Islanders Need to Control Their Emotions in Game 5

It’s no secret that the Islanders are irate over Tom Wilson’s hit on Lubomir Visnovsky in Game 4 of their series with Washington, and that hit will help dictate the pace of how Game 5 goes tonight. Whether the hit was clean or not is a matter of opinion, but either way, Visnovsky has a concussion and his season, and more importantly career, is in jeopardy. 

Visnovsky being out of the lineup is the Islanders’ second top-six defenseman missing, as he joins Travis Hamonic in the press box. Visnovsky was working the second powerplay unit, a void most likely to be filled by either Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey. Griffin Reinhart will take his place in the lineup, but he has only played just over a handful of NHL games. Visnovsky will still be around the team, but losing his veteran leadership in the locker room will be a huge blow to the team. 
In terms of the series, the hit is proving to be more important than initially thought when delivered. The Islanders players have publicly made their opinions known on the hit, and radio comments from Brooks Laich certainly did not make it better. 
Via: @ScottmCharles 

“We have to stay disciplined. We could have easily hit a lot of guys like that too. We stay within the rules.” -John Tavares on the hit

From a Washington radio station:

“What it did was Visnovsky got put out of the game and that puts them down to five defensemen in the second period. It’s a quote-unquote good penalty to take.” -Brooks Laich on the hit

There’s no doubt Game 5 will be high energy throughout the whole game, no matter which way it sways. The Islanders, however have to use the pent up anger inside themselves to their own good in the series, and not for retaliation. Using this as motivation could give them team the extra push they need to advance to the second round, but that will only happen if they don’t let Washington and Tom Wilson into their heads. 

At the end of the day, it’s the playoffs. Exerting your energy to on ice performance and possibly getting back to home ice with a 3-2 series lead should be a more enticing thought to the Islanders than getting payback on Tom Wilson is. Along with that, the Islanders fourth line has been their best line all series, and they can’t sacrifice that for a lengthy portion of the game just to get a fight in there. 

This series has the chance to get ugly, but I don’t think that will happen until the first time the teams play next season. Tom Wilson is a tough customer, and he will have no problem dancing with either Matt Martin or Eric Boulton if the bell does ring. 

The series is tied 2-2 and Game 5 is tonight (April 23rd) at 7 PM EST. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Oilers Win 2015 Draft Lottery, Buffalo to Pick 2nd 

The Edmonton Oilers will pick 1st overall for the fourth time in six years at the NHL Entry Draft this coming June in Florida. General manager Craig MacTavish gave it “zero chance” that the team trades the pick, meaning that phenom Connor McDavid will more than likely be wearing Edmonton’s blue and orange next season. 

This draft lottery was one of the most anticipated lotteries of all time, with not one, but two generational talents in the mix. Connor McDavid from the OHL, and Jack Eichel from the NCAA are up for grabs in the draft, and Edmonton and Buffalo appear to be the lucky teams. McDavid had 120 points in 47 games for Erie this season, whereas Crosby (QMJHL) had 168 in 62 games in his draft year. Eichel played for Boston University this past season, tallying 71 points in 40 games. Both players have a very good chance of playing in the NHL for the 2015-2016 season. 

The official draft order is as follows. See you on June 26th for the big day. 

1. Edmonton Oilers

2. Buffalo Sabres

3. Arizona Coyotes

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

5. Carolina Hurricanes

6. New Jersey Devils

7. Philadelphia Flyers

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

9. San Jose Sharks

10. Colorado Avalanche 

11. Florida Panthers

12. Dallas Stars 

13. Los Angeles Kings

14. Boston Bruins 

Picks #15-30 to be determined once the playoffs are over. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Summer is a Brewin': What’s next for Boston?

It took all 82 games in the 2014-2015 NHL regular season for a struggling Boston Bruins team to learn that they would fail to reach the playoffs by two points in an extremely frustrating season. An early summer wake up call hit the Bruins Saturday as they not only lost in the scoreboard watching game (both teams that they needed to lose, won) but their actual game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shootout. 

During the end of year media availability day, both Greg Campbell and Daniel Paille learned they would not be Boston Bruins next season. There is no doubt that this is step one of many in regards to a roster revamp. The Bruins and the Jacobs family clearly do not want this to happen again, and it’s clear they will use every resource they possibly have to make sure the Bruins are a cup contender next year, even if that means getting rid of their head coach and/or their GM.

Coach Claude Julien is one of the most decorated coaches in Boston Bruins history. He’s led his team to two different cup runs, one in which they defeated the Vancouver Canucks, and another in which they just felt short and lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games, as well as numerous playoff births and a Presidents Trophy last season. There is no doubt that Julien’s resume is impressive. However in a down year, Julien has made numerous controversial calls that have raised questions as to if he is still the right man for the Bruins. Those calls included his heavy use of a struggling fourth line, and benching surging rookies Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak for Greg Campbell (no longer a Bruin) late in games. Despite the controversy, Julien was still able to bring a young and depleted team within two points of a playoff spot. Yes, Julien’s made a few questionable calls throughout the year, but fans have to remember that this was also a down year for almost every veteran on the team, and that Julien knows the Bruins system better than anyone. Now is not the time to fire your Stanley Cup winning head coach, especially in a re-vamp mode like the one the Bruins are in now. If this inconsistency continues, then Julien will be gone eventually, but for now, he should be allowed a “get out of jail for free” card. 

 On the other hand, GM Peter Chiarelli may have run out of “get out of jail for free” cards. Over the earlier half of his tenure as the mastermind of the team, Chiarelli did an outstanding job in regards to building a cup winning roster. However, the latter half of his tenure has not been so kind. Trading away their most skilled forward (Tyler Seguin) has been one of his worst trades as the return has not shaped out to be as good as it was expected to be. Seguin has dominated in Dallas. He also traded away one of his best defenseman in Johnny Boychuk for draft picks as part of the solution to fix a cap disaster that he created himself. Meanwhile, Boychuk is having his best offensive year of his career, and has signed a seven year extension with a 100+ point Islanders team. Chiarelli has also made controversial non trades in regards to Dennis Seidenberg and captain Zdeno Chara before they began regressing (both have had a terrible year). Chiarelli has also failed his team at the trade deadline, pulling the trigger way too late, and only being able to pull a two goal scoring Jaromir Jagr (none in the playoffs) and a disappointment in Andrej Meszároš in pivotal years. It’s clear that part of the mess has a heavy hand on Peter Chiarelli. He has made a few good moves that have landed them an elite status and a Stanley Cup, but after a year like this, it’s hard for the Bruins front office to not take a serious look into their future, and if Peter should be in it. 

 No matter who the Bruins have behind their bench or calling the shots on what the roster looks like, the Bruins have needs to fill this offseason, and what will most likely be the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft. The Bruins absolutely need a pure goal scorer, character to develop and restructure the fourth line (Max Talbot is a piece of this already), a few players that can amp up the pace of the team, a top two defenseman, as well as the ability to dig themselves out of their cap mess. It’s a lot of work, that will without a doubt force the Bruins to subtract a few familiar faces from the roster. Calling up unprepared rookies from Providence like they did this year (expect for Pastrnak, Spooner and Trotman), will not do it for the Bruins. If they want to win (and they do), things will need to change, and this summer is going to be one bumpy ride. Once the Stanley Cup playoffs end, the Bruins have work to do.

 -Anthony (AMB__12)

Playoff Preview: Western Conference Round 1

Preview for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Western Conference Round 1:

Anaheim Ducks (P1) vs Winnipeg Jets (WC2)

This series may surprise some people. The Ducks are arguably the best team in the West, as their record shows (although Blues and Blackhawks fans will disagree), but the Jets are entering the playoffs hot. Ondrej Pavelec was lights out at the end of the season, and his play will be crucial for Winnipeg’s success. Winnipeg could put up a bigger fight than expected. 

Both teams will play physical, with Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry leading they way. The pace will be tremendous, especially when the games head back to the MTS Center in Winnipeg. Goaltending will most likely determine this series, with John Gibson & Frederik Andersen being young and inexperienced, and Ondrej Pavelec being notoriously shaky before this season, and also having no playoff experience. 

St. Louis Blues (C1) vs Minnesota Wild (WC1) 

These familiar Central Division foes will face off once again, less than a week after they did in the final day of the regular season, a game in which St. Louis won 4-2. The Wild have the highest amount of points out of any wild card team at 100, and are no pushovers. Their rough start got them to where they are today — outside of the top three in the Central — but a resurgence, mainly on behalf of Devan Dubnyk, has carried them to a comfortable playoff position. 

The Blues are no pushover, however, and this should be one of the best series out of the eight. St. Louis looks primed to make a deep run this year, especially with avoiding Chicago for at least the first round. Goaltending will be a big factor going in, whether Ken Hitchcock decides to go with the experienced Brian Elliot or the young kid Jake Allen. On the flipside, Minnesota has Devan Dubnyk, who may very well be nominated for the Vezina trophy thanks to his second half play. Expect this to go to seven games. 

Nashville Predators (C2) vs Chicago Blackhawks (C3)

With the addition of Patrick Kane looming, the Blackhawks are set up for another deep run, although Nashville will put up a fight. Nashville’s success in this series will come on behalf of two factors: 1) if Pekka Rinne can regain his form from the first half of the season and 2) if their goal scoring can find it’s way again, something they couldn’t do as the Predators slid down the standings near the end of the season. 

There’s no counting out either team in this series, but betting against Chicago’s top five (Keith, Seabrook, Toews, Kane, and Hossa) and experience is tough to do. Chicago also has the advantage down the middle, primarily with Mike Ribeiro having to face Jonathan Toews.

Vancouver Canucks (P2) vs Calgary Flames (P3)

Not many picked these two teams to face off in the playoffs at the start of the year, or make the playoffs at all for that matter, but here they are, and there’s no hate lost between the two rivals. It would have been more interesting with John Tortorella behind the Vancouver bench, but we can’t have it all. 

The play of the Sedin twins has gotten Vancouver where they are today, and if they can keep it up, Vancouver is in good shape. Jonas Hiller will take the net for the Flames, where on the other side, either Eddie Lack or Ryan Miller will get the start, but don’t think the Canucks will hesitate to flip flop the goaltenders, depending how they are playing. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference Round 1 

Preview for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Round 1:

New York Rangers (M1) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (WC2)

It’s no secret that the Rangers were the best team in hockey this season, nor is it a secret that the Penguins barely got into the playoffs. Pittsburgh played a majority of it’s final games with five defensemen, and will still be missing two solid defensemen for at least the first round (Letang and Maatta). 

Henrik Lundqvist has regained his form, and the Rangers have one of the most lethal bluelines in hockey. The Rangers seem like an easy pick here, but you can never count out a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin up front. A lot of the Penguins success this postseason will rely on Marc-Andre Fleury. 

Montreal Canadiens (A1) vs Ottawa Senators (WC1)

This may be the most interesting matchup coming out of the Eastern Conference. The Senators ended the season on a miracle 21-3-3 run, good enough to erase a 20 point wild card deficit in under eight weeks. Andrew Hammond will most likely get the Game 1 start, but expect head coach Dave Cameron to go to Craig Anderson quickly if things are not swaying in Ottawa’s favor. 

On the other side, you have Carey Price and the Canadiens. Price has undoubtedly been the best goalie this season, boasting first place in wins (44), goals against average (1.96), and save percentage (.933), plus he is second in shutouts with nine, one behind Fleury. Max Pacioretty’s health is a big concern for Montreal, but if he can come back before the round is over, it will be a ginormous boost to the team. 

Washington Capitals (M2) vs New York Islanders (M3) 

Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares, two players who battled with each other for the Art Ross during the season, will become enemies once again in this series. The Capitals deadly powerplay, ranked first in the league at 25%, will be facing the abysmal (but better as of late) Islanders penalty kill, which is ranked 26th at 78%, even though the Islanders lead the league with ten short handed goals. The special teams will be a big determiner of who wins this series. 

Three of the four contests this year between the teams went to overtime or a shootout, with the teams splitting the season series. The Islanders will try to use their speed against the Capitals, whereas the Capitals will try to use their size. Either way it goes, I’d say most games end in the 3-2 score range. If Braden Holtby can keep up his play, the Capitals will be in good shape. 

Tampa Bay Lightning (A2) vs Detroit Red Wings (A3)

The Red Wings successfully kept their consecutive playoff streak alive, but face a tough challenge ahead of them in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay will look to advance to the second round this year, a feat they couldn’t accomplish last season against Montreal due to an injury to Ben Bishop. Detroit will most likely go with Jimmy Howard in Game 1, but much like Ottawa, a switch to Petr Mrazek is possible if things go sour. 

Both teams will need contributions from their young players if they want to win this series. Steven Stamkos, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg will be big factors of course, but the likes of Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat could be the turning points of this series. 

Stay tuned for the West version in the upcoming days. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Pastrnak takes the NHL by storm

Most eighteen year olds are either preparing for college or enjoying a blissful relaxing summer. But Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak is not like most eighteen year olds. The Bruins 1st round draft pick from last year’s draft has taken the league by storm. At 18 years, 11 months (315 days to be exact), the NHL’s youngest player has posted a 27 point season in just 41 games, projecting a 20 goal, 34 assist season (would currently lead the team in points) in just his first season in the pros. He is a catalyst to the Bruins recent success, as he’s faired well on a line with Milan Lucic and Ryan Spooner (2nd on team in points in March). Pastrnak also fairs well with the numbers of two former Bruins in their rookie years (and two very good players at that), Phil Kessel (12/18/30 in 67) and Tyler Seguin (11/11/22 in 74). That stat has to be exciting for Bruins fans, as Kessel and Seguin are among the league’s best in offensive production. 

 If Pastrnak can keep this pace the Bruins fans, players, and coaches are in for a wild ride. With a few years of development and training, a 21-22 year old David Pastrnak has the potential to be among the league’s elite in offensive production. 

Pastrnak (as most 18 year olds are) is a bit on the light side in terms of muscle weight. However, unlike most teens who will be partying this summer, David will get stronger, and the Bruins hope that translates into him becoming an aggressive and effective forechecker. How Pastrnak fell to the Bruins is still amazing, but the fact of the matter is, he is a member of the black and gold, and is poised for greatness. Regardless of how far he goes though, his presence on the 2014-2015 season has sparked the team, which looks to make a late playoff push. As for the future, we’ll just have to wait and see.

– Anthony (AMB__12)

Bruins’ Wild Card Push

With the Eastern Conference wild card standings being as congested as they are, the Boston Bruins are neck and neck with the surging Ottawa Senators for the eighth and final spot in the 2014-2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Bruins (87 points) have had a series of hot and cold streaks throughout the season that have put them in the unexpected situation that they are in. Meanwhile, the Senators have had a late season surge off of rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond, who’s posted a 14-1-1 start to his pro career, a career that has only seen him fail to pick up at least a point once, in a blowout loss to the NY Rangers (every goalie is due for one bad game, especially when they start their with a 1.92 GAA). Hammond’s play is a huge factor as to why Ottawa has emerged as a playoff contender, and climbed to ninth in the standings (86 points, and a game in hand on the Bruins). 

Going down the stretch, the race to be “in” as a member of the great eight will be interesting. The Bruins have played well as of late, collecting three of a possible four points against the best teams in their respective conferences, the Anaheim Ducks and New York Rangers. After losing to the Ducks in overtime during a tough game in which Anaheim tied it
in the closing seconds off of a controversial no goalie interference call, the Bruins bounced back and dominated the Rangers in the return of star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The Bruins Milan Lucic scored two of Boston’s four goals, his 17th career multi-goal game, which ironically gave number seventeen his 16th and 17th goals of the year. The Bruins also saw Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith net goals, which is a good sign for Boston considering they are both in an offense “funk” as of late. On a sour note, Boston lost star goaltender Tuukka Rask at the beginning of the second period, but only due to dehydration. The Bruins hope the Rask will be okay, and if anything only miss Sunday’s matchup with Carolina, because if they have any hope of making the playoffs, they will need him.

The Bruins only have two home games remaining, which they must take advantage of. With five of their seven games remaining being away from the TD Garden, the Bruins must remain disciplined and focused. Key players like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron must carry the team on their backs and hope they have a strong supporting cast behind them. The emergence of rookie Zach Trotman’s physical play in the absence of Dougie Hamilton has brought out the beast within the team, something that they have missed deeply all season. Defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Adam Mcquaid showed signs of what Bruins fans recognize as Bruins hockey in Saturday’s game: tough, gritty, physically dominant hockey. The Bruins also saw a familiar face return to the lineup. David Krejci returned after almost two months, and is already playing a key role into the lineup, as he’s collected a handful of assists in his return. However, with the Spooner line being as dominant as it is as of late, it’s forced Krejci to play as a wing on the Bergeron line, which is something the natural center must get adjusted to quickly.

The Bruins must also learn to close games out. A handful of the Bruins one point games have come from defeat in the always controversial shootout. With Tuukka Rask ranking in the bottom ten among goaltenders in the shootout, and the Bruins having one of the worst conversion percentages among NHL teams in the shootout, it is no surprise that they are struggling. It’s key that the Bruins deal with this issue, or else, they could lose out on key points down the stretch.

Key veterans like Dennis Seidenberg also need to step up and anchor the depleted and struggling defensive unit down this rough stretch. As of late, Seids has been paired with Matt Bartkowski. Despite Bartkowski’s on paper struggles (has yet to score a regular season goal in over 100 career games), it is Matt who has emerged as the likely candidate to get bumped up in the defensive rotation. After getting benched for a good chunk of the season, Bartkowski has re-emerged with a physical presence and a highly improved hockey IQ. Seidenberg on the other hand has been at arguably his lowest point as a Bruin. Coming off ACL surgery, Seidenberg has been nothing more than a shadow of his old self. However, against the Rangers Saturday, we saw Seidenberg become more aggressive with and without the puck, which contributed to the Bruins success against a perennial powerhouse in the East. The Bruins need that Seidenberg if they are to make another run for a cup.

In October, if someone came up to a Bruins fan and told them that the Celtics would be the only team to host a playoff game in the TD Garden, they would have seemed crazy. But the sad part is, that could be a reality. If the Bruins don’t smarten up and show up, they could be in for a very dark period. If the Bruins fail to make the playoffs, we could see major changes, both in the front offices, and on the ice. However, if they do make the playoffs, those changes could be minimal, as the Bruins need to work around a cap disaster. Regardless, the Bruins need to be playing their best hockey of the year for the next seven games, or else they could be one of the last teams in on the Connor McDavid hunt.

– Anthony (AMB__12)

Mistakes, Powerplay the Reason for the Islanders’ Recent Dry Spell

Following a 3-1 loss to Montreal on Saturday night, their second loss in as many nights, the Islanders fell to 4-4-2 in their last ten games. The team has lost four straight at home, and has hit one of their very few rough patches of the year, with only themselves to blame.

The Islanders have been a very solid, four line team this year. They experienced some injury issues in the middle of the year, but have shored that front up with the acquisition of Tyler Kennedy at the trade deadline. But things after the trade deadline have not been the same for the team. Their powerplay has not scored in it’s last 12 tries, despite the formerly abysmal penalty kill being successful in its last 20 go arounds, and they are finding it troubling to score overall. The first powerplay unit still hasn’t found it’s mojo with Kyle Okposo, and they haven’t had a consistent player on the blueline with the unit, having Nick Leddy, Lubomir Visnovsky, Frans Nielsen, and Johnny Boychuk all getting spins. They got their chances against Carey Price to no avail, but other than that nothing has been brewing. 

Silly mistakes have also been to blame for the struggles, and the game against Montreal personified exactly what the Islanders have done wrong. The first goal was the result of a poorly timed Thomas Hickey pinch at the redline, and the second from Michael Neuvirth’s mishandling of the puck behind the net. The Islanders have been too lenient with the puck in their last group of games, dating back to Strome’s blunder in overtime that lost them the game against Dallas. 

The recent struggles certainly haven’t come at the best time of the year with only 11 games left (after the one tonight against Montreal) but it’s nothing to panic too much about yet, unless the trend continues. The Islanders have escaped this year so far with little problems, outside of injuries to Kyle Okposo and Nick Leddy. The playoffs are a whole new game, and you can get by with a lackluster powerplay, although it’s not recommended. The penalty kill is the big factor, and it has dramatically improved over the last handful of games. Once Nick Leddy returns, the Islanders will have their full lineup back, but need to get back on track beforehand. The team still sits eight points ahead Washington for the wildcard and 15 points ahead of Ottawa overall. 

Six of the Islanders’ remaining eleven games will come against playoff teams. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Islanders’ New Defense is Set for Now and the Future

Just over two weeks after the Islanders locked up Nick Leddy for seven years, Garth Snow and his team signed their other top-2 defenseman long term. The Islanders announced on Thursday afternoon that Johnny Boychuk would be returning for an identical seven years, but at six-million per year. Boychuk, acquired on October 4th, has put up career number with the Islanders this season, with seven goals and 32 points in 59 games. He and Leddy are both top-20 in the league for shots attempted and are the Islanders’ most consistent defensive pairing.
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Winners and Losers of the 2015 Trade Deadline

The trade deadline has come and gone, with a flurry of deals, some great, and others leaving us shaking our heads. Many of the highly sought out players like Antoine Vermette, Zbynek Michalek, Jeff Petry, and Erik Cole were traded, but some other wild cards were also thrown into the mix.

Many teams shored up their rosters for the playoffs, while some did the exact opposite and sat on their hands the entire day. Here are some of our picks for the winners and losers of the trade deadline.
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Jagr Traded to Florida, Clarkson to Columbus in Big Turn of Events

Well, general managers certainly don’t seem content on waiting until Monday to make trades after all? After a flurry of activity yesterday afternoon, today, by some grace of god, took the cake. Both Jaromir Jagr and David Clarkson (do you believe in miracles?) were traded, igniting what appears to be a fire sale for both franchises. Dave Nonis managed to partially erase the mess he started, and did what many people thought was to be impossible in trading David Clarkson.
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Big Day: Winnik, Sekera, and Tlusty All Traded

Less than a week before the trade deadline, some pieces up for sale found their new and temporary homes. Wednesday afternoon, all in a matter of three hours of each other, Daniel Winnik, Andrej Sekera, and Jiri Tlusty were all traded. Tlusty heads out of Carolina and will joins the Jets, while Andrej Sekera also leaves Carolina and goes to Los Angeles. Daniel Winnik, one of Toronto’s bright spots this year, was traded to Pittsburgh.
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