Author: Jason Brough

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers

Rangers are 13/4 Stanley Cup favorites


The latest Stanley Cup odds, per Bovada:

New York Rangers — 13/4
Chicago Blackhawks — 4/1
Anaheim Ducks — 9/2
Minnesota Wild — 11/2
Montreal Canadiens — 13/2
Tampa Bay Lightning — 15/2
Washington Capitals — 9/1
Calgary Flames — 12/1

Gotta be honest, nothing looks too tempting there. I picked the Lightning to win it all, and I guess 15/2 isn’t a terrible payout. But did anyone think Tampa Bay looked great against Detroit? I didn’t.

If I absolutely had to make a bet — taking into consideration both the team and potential winnings — I’d go with Washington at 9/1. Heading into the playoffs I wasn’t sure how Evgeny Kuznetsov would fare as a second-line center. Well, we all know what he did against the Isles. To be sure, the Rangers will be a really tough out, but I think they’ll miss the speed and play-making ability of Mats Zuccarello.

Related: PHT’s Round 2 picks, once again featuring The Coin

Will anyone pay a price for Markstrom?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Vancouver Canucks

Once again, the Vancouver Canucks are going to have to try and trade a goalie.

GM Jim Benning didn’t deny it yesterday, while also agreeing that the time to do it may be at this summer’s draft.

“We have depth in the goaltending position,” Benning said. “We’re going to decide who we’re going to go with going forward. That’s an area where we could probably recapture a draft pick if we decide to trade somebody.”

Chances are, the Canucks will have the same netminding tandem next season as they did this season: Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack. The former has two years left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent; the latter only has one year left, but given his age (27), ability and popularity with the fans, nobody would be surprised if he were to sign an extension.

That leaves Jacob Markstrom, the 25-year-old pending restricted free agent who has nothing left to prove at the AHL level but everything left to prove in the NHL.

Markstrom came to Vancouver from Florida in the Roberto Luongo trade. Drafted 31st overall in 2008, he was once the Panthers’ goalie of the future. Obviously, that plan was never realized.

In September, Markstrom was actually available for free on waivers. While there was reportedly interest, the Canucks gambled they could sneak him down to the minors. In the end, no team made a claim and he was sent to Utica, where he proceeded to go 22-7-2 with a .934 save percentage, good enough to be named to the AHL’s second all-star team.

Bottom line: Markstrom is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. Based on his AHL numbers and draft pedigree, there’s clear potential. On the other hand, in 50 career NHL games, he has a .896 save percentage.

In other words, if you’re the Edmonton Oilers (they jump to mind, right?), you’d be taking an enormous risk by acquiring Markstrom and slotting him in as your back-up. (Just ask the Dallas Stars about their experiences with a back-up that was once highly touted but came to them with a questionable NHL track record.)

The Canucks do have an asset in Markstrom, for now. Assuming he’s the goalie they decide to shop, it’s what they can turn that asset into, if anything, that will be interesting to see.

Report: Zuccarello won’t play in second round

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game Five

Citing “several sources,” the New York Post is reporting that Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello “will not be available” for the entire second-round series versus the Washington Capitals, and that his availability beyond the second round “is in doubt.”

The Rangers announced earlier in the week that Zuccarello, with a suspected concussion suffered in Game 5 versus the Penguins, was out indefinitely.

If the report is accurate, Zuccarello’s speed and play-making ability will be missed by the Rangers. The 27-year-old finished the regular season with 15 goals and 34 assists.

Veteran winger Martin St. Louis is expected to take Zuccarello’s spot on the Rangers’ first line, centered by Derick Brassard with Rick Nash on the left side.