Bodog’s oddsmakers aren’t worried about Alex Ovechkin’s tough 2010-11

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To most casual hockey fans, Alex Ovechkin fell off the map last season. It’s tough to fault that mindset when you consider the fact that Ovi makes about $10 million per year – not counting endorsements involving chocolate and magic powers.

The thing is, sometimes the bounces just don’t go your way. That’s exactly what happened to Ovechkin in 2010-11; the Washington Capitals superstar connected on a career-low 8.7 percent of his shots (the only time he’s ever been under double digits). To give you an idea of how big of a drop that is, Ovechkin took an almost identical amount of shots the last two seasons: 368 in 09-10 and 367 in 10-11, yet he scored 50 goals (13.8 percent) in 09-10 and 32 last season.

It’s fair to assume that at least some of that wasn’t related to luck – maybe Ovechkin was a little worn down, perhaps the Capitals’ decelerated system handcuffed him a bit – but the smart money is on a bounce-back season. In fact, big gambling Web site Bodog wasn’t fooled by Ovi’s off year; they gave him the best odds to win the Hart Trophy next season.

Here are their top six choices (with a tie for fifth):

Ovechkin 4/1 odds
Steven Stamkos 11/2
Sidney Crosby 13/2
Daniel Sedin 12/1
Henrik Sedin 14/1
Pavel Datsyuk 14/1

Interestingly, the Anze Kopitar bandwagon keeps getting more crowded, as the Los Angeles Kings’ previously underrated star was the next highest choice with 25/1 odds. It’s surprising – but delightful – to see the Kings’ marquee talent (not named Drew Doughty) get so much attention after sliding under the radar for quite some time. Maybe that has something to do with LA’s proximity to Las Vegas, but it’s still pleasant to see him get his due.

Here are the top three expected finalists for the Vezina Trophy:

Ryan Miller 5/1
Tim Thomas 7/1
Roberto Luongo 15/2

Looking down the list, Pekka Rinne (10/1) and Tomas Vokoun (18/1) are interesting dark horse choices, with Jonas Hiller (25/1) being an intriguing sleeper as well.

Moving on, here are their guesses for the Norris Trophy:

Shea Weber 4/1
Zdeno Chara 9/2
Nicklas Lidstrom 13/2

Interestingly enough, the Norris process is the only one with the same three anticipated finalists as there were last season. It’s honestly a bit surprising – but likewise delightful – to see Weber get the appreciation he deserves. As far as other awards, Bodog pegs Philadelphia Flyers center Brayden Schenn over 2011 top pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the Calder Trophy and Stamkos tops Ovechkin for the Maurice Richard Trophy.

If you are a gambling fan, Vokoun at (18/1) sure seems appealing. Michal Neuvirth is likely to steal his fair share of starts, but that setup didn’t really hurt Tim Thomas in 2010-11. (Of course, Thomas put together a historic year, but don’t count out Vokoun for big numbers playing behind the first truly dominant team of his impressive career.)

There are plenty of ways to predict how the 2011-12 season will pan out, but looking at gambling odds can be an interesting way to gauge public opinion. So far, the oddsmakers seem like they know their stuff – for the most part, anyway. What do you think about those choices, though?

Oilers lament plenty of ‘individual miscues’ in loss to Ducks

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The Anaheim Ducks are apparently heading out of town, reportedly flying a short distance west to Kelowna, B.C., and leaving behind the playoff-crazed city of Edmonton until the series resumes for Game 4.

On the other hand, the Edmonton Oilers are left to contemplate what went wrong in a 6-3 loss to the Ducks on Sunday, as Anaheim got back in the series but still trails 2-1.

From the 25-second mark of the first period, it seemed the Oilers were on a losing path in this one after Rickard Rakell opened the scoring.

Edmonton did come back, but then quickly gave the game right back to the Ducks, who scored three unanswered goals and had completely taken the crowd in Edmonton out of it in the third period. They did a pretty good job of silencing the fans in Edmonton right away, with three goals before the game was 12 minutes old.

“We worked our way back in, but it wasn’t our night,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. “We weren’t sharp enough. Individual miscues were plenty. They were all over the board. You couldn’t even shorten the bench to find two or three lines. There were that many who were erring on a consistent basis.”

The Oilers were able to escape Game 2 with a victory — and Anaheim with a 2-0 series lead — thanks largely to the play of goalie Cam Talbot, but the Ducks solved him Sunday, scoring six times on just 28 shots.

The Oilers may have sparked a brief comeback, but there was really no sugar-coating this one, especially after Anaheim regained the lead and then badly outplayed the hosts in the third period — when the Oilers needed to push for the equalizer.

 

Ducks light up Cam Talbot to defeat Oilers

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Chris Wagner‘s first career playoff goal was the turning point in Game 3 for the Anaheim Ducks, as they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-3 to get their first win of this series.

Connor McDavid had just scored (another) spectacular goal, this one to get the Oilers back on even terms at three goals apiece after they fell behind 3-0 in the opening period. The orange crush at Rogers Place was, naturally, in a frenzy at the time.

The tide of this game had suddenly turned in favor of the home team, which had a 2-0 series lead.

As suddenly as the Oilers had come back to tie the game, the Ducks regained the lead. Wagner fired the puck from the side boards toward Cam Talbot, who misplayed the puck off his right arm and into the net.

That was only one part of a difficult night for Talbot, who allowed six goals on 28 shots. Anaheim had built up a three-goal lead less than 12 minutes in and needed only six shots to do so.

Talk about a quick turn of events. Talbot was sensational in Game 2, backstopping the Oilers to another road win with a 39-save performance.Edmonton’s troubles started early in Game 3. Rickard Rakell scored just 25 seconds in on a breakaway and the Ducks were rolling from there.

Wagner’s goal came just 48 seconds after McDavid tied the game. Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler increased the Anaheim lead in the third period.

This time, there was no inspired comeback from the Oilers.

While the Ducks found their scoring touch, they also received a 24-save performance from John Gibson. He was at his best in the second period, making a couple of key saves, including a great shoulder stop off a three-on-one rush.

Game 4 goes Wednesday in Edmonton.

Video: Connor McDavid puts on a show with this spectacular goal

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Connor McDavid has his first goal of this series against the Anaheim Ducks — and it was a beauty.

(Another spectacular McDavid goal? Get out!)

With one assist so far in this series, McDavid brought the crowd in Edmonton to its feet with a quick stop and cut back to his left against Sami Vatanen, followed immediately with a perfect wrist shot top corner on John Gibson.

“McWow!” is right.

The Oilers fell behind 3-0 in the first period, but that goal from McDavid tied the game before the midway point of the second period.

The celebration didn’t last long.

Just 48 seconds later, Chris Wagner‘s shot from the side boards, a rather harmless looking attempt, was misplayed by Cam Talbot to put Anaheim back in front by a score of 4-3. That’s the score heading into the third period.

‘We weren’t even competitive’ — Blues coach hints at lineup changes for Game 4

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Lineup adjustments can be a common occurrence in the playoffs. Based on his comments Sunday, St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo is seriously looking to make some changes for Game 4.

The Blues trail the Nashville Predators 2-1 in the series, following a disappointing 3-1 loss on Sunday.

Nashville dominated puck possession for long stretches, putting this one away on a goal from Roman Josi after just such a shift — caused by a Blues turnover in the defensive end — late in the third period.

Yeo praised the Predators for the way they checked the Blues, but was straight to the point with his assessment of his team’s performance.

“I mean, we scored one goal tonight. Fact of the matter is, for a large part of the game, we weren’t even competitive,” he told reporters.

“We obviously have to be way better. We have to make a couple of changes, personnel-wise, for the next game and look at the tape and see what we can do … a little bit better than tonight because it wasn’t good enough.”

Despite getting outplayed, the Blues were, for much of the second half of the game, one shot away from the tying goal. But hopes of a possible comeback were nullified after a shift of about 1:10 of furious Nashville possession in the offensive zone capped off by the Josi blast.

Blues defensemen Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko — who both had a miserable day in terms of puck possession — had been stuck on the ice for almost two minutes before Josi scored, per NHL.com.

That’s one glaring example.

“The way we played in our [defensive zone] matched the way that we executed, matched the way that we competed all over the ice,” said Yeo.

“We were waiting to see what they were going to do. We were reacting to that. So we’ve got to initiate much better.”