Archive for May, 2012

The Los Angeles Kings have taken the first game of the Stanley Cup Final and need three more wins to claim their first title.

The game stayed close the entire way, a tie forcing overtime between the Kings and Devils. A battle of the goalies as Martin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick traded saves throughout the game and overtime period, fans were not disappointed in the first of what could be a seven-game series. The game ended on a  beautiful play by Anze Kopitar as he unwrapped Brodeur eight minutes into overtime.

If this first game is any indicator of how the final will be played, each game could come down to one goal, or require more than 60 minutes. The desire to win the Stanley Cup burns inside the teams’ players because some have never won, and some want to win again. On the Kings side of the bench, their franchise has never won a Stanley Cup. On the Devils side, Brodeur is the oldest goalie to start a Stanley Cup game and many of the team’s players have never hoisted a cup. Ilya Kovulchuk is playing in his tenth season and just took the ice in a final game for the first time.

Game 2 Saturday in New Jersey should bring two teams ready to fight for the cup again. A win for the Devils means giving their fans something to look forward to if the team should win the next three and play the deciding game in the Prudential Center. On the Kings side, another win for them would give them a 2-0 lead in the series and a chance to hoist the cup in their city for the first time. If the Kings do win Saturday, they will tie an NHL record for most wins in a postseason (10).

This series will be one to remember regardless because of the goalies and all the different story lines coming in. The two teams playing in the final might be the least expected, but the match up is priceless.

The league yet again handed down a suspension, this time drawing lots of attention for the name who won’t be playing.

After Claude Giroux threw his shoulder into Devils player Dainius Zubrus late in the game Sunday, few wondered if the young Philadelphia star would face discipline. The answer was yes. After a hearing with the department of player safety, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux was suspended for Game 5, an elimination game for the Flyers.

His hit, featured below, was clear and deliberate. The only problem is, what is the difference between that hit and the one by Alex Ovechkin?

Ovechkin’s hit on Dan Girardi, no suspension by the league.

Now the question is, why did Giroux’s hit warrant a suspension when Ovechkin’s did not? The inconsistency of the player safety department has been under scrutiny for awhile, but in these playoffs the attention has come to a new high. Ovechkin is a league star, and his team’s series against the Rangers has the opportunity to draw more eyeballs because it is closer than the one between the Devils and Flyers.

The league needs to define a standard for suspensions, and soon. The inconsistency will soon begin to drive away fans who cannot stand the apparent favoritism over certain players. In the off season, the issue needs to be addressed so that next season the standard is clear and players will know what will happen if they make such hits.

While the Eastern Conference teams continue to battle for spots in the conference final, the Western teams prepare for their matchup.

The LA Kings made a clean sweep of the St. Louis Blues to earn their spot, while the Phoenix Coyotes took the series against Nashville 4-1. This conference final brings together two teams that many didn’t expect to see battling for a place in the Cup Final.

In LA’s first two rounds they faced defending west champ the Vancouver Canucks, who played a pathetic series but fought back to hold back elimination. The second featured the Blues, who couldn’t seem to figure out the Kings’ system while they didn’t give themselves a chance to win. The Kings will be the most-rested team going into the conference finals, which can be either a good or bad thing. But to go head-to-head against the Coyotes who are tearing up their opponents, they will need all the rest they can get.

The Coyotes have been a part of one of the most entertaining first round series, controversy and now have knocked off one of the picks to hoist the Stanley Cup. The Phoenix-Chicago series featured five overtime games before the Coyotes blew out the Blackhawks’ hopes of hoisting a cup with a 4-0 win. During that series the most-controversial hit of the playoffs was made by Raffi Torres against Marian Hossa, a hit that led the league to suspend Torres for 25 games, a suspension he would later repeal.

Knocking off the Western team favored to win the Stanley Cup in five games gained Phoenix some well-deserved notice. A matchup between these two teams will be interesting to watch as they both were off of many people’s radar for making it this far.

With as unpredictable as these playoffs have been, it’s hard to say who will and why. The Pittsburgh meltdown, elimination of cup favorites and controversy over hits, this post season has been one for the books.

Evgeni Malkin’s play has earned him another nomination, this time for the Ted Lindsay Award – the NHL’s Outstanding Player.

His two fellow nominees are Steven Stamkos and Henrik Lundqvist, which is no surprise. The three have been standout players throughout the entire season and the decision for MVP and the Ted Lindsay Award will be difficult for the voters.

Evgeni Malkin carried the Penguins with his scoring this past season, even though he failed to appear in the playoffs. He scored a career-high 50 goals, recorded 59 assists and took the scoring championship with a 12-point lead over Stamkos. The scoring championship will be the second of Malkin’s young career, but a win of the MVP or Lindsay award would be new to him.

Stamkos, who is nothing short of a scoring machine, notched 60 goals this season and came in second behind Malkin for points. His play for the Tampa Bay Lightning has been MVP worthy and without him, the team would not have the record they do, including beating the Penguins in last year’s playoffs. The 22-year old shooter has a case for MVP, but his two fellow nominees will make the win tough.

Last but not least, “The King” Henrik Lundqvist, performed brilliantly in the regular season and is the only one of the three to still show off his play in the post-season. Lundqvist’s play this season helped the New York Rangers claim the top spot of the Eastern Conference.

The voters have their work cut out for them as they decide not only the MVP but also the NHL’s Outstanding Player. All three of the finalists have earned their nomination and made a unique case for themselves. The awards show can be seen on NBC Sports June 20, 2012 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.