The Atlanta Thrashers named former Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd their new captain, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
I have to admit, on first impact, this news was pretty surprising. Yet in the grand scheme of things, it actually makes a lot of sense.
When you think about it, Ladd is the anti-Ilya Kovalchuk. While the Thrashers’ last captain seemed to coast on his considerable skills, Ladd fights for every single thing he gets in the NHL. That’s not to say he lacks talent altogether, though. Ladd has seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 19 games this season and certainly has a pedigree: he was the fourth overall pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Perhaps he just needed a chance truly thrive, though, as his average of 18:50 minutes per game is more than four minutes higher than his second highest average from the 2008-09 season. NHL.com points out that Ladd is the eighth captain in the league who is 25 years old or younger and one of 11 who are 26 or younger.
Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay explains to Vivlamore why the team named him the new captain.
“I just think he’s the right guy. I’ve seen lots of captains in my day but he’s a well-respected person, which to me is absolutely vital in that role. I think it’s a flaw if you just make your best player the captain. In this case, we picked the player that’s played great. He’s been our best player on many nights. He’s been as committed a player as I’ve seen in a long time.”
Congratulations to Ladd, who seems like he’s really hitting his prime as a member of the Blackhawk-infused Thrashers.
This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.
The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.
(Watch that goal in the video above.)
It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.
Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.
To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.
The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.
As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.
Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.
The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)
At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.
At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.
These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.
In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.
” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”
Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.
In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.
The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.
Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)
The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.
Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:
—Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6
—Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee
—Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason
—Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5