Tim Thomas

Last two Cup champs faceoff in Chicago, hangover talk abound

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There’s a little more buzz whenever the last two Stanley Cup champions get together. Some people out there think this could eventually be a Stanley Cup preview for this season, but the Bruins have plenty of things to figure out with their game before they can start thinking about another deep playoff run. It’s early and they’ll have plenty of time to figure out their issues—but they do have issues.

There’s been some talk of a Stanley Cup hangover swirling around Boston in the early part of this season. The Bruins are off to a 1-3 start and have lost back-to-back games against the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes. Ouch. But they shouldn’t expect any sympathy from their opponents across the ice in Chicago tonight. After all, they went through the exact same thing last season.

All they have to do is look towards the Chicago Blackhawks if they want a cautionary tale. A season ago, the Blackhawks got off to a sluggish start and were constantly chasing opponents in the standings for the entire season. By the final day of the season, they needed a Dallas Stars defeat just to sneak into the playoffs. Their reward for the playoff berth was a date with the extremely talented, surging, and rival Vancouver Canucks. Needless to say, it’s a tougher path starting the playoffs as the 8th seed than it was when they were the 2nd seed and won the Cup.

Some people will tell you the slow start is really what cost the Hawks their season.

Fast-forward to this season and the Bruins are trying to avoid the same fate on the East Coast. The problem is that the early season losing has people looking for answers. Why is this team not as good as the one we saw in June? The roster is relatively the same, so it must be something—which is where the Stanley Cup hangover notion comes from. Defending Vezina/Conn Smyth/greatest ECHLer ever Tim Thomas knows that it can be a self-perpetuating prophecy:

“Of course there are effects [from winning the Cup], but I wouldn’t call it a hangover. By talking about it and by having it brought up in the media all the time, it brings it up into your conscious mind. It gives you an excuse or it allows you to think that way.

“The battle as a player is to not waste your time thinking in negative directions like that, and instead stay positive and in the moment. That was last year and this is a new year. If you want to have success, we need to focus on what each of us need to in each individual period and each individual game.”

Still, Boston has played uninspired hockey through the first week of the season and will look to find a spark against the highly-respected Blackhawks. Hawks’ star Patrick Kane certainly isn’t feeling sorry for the champs though:

“The [Bruins] are a great team. People talk about hangovers, but we lost 9, 10 guys from our team last year. They haven’t lost many and it seems they’ve made some improvements with guys like [Joe] Corvo coming over.

“If anything they’re just as good as last year, especially with guys like [Tim] Thomas and [Zdeno] Chara and their core guys they seem to be in pretty good shape. It will be a good test for sure.”

It’s easy to point towards a Stanley Cup hangover for the Bruins because their losing. The same can be said for the Chicago Blackhawks throughout the entire season last year. If the Hawks were the dominant team they were in 2009-10, there wouldn’t be any Cup hangover stories. Likewise, if the Bruins can find the game that helped them win it all last season, everyone can put this hangover talk to bed—once and for all.

It could start tonight with a win against the Blackhawks.

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering 10 years of Crosby, Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here’s a detailed look back at Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s first 10 years in the NHL. (NHL.com)

Speaking of Crosby, he’s signed a multiyear partnership with adidas. (Newswire)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play a key role in easing Connor McDavid into the NHL. (Edmonton Sun)

After two polar opposite seasons, the jury is still out on Patrick Roy as a head coach. (Denver Post)

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys pulling off pranks on his teammates. “I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Art McDonald, a Canadian who won recently won a Nobel Prize, talked to the committee members about the Toronto Maple Leafs. (SB Nation)