fall apart a bit during a
single game. With Boucher close to returning as the Flyers’ backup,
then you can certainly envision a scenario that Leighton is pulled after
allowing four early goals.

Of course, then we’ll be debating
whether Boucher should take his spot back as the starter.

At
least one game will go into marathon-overtime mode

So far this postseason we’ve witnessed a number overtime games
and one 3 OT (Pittsburgh-Ottawa), but neither the Flyers nor the
Blackhawks have taken part in many of either. For that reason, we’re
likely to see both, especially if both goaltenders continue to play as
well as they did in the Conference finals.

There’s nothing quite
like the stress involved in an overtime game in the playoffs, but when
it’s in the Stanley Cup finals things are ramped up even farther. Add in
a multiple overtime game, with teams ordering pizzas and getting IVs
during intermissions and you have one of those epic games we’ll be
talking about for years to come.

Penguins re-sign Ruhwedel to a two-year deal

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The depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins defense faced the ultimate test this spring, winning a Stanley Cup despite the absence of Kris Letang.

Among those depth blueliners asked to come in and help fill the void left by injuries on defense was Chad Ruhwedel. And on Thursday, Ruhwedel re-signed with the Penguins to a two-year deal.

The Penguins announced that this new deal has an average annual value of $650,000 — a modest raise from his one-year, $575,000 deal for last season, but still certainly affordable for a Pittsburgh team that needs to get restricted free agents Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz and Conor Sheary under contract.

In his first season with the Penguins, Ruhwedel split his time between Pittsburgh and the AHL team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He scored twice with 10 points in 34 games with Pittsburgh, and then appeared in six postseason games as injuries continued to mount on the blue line.

His last game of the postseason came on May 19 versus Ottawa. He was diagnosed with a concussion, which was the result of a hit from Bobby Ryan in Game 4.

 

NHL announces 2017-18 regular season schedule

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The NHL released next year’s schedule on Thursday — one that cemented the league wouldn’t be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Games are scheduled right through the Olympic window, which runs from Feb. 9-25. You can view the entire schedule here.

Some dates of note:

• The Penguins will raise their Stanley Cup banner on opening night, Oct. 4, prior to their home date against the Blues.

• The league’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, will play their first game on Oct. 6 in Dallas, and their first home game on Oct. 10 against the Coyotes.

• Detroit will play its first game in Little Caesar’s Arena on Oct. 5, against the Wild.

• Ottawa and Colorado will play a pair of games in Stockholm, Sweden on Nov. 10 and 11.

• Ottawa and Montreal will play the Scotiabank NHL100 Classic outdoors, at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, on Dec. 16.

• The Rangers and Sabres will participate in the annual Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Citi Field.

• From Jan. 26-29, Tampa Bay will host the NHL All-Star weekend.

• On Mar. 3, Washington will host Toronto in an outdoor game at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

Marc-Andre Fleury, now a Golden Knight, will make his return to Pittsburgh on Feb. 6.

Jonathan Drouin, now a Montreal Canadien, will make his return to Tampa Bay on Dec. 28.

Jordan Eberle, now a New York Islander, will make his return to Edmonton on Mar. 8.

Eberle hopes to re-establish chemistry with John Tavares

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Jordan Eberle believes the trade to the New York Islanders will provide him with a fresh start — and possibly the opportunity to play alongside John Tavares.

In a blockbuster Thursday morning, the Oilers dealt Eberle to the Islanders for Ryan Strome.

There is a history between the two talented forwards that famously dates back to the 2009 World Juniors.

Back then, the draft-eligible Tavares was expected to go No. 1 overall in a few months time. Eberle was a first-round pick from the year before. It was Tavares shoveling a backhand shot toward the net and Eberle scooping up the puck and putting it behind the Russian goalie in the final seconds of regulation to send the semifinal game into overtime.

It’s one of the iconic moments in Canadian World Juniors history.

They will be reunited with the Islanders, and potentially on the same line, in order to give Tavares a scoring winger.

“From me, you have to be confident in your ability and confident that you can be in a top-six role. I think I’ve shown in the past that I can score in this league and I’ve had previous chemistry with John,” said Eberle, who scored 20 goals and 51 points for the Oilers this past season.

“Obviously, he’s a very intelligent player and the way that he plays suits my game. Maybe, if that’s where I end up, our games suit each other well.”

Eberle goes from a team that had Connor McDavid, the 2017 Hart Trophy winner, to Tavares, the first overall pick in 2009, an Olympian, and a player with two 80-plus point seasons under his belt.

They are both, as Eberle said, generational players. But with two totally different styles on the ice.

“I think you look at their attributes as players. I think Connor, the first one that sticks out to mind, is his speed. He’s maybe one of the fastest guys with the puck and you have to be able to keep up with that,” said Eberle. “John thinks the game, maybe, better than any other player in the league.

“Each does his thing in their own way, but gets the job done. For me, it’s more of, in my mind, to get ready to the best ability that I can to get into camp and hopefully fit in.”

Welcome Jason Demers to the trade rumor mill

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Florida’s season ended on April 9. Since then, the Panthers:

— Made a coaching change from Tom Rowe to Bob Boughner

Re-instilled Dale Tallon as GM

Lost leading goalscorer Jonathan Marchessault in the expansion draft

Traded Reilly Smith to Las Vegas.

And they might not be done shaking things up.

Per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, defenseman Jason Demers — who was left unprotected at the expansion draft — is now available for trade. The news comes just one year after Demers signed a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Florida in free agency, one of the biggest moves in the club’s defensive overhaul from the season prior.

The 29-year-old was a lineup fixture in Florida last year. He appeared in 81 of 82 games, scoring nine goals and 28 points while averaging 19:37 TOI.

If anything, today’s news suggests Tallon might be trying to undo the work Rowe did during his stint as GM. It was Rowe, don’t forget, that inked Smith to his five-year, $25 million deal last July. Smith went on to have a subpar year — just 15 goals and 37 points — and, in one of his final noteworthy acts as head coach, Rowe called Smith out for his lacklustre play towards the end of the season.