<span class="vcard">James O'Brien</span>

Andrei Markov

Ouch: Sens’ first goal goes off of Markov’s stick

3 Comments

The Ottawa Senators’ luck might not just be reserved for the regular season.

They’ve been taking it to the Montreal Canadiens early on in Game 1, and they were rewarded much to Andrei Markov’s chagrin, as Milan Michalek got credited for the tally on this own-goal:

Oof, that has to sting. Apparently Carey Price was non-too-pleased about that gaffe:

Plenty of jokes came from this one, including an ode to former Edmonton Oilers defenseman Steve Smith and his notorious blunder.

For Markov’s sake, it’s at least a far less crucial time.

Video: Brock Nelson scores the first goal of 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs

brocknelsongetty
1 Comment

Young New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson began the 2014-15 season on a hot streak. Perhaps he’ll do the same in the postseason, as he scored the first goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs on Wednesday.

It’s certainly not a beauty, and it’s definitely one that excellent Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby would like back. Some think Troy Brouwer has a little egg on his face for this one, too:

Nelson had 12 points in 10 October games to begin the season, easily his best month of his first full campaign. Seeing him get an early goal is a great thing for an Islanders team brimming with talented, inexperienced players.

Update: Marcus Johansson tied it up with a heck of a shot.

Thornton now has harsh words for McLellan as Sharks mess festers

San Jose Sharks v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five
29 Comments

Bad feelings tend to flourish when teams suffer from losses and disappointing seasons, but it’s difficult to think of many situations where players and executives aired their grievances as publicly as the San Jose Sharks have.

It’s really been a mess since last summer, and if you expected media availability to be full of no-comments or diplomatic responses, then you probably weren’t close to Joe Thornton.

Not that long after Thornton told his general manager to shut his mouth, the Sharks’ former captain and frequent lighting rod made sarcastic comments toward his head coach Todd McLellan this time around, as CSNBayArea.com reports.

Q: There’s a lot of focus on the coaching staff. Do you sense any need for change?

Thornton: “I have no idea. Todd has to talk to his family. Maybe he should talk to this family as well in here. We’ll see what happens.”

Sheesh, that’s a little salty, huh?

It wasn’t the only sign that Thornton, 35, has some hard feelings for a coach who may or may not return next season. This seemingly sarcastic comment from his brother (and agent) about McLellan coaching Team Canada at the 2015 World Hockey Championships also suggests that all is not quite well:

For those wondering why the Sharks don’t just trade this problem away, do note that Thornton has a no-trade clause, so it may not be such a straightforward process … and that’s assuming they’d want to deal a guy who still is a big difference-maker on the ice.

The malaise hanging over the franchise is quite obvious, and it hasn’t been lost on players like Logan Couture, who admitted that he doesn’t think the culture is “great.”

Whether the Sharks make some big changes or largely stay put, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this franchise raise a few eyebrows before training camps for 2015-16 kick in.

WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup Playoff action

Islanders-Capitals
2 Comments

It’s time, hockey fans.

After taking a breather following the blistering conclusion of the regular season, the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us. You can take in all the action on TV, but NBC Sports Live Extra also is streaming three of the contests online tonight.

Tune to NBCSN as the Nashville Predators host the Chicago Blachawks, with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:30 ET:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

USA Network carries Game 1 of New York Islanders at Washington Capitals:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

USA is also carrying Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Do not fret about missing Ottawa Senators – Montreal Canadiens, either, as NHL Network will carry that contest.

Pressing Playoff Question: What do the advanced stats foretell about the Rangers, Habs?

Carey Price, Mats Zuccarello
50 Comments

As division winners and last year’s conference final representatives, the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens seem like the gold standard in the East. However, there are plenty of red flags that indicate they’re nowhere near as dominant as their win-loss records make them appear.

Whether you prefer NHL.com’s new stats or you stick with resources such as War on Ice, the bottom line is that possession stats don’t favor either team. The Rangers and Canadiens fall in the lower half (if not lower third) of various rankings in seemingly every scenario, and just about every luck-related stat argues that they’re both paper tigers. Montreal and New York come up as the top two teams in PDO at even strength, one of the tell-tale signs of teams that are getting a ton of bounces (or not nearly enough).

Long story short, if the Rangers and Canadiens are haunted by the question “What if our luck runs out?,” they should be. Both teams have shooting luck that runs a little high, yet the most obvious area where they can get a reality check is with goaltending.

On paper, you’d think that Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist would continue to be all-world goalies, but the Canadiens above all should know how frail a setup that can be. After all, one ill-fated Chris Kreider plunge can negate that advantage.

Beyond that, both teams could face teams with red-hot goalies, negating that advantage … and there’s also the chance that Price and/or Lundqvist could falter. Price, for example, has a .909 career playoff save percentage (down from a stellar .919 career regular-season mark). If the likely Vezina winner and possible Hart recipient merely falls from elite to merely very good, Montreal could be in trouble.

People may roll their eyes at fancy stats talk, but recent history backs much of it up. The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have had a nice run of things, and they generally hog the puck better than anyone else.

Interestingly enough, possession stats actually smiled upon the 2013-14 version of the Rangers despite a bumpy regular season, yet the current rendition of the team lost some helpful pieces in the offseason, particularly underrated defenseman Anton Stralman.

Ultimately, the Kings stand as an interesting fork in the road for this debate. Many stats skeptics will sneer at the fact that the defending champs topped many metrics this season and didn’t even make the playoffs. That they were beaten out by the Calgary Flames, one of the worst possession teams in the NHL, is clear proof that Corsi and Fenwick aren’t everything.

The thing is, nobody ever professed they were. Just like nobody’s professing that the Rangers and Canadiens are flat-out bad. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a team’s goalie being its best player, and it’s far from unreasonable to think that Price or Lundqvist could put together Conn Smythe-type runs.

At the same time, no advanced-stats advocate would be surprised if it was the Senators and/or Penguins who advanced to the second round.

Pittsburgh, by the way, finished with the third-highest score-adjusted Fenwick in the NHL.