What Is Your Favorite NHL Playoff Memory?

April 27, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

NHL History Will be Made CommercialFor any hockey fan, the playoffs are a special time of year. The games suddenly have more meaning and you can see rivalries develop quickly over the course of four or more games. The weather is nicer outside, the days are getting longer and teams battle with each other every second night for their chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup.

Playoff hockey has given us the most exciting moments in hockey history and some of our best memories as hockey fans. This season, the NHL has offered up a series of History Will Be Made commercials that are promoting this season of playoff hockey.

The commercials are simply constructed and feature some of the most memorable moments in NHL playoff history. What has been even more exciting to watch over the course of the release of these commercial spots is the growing list of fan parody videos that have been posted to YouTube and other Video sharing sites, featuring other memorable moments in NHL playoff history.

Why Simple Can be Good

One of the best things that could have happened for the NHL is for their set of videos to have them “Go Viral”. or be shared, among hockey fans across the globe. But, making the videos simple enough for fans to create their own parody versions is even better. Now, the NHL will benefit from the content produced by fans to promote the game in addition to the exposure of the original videos. Could it have turned out better? Probably not.

Sure, the fan parody videos aren’t exactly featuring the content that the league would prefer to see, but most of the parody videos identify important moments for fans. And, that’s the key. Hockey is live. There are going to be faux pas, referees are going to blow calls, players will make mistakes… that is the nature of game. Fans recognize that the game is not perfect and that sometimes everything doesn’t go as planned, but we still love the sport. The game can survive and thrive even though it is not perfect and, perhaps, because it is not perfect.

What Defines Playoff Hockey For You?

What is the moment that most defines the NHL playoffs for you? Was it a heroic performance by your favorite player? A game winning goal by an unlikely hero? Or, was it glaring mistake or a moment riddled with controversy? (Was Brett Hull’s foot in the crease?)

Whatever the case, it is important to recognize that for the game to be the emotional rollercoaster that excites fans, there are going to be a variety of memorable playoff moments – certainly not all of them perfect.

Capitals and Canadiens Not Playing Playoff Hockey

April 26, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

The NHL playoffs are often known as being a much more physically demanding brand of game than that of the regular season.  In addition, there is a notion that referees tend to “let the boys play” a bit more as opposed to being as stringent on the rulebook. Although, there appears to be evidence to the contrary.

To that end, the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals have been playing what amounts to pond hockey in the first round.  According to the series statistics, only one player from either team is listed in the top 30 in hits thus far. (Matt Bradley – 22nd)

2010 NHL Playoff Hits

Montreal Canadiens versus Washington Capitals Hits in the 2010 playoffs

Further to this, a Montreal Canadiens player doesn’t enter this list until Dominic Moore’s name appears in the 81st slot.  In fact, the Canadiens are dead last in total hits with 112 in these playoffs.  One might assume that the Canadiens would want to be a little more physical against a potent offensive teams like the Capitals. They’ve also lost more faceoffs than any other team, giving puck possession to the Capitals 58.9% of the time.

Staying Out Of The Box

In addition to the lack of physical contact in this series, as one might expect, there have also been very few penalties called.  Except for Bench Minors of course, of which each team has two.

Montreal Versus Washington Penalties 2010 Playoffs

As you can see in the image above, the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals are neck and neck with the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators for penalty minutes in their respective series’.

The Verdict

The Capitals and Canadiens are playing a brand of hockey that is most conducive to a Capitals victory, being the more skilled team. That said, we all know that playoff games and series can be won or lost with goaltending. And stellar Goaltending is what neither team has had consistently.

Unless Montreal gets another outstanding performance like the .974 Save percentage he posted in Game #5, look for the Capitals to finish off the Canadiens tonight.

Top 10 NHL Playoff Records

April 20, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

Patrick Roy Leads the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley CupAs NHL hockey fans, we all know that playoff hockey is a completely different game.  While regular season hockey provides months of entertainment, the style of game played in the spring is unrivaled.

Long after the snow and ice have left the rivers and lakes of North America, men who grew up playing on those frozen ponds take to hockey’s biggest stage in their annual quest for the Stanley Cup.

Playoff hockey is known to make even the best of the best raise their game to a new level. And, even those not celebrated as mainstream superstars often rise to the occasion in the playoffs – living their fifteen minutes of fame as the most unlikely of heroes.

Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the NHL Digest version of the Top 10 Playoff Records.

Top 10 Playoff Records

10.) Most Game Winning Goals – Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning – 2004

In 2004 Not many hockey fans gave the Lightning much of a shot at winning the Stanley Cup. Brad Richards, however, had other ideas.  On his way to leading the Lightning to the Stanley Cup, Richards amassed a record 7 Game Winning Goals.  Along with his 7 game winners, he added five more goals and 14 assists to lead all scorers in the playoffs with 26 points.  Richards scored four goals and five assists in the Stanley Cup finals alone, vaulting him to the Conn Smythe Trophy!

9.) Most Points By A Defenceman – Paul Coffey, Edmonton Oilers – 1985

The Edmonton Oilers of the mid-1980′s were a nearly unstoppable force in the playoffs. So, it came as no surprise when they managed to win the Stanley Cup in 1985 while losing just twice in the postseason.  What is surprising is that in just 18 playoff games, Oiler defenseman Paul Coffey, managed to rack up an astounding 37 points! Prior to Coffey’s offensive outburst in 1985, no defenseman had scored more than 25 points in a single playoff year. Coffey even managed to tie Wayne Gretzky for points in the Stanley Cup final with 11.

8.) Most Goals In A Series – Jari Kurri, Edmonton Oilers – 1985

Yet another playoff record set by an Edmonton Oiler in 1985. The Oilers were on a mission in 1985 and when they met up with the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference final, it was an all-out offensive assault for 6 games.  Kurri managed to notch 12 goals in the six game series on the back of a 4 goal performance in Game 6.  He also had two other hat tricks in the series and lead all goal scorers in the 1985 playoffs with 19.

7.) Most Saves In A Single Game – Tiny Thompson, Boston Bruins – 1933

It isn’t often that a losing goalie finds his way into the record books (at least for good records) but one can’t help but appreciate the spectacular effort displayed by Thompson in the fifth and deciding game of the Bruins’ series with Toronto in 1933.  In unbelievable fashion the Leafs and Bruins managed to play 8 periods of scoreless hockey!

In the ninth period, after over 164 minutes of hockey, the Leafs finally beat Tiny Thompson to win the game and the series. Thompson had made an incredible 113 saves. Not bad for a night’s work!

6.) Most Saves In The Playoffs – Kirk McLean, Vancouver Canucks – 1994

In the 1994 playoffs, the 27 year old Canucks goaltender took the team on his back and authored an amazing run to the Stanley Cup Final.  The Canucks allowed an average of 34 shots/game, but McLean was up to the task. McLean made a miraculous 761 saves in the playoffs, with a save percentage of .928 and 4 shutouts.  However, it was all for nothing as the Canucks lost in 7 games to the New York Rangers in the Cup Final.

McLean’s 761 saves are 63 more than Ron Hextall made when he won the Conn Smythe in 1987 on the losing team.  If it were not for Brian Leetch’s remarkable attempt (34 points) at Paul Coffey’s record for most points by a defenceman in the playoffs, McLean would have a Conn Smythe trophy on his mantle today. Some argue that he should have won it anyway.

5.) Consecutive Games  With A point – Bryan Trottier, New York Islanders – 1980-1982

In what is believed to be one of the most overlooked records on the NHL’s books, Bryan Trottier’s consistent playoff scoring certainly deserves a spot in our Top 5 playoff records.

To think that one player could score at least one point in every playoff game he played over the course of three seasons is outstanding.  The 1997 Hall of Fame inductee managed to score points in 27 consecutive playoff games from 1980-1982, helping the Islanders secure their place as the dynasty franchise of the early 80′s.

4.) Most Points – Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers, 1985

Of course, no NHL Top 10 Record list would be complete without an entry from The Great One. Wayne Gretzky and his Edmonton Oilers absolutely blitzed the playoff record books in 1985.

Not only did Gretzky manage an astounding 47 points (17 Goals, 30 Assists) in the Oilers’ playoff run; he did so in just 18 games. That also gives Gretzky the record for the most points per game in the playoffs at 2.61*. Gretzky’s linemate, Jari Kurri, was the chief beneficiary of his 30 assists. As mentioned above, Kurri managed 19 Goals in the 1985 playoffs to tie Reggie Leach for the league record.
*Minimum 10 playoff points.

3.) Consecutive Overtime Wins – Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens – 1993

The Montreal Canadiens started off the 1993 playoffs very slowly, losing their first two games but ‘St. Patrick’ would bail them out. Patrick Roy did just that; backstopping the Canadiens to four straight wins against the Nordiques in the first round, four more consecutive wins in the second round and three straight wins to start the third round.  Amazingly, Roy and the Canadiens managed 10 consecutive overtime victories, including 3 overtime wins in the Stanley Cup final versus Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings!

The 1993 playoffs were an anomaly when it came to the number of overtime contests. Some 28 games needed extra time during the 1993 playoffs, which happens to be a league record as well.

2.) Career Playoff Wins – Patrick Roy, 1986-2003

Patrick Roy absolutely dominates this record. In fact, Roy has 151 playoff victories while just two other goalies (Martin Brodeur 179*, Eddie Belfour 161) have even played in as many playoff games. Roy’s intensity and focus allowed him to take his teams deep into the playoffs; one of the reasons that he owns this record by such a wide margin.

On the strength of those deep playoff runs, including 4 Stanley Cups, Roy played in a staggering 247 career playoff games. This sheer volume of games played is also the reason that Patrick Roy has the most career playoff losses of any goalie in NHL history as well – 94.

*Martin Brodeur is still active at the time of publication
1.) Most Stanley Cups – Henri Richard, Montreal Canadiens – 1956-1975

Eleven. That is a massive number of championships for one payer to have been a part of as a player. This record tops our list as the most unbreakable playoff record for good reason. If we can assume a relatively long career in the NHL lasts 20 seasons, a player would need to win the Stanley Cup on average more than every two years to eclipse this record.

With the current parity in the league and the salary cap affecting players’ tenure with clubs, we think this record will stand for a very long time.

Of note is that Richard’s Montreal teammate, Jean Beliveau, has his name on the Stanley Cup 17 times. However, 7 of those were as a member of management. Imagine having 17 Stanley Cup rings!

Your Thoughts

So, what do you think?

Are these playoff records in the correct order?

Are there other NHL playoff records that you would include in this list?

Resources:
Legends of Hockey.net
Wikipedia NHL
HockeyDB.com
Hockey Hall of Fame Records

Why Playoff Hockey Offers The Best Entertainment Value

May 9, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns, NHL Players

jussi-jokinenOne of the reasons why the NHL continues to grow in popularity, especially in television viewership is the excitement that continues to be brought to the game by a host of fantastic young stars.

While we have seen the tide turning for a few years now, it has not been since the mid-1980′s that the National Hockey League has had as many bonafide young stars as it does today!

Playoff Hockey

What’s more, the NHL playoffs offer hockey fans the chance to see these young stars perform at the peak of intensity and pressure. The best example thus far in the playoffs was, of course, Game 3 of the Penguins vs. Capitals series where both Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin scored hat tricks for their respective teams. But, there is certainly evidence of talented youngsters leading the charge in all of the series’.

Some of the most poignant examples are:

  • Ryan Getzlaf, who is tied for the lead in playoff scoring, and Jonas Hiller have led the 8th seeded Anaheim Ducks past the President’s Trophy winning San Jose Sharks and at least to a six game series with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings.
  • Cam Ward and Eric Staal have put the Carolina Hurricanes on their young, but capable, shoulders and carried the team past the New Jersey Devils and into a 3-1 series lead over the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins.

The Unlikely Hero

Adding to the already exciting story of NHL playoff hockey, it seems that in every playoff year, there emerges an unlikely hero of sorts.

Often, it is a young goaltender that emerges with a fantastic playoff performance, such as Cam Ward did in 2006 on his way to Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe honors. The same could be said for Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, and Tony Esposito among a few others.

However, the more unlikely heroes are those forwards whose names rarely mark the score sheet during the regular season but somehow when the pressure is turned up in the playoffs, manage to bring their game to new heights.

The Legend of John Druce

The most prolific example of such an unlikely hero is that of John Druce. In the 1989-1990 season Druce managed just 8 Goals and 3 Assists. But it was the playoffs that year when Druce made a name for himself, scoring 14 goals and three assists for 17 points in just 15 games. NHL Director of Corporate Communications, Mike DiLorenzo may have said it best for NY Ranger fans when he noted “That John Druce broke my heart”.

Last season’s unlikely playoff hero was undoubtedly Philadelphia Flyer forward R.J Umberger (Now with Columbus). Umberger notched 10 goals in last year’s 17 game playoff run with Philadelphia after scoring just 13 times in 72 regular season games for the Flyers.

Not to disappoint fans this season, the emergence of an unlikely playoff hero has come to fruition.

Jussi Jokinen of the Carolina Hurricanes was discarded twice by NHL teams this season and manged to score just 7 goals in 71 games split between Tampa Bay and Carolina. However, in just 11 playoff games, Jokinen has scored 6 goals – including 3 game winning goals and 1 game tying goal.

Of course, true hockey fans would watch playoff hockey without the unlikely hero stories or the emergence of a young superstar goaltender, but it is these stories that round out the entertainment value of playoff hockey, start water cooler conversations and deepen fan relationships with their teams.

Is there any better entertainment in the world than playoff hockey?

I think not.

1st Round Impressions and 2nd Round Predictions

April 29, 2009 by Kyle  
Filed under Hockey Columns

2008-2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs

With the first round of the NHL playoffs in the books, it’s time to take a brief look back on who impressed, who disappointed, and what’s next.

Thoughts on Round 1

Boston certainly look like a deep, talented and disciplined team. Coach Julien took Coach/GM Gainey to school. Everything Julien did worked out beautifully. Nothing Gainey did worked at all. A long playoff run looks to figure in Boston’s future, while a long summer of upheaval on and off the ice beckons for Montreal.

Washington deserved to win at least the first 6 games of their series with the Rangers, thanks to the brilliance of Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist . In what can only be considered as a cruel twist of fate, the Rangers probably deserved to win game 7, but their anemic offense was not able to generate enough production. Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, and Markus Naslund – hang your heads in shame. Alexander Ovechkin wasn’t at his best, yet the Rangers still couldn’t muster enough to pull the upset.

Who would have guessed that the Devils and Hurricanes would have produced a 7 game series of must-see hockey. Martin Brodeur and Cam Ward were altogether brilliant in their matchup, with each pitching shutouts and posting 40+ save performances. It was nothing short of epic. Everything looked promising for the Devils until there was 2 minutes left in the 3rd. Tim Gleason made a season-saving play at the blue line to keep the puck in. Jussi Jokinen scored shortly after to tie the game, and Eric Staal won it less than a minute later. Needless to say, the Devils (and probably the Canes too) were stunned. The Devils have now been bounced in the first round in 4 of their last 5 playoff appearances. After looking like world beaters when Brodeur came back from his arm injury, this has to be devastating.

The battle of Pensylvannia was also a good series, highlighted by some good goaltending performances from M.A. Fleury. Once again, Philadelphia’s goaltending was not good enough to carry them to the promised land. When will their management learn that guys like Biron, Esche, Cechmanek, Antero Niittymaki and other underacheivers are not the type of goalie needed to win the cup? It’s been their achilles heel for ages, and looks like it will continue to be so.

In what has to be the biggest disappointment of the year, the San Jose Sharks rolled over – yet again when it mattered most. Joe Thornton did his level best, but again it was not nearly enough. He shares an enormous set of goat horns with Patrick Marleau for their tank job. There’s got to be some fallout in San Jose because of this? I wonder what Ron Wilson is thinking right about now? To me, this series was predictable. I didn’t even give the Sharks a chance to make it a 7 game series against the Ducks. Hall of famers Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, not to mention the heroic Jonas Hiller knocked out the President Trophy winners. Again.

What can be said of the defending champs? The Red Wings total dismantling of the upstart Blue Jackets was nothing short of impressive. Were the Blue Jackets just excited to have been there, or are the Wings yet again that good? Can it be both? Chris Osgood, as he promised, was better than he had been in the regular season, while Blue Jackets super rookie Steve Mason fell back to earth after a stunning regular season perfomance. They’ll be back, but for now they’ve got to deal with this piece of humble pie.

Vancouver may have swept the Blues, but they were life & death in doing so. The Blues fought hard in each of their 4 games and probably deserved to win at least 1. That being said, Roberto Luongo looks like a man poised to good deep, and also has his gaze on the #1 role for team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics. With or without Mats Sundin, beating Luongo 4 times out of 7 is going to be tough for any team.

Personally, the biggest surprise of the first round was the Chicago Blackhawks. I did not expect them to show so much spirit and poise in their first playoff appearance. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, Martin Havlat, and the rest of the team showed unusual poise for such a young bunch. As for the Flames…you’ve got to feel sorry for them. They were banged up on the blue line like no other team West of Montreal, but so much more was expected, especially after they acquired Mike Cammalleri, Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold.

Quick Predictions for Round 2

Boston Bruins (1) vs Carolina Hurricanes (6)
The top seeded Bruins draw another low seed – but this Hurricane team is not your garden variety low seed. They’ve got chemistry and experience. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve got Cam Ward who continues to fly under the radar. The Bruins are healthy, and remain the deepest team in the East. I expect them to topple the Hurricanes, but it won’t be easy. Early rust will affect them in game 1, but they’ll sail from there.
Zdeno Chara will get the assignment of shutting down Staal, and he’ll get that job done. The rest of the Bruins depth, starting with Phil Kessel and Patrice Bergeron will be too much for the Hurricanes to handle.

Boston in 6.

Washington Capitals (2) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (4)

In what can only be described as Gary Bettman’s fantasy, we get a playoff matchup between
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. And the stars don’t stop there. The Penguins will be throwing MVP candidate and Art Ross winner Evgeni Malkin out there, Jordan Staal, Sergei Gonchar, and a plethora of competent supporting talent. Washington counters with Alexander Semin, Niklas Backstrom, Mike Green and their own cast of veteran talent. The wild card in this series is Simeon Varlamov. It’s one thing to beat the Rangers’ paltry offense. It’s another thing entirely to ask a 20 year old to stop 2 of the best hockey players in the world.

Pittsburgh in 7.

Detroit Red Wings (2) vs Anaheim Ducks (8)
How long can the Ducks ride this wave? Did they run in to a collection of playoff chokers, or are they a battle-hardened group of veterans who don’t need the red carpet rolled out for them? We will have our answer after this round. Can round 1 hero Jonas Hiller continue to baffle opposition shooters? Or will the Red Wings collection of championship stars find a way to deflate this guy’s balloon? Playoff goaltending heroics are not rare throughout history, and they can take teams from improbable 8th seeds to the finals (see Dwayne Roloson with the Oilers in 2005), but in this case, my money is going on the champs to continue their roll and send the Ducks packing for the summer. Too much top end skill to be contained.

Detroit in 6.

Vancouver Canucks (3) vs Chicago Blackhawks (4)
This ought to be a fun series to watch. These teams don’t like each other. Each team has what the other team doesn’t. The Canucks have top flight goaltending, while the Hawks have top notch talent. It will be a contest between the Hawks’ young guns vs the Canucks defense corps and Roberto Luongo. Can Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows support the Sedins enough offensively to put them over the top? Can Mats Sundin be the X factor for the Canucks? This is why they acquired him, so it’s time for him to get back in the lineup and show why he should be considered as one of the all-time greats. He’ll never have a better chance at Lord Stanley’s mug than he will this year.

Vancouver in 7.

If I’m right, and I’m usually not, we’ll have conference finals that look like this:

East
Boston (1) vs Pittsburgh (4)

West
Detroit (2) vs Vancouver (3)

I’d love to hear your thoughts and your predictions!