In a young man’s game, let’s take it easy with the dynasty talk

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In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, led by their 21-year-old captain, Sidney Crosby, and a 22-year-old Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin.

At the time, the Pens seemed like a dynasty in the making. They have not been back to the Stanley Cup Final since.

Because also at the time, there were some young guys in Chicago by the names of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith, and some other young guys in Los Angeles by the names of Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar.

Today, it’s the Blackhawks and Kings that are garnering the dynasty talk. No surprise there, given they’ve won four of the last five Stanley Cups, two for each franchise, and both clubs, among other things, have an elite two-way center and an elite defenseman.

And if you go back in time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a champion that didn’t have at least one of those types of players. The Boston Bruins, who won in 2011, had/still have Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. The 2008 Red Wings had Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom. The 2007 Ducks had two elite d-men in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, plus a young center in Ryan Getzlaf. And even the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, though their blue line was relatively lacking, had a two-time Selke Trophy winner in Rod Brind’Amour and a young center in Eric Staal.

If that’s the blue print, there are teams today, besides L.A. and Chicago, with the makings of a champion. Look at Columbus, with Ryan Johansen, 21, and Ryan Murray, 20. There’s Tampa Bay, with Steven Stamkos, 24, and Victor Hedman, 23. The Blue Jackets and Lightning also have highly rated prospects in Alexander Wennberg and Jonathan Drouin, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars may need to upgrade their blue lines, but they’re led by young stars up front. The Florida Panthers are loaded with young talent. Ditto for the Buffalo Sabres.

And what about the players that haven’t even been drafted yet? In five years, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, draft-eligible next summer, will be 22 years old, i.e. around the same age Crosby, Toews and Doughty won their first Stanley Cups.

Now, could the Kings become a dynasty? Absolutely. So could the Blackhawks. But let’s also remember how quickly things can change in a young man’s league like the NHL.

Five years ago, Los Angeles finished with the second-worst record in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Five years ago, Chicago finally made the playoffs after missing five straight times.

Look at them now.

Video: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler lose cool in scuffle with Kassian, Oilers

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In the first round, Zack Kassian reminded the hockey world why he came into the league with considerable hype as a first-rounder, as he scored some big goals for the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course, there’s a reason why Kassian has 522 penalty minutes in 313 career regular-season games. He can be a nasty presence who straddles the line.

He did as much late in Game 1, getting into it with Ryan Kesler, and then things really got out of hand. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and others were involved in “histrionics.”

(Who wants to start a Patreon to find out what Getzlaf and Andrej Sekera were saying to each other, by the way?)

It looks like the players involved were only whistled for roughing minors rather than fighting majors. This caps a tough night for Anaheim, who lost 5-3 and saw Kevin Bieksa suffer a troubling lower-body injury.

King Leon: Draisaitl collects four points vs. Ducks to give Oilers a Game 1 win

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So far, the Edmonton Oilers had been showing that they can win tight, low-scoring playoff games. And then the third period of Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks happened.

The two teams entered the final frame tied 1-1, with smaller breaks and bounces being the story. Then just about everything happened in the third, with Leon Draisaitl guiding the Oilers to a 5-3 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

Draisaitl ended up with a goal and three assists, extending his point streak to three games (seven points during that span).

He wasn’t the only Oilers player to raise some eyebrows, and actually, the other two starring members were a lot more surprising. Mark Letestu seemed to make the early difference with two power-play goals, while low-scoring defenseman Adam Larsson found the net twice, including on the game-winner.

Phew, that’s a lot to absorb, right? This video captures the wildest scoring stretch of that period, even if there would be more:

While Connor McDavid hasn’t been bad, he’s been quiet – by his lofty standards – so far in the Oilers’ run, and that was mostly true on Wednesday. He ended up with a mere secondary assist in this one,

Yet, that might just be part of the good news for the Oilers. They advanced after McDavid had spotty series against the Sharks, and they just gave the Ducks their first postseason loss of 2017 with Draisaitl and others stealing the headlines.

Things got nasty at the end of this game, with key Ducks such as Ryan Getzlaf being prominently involved. Such moments make it clear that Anaheim isn’t likely to bow out of this one easily (and perhaps not gracefully?) but that should only make for a captivating Game 2.

That Game 2 airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; you can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)