To be fair, Therrien might have a point. The Habs went winless in five tries against the Lightning this season, securing just one of a possible 10 points (courtesy a 1-0 OT loss in mid-March.) Therrien also correctly pointed out that Tampa Bay was “the best offensive team in the league” this season, finishing first overall in goals per game (3.16).
But let’s be real here — Therrien’s remarks are mostly gamesmanship. And something we’ve seen before.
Last spring, he trumpeted his team as the decided underdog not just in the Eastern Conference Final against New York, but in the two previous rounds as well. Per the Toronto Sun:
“When we started the season, there were a lot of people not even putting us in the playoffs. Or, if they wanted to be polite, they’d give us the eighth spot,” Therrien said.
“We caused a surprise to make the playoffs. We caused a surprise against the Tampa Bay Lightning to win in four, and we caused a bigger surprise to beat the Boston Bruins.”
It seems Therrien’s message has trickled down to the players as well. Prior to Montreal’s opening-round series against Ottawa this year, winger Dale Weise suggested the Sens were the favored team.
“I think we’re the underdogs,” Weise said, per the Ottawa Sun. “They beat us three out of four times, they’re the hottest team in the NHL right now.
“I don’t see them as an underdog at all.”
PHT Morning Skate: Lightning, Stamkos feel better prepared for Habs
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.
After being swept in first round of last spring’s playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens, Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning feel they’re better prepared for this year’s rematch.
“We weren’t ready to play at that level. We had a lot of young guys,” Stamkos said per The Associated Press. “We have another year under our belt. Now we have a series win, and a Game 7 win under our belt. Guys get more confidence.” (AP)
Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $15,000 league for Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $3 to join and first place wins $1,400. Starts tonight at 7:30pm ET. Play Now!
Having won just three bronze medals in the past 20 years at the World Hockey Championship, Ken Campbell writes it’s time for the Americans to pay a little more attention to the international competition. (The Hockey News)
A St. Louis Blues fan won an unfortunate radio contest. Prior to the Blues being eliminated in the first round, a fan had a St. Louis Blues 2015 Stanley Cup champions tattoo paid for by 105.7 the Point. (Bar Down)
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson made good on his bet with Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi following the Canucks first round loss to the Flames. (Yahoo)
With it being Thursday, here’s a little throwback highlight pack. The pack features Stamkos, Michael Del Zotto, Alex Pietrangelo, Jordan Eberle, Travis Hamonic, Martin Jones and Tyler Johnson participating at the 2000 Super Novice Brick Hockey Tournament at Edmonton’s West Edmonton Mall.
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.
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.
The series-ending injury Montreal d-man Nathan Beaulieu suffered against Ottawa will carry over to Round 2, per TVA Sports.
Beaulieu will miss the first four games of the next round, with an upper-body injury suffered during Game 3 of the Sens series on this hit from Erik Karlsson:
Beaulieu, 22, remained in that contest but didn’t play in the third period or overtime, and missed the final three games of the series.
It’s likely that Montreal head coach Michel Therrien will continue to play Greg Pateryn on defense in place of Beaulieu, as he did for the second half of the Ottawa series. That said, Therrien has options: Sergei Gonchar and Mike Weaver, a pair of veterans, are currently sitting as healthy scratches and could draw in.