2010 Stanley Cup Finals: PHT's finals predictions

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Everyone has their predictions for the Stanley Cup finals, where they
try and determine which team will win and in how many games. You’ll see
plenty of that tonight and especially tomorrow as we gear up for Game
1.

We here at Pro Hockey Talk decided to take things a bit further,
predicting not only the winner of the series but also a number of other
topics as well. Once again, I’m sure than I will get none of these
right.

Best goaltender:

James: Antti Niemi – It doesn’t really matter
which goalie is better, in the grand scheme of things, because the team
effect will make all the difference in this one. Michael Leighton will
deal with such a barrage that Niemi will look better. That’s all that
really matters.

Joe: Michael Leighton – I don’t believe that Antti
Niemi will be counted on to save the Blackhawks’ skin at all and while
what I believe the end results will make it seem like Niemi was the
star, Leighton is the guy that’s going to have to look the part, lest
his team lose by five goals a night.

Brandon: Michael
Leighton
– I think that both goaltenders will look great, but I just
have this feeling that Leighton will get more chances to show his
ability. Niemi will be solid, but Leighton is going to have a lot more
pucks to stop. He’s also the more athletic of the two, so while Niemi
will be solid Leighton will have more “wow”.

Biggest difference-maker:

James: Chris Pronger – Not necessarily a bold opinion,
but I think the gap-toothed elbow thrower can help the Flyers maintain
some dignity. Will he make enough of a “difference” for them to win the
series, though? Well, no …

Joe: Dave Bolland – He may not show up on the stat
sheet at all times with goals or assists but “The Dirty Rat” is the guy
doing everything else out there so Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Hossa can all
get free.

Brandon: Jonathan Toews – He’s been the
best player in the playoffs so far and I don’t see how that changes.
Despite the great depth of the Blackhawks, I doubt Chicago will have a
very easy time against the Flyers unless Toews continues to play at such
a high level.

Unsung hero of the Cup finals:

James: John Madden – He’s a great penalty killer but
has a Mike Grier-like deficiency when it comes to cashing in on the
many breakaways he creates. His lack of scoring will keep him from
drawing much praise, but he can do just about everything else.

Joe: Jordan Hendry – I’m sure you’re asking yourself,
“Who the heck is Jordan Hendry?” Hendry is basically Chicago’s sixth
defenseman and while he’s not getting a ton of minutes (Average time on
ice 8:15) or playing all that well (he’s a team low -4) he is allowing
Dustin Byfuglien to both be a forward and wreak havoc on everyone else’s
defensemen.

Brandon: Claude Giroux – The man has come alive in
the postseason and if the Flyers have any hope of knocking off the
Blackhawks he’ll have to continue being hot. He’s allowed the Flyers to
use two productive and effective scoring lines in the playoffs,
something this team will desperately need in the finals.

Storyline no one is talking about:

James: How about Joe Quenneville possibly breaking the great
drought of Cup winning coaches with awesome mustaches? It’s been too
long since Ken Hitchock represented the ‘stache.

Joe: The emergence of Claude Giroux. In the playoffs, he’s
scored at a point per game pace (8 goals, 9 assists in 17 games) and has
exploded on the scene as a top six forward on a team top-heavy in
scoring talent. While Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Danny Briere are
going to get the headlines, Giroux is the guy flying under the radar.
For the Flyers, his emergence has spurred them on to the Finals.

Brandon:
How another mid-season replacement coach can win the Stanley Cup. Last
year, Dan Bylsma took over the Penguins, turned the team around and took
them all the way to the Stanley Cup. Now, we have Peter Laviolette, who
took the Flyers after a horrible start to the season and while the
Flyers barely made the playoffs, he’s given this team all of the hope
and motivation it needs.

Top goalscorer:

James: Marian Hossa – For some reason, I just have a
weird feeling Hossa will have a good series. Eh, I’m probably just
saying this because “Jonathan Toews” or “Patrick Kane” just seems too
obvious, though.

Joe: Jonathan Toews – While the wealth gets spread
around pretty equally on Chicago, and I don’t see why that won’t
continue, Toews is, simply put, the man and while a guy like, say,
Dustin Byfuglien is going to have his hands full dealing with Chris
Pronger, Toews will enjoy having the extra room to maneuver.

Brandon:
Jonahan Toews – He did it against Vancouver and against the Sharks,
there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to roll against the Flyers.

Most penalty minutes:

James: Dan Carcillo is my first instinct, but since he might
get scratched for a game or two, why not Chris Pronger?

Joe: Chicago is really good at being physical and talking crap
and Philly is equally as good at it. I’m going with a wild card here
though and I’ll run with Chicago’s Adam Burish.

Brandon: I
would say Dan Carcillo, but he may not get enough minutes. I’ll roll
with Chris Pronger.

Predict the winner:

James: The Flyers are on fire, but look at the frail offenses
they faced in the playoffs so far. Simply put, the Blackhawks are a
completely different animal. Their offense is deep, their defense can do
it all and Niemi is making a name for himself. That being said, my
debate wasn’t “Flyers or Blackhawks?” but rather “Chicago in 4, 5 or 6?”
Chicago wins it in 5.

Joe: Philly hasn’t played a team this good since they played a
motivated and trying to get in the playoffs Red Wings team in early
April. If I wanted to be a real jerk and disprove myself, I could say
they haven’t played a team this good since they played Chicago in March,
but I won’t be that guy. Chicago has been a runaway train of hockey
awesomeness for the last two series and I don’t see why the 18th best
team in the league is going to get in their way. Chicago wins this
series in five
and I don’t think it’s going to be all that close

Brandon: This is a tough one, although it seems that no one is
willing to give the Flyers a chance at all with this one. I know
everyone thinks the Blackhawks will just roll through the Cup Finals,
but I just can’t discount the Flyers after the postseason they’ve had.
So I’ll go in the other direction. Flyers stun the world, win in 6.

Allen’s mental reset continues, as Blues will start Hutton in Pittsburgh

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen is slow to get up after giving up a goal to Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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St. Louis is giving Jake Allen more time to sort out his struggles.

Today, the club announced backup Carter Hutton will start tomorrow in Pittsburgh, while Pheonix Copley — the AHL call-up that allowed five goals in Saturdays’ loss in Winnipeg — will serve as the No. 2.

Allen, who didn’t even travel to Winnipeg so he could ‘reset’ mentally, will start on Thursday in Minnesota, which will be St. Louis’ last game prior to the All-Star break. Copley will again serve as the backup.

The decision to go back to Allen comes after a horrific stretch in which he was yanked from three straight games, and four of his past six.

It is noteworthy, though, that Allen isn’t getting the Pittsburgh game. Part of that could be the opponent — the Pens are a force offensively, and lead the NHL in goals per game — but it could also be that Allen needs additional time to sort out his issues.

Whatever the case, the plan may have changed. In explaining why he left Allen behind while the team went to Winnipeg, Blues GM Doug Armstrong suggested Allen could get right back in.

“I think taking a day way, getting a total reset — he could reset traveling with the team, but I wanted a complete reset — and then we come back on Sunday, he’s back in the net and he’s ready to go,” Armstrong said, per the Post-Dispatch. “To me, it’s not a huge story; he’s going to take a day to get a reset with his family — he just had a young baby — but the play needs to improve and I want to give him a fresh start.”

Allen’s struggles this year are well-documented (see here, here, here and here). Per the Post-Dispatch, his .897 save percentage ranks 43rd among 47 goalies who have appeared in 14 or more games this season.

Oshie’s contract status underscores urgency in Washington

Washington Capitals' Matt Niskanen (2) and T.J. Oshie (77) celebrate with Alex Ovechkin (8) after Ovechkin scored against the Dallas Stars during the third period an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Dallas. Stars' Jamie Benn (14) skates back to the bench. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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The way he keeps scoring, T.J. Oshie‘s next contract isn’t getting any smaller.

The 30-year-old winger was today named the NHL’s third star of the week, after racking up six points (3G, 3A) in three games for the red-hot Washington Capitals.

Oshie now has 31 points (17G, 14A) in 38 games. A pending unrestricted free agent, he’ll no doubt be looking for a raise beyond his current cap hit of $4.175 million.

One comparable contract is Andrew Ladd‘s seven-year, $38.5 million deal with the Islanders.

Loui Eriksson‘s six-year, $36 million deal with the Canucks is another.

And one more for good measure: David Backes‘ five-year, $30 million deal with the Bruins.

All three of those contracts have a cap hit of around, or exactly, $6 million. Ladd and Eriksson are a year older than Oshie, while Backes is two years older. They’re all reliable veteran wingers, just like Oshie.

Now, the Caps could always try and convince Oshie to take a home-town discount. They may even be able to keep him without a discount.

That being said, their No. 1 priority has to be getting Evgeny Kuznetsov, a pending restricted free agent, locked up. And they also need to keep in mind John Carlson, their No. 1 defenseman who can become unrestricted in the summer of 2018.

“We’re going to have some decisions to make as far as veteran players, and our young guys are going to be due for some pay raises,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said last season.

When he said it, MacLellan saw his team in a “two-year window.”

Alas, only one year of that window remains. Hence, the urgency to finally win the Stanley Cup this spring.

Like Oshie, Justin Williams and Karl Alzner are pending UFAs.

And like Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Brett ConnollyDmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, and Philipp Grubauer are pending RFAs.

The Caps host Carolina tonight.

Related: Kuznetsov sets table for Jakub Vrana’s first NHL goal

Galchenyuk re-injures knee, but not believed to be serious

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Given that Montreal center Alex Galchenyuk‘s already missed 18 games this season to a knee injury, there was some consternation on Monday as head coach Michel Therrien said Galchenyuk had aggravated the ailment, and would miss Tuesday’s game against Calgary.

Thankfully for the Habs, it doesn’t sound like a serious issue.

Therrien said Galchenyuk “slightly injured” his knee, and is listed as day-to-day. This falls in line with what occurred during Saturday’s OT loss to Buffalo — even though Galchenyuk suffered the ailment during the game, he was able to play through it and finish with 16:36 TOI.

It’s unfortunate this knee issue has lingered, as the fifth-year pro is having a great season. Galchenyuk has 11 goals and 27 points through 30 games and, had he been healthy, probably would’ve eclipsed last year’s production, when he scored 30 goals and 56 points.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see when the Habs opt to get Galchenyuk back in the lineup. After tomorrow’s game against Calgary, they have just one game left until the All-Star break, on Thursday in Brooklyn.

After that, they don’t play again until Jan. 31.

Rangers’ Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

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Kevin Hayes, who sits third on the Rangers with 35 points, will miss the next couple of weeks with a lower-body ailment, the club announced on Monday.

The news comes one day after Hayes exited New York’s 1-0 OT win over Detroit after playing just 8:41. Per Newsday, it’s a left leg ailment.

It’s a tough blow for a guy that had been playing well lately. Hayes had been a point-per-game producer in January, with two goals and five assists through seven games, developing chemistry on a line with Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s the schedule. Hayes’ absence will coincide with the All-Star break, so he won’t miss as many games as he would’ve under usual circumstances.

Still, if he’s shelved for the full three weeks, that puts his return around Feb. 13 — meaning he could miss up to eight contests.

In related news, the Blueshirts activated Matt Puempel off IR today. He’d been out since December with a concussion.