Kings or Devils will be the lowest seed ever to win Cup


This is the first time in the history of the NHL that a sixth seed team has faced an eighth seed squad in the Stanley Cup finals.

Regardless of who wins in the finals – be it the New Jersey Devils or Los Angeles Kings – they will be the lowest seed team to ever raise the Stanley Cup. The current and soon to be dethroned holder of that distinction is the 1995 New Jersey Devils. They won it all after capturing the fifth seed.

From now on any GM or owner that says that anything can happen in the playoffs will be referencing the 2012 Kings and Devils, but of course, these aren’t your typical low seed teams.

The Devils played in the incredibly rough Atlantic Division and were ultimately just seven points behind the top seed New York Rangers. Looking past their record, this is a team that features a ton of star talent, including Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Patrik Elias, and, of course, future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur. On top of that they also have plenty of depth and a lot of key guys with playoff experience that they can lean on. Brodeur in particular is going for his fourth Stanley Cup.

The Los Angeles Kings snuck into the playoffs, but they always had a great team on paper. Like the Devils, they are led by a big name cast including Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, and their big mid-season acquisition, Jeff Carter. However, it wasn’t until Darryl Sutter took over as their coach that they really started to click and as a result, their regular season record left something to be desired.

The Kings and Devils aren’t mediocre teams that managed to squeak into the playoffs and simply get lucky. These teams are evidence that, if you already have the framework of a great squad, you can accomplish tremendous things despite a low seed.

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’

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Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.