Author: Jason Brough

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Seven

Rangers are 2/1 Cup favorites; Lundqvist favored to win Conn Smythe


The latest Stanley Cup odds, courtesy online bookmaker Bovada:

New York Rangers — 2/1
Chicago Blackhawks — 11/5
Anaheim Ducks — 12/5
Tampa Bay Lightning — 19/4

Now, there’s always some smart guy who mentions it in the comments section, so we might as well beat him to the punch:

No, the odds aren’t always exactly what the oddsmakers believe to be 100-percent true. In this case, there’s possibly been a slight adjustment based on the size of New York’s fan base compared to, say, Tampa Bay’s. Generally, people like to bet on their favorite teams, and an Original Six team like the Rangers, in a big city like New York, has a lot of fans.

Then again, maybe Tampa Bay’s the long shot of the four because the oddsmakers just don’t think the Lightning have been very good in the playoffs. (Which they really haven’t been.)

Anyway, here are the Conn Smythe Trophy favorites:

Henrik Lundqvist — 4/1
Patrick Kane — 17/2
Corey Perry — 9/1
Jonathan Toews — 19/2

Five team stats you may find interesting


2.00 — Goals per game for the Rangers in these playoffs. The reason they’re in the conference finals is they’ve only given up 1.67 per game, thanks in large part to Henrik Lundqvist (.944 save percentage). Remarkably, six of the Rangers’ eight wins have been by a score of 2-1. Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider lead the Blueshirts with five goals each, followed by Derek Stepan with three, while Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin, Kevin Hayes, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle have two each.

55.4 — Anaheim’s faceoff percentage, the highest of the four remaining teams. The Ducks struggled in this area last postseason, but the addition of Ryan Kesler (63.7% this year), who replaced Nick Bonino (45.8% last year), has really helped them. Should be interesting to see how Kesler does against Jonathan Toews, one of the best faceoff men in the game.

10-1 — The combined overtime record of the four remaining teams, led by the Rangers (4-0). The only team that’s suffered an overtime loss is Anaheim (Game 3 versus Calgary).

48.31 — Tampa Bay’s Corsi close percentage, the lowest of the four remaining teams. Which lends credence to the notion that the Lightning haven’t really played up to their potential in the postseason. In a related story, Ben Bishop was excellent versus Montreal, registering a save percentage of .940 in six games, while outplaying Hart Trophy favorite Carey Price. Let’s see how Bishop does versus Lundqvist.

9 — Power-play goals allowed by Chicago. Six to Nashville, then three more to Minnesota. Poor penalty killing is not something that’s normally associated with successful playoff teams, so the Blackhawks will want to tighten that area up versus the Ducks, who’ve scored nine power-play goals in nine games.

Kerry Fraser: Orpik hit on Boyle was legal


We all saw the hit Brooks Orpik put on Dan Boyle last night:

After the game, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault reportedly thought Boyle would be fine. But the 38-year-old didn’t look particularly fine trying to skate off the ice, and he didn’t return to the game.

Many observers felt Orpik deserved to be penalized for a hit to the head.

Ex-referee Kerry Fraser, however, deemed the hit legal.

Fraser’s full explanation is here at But it boils down to Rule 48, which was reworded in 2013 to clarify that only “avoidable” contact to head would be punished.

According to Fraser, the contact to Boyle’s head was not illegal, because:

– Boyle placed himself in a vulnerable position.
– The Rangers player materially change his body and head position immediately prior to the hit delivered by Orpik.
– Orpik attempted to hit squarely through his opponent’s body and did not “pick” Boyle’s head.

The NHL has applied the reworded Rule 48 before. Remember when Radko Gudas was not suspended for a hit on Scottie Upshall?

Fraser, for the record, does not like the fact that Orpik’s hit was a legal one. In fact, he feels it’s “time to rethink the end game and re-draft” Rule 48 to outlaw hits that are “designed to inflict excessive punishment on a vulnerable player.”

Size matchup will be one to watch when Blackhawks meet Ducks

Anaheim Ducks v Chicago Blackhawks

According to the NHL’s media website, the Chicago Blackhawks have an average weight of 197.3 pounds. Kris Versteeg is the lightest at 176 pounds, which is only slightly lighter than Patrick Kane (177), Teuvo Teravainen (178), and Andrew Shaw (179). There are a few heavy skaters, like Bryan Bickell (223) and Brent Seabrook (220), but for the most part, this is not a gigantic team we’re talking about.

And then there’s the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks’ next opponent, who boast an average weight of 207.5 pounds. Sure, Sami Vatanen, at just 180 pounds, isn’t very heavy, but Patrick Maroon (231), Ryan Getzlaf (218), and Corey Perry (213) definitely are. Did we mention those three play on the same line?

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman is fully cognizant of the size disparity between the two teams. He’s not too worried about it, though.

“I think size and talent is great. But size alone is not the answer,” Bowman told the Sun-Times. “We’ve seen that more than ever with the modern game here in the last few years. It’s never been more friendly for a smaller player to play because it’s really a skill game now. If you have size in addition to that, that’s great. We like big players, too. We don’t have an aversion to that at all. Anaheim does it really well with the players they have. But there’s not one way to win.”

That being said, the size matchup will certainly be one to watch when the ‘Hawks and Ducks kick things off in the Western Conference finals. The undersized Flames had all sorts of trouble handling the big Ducks in their second-round series.

Here’s but one example of what size and strength can do:

The key for the Blackhawks will be to avoid getting cornered like that. The solution? Quick feet. Quick decisions. Quick passes. Or, as Mike Babcock likes to say, “Play fast.”

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they’re fully capable of doing just that — and that starts with their star defenseman, Duncan Keith.

Save for the goalies, no player is likely to get more ice time in this series than the “freak” Keith, and no player’s performance may be more pivotal. Expect the Ducks to do everything they can to get to him. 

Just don’t expect them to find it easy.

Kings forward Dustin Brown, one of the NHL’s best at getting in on the forecheck, knows what it’s like to try and hunt down Keith.

“For me, it’s just his skating ability,” said Brown. “He has the ability to get himself out of trouble. He’s a real big part of that team from the back end. He’s one of those guys that plays against top guys but also has the offensive side of the game. He’s the best offensive guy on the back end and he really helps those forwards with their transition game because of his heads-up play and he moves the puck really quick.”

Canadiens need to be more than Carey Price

Ondrej Palat, Carey Price, Andrei Markov

Carey Price may be the deserving favorite to win the Hart Trophy, but his numbers in six games against the Lightning were anything but MVP-caliber.

Price went 2-4 versus Tampa Bay, allowing 16 goals on 154 shots, for a save percentage of .896.

His performance was actually quite reminiscent of the one by the last goalie to win the Hart, Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2001-02. Also in the second round, Theodore struggled against Carolina, allowing 14 goals in his final three games combined, and the Habs went out in six.

That’s the risk a team takes when it relies heavily on its goalie. The Canadiens were not a particularly good possession team this season. They gave up more shots than they registered. They won their division largely because they had the NHL’s highest save percentage (.926).

“I didn’t play well enough for us to win the series,” Price said. “I think that’s basically more or less what it comes down to.”

That may sound like he’s being overly hard on himself, but what he said wasn’t untrue. His counterpart, Ben Bishop, finished the series with a .940 save percentage. The Lightning clearly won the goaltending battle. Hands up those who predicted that Bishop would outplay Price. Heck, a couple of weeks ago we were wondering if Bishop would be his team’s Achilles’ heel in Game 7 versus Detroit. You’ll recall that everyone was on the Petr Mrazek train then. What have we said all season about the unpredictability of the goaltending position?

“As a team we’ve got to understand that Carey’s the best goalie in the world but he’s also human, things are going to happen out of his control sometimes and we’ve got to respond for him,” defenseman P.K. Subban said.

With Montreal’s season over, that response now falls to GM Marc Bergevin. But his task won’t be an easy one. Unless you can think of a simple way to add an elite center. Because asking Alex Galchenyuk to be that guy next season is a pretty big ask for a 21-year-old. All we know is a team with Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais as its top two centers is going to be hard-pressed to win the Stanley Cup, even with brilliant goaltending.

Related: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup