EA Sports unveils the first three legends for NHL ’12: Gretzky, Chelios and Bourque

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If you don’t already know by now, EA Sports’ NHL ’12 will feature a collection of retired hockey legends in its Legends Mode. In that last post, we speculated about which legends might be incorporated in the game, but those were just educated guesses. EA made three of those nine players official through a Games Trailer video late last night: Wayne Gretzky, Chris Chelios and Ray Bourque.

To start off the clip, you can see Gretzky working in his “office.” (Which was one of the things I hoped to see when that initial legends trailer was released. Nice job, EA.) The interesting part is that he was setting up a goal for Taylor Hall instead of, say, Jari Kurri. That indicates a few things: the game probably won’t have classic teams – an understandable bummer – and it also shows that legends will be available for use with all 30 NHL teams. (They’ll also be available in the game’s HUT mode, though one could imagine them being harder to come by.)

Moving on, the clip also showed Bourque and Chelios in action. Close-ups of Chelios and Gretzky make it clear that EA went to great lengths to capture the look of each player and the “office” footage shows that there was at least some attention paid to their styles and quirks. Here’s that video in question.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Of course, the question EA wants you to ask is: which other six players will be in the game?

There are various hints that indicate Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe will likely be included in the game. (The shape of the silhouettes gives away the presence of a goalie and a few players who aren’t wearing helmets. Sadly, Craig MacTavish probably won’t be one of those players.)

Doug Miller of Kukla’s Korner does a solid job of breaking down the remaining candidates for the last two spots (assuming that the first seven are correct, of course).

So with that, here is my short list of more “modern” forwards, along with likely team, who might grab one of those final two spots…

– Mark Messier (New York Rangers)
– Joe Sakic (Colorado Avalanche)
– Steve Yzerman (Detroit Red Wings)
– Mike Bossy (New York Islanders)

Taking the “helmet” issue into account, here are some old school alternatives, of which there could only be one included, assuming I’m right about Howe and Orr…

– Jean Beliveau (Montreal Canadians)
– Bobby Hull (Chicago Blackhawks)
– Maurice Richard (Montreal Canadians)
– Bobby Clarke (Philadelphia Flyers)

Woof, it’s pretty tough to narrow that list down to just two more players, isn’t it? If I had to narrow the list down a little bit, I’d say that one of the spots could come down to Yzerman or Messier while the other might come down to Hull or Richard. Again, that’s a complete guess, though.

Which nine legends would you like to see in the game? Personally, I’m a little bummed out that Dominik Hasek probably won’t be involved, especially since video game technology has come far enough to accurately mimic the Slinky-spine movements that made him so fun to watch. As they say in sports and sports video games, there’s always next year.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.