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.

Duchene trade talks quiet, but Avs will ‘listen to offers’

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To little surprise, not much is going on in the trade market. Just ask Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic.

The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers did just that, and Sakic revealed that he would still consider trading the likes of Matt Duchene … although he didn’t mention him by name.

“I will be listening to offers. Right now it’s quiet on all fronts,” Sakic said. “But I’ll listen to offers on how we can get better. I’ll never name names but I’ll sit there and if something makes sense for the way we want to go, with our team, we’ll really look at that.”

Considering that it’s mid-August, it’s not too surprising that little is happening. One can imagine that several GMs are more interested in finding drinks with umbrellas in them than trying to land Duchene, at least since the Avalanche don’t seem interested in giving him up without some serious haggling.

(And, really, the Avs would be wise to pump up Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog‘s respective trade values, anyway.)

That Denver Post story features a semi-update on Nikita Zadorov. Sakic told Chambers that the two sides agreed that a two-year deal would be best, but the “numbers” aren’t there yet. He didn’t tip his hand about how big the gap was. For what it’s worth, Sakic didn’t sound too worried about the lure of the 2018 Winter Olympics swaying Zadorov to head overseas.

While a lot of the activity circles around what hasn’t happened, the Avalanche did realize that Will Butcher officially won’t sign with them, while Colorado added a college free agent (and former Maple Leafs prospect) Dominic Toninato to their own mix.

At the moment, it doesn’t seem like something big is brewing regarding Duchene and other prominent Avs, but at least Sakic isn’t slamming the door shut on such a possibility.

Logan Couture’s teeth are still sore from horrifying mouth injury

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Still jarring and gross: the image of Logan Couture‘s mouth after taking a puck to the mouth about five months ago.

Still sore: Couture’s mouth.

Yep, the San Jose Sharks star hasn’t totally gotten over that injury, which forced him to have false teeth up top and some painfully sore ones on his bottom row. NBC Sports California’s Kevin Kurz transcribed the unfortunate details Couture shared with NHL Network this week:

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth.

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

As someone who’s endured more than a few unpleasant trips to the dentist, stories like these always lead to queasiness. This classic PHT post about Keith Tkachuk’s agony always comes to mind in situations like these.

Speaking of queasy, this is footage of when things were really bad for Couture. That link is provided because some will inevitably want to look, but treat this like the other gross things on the Internet that you wish you never saw and just move on.

(Seriously, the healing process continues on this end.)

Anyway, about the only bit of good news is that Couture can still train more or less as usual. He endured that injury late in the regular season (March 25), and while he suited up for the Sharks’ first-round series, it sure seemed like both Couture and Joe Thornton were limited in those six games against the Edmonton Oilers.

As much as dental agony seems like a uniquely “hockey” problem, this situation sounds especially rough for Couture.

Sidney Crosby at 30

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

Much like with Lebron James, Sidney Crosby is at the point in his career where the question is no longer “Will he be one of the all-time greats?” After back-to-back Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe wins, the discussion is shifting to where he ranks among the best of all-time.

And, like, with Lebron, there are a number of factors – including era, which is probably an even tougher nut to crack in hockey – that can twist and turn the debate.

Mere moments after Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins repeated as champs, Mike Sullivan made the case for number 87’s greatness.

” … You know, he’s arguably the best player of his generation, and he’s a guy that just knows how to win,” Sullivan said. “And so he’s done it in all different venues, whether it be the NHL and Stanley Cups to the World Cup to the Olympics. And he’s a player that — and I believe this, what separates him from others is his work ethic and his willingness to do what it takes to be the very best.”

It’s mind-blowing to consider the very real possibility that Crosby will be viewed as the best player to skate for the Penguins, edging Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr, and even Mario Lemieux.

It’s also mind-blowing that he just turned 30 on Aug. 7.

When it comes to the Mario vs. Sid debate that may eventually pick up steam, Crosby has some advantages. He matched “The Magnificent One” by getting those back-to-back titles and playoff MVP nods, while he already has three Stanley Cup rings to Lemieux’s two (and four Stanley Cup Final appearances to two).

Crosby already has an iconic moment to his name. Along with Paul Henderson’s goal and “Gretzky to Lemieux,” Crosby’s golden goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics will endear him to Canadian hockey fans for ages.

This list of accolades is honestly dizzying:

But, again, things get tougher when you try to really drill down to Crosby vs. The Greats. Most obviously since he’s far from done right now.

Circling back to the debate that might divide Penguins fans in particular, Crosby might also edge Lemieux if you correct for our modern era, which is so tough on scoring. NHL.com’s Rob Vollman explains Crosby’s place among the most impressive runs before 30:

From this perspective, Crosby is no longer in a block of a dozen players but in more select company. He ranks third at age 30 with an era-adjusted 998 points (377 goals, 622 assists), well ahead of Lemieux, who is in fourth with 899 points (365 goals, 534 assists). Gretzky is in first with 1,479 points (495 goals, 984 assists) in 896 games, followed by Jagr with 1,018 points (414 goals, 604 assists) in 858 games. (Adding to the distinction of being in the top four with Gretzky, Jagr and Lemieux: Those are the only three players to win the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s top scorer in the 21 seasons from 1980-81 to 2000-01.)  

Interesting. (This quick document has a bit more to chew on.)

Vollman also makes the point that even the all-timers tend to stop locking down the biggest awards once they turn 30. There’s an obvious barrier in Connor McDavid (just check the Hart Trophy odds) and possibly some other bright young players, so for all we know, most of our peak memories of Crosby may already be in the past.

That said, much like Lemieux, injuries have limited some of the stats Crosby’s been able to put up.

Crosby’s concussion history could conceivably prompt him to retire agonizingly early, but what if he instead gets better luck? We’ve seen cases, such as Patrice Bergeron, in which such issues become less of a concern over time. For all we know, Crosby might defy expectations and actually play until he’s 40.

(Hey, he already emulates Jaromir Jagr in being an inanely good puck protector.)

It’s been a special run already for Crosby, who’s already a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. At this point, it’s about padding that resume.

Though, to Crosby’s credit, it’s still probably all about winning.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons: two years, $3.2M

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The Buffalo Sabres basically wrapped up their mandatory summer moves by signing RFA Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year, $3.2 million contract on Thursday.

That translates to a cap hit of $1.6M per year; the team confirmed those terms.

The 23-year-old was selected 14th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Sabres. He went two picks after the Sabres selected Mikhail Grigorenko, whose claim to fame is being part of the package that helped them nab Ryan O'Reilly. (Feel free to cringe at who went next, though hindsight seems especially convenient considering how long it takes to get to some of the whoppers.)

In Girgensons’ case, it’s still been a work in progress. His best years actually came early, particularly a sophomore season where he posted career-highs in goals (15) and points (30) despite being limited to 61 games. He enjoyed significantly higher ice time (19:05 per game) during that 2014-15, then came right back down.

If nothing else, Girgensons already has ample NHL experience, as he’s already played in 277 regular-season games.

Buffalo has about $7 million in cap space left, according to Cap Friendly, so there’s theoretically room to make more moves. Girgensons was their last remaining loose end of note, however.