James O'Brien

houghap

Hey, Brooks Laich and actress Julianne Hough got engaged

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Actress/dancer/famous person Julianne Hough and Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich announced that they got engaged on Aug. 18.

source:

Their caption reads:

We are overwhelmed with joy and excitement to share with you our recent engagement! #fiancé #love

Hough is the champion of the couple at the moment, as she’s part of two winning teams on “Dancing with the Stars.” She apparently was dating Ryan Seacrest before meeting Laich, according to Fox 411.

Sorry everyone, but you won’t get a better photo of Hough’s engagement ring, as you’ll instead need to settle for this description via People Magazine:

“The ring is over five carats and oval-shaped,” a source tells PEOPLE. “Brooks called Lorraine because he wanted to find the most perfect diamond that was truly beautiful and shined so bright — just like Julianne. Brooks and Lorraine worked together for months to find a ring that reflected Julianne’s grace and elegance. It’s very clean, very elegant, very beautiful and the diamond is the highest quality. It just shines gorgeous.”

Hough also got a new haircut to celebrate the occasion.

This has been a great summer for Laich, 31, in various ways. He told the Washington Post that he’s excited to work on skills rather than just rehabbing this summer, and now he can also work on wedding plans.

So, let’s throw down the gauntlet: where do Laich – Hough rank among the hockey celebrity couples?

Important stuff.

(H/T to Eye on Hockey)

Dallas Stars ’15-16 Outlook

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If there’s one safe bet with the Dallas Stars, it’s that they’ll be one of the most exciting teams in the NHL next season.

That being said, “entertaining” and “successful” don’t always go together in professional hockey.

More than a few times today, PHT’s discussed a few curveballs that might befuddle this team. Even so, this team stands to be electric and boasts one of the highest ceilings of any team in the NHL.

As risky as spending $10.4 million on good (but maybe not elite) goalies might be, there’s a perfectly reasonable possibility that Dallas will find the right formula to make it all work. That’s on head coach Lindy Ruff, as mentioned earlier on Saturday.

Let’s remember though that sports are, ostensibly, about entertainment; it would be a borderline travesty if the Dallas market doesn’t light up the box office for this time.

Just ponder their offensive attack for a minute.

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn stand as one of the dynamic duos of the NHL. Jason Spezza has his flaws, yet he’s also often a brilliant playmaker. Patrick Sharp boasts a handsome two-way game and 2015-16 could be much kinder to Valeri Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky.

John Klingberg’s potential is almost as impressive as his braids were embarrassing.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Stars can justify all the hype with wins and a deep playoff run. Either way, they’re just about guaranteed to be appointment TV for anyone with even a remote interest in the sport.

That’s a victory in itself.

Poll: What to expect from the Dallas Stars

Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn
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Forecasting the way NHL seasons will play out is almost as much of a fool’s errand as, well, forecasting the weather.

Even so, there are certain teams who feel like “rain in Seattle”-type locks. One way or another, the Colorado Avalanche are expected to produce cringe-worthy possession stats. Even with some significant losses, many will predict that the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks will hog the puck.

What do we make of the Dallas Stars?

Few doubted their offense in 2014-15, yet that explosive group stands as a great chance of being even scarier next season.

However you feel about the value of Dallas’ $10.4 million goalie duo, it’s easy to predict better results than the shaky work from before.

The defense is the real wild card, as there are so many young pieces that a huge improvement isn’t that outrageous to ponder, especially if Lindy Ruff’s decades of experience pay off.

One might reasonably pencil them in for a playoff berth – maybe? – but they’re suddenly spending like a contender. What kind of outcome do you expect from this team?

Under Pressure: Lindy Ruff

Lindy Ruff
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The Dallas Stars were a fun dark horse candidate for some time, but this summer ensured that they can’t get away with being a “work in progress” any longer. Much of the pressure to advance falls on Lindy Ruff’s shoulders.

Plenty of questions remain on defense

When you look beyond the flashy set of forwards and the gaudy prices on goalies, one cannot help but wonder if Dallas will still struggle to keep pucks out of its net.

Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi should (potentially) at least give them average-to-good goaltending most nights, but will the Stars’ hyped defensive prospects mature in time to patch up a leaky group of blueliners?

For one thing, it’s a little odd that Tyler Seguin wasn’t shaken off of his belief that Stars couldn’t just outscore their opponents in 2014-15.

“We felt we had all these top players, all this firepower that could score a ton of goals. Automatically in training camp we were scoring a ton, but we weren’t focusing on defense,” Seguin told Sportsnet in early August.

“That’s not the on the coaches or GMs at all. That was all on us. We felt we could outscore every team.”

Yes, Seguin lets management off the hook, but it still seems a little strange.

Rising expectations

On the bright side, the Stars were a pretty strong possession team. Defending Big D goes deep on that front.

To some extent, the formula might not be ideal, though; the Stars’ blistering offense (third in the NHL in “SAT For”) in some ways camouflages the fact that Dallas also gave up far more scoring chances than they would have preferred (20th in “SAT Against”).

How much can we reasonably expect the Stars’ defense to improve from there? Again, it’s difficult to say which prospects may make an impact (and when), so the blueline may be largely similar to the shaky one from last season. Johnny Oduya serves as a nice upgrade over Trevor Daley, but only to a certain extent.

Fair or not, Ruff will absorb plenty of blame if the same problems blot out the Stars once more.

Stars’ biggest question: Will the goalie gamble work?

Antti Niemi
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If you were putting together a list of the best goalies in the NHL, how long would it take you to get to Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen?

Niemi won a Stanley Cup with Chicago back in 2010 despite some up-and-down playoff performances. He’s been a Vezina finalist once and is 31 years old.

Despite being the second pick of the 2002 NHL Draft, Lehtonen (also 31) has never been a Vezina finalist. He has eight (mostly lousy) games of playoff experience in his career and is associated as much with injury issues and any great on-ice accomplishment.

Neither Niemi nor Lehtonen is a “bad” goalie, but it may be optimistic to call either one of them “elite.”

Well, unless you’re working for the Stars, perhaps.

“In the end, I think it’s going to be a split situation. I think it’s going to work well,” GM Jim Nill told The Ticket back in early August. “Like I said, we’re fortunate because of our cap situation that we can do it. I know that if other teams had the cap room, they’d do it. You can’t get any better than having two No. 1 goalies in your lineup.”

Here are a few bottom-line statements about this situation.

Dallas is spending $10.4 million on this combination, and at any time, they’ll either have a $5.9 million goalie (Lehtonen) or a $4.5 million one (Niemi) watching on. Niemi and Lehtonen make up about 15 percent of the Stars’ cap spending as of this moment, according to General Fanager’s numbers.

Tyler Seguin hints at the Stars at least acknowledging their defensive issues, but do they possess the personnel or system to make life any better for their netminders? The Stars have reason to brag about a deep pool of defensive prospects, yet you have to wonder if that only means they’ll get to that point sometime after 2015-16.

The Stars have a lot riding on their unusual two-headed monster in net, and there’s a significant risk that this experiment may backfire.