Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks

The 2011 Stanley Cup finals will be the most travel-heavy finals in the NHL’s modern era

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There seems to be a pretty simple formula if you want a jet-setting, travel-heavy Stanley Cup finals: simply add the Vancouver Canucks. Travis Hughes of SBNation points out that the team’s three Cup finals appearances (including the 2011 edition against the Boston Bruins, which begins Wednesday on Versus at 8 p.m. ET) rank in the top five most traveled final rounds in NHL history.

The Bruins and Canucks will travel approximately 2,504 miles when they change venues, the longest trip for a Cup finals series in the NHL’s modern era and second longest of all-time, according to Hughes. Vancouver’s 1994 series against the New York Rangers clocked in at fifth place all-time (2,429 miles) while the 1982 team’s match against the dynasty-era New York Islanders (2,448 miles) ranked fourth. The Islanders series was a short and simple sweep by the Mike Bossy/Bryan Trottier/Billy Smith dynasty group while the Rangers beat the Canucks in that famous seven-game series. The Los Angeles Kings’ 1993 series against the Montreal Canadiens ranked third, going 2,469 miles.

Only the 1905 Ottawa Silver Seven vs. Dawson City Nuggets series featured more travel between venues than the upcoming series between the Bruins and Canucks will require. The two venues were 2,701 miles apart and the travel arrangements weren’t anywhere near as cushy, as Hughes describes in his great post.

Back then, it was a challenge trophy, meaning that the holder had to fend off fights from all comers.

The Nuggets of Dawson City wanted in, so with some funding, they made the journey south and across Canada to Ottawa. Of course, they did part of the trek by dog sled. What else would you expect? The full trip actually spanned over 4,000 miles, with the team riding bicycles, using those dog sleds, hopping on a ship and then finally hitting the rails for the final leg from Vancouver to Ottawa.

They left home in mid-December, and they got to Ottawa just in time for the first game of the best-of-three series on January 13. Asking for a reprieve after a month of traveling in the winter weather, the Ottawa club denied the request before mercilessly pummeling them into the ground, 9-2, in that Game 1.

In the second game, the most-lopsided score in Stanley Cup history, the Silver Seven destroyed the sad Nuggets from little Dawson City by a final score of 23-2. Afterwards, the Silver Seven got drunk and famously kicked the Cup into the Rideau Canal. Surely the Nuggets would have treated that prize, which they starved for a month to have just a chance at playing for, with a little love.

There definitely will be some post-Cup revelry whether the Bruins or Canucks end up the winners, but something tells me they might treat the victory with more care than the Silver Seven did as well.

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock
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ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”

It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

Martin Havlat

As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?