Tag: And then there were

2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three

And then there was one: Rangers defeated


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Maybe it makes sense that the New York Rangers began the 2013-14 season with a nine-game road trip, as few things came easy to this team. They fought through a lot of obstacles to make it to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, yet the Los Angeles Kings finally represented a mountain they couldn’t climb.

Depending on the next steps this organization takes, this will either be a series they regret for years or one of those “learn how to lose before you learn how to win” moments.

Let’s take a look at the Rangers’ season as a whole and consider what it could mean for the future.

  • Henrik Lundqvist finally made it to the championship round of a postseason as the Rangers reached their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years. “King Henrik” really came through when the Rangers were on the brink of elimination, which should dispel most of the remaining notions about his inability to step up in big games. The Kings eventually ended his ridiculous run, yet he still impressed in defeat.
  • New York came into the 2013-14 season with serious free agent questions to answer. Ultimately, they re-signed Lundqvist and also gave Dan Girardi a contract extension. After failing to reach a compromise with Ryan Callahan, they traded him and what became two first-round picks for Martin St. Louis, who enjoyed some big playoff moments after early struggles with his new team.
  • Some might wonder if the Girardi extension will eventually haunt the Rangers. At least plenty of people on social media were hammering on the defensive-minded blueliner, to the point that there were jokes about the jokes.
  • Even with the big questions answered, there are plenty of support players who need new deals. From RFAs including regular season scoring leader Mats Zuccarello and rising young forward Chris Kreider to underrated UFA blueliner Anton Stralman, GM Glen Sather has some decisions to make. (See the full list here.)
  • The Rangers have to hope that Rick Nash’s playoff luck turns around in the future. Health could certainly be a factor in an up-and-mostly-down season (he was limited to 65 regular season games), yet at 29 with a pricey deal that runs though 2017-18, there’s also the worry that his best days are behind him.
  • All things considered, Alain Vigneault’s first season as the Rangers’ head coach was a success. More and more, they’re playing his style of hockey, so there are reasons for optimism. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to avoid another 20-year drought between Stanley Cup Final appearances, however.

And then there were two: Blackhawks eliminated

Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Seven

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The Chicago Blackhawks were this close to making it to a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final. They were five playoff wins away from repeating as champions. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Kings won one of the best (and wildest) series in ages, leaving a powerful Chicago team asking itself some tough questions.

Let’s look back at the Blackhawks’ 2013-14 season:

  • No doubt about it, Corey Crawford’s campaign ended on a sour note. That tends to happen when you allow 25 goals in your last six playoff games, many of which were ugly. Even so, those who can step back and look at the big picture may give Crawford a little more leeway and realize that he’s at least a solid starter. He went 32-16-10 with an acceptable .917 save percentage. He also went on some nice playoff runs, including a six-game winning streak in which he only allowed three goals once and had a shutout (from Game 3 against ST. Louis to Game 2 against Minnesota).
  • That being said, GM Stan Bowman needs to figure out a backup solution in case Crawford struggles in another playoff series. It seemed clear that Chicago had zero interest in turning to Antti Raanta even during Crawford’s darkest moments.
  • While the goaltending situation might leave some feeling a little sour, the overall picture of this Blackhawks team is still very bright.
  • For one thing, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews continue to distinguish themselves as elite performers. Both seemed to take turns dominating spans of this postseason and regular season. Bowman can lock up each player long-term, as their contracts will expire after the 2014-15 campaign.
  • Duncan Keith enjoyed the best (or second-best) season of his career, generating 61 points in a dominant year.
  • The knock on Chicago’s depth is that they struggled at the second center position. That’s true, but many believe that Teuvo Teräväinen has a chance to solve that riddle.
  • If nothing else, other young players showed promise, including Brandon Saad. Saad formed a dangerous combination with Kane and Andrew Shaw late in the Western Conference finals and could be another difference-maker, especially if the likes of Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp begin to decline.

It’s foolish to be excessively negative about Chicago after the Blackhawks fell one game short of the Stanley Cup Final, yet the organization will likely try to find a way to be even better next season. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the NHL.

And then there were three: Canadiens eliminated

Carey Price

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The Montreal Canadiens can’t feel great about the way they ended their 2013-14 season. The New York Rangers only beat them 1-0 in Game 6, but it was a thorough domination; the Habs only managed five shots on goal with their season on the line in the third period.

Maybe the Canadiens ran out of gas or maybe the Rangers were just that much better. Still, the good news is that Montreal can take this disappointment and potentially build something promising going forward. Let’s look back at their season overall.

  • Aside from some hiccups and maybe some evidence that his style might not hold up under long-term scrutiny, Dustin Tokarski played well enough that the storyline of Carey Price’s injury gets knocked down a paragraph or two. The Habs can still be allowed to ask “What if?” mainly because Price is just that good. If there was any doubt about Price as a No. 1 goalie, he eliminated most of it by playing great hockey and winning gold as Canada’s top netminder.
  • P.K. Subban might be a lightning rod for criticism, but he showed that he can be a big-minute, big-game defenseman in a big way. Just look at the time on ice from Games 4 (33:16), Game 5 (30:25) and Game 6 (27:04). The Canadiens face a challenge in re-signing the restricted free agent this summer, yet he’ll likely be worth the money (assuming something doesn’t go wrong in negotiations, naturally).
  • In case you didn’t keep up with incessant commentary on social media, Thomas Vanek’s rental with Montreal finished on a sour note. It would be surprising to see him come back, but GM Marc Bergevin deserves credit for giving his team a shot with a top-six forward for a reasonable price.
  • Michel Therrien made a lot of headlines by bickering with Alain Vigneault, yet he also managed to guide Montreal within two wins of a Stanley Cup Final appearance. He’s likely to get a chance (if not a few more chances) to bring the Habs even further after some nice work this season.
  • The Canadiens beat the hated Boston Bruins, which is probably some great solace for Habs fans who are especially invested in that rivalry.
  • This is a young team with a ton of cap space. If Bergevin presses the right buttons, Montreal could be a perennial East contender.

And then there were four: Ducks eliminated

Los Angeles Kings v Anaheim Ducks - Game Seven

The Anaheim Ducks came out on top of the highly competitive Pacific Division, placing themselves atop the Western Conference standings heading into the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

After moving past the Dallas Stars in the opening round, the Ducks lost to their rivals, the L.A. Kings, in the second round, despite two chances to close out the series.

Hockey’s version of the Freeway Series went the distance – seven games – but the Ducks couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities in a Game 6 loss and then fell apart in the concluding game of the series.

Now, a summer of change is ahead for the Ducks, with the expected retirement of popular 43-year-old Teemu Selanne, and goalie Jonas Hiller a pending unrestricted free agent this summer.

  • The future of the Ducks as it pertains to goaltending looks strong, despite the struggles of John Gibson in Game 7 against L.A. Can’t pin the loss all on the 20-year-old rookie. His team didn’t match the same jump that L.A. had right from the drop of the puck. But give Gibson credit for this: He entered the series right in the heat of it – Game 4. He recorded a shutout, which is what he did in his NHL debut on April 7. All the Ducks need is to look to the Kings and Jonathan Quick to see the importance of a star goaltender, and Anaheim appears to have one in the making in Gibson. It also looks more and more like Hiller is on his way out of Anaheim.
  • For the first time in his NHL career, Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf hit the 30-goal mark in a regular season. In fact, Anaheim had two of the top five point leaders in the NHL this season, with Corey Perry scoring 43 goals and 82 points. Both are locked into eight-year deals, with Getzlaf at a cap hit of $8.25 million and Perry $8.625 million, as per Capgeek.com.
  • Up front, the Ducks have a trio of restricted free agents in Mathieu Perreault, Jakob Silfverberg and Devante Smith-Pelly. The latter in that list enjoyed a breakout post-season, spending time on the top line with Perry and Getzlaf. Perreault had a career year in points, and Silfverberg also achieved a new career-high in points with 23.
  • Teemu Selanne has had a long and distinguished career. He’s been on the farewell tour around the league this season. In 1,451 regular season games, he’s scored 684 goals and 1,457 points. And, of course, he had the remarkable 76-goal rookie campaign for the Winnipeg Jets back 1992-93. Yeah, way back when. But he’s also been well-known throughout his time for handling himself with class.

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And then there were five: Bruins eliminated

Tuukka Rask

The Boston Bruins cruised through the regular season, claiming the Presidents’ Trophy, then easily dispatched of the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

In the second round, though, the B’s finally found their match against their long-time rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

The Bruins and Canadiens played in an NHL record ninth Game 7 on Wednesday night, but Montreal scored early and never surrendered the lead, sending the Bruins packing after just 12 postseason contests.

The Bruins certainly looked capable of going the distance this year, but now they will be left to ask what, if anything, needs to change for them to get over the hump after coming up short for the third straight campaign.

  • There are reasons to believe that things will get better on their own next season for the Bruins. Those who want to make that argument will be quick to point a finger at forward Loui Eriksson. He was supposed to be the centerpiece of the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas in the summer of 2013, but suffered two concussions that really derailed his campaign. The 28-year-old forward will get a full summer to regroup and return as a bigger part of the Boston attack in 2014-15.
  • The Bruins’ young defense, led by Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Kevan Miller also seems to be coming along nicely. The trio made mistakes in this playoff run, but more than held their own for the most part.
  • That’s key, because the B’s might need to start getting adjusting to life without Zdeno Chara — or at least not the Chara they’ve gotten used to. The 37-year-old defenseman averaged fewer minutes per game in the 2014 playoffs than he has in any run since 2009, despite the fact Boston was missing blueliner Dennis Seidenberg. There’s no question Chara’s still a dominant force in the NHL, but his age might start to become increasingly apparent.
  • Boston’s major pending unrestricted free agent is Jarome Iginla. There’s a good chance the team will re-sign him, but it won’t be easy. The problem isn’t convincing Iginla, it’s that his 2013-14 contract was heavy on performance bonuses. The Bruins didn’t have the cap space to cover them this season, so they’ll count against the Bruins’ cap hit in 2014-15, which makes Boston’s already tight cap situation a little more difficult.
  • With that in mind, even if the Bruins wanted to make significant changes, it would be hard for them to do so. They just don’t have much in the way of cap flexibility, although there’s always a chance they’ll find a way to pull off another blockbuster trade like they did last year.

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