Alex Ovechkin

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?

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.