Author: Ryan Dadoun

Jonathan Toews

Toews, Johnson are Conn Smythe favorites, says oddsmaker


Online bookmaker Bovada has released its odds for the 2015 Stanley Cup Final and it won’t come as much of a surprise that the Chicago Blackhawks are the favorites to win. They have been given 5/7 odds compared to Tampa Bay’s 6/5.

Tampa Bay is a terrific team with a lot offensive weapons, but Chicago has plenty of depth and experience. The gap isn’t big though and it wouldn’t be shocking if the Lightning did end up winning the championship.

They’ve also given odds for their top 16 Conn Smythe Trophy candidates:

Jonathan Toews (CHI) 7/2
Tyler Johnson (TB) 4/1
Patrick Kane (CHI) 9/2
Ben Bishop (TB) 5/1
Duncan Keith (CHI) 5/1
Steven Stamkos (TB) 8/1
Corey Crawford (CHI) 12/1
Nikita Kucherov (TB) 15/1
Marian Hossa (CHI) 25/1
Patrick Sharp (CHI) 25/1
Victor Hedman (TB) 35/1
Valtteri Filppula (TB) 40/1
Alex Killorn (TB) 40/1
Ondrej Palat (TB) 40/1
Brent Seabrook (CHI) 40/1
Brad Richards (CHI) 50/1

Johnson and Kane lead their teams in points with 21 and 20 respectively, but it makes sense for Toews to top the list. He’s Chicago’s leader and has stepped up in big games before. Toews’ two goals in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final was a critical part of why Chicago won that contest.

If Toews or Kane wins the award, it would be their second. Currently only five players in NHL history have been declared the playoff MVP at least twice (Patrick Roy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, and Bernie Parent).

If Keith wins it, he’ll be the first defensemen to get the trophy since Scott Niedermayer in 2007. Keith might not be the favorite, but he certainly deserves consideration as he’s been averaging 31:35 minutes per game.

Leafs hire director of sports science from NBA’s Nets


The Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they have added Dr. Jeremy Bettle to their front office to serve as the Director of Sports Science & Performance.

Bettle has a Ph.D in human performance, M.S. in exercise science, and a B.S. in sport and exercise science. He was formerly with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets where he spent four seasons serving as the team’s director of nutrition as well as their strength and conditioning coach. He also worked for the 2012 United States’ Olympic Men’s Basketball team as the strength and conditioning coach.

Before that he was with the University of California Santa Barbara where he helped manage over 450 Division I athletes that played in a variety of different sports.

“In hiring Dr. Bettle, our sole objective is to be able to have our players know that as a program, we are doing everything we can in all aspects to optimize their performance and maximize their potential as a hockey player, regardless of what stage of their career they’re at,” said Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

Despite getting further than ever before, big game letdowns continue to haunt Boudreau


“It’s a relief that I won’t get asked that question anymore. I’m sure now it will be, ‘Well, you’ve never been to the Cup Final.’”

That was Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau talking after reaching the Western Conference Final for the first time in his career. On the one hand, he hit the nail on the head. He killed the narrative about how he’s never been to the Conference Final and that’s merely shifted the discussion to a higher round. If he finds that unfair then perhaps he has cause to, but at the same time, he has a story of missed opportunities that is literally unparalleled in NHL history.

He has lost six Game 7s in his career, which is something no other head coach from past or present can claim, per Sportsnet. There are only two teams in NHL history to lose at home in Game 7s in three straight seasons: the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, according to ESPN. In both cases Boudreau was at the helm. Keep in mind that the home team has a 94-67 all-time record in Game 7s, including Chicago’s 5-3 victory tonight.

At best, Boudreau has been unlucky to the point of being a significant statistical anomaly. At worst, he’s the link the correlation suggests he is. Either way, it’s tremendously unfortunate because his teams have been terrific most of the time. His 363-167-69 regular season record gives him the best points percentage of any coach that’s led at least 500 games. Scotty Bowman ranks second on that list.

“I’ve gained an appreciation for how hard it is … I thought we had a good chance to get to the dance, but we didn’t make it,” Boudreau said after his latest setback, per the Ducks’ Twitter feed.

“Sometimes things just don’t work out,” he added. “They care so much, they’re gonna feel it for a long time.”

If there is a consolation it’s that the Ducks under Boudreau have made progress, even if it’s been painful. In 2014 they won their first playoff series since 2009. This year they made it to the Conference Final for the first time since 2007. They don’t have much further to left to climb in order to achieve their goal.

Perhaps Anaheim will bounce right back next year and win the championship. Then the story about Boudreau will be one of a man that came so close so many times finally being rewarded for his persistence and efforts. For now though, the narrative isn’t nearly so pleasant.

Here’s your 2015 Stanley Cup Final schedule

Steven Stamkos, Bill Daly

After winning their respective Conference Final Game 7s, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks will play in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

The series will begin on Wednesday in Tampa Bay and can extend as late as June 17. Below is the complete schedule (all times are in ET):

Wednesday June 3 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
Saturday June 6 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 7:15 p.m. on NBC
Monday June 8 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBCSN
Wednesday June 10 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBCSN
*Saturday June 13 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
*Monday June 15 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
*Wednesday June 17 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
* if necessary

This will be Tampa Bay’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since the Lightning won the championship in 2004. By contrast Chicago has made it this far three times in the last six years. This series also has the potential to produce some high scoring games as there’s no shortage as this series will feature Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, and Steven Stamkos on Tampa Bay’s side as well as Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp.

Coach Q: Kruger, Bickell ‘should be fine’

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 17: Bryan Bickell #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks plays against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on December 17, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Chicago’s going to the Stanley Cup Final after earning a 5-3 victory over Anaheim tonight, but there were concerns that Marcus Kruger and Bryan Bickell might have been hurt in the process.

While injury information is scarce in the playoffs, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville did say after the game that both of them “should be fine,” per CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.

Bickell logged 4:12 minutes in the first period, but was limited to just one 10 second shift in the second frame and didn’t play at all on the third. He remained on the bench though, leaving it up to debate as to whether or not he was hurt.

They might not be counted among the Blackhawks’ star players, but their depth in terms of forwards is part of what makes them effective. Their defense was tested in this series due to the loss of Michal Rozsival (ankle). We’ll see if that proves to be the extent of their serious injury issues going forward.