For some, it may seem obvious to call the Anaheim Ducks the favorites and the Winnipeg Jets the underdogs, as Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice did to the Winnipeg Sun.
Then again, considering the Jets’ strong finish and the Ducks’ recent history of playoff disappointment, it makes sense that Maurice still hast to come out and say it.
“We’re a huge, decided underdog in this series,” Maurice said. “They finished first, best team in the Western Conference. We didn’t. But we have some confidence in our game.”
Maurice praises the Ducks’ skill and size, pointing out that “you don’t finish first in the Western Conference by accident.”
Again, though, there are some who will look at the Jets as serious upset threats.
Beyond the scorching-hot finish for Winnipeg – particularly frequently embattled goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who ended the year on the run of his life – the Jets have been a strong possession team during the entire season and final stretch. They boast an array of quality forwards (especially underrated guys like Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little), a deep defense when healthy, and now possibly the goaltending they’ve been craving.
In other words, those who are paying attention probably think that the Jets shouldn’t sneak up on the Ducks at all, yet it’s understandable why Maurice might want to play that card.
The Ottawa Senators will enter the playoffs with heavy hearts, as word surfaced on Tuesday that assistant coach Mike Reeds died at the age of 55. Bayshore Broadcasting first reported the sad news that his battle with cancer has ended.
The news has been confirmed by the team.
Reeds had been fighting the disease for years before he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer recently. Bayshore Broadcasting’s report indicates that he was also dealing with pneumonia symptoms when he passed away on Tuesday morning.
Reeds played 365 regular season games and 53 postseason contests at the NHL level, spending most of his career with the St. Louis Blues (who drafted him 86th overall in 1979). He also spent parts of two seasons with the Hartford Whalers.
He began his coaching career as an assistant coach with the Peoria Rivermen. Reeds won championships with the Kalamazoo Wings in the AHL and the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL before becoming a Senators assistant beginning in 2011-12.
The hockey world is already outpouring its support for the veteran coach, as you can see below.
The entire Ottawa Senators organization sends its deepest condolences to the Reeds family. Rest in peace, Mark.
Nail Yakupov and the Edmonton Oilers are at a crossroads right now, so a “bridge” contract makes some sense. The team announced that they signed the young winger to a two-year deal on Monday.
The contract is worth $5 million overall, which shapes up to be $2.5 million per season. This is an affordable compromise, and maybe the first of at least two with key young players for the Oilers, as Edmonton still must take the next step with polarizing defenseman Justin Schultz.
Yakupov, 21, had just finished the final season of his entry-level contract after being the first pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. It’s been a bumpy development process so far for the Russian forward. Plus/minus is a widely derided stat, yet it might most succinctly tell the story of how tough things have been for him at times: Yakupov is a -72 for his short career, including an all-time low of -35 in 2014-15.
That’s by no means Yakupov’s fault alone, mind you.
The biggest thing is that he’s been streaky (at best) when it comes to scoring, yet the good news is that he’s shown some improvement to close out this past season. He scored 21 points in his last 31 games versus just 12 in the first 50 games.
There’s plenty of time for a breakthrough, and if it happens, the Oilers are getting a nice (short-term) bargain.
Hockey has a Claude Lemieux here and a Chris Pronger there, yet you don’t see a ton of players embracing that role. P.K. Subban didn’t outright say he strives to be the Joker to someone else’s Batman, but he didn’t deny that boos fuel his fire in an interesting interview with NHL.com.
“I’m not saying that I do. I’m not saying that I don’t,” Subban said with a grin. “But I don’t ask them to do that. When I go to Winnipeg, I don’t ask them to boo me. Philly, it’s the same thing. Pittsburgh, Toronto. I’m from Toronto; they still boo me.”
” … Let’s just say it doesn’t bother me.”
For some players, silencing a hostile crowd can be almost as rewarding – maybe more rewarding – than bringing home fans to their feet. It doesn’t hurt that Subban, 25, has the skill to do so.
In fact, Subban thinks he’s playing the best hockey of his career, explaining how he’s learned when to be aggressive and when to take his foot off the gas.