John Tavares

PHT Morning Skate: Canadiens flag raised at Ottawa’s City Hall

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

As a result of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s bet with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, there is now a Canadiens flag raised at Ottawa’s City Hall (h/t MTL Blog):

John Tavares thinks the Islanders’ first round exit at the hands of the Washington Capitals is something he’ll carry forever. “It stings. It’s been a really hard last three days,” Tavares said. (Newsday)

A collection of hockey cards worth $200,000 that primarily featured Wayne Gretzky may have been stolen. (Postmedia Network)

Anaheim’s firefighters released a video in support of the Ducks’ efforts against the Calgary Flames:

There might be reasons coach Mike Babcock would consider joining the Edmonton Oilers beyond Connor McDavid. (Edmonton Journal)

Members of the old Winnipeg Jets reflect on the new version making the playoffs. (Winnipeg Sun)

Here are the highlights from Washington’s 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers:

Starting tonight: Rangers’ speed versus Capitals’ structure

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Even without Mats Zuccarello, the New York Rangers will still pose a speedy challenge for the Washington Capitals when the two teams kick off their second-round series tonight at MSG.

“I think [Carl] Hagelin and [Chris] Kreider jump out as probably their top speed guys,” Caps d-man Brooks Orpik said, per NHL.com. “I think from video we have watched it’s more the way they play than the individual speed. If you turn the puck over, the transition from their defense to the forwards with those stretch passes is good. It forces teams to play fast so that’ll be really important. We need to manage the puck well so they don’t hit us with that transition speed.”

It’s that quick-strike potential on offense that made the Rangers one of the top-scoring teams during the regular season, despite not boasting the best possession numbers.

As Orpik noted, not only can some of the Rangers really skate, their coach, Alain Vigneault, demands his players move the puck quickly.

“It’s about making good, clean passes to our forwards to help them get up the ice,” d-man Keith Yandle learned upon joining the Rangers from Arizona, per NHL.com.

But remember, these are Barry Trotz’s Capitals now. Washington plays with the kind of patience and structure that can stifle a good offense, as we saw Monday when John Tavares and the New York Islanders were held to just 11 shots.

“They really respect the way their coach wants them to play,” said Rangers center Derrick Brassard, per CBS New York. “They have a really good structure now. Their players are willing to pay the price. They’re competing real hard. That’s why they’re having a lot of success this year.”

Related: Here’s the second-round schedule

Poll: Are there any worthy Hart Trophy snubs?

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Whenever you’re talking about an award that seeks to recognize the best player in the league, any decision is going to be contested. The same can be true for the list of finalists. Now that we know that Montreal’s Carey Price, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and the Islanders’ John Tavares are this year’s Hart Trophy finalists, was there anyone that deserved to be on that list that was excluded?

Below are three potential alternatives. Each of them had great seasons, but there are also understandable reasons why they didn’t make the cut. Do you agree with those reasons though?

1) Devan Dubnyk – Perhaps the most obvious snub. When the Wild acquired Dubnyk on Jan. 14, they were a struggling franchise that seemed doomed to fall short of the playoffs. Then Dubnyk posted an incredible 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage in 39 contests to make Minnesota one of the best teams in the second half. He was likely excluded in part because he wasn’t with Minnesota for the full 2014-15 campaign and partially due to the presence of Price on the list. Goaltenders tend to be a tough sell for the Hart Trophy and having them take up two of the three slots might have been asking for too much.

2) Jamie Benn – This year’s Art Ross Trophy winner (35 goals, 87 points in 82 contests) didn’t end up warranting a spot among the Hart Trophy finalists. It’s easy to see why though: The Dallas Stars weren’t a playoff squad and MVP awards take the success of the team into consideration. Still, he had one of the best seasons out of this year’s crop of forwards.

3) Sidney Crosby – Crosby is the latest Hart Trophy winner, but he wasn’t able to defending his spot as the MVP. He took a noticeable step back offensively, going from 104 points to 84 in 77 contests in 2014-15. His team’s struggles in the second half of the campaign likely didn’t do him any favors either. He had a great season though with his 84-point total being good enough for third in the league’s scoring race.

Ovechkin, Tavares, Price are Hart Trophy finalists

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Montreal’s Carey Price, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and the Islanders’ John Tavares have been revealed as the finalists for the 2015 Hart Trophy.

For Ovechkin, this is an opportunity for him to take home the award for a fourth time. That would put him in an elite group that currently consists of just Eddie Shore, Gordie Howe, and Wayne Gretzky.

There are some arguments in favor of Ovechkin being named the league’s MVP. The single biggest one is his dominance of the goals category as he netted 53 markers while the next best player, Steven Stamkos, had 43 goals. Ovechkin also arguably had his best defensive season in years, as evidenced by his 53.7% Fenwick For in 5-on-5 situations. That’s plus-3.2% better than his team did when he wasn’t on the ice, which represents the biggest gap since 2010-11. In other words, by that measure, you could suggest that his presence on the ice had a greater positive impact for Washington than it had in recent years.

Tavares has never won the award before, but he had a strong campaign with 38 goals and 86 points in 82 contests. After a difficult 2013-14 campaign for the Islanders, the captain played a big role in guiding the franchise back to the playoffs. The Islanders’ 47-28-7 record was also their best since 1983-84.

Since being selected with the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Tavares has helped turn the Islanders’ franchise around, but there was arguably a player that had an even bigger impact on his team this year. Montreal owes its success in 2014-15 in large part to Price. He was consistently dominant throughout the campaign and ended up with 44 wins, a 1.96 GAA, and a .933 save percentage in 66 starts.

Goaltenders are typically at a disadvantage when it comes to the Hart Trophy and the last netminder to overcome that was Jose Theodore in 2001–02. However, Price’s dominance combined with a relatively lackluster campaign for top-end forwards might have set the stage for him to claim this year’s award.

Tavares struggles to believe ‘it’s really over’ for Isles

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The New York Islanders are finished for the 2014-15 season. So is their time at Nassau Coliseum. It all crashed down as the Capitals suffocated them in Washington by a score of 2-1 in Game 7.

For many, the most shocking thing was a poor effort by the Islanders’ offense, as they generated just 11 shots on goal (with a measly three coming from forward).

For captain John Tavares, it’s just tough to fathom that they’re done until 2015-16.

“It’s just hard to believe it’s really over,” Tavares told WFAN’s Daniel Friedman.

That’s not to say that Tavares & Co. are delusional about their efforts, however. They admitted that it wasn’t a great performance. They also didn’t blame the officials.

Indeed, the Islanders have months for Game 7’s letdown to gnaw at them. What they won’t have is another chance for a bit run at their old barn.