NHL

NHL Suspends Kings D On Domestic Violence Allegation

Slava Voynov in happier times.

Slava Voynov in happier times.

by D4Assignment Staff

Having learned from his NFL counterpart’s mistakes, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has suspended Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov for an undetermined amount of time due to allegations of domestic violence.

Bettman moved swiftly after Voynov was arrested early Monday morning. Yoynov’s suspension, as announced by the NHL, comes under Section 18-A.5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which provides that, during the pendency of a criminal investigation, “The League may suspend the Player pending the League’s formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.”1

Voynov will be paid during the period of the criminal investigation. He’s in the second year of a six-year, $24MM contract extension signed in June, 2013. The 24-year old defenseman was a fourth round draft choince in 2008 and is in his fourth year with the Kings. He was arrested at 3:45 am on Monday by Redondo Beach (CA) police.

ESPN contacted Voynov’s agent, Rolland Hedges, but he could not comment at that time.2


Update – 3:40 EDT

Several media outlets are reporting that the woman allegedly abused by Voynov was hospitalized due to the injuries she received. The woman, who said she was in a relationship with Voynov, was being treated in the emergency room of the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrence, CA when the staff called the police. Voynov accompanied the woman to the hospital where he was subsequently arrested.

Voynov was scheduled to be in court on Wednesday, but since he was released on $50,000 bail, the date was moved back to December 1. (No one has ever said that justice moves quickly.) Voynov’s lawyer tried to downplay things:

“We’re conducting our own investigation,” Craig Renetzky, Voynov’s attorney, said. “We don’t have anything to comment on quite yet. There should be no rush to judgment, and we’ll see what we find out.”3

The police had received a call on their business line earlier in the evening with reports of a woman screaming and crying, but the caller could not provide an address.

1 – NHL.com

2 – ESPN.com

3 – ocregister.com

 

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NY Rangers Preview: The King Must Lead Them

For the NY Rangers to have success, Henrik Lundqvist must remain a world class goalie.

For the NY Rangers to have success, Henrik Lundqvist must remain a world class goalie.

by Drew Sarver

The New York Rangers fanbase is one of the most loyal and most frustrated of any sports franchise’in history. Fans waited all or part of 54 years to watch the Rangers hoist the Stanley Cup after a drought that lasted from 1940 to 1994. When the playoffs arrive this Spring, it will have been 21 years since the Rangers won their last Cup, and their window of opportunity is running out.

The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup finals last season, where they ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games, due in large part to their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. The two-time Olympic medalist. is one of the top five ranked goalies in the world, arguably one of the top three. The Swedish native will turn 33-years old one month before the playoffs begin in 2015. If you check the history books you won’t find too many goaltenders past the age of 35 that won the Stanley Cup as the “go to guy” in the nets. (The Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas was 37 when he kicked and gloved his way to the 2011 Stanley Cup.)

It’s remarkable to think back and realize that the Rangers really did not know what they had when they took Lundqvist in the 7th round of the 2000 entry draft. Al Montaya was thought to be the Rangers goalie of the future. In the year prior to his rookie season with New York, Lundqvist played for Frolunda HC Goteborg in the Sweden Elitserien League. (Now, the Swedish Hockey League.) He finished with a 33-8-2 record with a 1.79 Goals-Against-Average (GAA) in 44 games. (With the NHL season wiped out by a strike/players’ lockout, teammates included his twin brother Joel, Sami Salo, Daniel Alfredsson, and Loui Eriksson.) Lundqvist recorded a 1.05 GAA in the playoffs as Frolunda captured the league championship. By then the Rangers knew they had a head turning goalie.

The Rangers made the playoffs in eight of Lundqvist’s nine seasons in the NHL, no small coincidence for a team that missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons before “The King” arrived in New York. In 2012, the Rangers lost to one of their chief rivals, the New Jersey Devils, in a six-game Eastern Conference finals. Last season the Rangers seemed dead in the water in the conference semi-finals, but rallied from a 3-1 deficit in games to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and then advanced to the Cup finals with a six-game defeat of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Rangers lost the cup in five games to a faster, harder hitting, nastier, better scoring team in the Kings. LA also had the 2012 Cup MVP in goal, in the person of Jonathan Quick. The off-season apeared to severely damage the chances for a return to the Cup finals due to the free agent departure of defenseman Anton Stralman and forwards Brian Boyle and Benoit Pouliot.

To supplant the losses, Rangers’ President and General Manager Glen Sather signed forwards Lee Stempniak, Ryan Malone and Tanner Glass, offensive-minded defenseman Dan Boyle, and defenseman Matt Hunwick. The Rangers will need to lean on their young core even more – Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and rookies Anthony Duclair and Kevin Hayes.

Wingers Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash must fill opponent’s nets with pucks like they did in Tampa Bay and Columbus, respectively. The Rangers ranked in the lower half (18th) in the league in scoring goals last season and were 15th on the power play. The latter is the main reason that Dan Boyle was brought in. The Rangers also need a breakout season from Kreider, whose speed, puck handling, strength and tenacity should produce more than the 17 goals and 37 points he scored in 66 games last season.

But what will make the Rangers tick first and foremost is Lundqvist and their group of solid to stellar defenseman. Newly appointed team captain Ryan McDonagh, and fellow veterans (an assistant captains) Dan Girardi and Marc Staal need to stay healthy and productive, and be more aggressive on the power play.

Did You Know?

Lundqvist, who got his nickname from the Rangers’ fans was the recipient of two of Sweden’s most prestigous hockey awards, the Golden Helmet and the Golden Puck. Guldhjälmen (Golden Helmet) is the Swedish League’s MVP Award, which Lundqvist won for his extraordinary 2005 season. He also captured Guldpucken (Golden Puck) that same season as the league’s ice hockey player of the year.

Wild Cards

Goalie Cam Talbot made his NHL debut last season at 26-years of age. His timing was perfect; Lundqvist went through a stretch when he struggled and was actually benched in favor of Talbot. The rookie’s play was so good, some fans called for him to be the #1 goalie. Lundqvist returned to normal and those fans had their sanity restored.

Talbot stuck with the team though and provided a solid and dependable backup goaltender. He recorded a 1.64 GAA in 21 games and finished with a 12-6-1 regular season record. Talbot will need to be sharp from the start of the current season with the first five games scheduled in eight nights.

When the Rangers found out that center Derek Stepan would miss a minimum of 10 games with a broken leg, St. Louis volunteered to move from his usual wing spot to center. Coach Alain Vigneault agreed and St. Louis will be the top center on opening night against, you guessed it, the St. Louis Blues. Kreider and Nash will be his wingmen.

Outlook

Media pundits have wide ranging opinions as to the status of the Rangers this season, from not making the playoffs to finally capturing the Stanley Cup again (the NY Post’s Larry Brooks endeared himself to his readers with that prediction.) The Rangers certainly have the manpower on paper to return to the league finals, but they need scoring from their first three lines.

They will need Stepan to not miss much more time than expected, for Matt Zuccarello to work his stick handling magic, for the power play to improve drastically, to remain one of the top penalty killing teams (third in the NHL last year at 85.3%), for Nash to remember how to score in the playoffs, and of course, for the King to be his outstanding himself.

The Rangers get a break at the start of the season with 11 of the first 16 games scheduled at home. They need to take advantage of that situation and get off to a good start. Look for the Rangers to once again finish second in the Metropolitan division to Pittsburgh.

Will they win the Cup? We’ll find out come Springtime.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

NHL Free Agency: Which Signings Will Have the Most Impact?

IginlaJarome Iginla’s signing is a big boost for the Avalance and a blow to the Bruins (photo courtesy of sportsglory.com)

by Alli Baker

The first of July is like Christmas for hockey fans. Once free agency begins, every team has a chance to ink a big-name player and drastically change their upcoming season. This year’s free agency frenzy didn’t disappoint, as many superstar players moved around the league on July 1. These new additions will no doubt have a sizable impact for their new teams in the 2014-2015 season:

Dan Boyle and the New York Rangers: After losing Benoit Pouloit and Anton Stralman to free agency, the Rangers had some holes to fill. Not having much cash to work with, GM Glen Sather made some shrewd moves, signing veteran defenseman Dan Boyle to a two-year, $9 million contract. The 38-year old  provides a veteran presence and experience. The defenseman made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 and won gold in the 2010 Olympics with Team Canada. Boyle can provide offense for the Blueshirts, as well – the ex-Shark scored 12 goals in 75 games last year with San Jose. In signing Boyle, the Rangers acquired a top defenseman for a low price, allowing the team to also sign Tanner Glass and resign Dominic Moore.

Jarome Iginla and the Colorado Avalanche: In order to follow up its impressive turn-around season and playoff push during the 2013-14 season, the Avalanche knew a top player would be needed if the team was to continue to be a contender. Losing Paul Statsny to the Blues was not a step in the right direction for the Avs. Signing Jarome Iginla to a three-year, $16 million contract was. One of the younger teams in the NHL, the Avalanche are definitely going to benefit from having the veteran added to the roster. The former Boston Bruin is undoubtedly a top six forward for Colorado and will provide the team with extra offense. In 78 games last year with Boston, Iginla posted 30 goals and 61 points. The 37-year old doesn’t look to be slowing down, either, and should become a solid part of Colorado’s lineup over the next few years.

Mike Camallerri and the New Jersey Devils: The New Jersey Devils desperately needed to make a big move this offseason and acquire a player or two to provide some much-needed offense. GM Lou Lamoriello did just that, inking ex-Calgary Flame Mike Camallerri to a five year deal worth $25 million. The 11-year NHL veteran scored 26 goals in 63 games last year with the Flames and has consistently been a 20-plus goal scorer. The Devils had tried on two other previous occasions to acquire Camallerri, and finally did so on the first day of free agency. The 32-year old said that he was most looking forward to having the chance to play alongside superstar Jaromir Jagr. The Devils also added Martin Havlat, hoping the two new acquisitions will be able to boost the team’s lackluster offense from the previous season.

Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and the Washington Capitals: After a less-than ideal finish to the 2013-14 season, the Caps had some serious work to do this offseason. The organization started by hiring former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz in hopes that he could provide some wisdom for the defensively-challenged team. Washington, home to NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin, didn’t have a problem scoring goals. Defense, on the other hand, was a challenge. GM Brian MacLellan added some depth by signing Penguins’ defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to massive contracts. Niskanen was signed for seven years and $40.25 million, while Orpik got five years and $27.5 million. Although these signings will definitely reinforce Washington’s defensive depth, they are considered to be the worst deals of free agency thus far by many. Orpik, who is already 33 years old, has been injured often throughout the past few seasons and may not provide the consistency the Caps need. The contracts also take up a sizable amount of cap space.

Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Canucks added some talent in goal Tuesday by signing two-time Olympian Ryan Miller to a 3-year, $18 million contract. The 33-year old will bring his experience and work ethic to Vancouver and it’s the hope of GM Jim Benning that Miller will become a good role model for many of the team’s younger players.Miller, who has reached 30-plus wins seven times, is without a doubt an improvement for the Canucks.

Brad Richards and the Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks started free agency already over the cap limit, but still needed to make a move to remain competitive in the Central Division. This goal was accomplished by signing veteran Brad Richards to a one year, $2 million contract. Richards, who scored 20 goals last year with the Rangers, will no doubt add offensive talent to the Blackhawks. For this bargain, the Hawks also get a number two center who could possibly play alongside Patrick Kane. Although this isn’t a massive deal, it’s exactly what Chicago needed to do.

Thomas Vanek and the Minnesota Wild: It was the deal everyone knew would eventually happen: the Wild finally acquired Minnesota native Thomas Vanek on Tuesday, signing him to a three-year, $19.5 million contract.  The 30-year old will replace the holes left by the departure of Dany Heatley and Matt Moulson. Vanek, who played college hockey at the University of Minnesota, should help to fix the Wild’s goal-scoring problem. The former Montreal Canadien scored 27 goals and had 41 assists in 78 games last year. It’s that ability that GM Craig Leopold is counting on to make the Wild a legitimate Stanley Cup contender next year.

Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and the Tampa Bay Lightning: The former New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan gave the Tampa Bay Lightning some inside information on Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman and quite possibly provided an incentive for the two other ex-Rangers to head to the Bolts. The trio played together in New York for parts of three years, so a Tampa reunion was not out of the question. Stralman signed for five years, $22.5 million; Boyle signed for three years, $6 million. The Lightning moved Nate Thompson and Teddy Purcell in order to make enough room for the two new contracts, so the big question is whether the addition of Boyle and Stralman will make Tampa better or worse.

Free agency is far from over and signings will continue to occur throughout the summer, but the biggest names are already off the market. Now all there is to do is wait three months to see how the moves will work out when the 2014-15 season begins.

1 – CBC.CA

2 – ESPN.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23

Bennett, Ekblad, Lead Pack of 2014 NHL Prospects

aaron_ekblad_barrie_colts[1]Aaron Ekblad is expected to be the #1 pick in the NHL Amateur Draft (photo courtsy of fansided)

by Alli Baker

The 2014 NHL draft is upon us ( 7 pm EDT).  And while this year’s group of prospects may not look as dynamic or exciting as last year’s crop, this annual event always seems to have an impact in some way.

These prospects now have the chance to change the 2014-2015 season for their new teams. Take the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon, for example. MacKinnon, who was the first overall pick last year, provided a huge presence for Colorado this year, and won the Calder Trophy in the process. While this is the goal of all draft prospects, only a few succeed in truly having a dramatically positive effect.

This year’s draft prospects are not projected to have this same sort of influence. “I don’t recall a year recently when there were as many question marks.” an NHL scout recently commented on this year’s prospects. “Skilled kids who lack size; players who might have issues with attitude or commitment. It seems to be a really volatile draft.” 1 Nonetheless, these top prospect like Samuel Bennett, Aaron Ekblad, and Sam Reinhart who are expected to go near the top of the draft, are still projected to provide some kind of an impact.

Here’s a closer look at the projected Top Ten prospects of the 2014 NHL draft:

10. Jake Virtanen: Known for his scoring ability, Virtanen would provide any team with extra offense and aggressiveness. The Calgary Hitman scored 45 goals last year in the WHL.  He also accumulated 100 penalty minutes, demonstrating that he has both goal-scoring talent and a mean streak. Although he possesses obvious talent, it has been said that he lacks “great vision or hockey sense,” which puts Virtanen at the bottom of our top 10. 2

9. Haydn Fleury: Considered the second-best defenseman available in this year’s draft, Fleury is quite the package. The 6’3″, 201 lb. Canadian possesses size, speed, and good hockey sense. However, unlike defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Fleury doesn’t display the same offensive knack. Although he scored 46 points last year in the WHL, Fleury lacks offensive explosiveness.

8: Nikolaj Ehlers: A speedy player with good puck-handling skills, Ehlers would provide any team with some explosive offense. The Dane scored over 100 points while playing in Halifax, however, he played alongside Jonathan Drouin, who was also a very talented goal scorer. This leads one to wonder whether Ehlers has goal-scoaring talent, or he just had an extremely talented line mate. Ehlers’ size is also somewhat of a concern. At 5’11”, 162 lbs, he may end up getting pushed around in the NHL.

7: William Nylander: Son of veteran NHL player Michael Nylander, William has inherited his father’s hockey skills and is known for his impressive agility, quickness, and great hands. Nylander scored an insane 16 points in seven games during last year’s under-18 games, proving he has offensive talent. However, at 5’11”, 175 lbs.,the left wing is small in size and he has some strength to gain. He has also been said to be “sometimes selfish, always a diva.” Although he definitely has talent, his attitude problems have lowered his draft value. <sup>2<sup>

6: Nick Ritchie: This big forward possesses both formidable size and scoring talent. Ritchie scored 39 goals for the Peterborough Petes, showing his goal-scoring talent. On top of that, Ritchie isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. At 6’3″, 236 pounds, this combination of size and offensive talent lands Ritchie at number six on the list.

5: Leon Draisaitl: Draisaitl appears to be the total package; he has size, speed, and he has been a consistent goal scorer. Nicknamed “The German Gretzky,” Draisaitl is set to become the highest-drafted German player. This center for the Prince Albert Raiders scored 38 goals in 64 games during the 2013-14 season, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down offensively. Yet, he has been said to lack hockey instincts and therefore he likely won’t be draft higher than number five.

4: Michael Dal Colle: Dal Colle is a talented goal-scorer with a solid two-way game. The left wing has been compared to Ryan Getzlaf and has the ability to provide a real offensive impact wherever he plays. However, his lanky frame and lack of weight are a possible concern at the NHL level. If Dal Colle bulks up, he really doesn’t have many other flaws. 3

3: Sam Reinhardt: Reinhardt has intelligence on the ice and the ability to handle the puck, yet his size is nothing extraordinary and his speed has caused him to be described as “barely an average skater.” However, it’s possible for his smart play and exceptional puck-handling to make up for his lack of speed and size. With a little more time to develop, Reinhardt has the potential to develop into a solid NHL forward.

2: Sam Bennett: Bennett’s character and play on the ice have been given rave reviews by almost everyone out there, and there’s no doubt he has offensive skill. However, Bennett failed to do even a single pull-up at the draft combine, leading some to wonder about his strength. Even so, Bennett is still a solid goal scorer and his NHL future is most likely not going to be impacted much by the fact that he couldn’t do a pull-up. “He’s a fantastic player and a highly skilled guy,” according to Matt Nichol, a former strength coach for the Maple Leafs. With that being said, Bennett is projected to be taken within the top three. 4

1. Aaron Ekblad: Ekblad, a defenseman for Barrie Colt, has been projected to go within the top three by every scout that has surveyed him. The 18-year-old from Winsdor, Canada, stands at 6’4″ and weighs 213 pounds, making him a physical force as well as a talented puck handler. He leads the OHL in goals scored by a defenseman (23), and he has been compared to Shea Weber and Chris Pronger. A scout recently told the Toronto Sun that “He’s an NHL passer already. He’s the most flawless of the top players and he’s the most NHL-ready.” Ekblad has a little bit of everything and is by far the best defenseman of the 2014 draft, making him the top pick on this list. 1

1 – TSN CA

2 – Bleacher Report

3 – Pro Hockey Talk (Colle)

4 – Pro Hockey Talk (Bennett)

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23

NHL: Teemu Selanne – The End of an Era

Teemu Selanne Ducks 2014 playoff previewTeemu Selanne had a Hall of Fame NHL career he’ll now reflect back on.

by Alli Baker

On May 16, 2014, the Teemu Selanne era came to an end when the Anaheim Ducks fell in an emotional Game 7 to the Los Angeles Kings, 6-2. Although the Kings had just won a spot in the NHL Western Conference semi-finals, the end of Selanne’s career took everyone’s attention over the King’s victory.

After the end of the game, the Kings and Ducks players stayed on the ice and tapped their sticks in a salute to Selanne as he said his final farewell to the Anaheim crowd. While the 43-year old fell short of winning a second Stanley Cup, Selanne by no means fell short of putting together an impressive NHL career.

The sure-fire future Hall of Famer began his career playing for the Finnish junior league team, Jokerit. After spending three years in the development program, Selanne ended his junior career in 1987-1988 with a junior-A championship and an impressive 43 goals and 66 points in 33 games. 1  His notable performance sparked the interest of the Winnipeg Jets, who then selected Selanne tenth overall, in the 1988 NHL amateur draft.

After being drafted, Selanne continued playing in Finland with SM-Liiga until he was signed to a North American contract with the Jets in 1992. From there, he began an incredible twenty-one year NHL career. He played his first NHL game on October 6, 1992 against the Detroit Red Wings.

Nicknamed the “Finnish Flash” because of his speed and agility, Selanne quickly proved himself in his first few games in the NHL.  The rookie collected his first career hat trick just five games into his professional career.  He went on to score 76 goals, including four hat tricks and one four-goal game. 2 Selanne broke the National Hockey League record for most goals scored by a rookie, earning himself the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top freshman in the NHL.

He was also a first-time All-Star, and was chosen for the All-Star team another nine times over the course of his career. Though Winnipeg lost in the first round of the playoffs, Selanne collected six points in six games. He maintained consistent play throughout the next three years with the Jets, reaching 100 career goals in 1994, in only 130 NHL games. Only the New York Islanders’ Mike Bossy was faster to reach that milestone.

Unfortunately, after that feat was accomplished, Selanne tore his Achilles tendon and was forced to sit out the last 33 games of the 1994 season. He finished with just 25 goals on the season. The 1994-1995 NHL lockout the following year caused Selanne to return back to his native Finland for half a season, where he played for Jokerit Helsinki-Finland and was named tournament All-Star when the team won the 1995 European Cup.

Once the lockout ended, Selanne returned to the Jets, but was traded halfway through the season to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Upon hearing of the trade, Selanne was apparently furious. According to the Seattle Times, he stormed out of practice and ripped the nameplate off from above his locker. He left Winnipeg Arena without talking to reporters. 3  Although it took time to adjust to the trade, Selanne later said that it was the best thing to happen to his career.

In his first stint with the Ducks (from the 1995-1996 season into the 2000-2001 season), Selanne scored 225 goals and had two 50+ goal seasons. His performance led to five All-Star appearances, chief among them the the 1998 All-Star game, where he became the first European to score a hat trick and to be voted Most Valuable Player. The 1998 season also saw Selanne win the inaugural Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy for the league’s highest goal scorer (47). 4

At the 2000-2001 trade deadline, Selanne was sent to the San Jose Sharks for two players and a draft choice. He fell just short of 30 goals the next two seasons and left the west coast for a free agent deal with the Colorado Avalanche. The 33-year old struggled for the better part of the season, scoring only 16 goals (and 16 assists) in 78 games. After failing to win a Cup in Colorado and being placed on the fourth line for most of the season, Selanne took the 2004-2005 lockout year off from hockey to recover and then came back with the Ducks for the 2005-2006 season.

A revitalized Selanne scored 40 or more goals for two straight seasons and notched his 1,000th career point. He also joined Jari Kurri as the only Finnish-born players to score 500 goals, when he accomplished that feat in 2006. Selanne than took part in what every NHL player dreams of: a Stanley Cup championship. The 2007 Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators for the franchise’s first title. After 14 seasons and a Stanley Cup win, Selanne contemplated retirement annually, but continued to play with the Ducks for another seven seasons. He finally decided that the 21st season of his career would be his last in the NHL.

The 43-year old Selanne,  a fan favorite in Anaheim, received a standing ovation and the first, second, and third star in his final regular season game against the Avalanche. The Ducks organization later announced that Selanne’s number 8 would be the first number retired by the franchise.

Selanne’s illustrious career wasn’t limited to his NHL accomplishments. Internationally, the Finn played in six Olympic games and holds the records for most points scored in the Olympics. He is also the oldest player to medal in Olympic Ice Hockey after he picked up a bronze medal this past winter at age 43.

Outside of hockey, Selanne is a collector of cars and has entered the World Rally Championship two times.  He is also the owner of  a Laguna Beach restaurant and the previous owner of four establishments in Finland. In his native country, he is the focus of a biographical film, “Sel8nne”, which looks at his life in and out of the NHL.

And because Teemu Selanne is apparently capable of doing just about everything, he was a kindergarten teacher before he began his hockey career.

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, he was also voted Sexiest Man Alive in Finland by the magazine “Eeva.” 5. Way to go, Teemu. That’s the life of a legend.

 

1 – wikipedia.org
2 – nhl.com
3 – seattletimes.nwsource.com
4 – ocregister.com
5 – localemagazine.com

 

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23

NHL Playoffs: Montreal and Boston Get Ready to Renew Old Rivalry

habruinsA pair of Original Six teams are ready to go toe-to-toe again.

by Drew Sarver

For years, the Montreal Canadiens were the kings of the National Hockey League. Between 1953 and 1979 they captured the Stanley Cup 16 times, including five straight years from 1956-1960 and four times in a row from 1976-1979.  During that stretch, Montreal also made it to the finals three other three times, with losses to Detroit (twice) and Toronto. In all, the Canadiens have hoisted the Cup 24 times.

Their fellow “Original Six” rivals, the Boston Bruins, won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost in the finals to Chicago, another of the Original Six, last year. The Cup win was the first for the Bruins since the 1971-1972 season and the sixth for the franchise.

The two team have played in the same division for many years, but when the teams meet in the playoffs, emotions are amped up a notch or 200.

It was no wonder that the Canadiens captured so many titles during the Original Six period that ran from 1942 until the NHL expansion in 1967, which doubled the size of the league. There weren’t too many American-born players in the NHL during that 25-year stretch, and Montreal grabbed one future Hall-of-Fame player after another with their territorial picks. Many of the Canadiens’ championships have included a playoff series win against Boston.

As a matter of fact, after the Bruins won a five-game series in 1943, they lost to the Canadiens the next 18 times they met in the playoffs. The streak, which began in 1946, ended in 1988. Since then, things have actually shifted in the Bruins’ favor with seven wins in 11 series.

Both teams have won just one Stanley Cup since the Bruins ended their skid in 1988, with Montreal entering this season with a 20-year drought since their last championship. This will be the 34th post-season meeting between the two teams and their first in three years.

Both teams got to this point by being road warriors in round one. Though he may never have been known as “Mad Max”, Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning with a goal with 17 seconds left in regulation time in Game 4. The four-game sweep would not have been possible had it not been for the Canadiens’ two wins in Tampa Bay to open the series. It’s just too bad the Lightning no longer play in the “Thunderdome”.

The Bolts had to play without their number-one goalie and Vezina Trophy finalist, Ben Bishop, for the entire series. Bishop underwent wrist surgery at the conclusion of the first-round series, in which Montreal dominated at both ends of the ice. Lightning goalie Anders Lindback was the only thing that kept Game 1 in Tampa from being a blowout, as the Canadiens out-shot the Lightning by a wide margin (44-25), in a 5-4 Montreal victory. Unlikely hero Dale Weise scored the game winner for Montreal in overtime.

Canadiens’ goalie, and Olympic Gold Medalist, Carey Price outplayed Lindback and third-string goalie Kristers Gudlevskis in the entire series. The Canadiens never let up, and the Lightning were burnt to a crisp when Pacioretty got his game winner. Twenty-one year-old Brendan Gallagher led the Habs in both goals (3) and points (5).

Boston took the President’s Trophy for most points (117) recorded in the NHL this season, but lost Game 1 on home ice. The Detroit Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk scored the game’s only goal with 3:01 left in regulation. Jimmy Howard stole the game from another Vezina Trophy finalist, Tuukka Rask, with 25 saves.

But Boston didn’t get to be the number-one seed in the entire NHL for no reason. They dominated the next four games, winning at home in Game 2, before going to the Motor City to finish off the Red Wings. Rask and company held Detroit to six goals for the entire series and got a shutout of their own, 3-0, in Game 2. Milan Lucic led a balanced Boston attack with three goals, while center Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Torey Krug led the squad with five points apiece. Finland’s Rask stopped 96.1% of the shots he faced to go along with a 1.16 goals-against-average (GAG).

Montreal has won 24 of the previous 33 playoff series with Boston,  and most recently has won six of the last seven meetings between the two in the regular season. But when the puck drops in round two, it will be difficult to imagine the Bruins not skating away with the series. Probably in six games.

Listed below is the record for the first 33 times the Canadiens and Bruins clashed in the playoffs.

Pre-Orginal Six Period

1929 – Bruins 3-0 Semi-Finals
1930 – Canadiens 2-0 Finals
1931 – Canadiens 3-2 Semi-Finals

Original Six Period

1943 – Bruins 4-1 Semi-Finals
1946 – Canadiens 4-1 Finals
1947 – Canadiens 4-1 Semi-Finals
1952 – Canadiens 4-3 Semi-Finals
1953 – Canadiens 4-1 Finals
1954 – Canadiens 4-0 Semi-Finals
1955 – Canadiens 4-1 Semi-Finals
1957 – Canadiens 4-1 Finals
1958 – Canadiens 4-2 Finals

Post Original Six Period

1968 – Canadiens 4-0 Quarter-Finals
1969 – Canadiens 4-2 Semi-Finals
1971 – Canadiens 4-3 Quarter-Finals
1977 – Canadiens 4-0 Finals
1978 – Canadiens 4-2 Finals
1979 – Canadiens 4-3 Semi-Finals
1984 – Canadiens 3-0 Division Semi-Finals
1985 – Canadiens 3-2 Division Semi-Finals
1986 – Canadiens 3-0 Division Semi-Finals
1987 – Canadiens 4-0 Division Semi-Finals
1988 – Bruins 4-1 Canadiens Division Finals
1989 – Canadiens 4-1 Division Finals
1990 – Bruins 4-1 Division Finals
1991 – Bruins 4-3 Division Finals
1992 – Bruins 4-2 Division Finals
1994 – Bruins 4-3 Conference Quarter-Finals
2002 – Canadiens 4-2 Conference Quarter-Finals
2004 – Canadiens 4-3 Conference Quarter-Finals
2008 – Canadiens 4-3 Conference Quarter-Finals
2009 – Bruins 4-0 Conference Quarter-Finals
2011 – Bruins 4-3 Conference Quarter-Finals


Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

2014 NHL PLAYOFFS: PENGUINS VS. BLUE JACKETS

Sidney Crosby Penguins 2014 playoff preview

Still just 26-years of age, Sidney Crosby has 105 points in 82 career playoff games.

by Christopher Wenrich

The Pittsburgh Penguins will showcase their offensive talent as they face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the National Hockey League playoffs.  Led by Sidney Crosby, the Penguins were one of the top offensive teams in the league this season.  Crosby racked up an NHL-best 104 points in 80 games to win the scoring title (nobody else even reached 90 points) and reached 100-plus points for the fifth time in his career.  Crosby led the league in assists (68) and points while finishing third in faceoff wins.

Pittsburgh Penguins
242 goals for (5th)
204 goals against (10th)
23.4 PP% (1st)
85.0 PK% (5th)

Despite losing Pascal Dupuis to a season-ending injury, Evgeni Malkin missing 22 games andKris Letang missing 10 weeks due to a stroke, the Penguins were still among league leaders in goals scored.  Malkin notched 72 points in only 60 games, but may be unavailable for the start of the series.  After Letang suffered a stroke, there were fears as to whether or not he would ever play again.  Fortunately for Letang, he played the final games of the regular season without incident.

Although Malkin may be unavailable for the start of the series, the Penguins still possess plenty of firepower up front.  Chris Kunitz scored 35 goals and 68 points in 78 games this season. James Neal scored 27 goals and 61 points in 59 games and Jussi Jokinen scored 21 goals and 57 points in 81 games.  During Malkin’s absence, Brandon Sutter showed the ability to chip in offensively.  Letang – 22 points – was limited to 37 games this season, but Matt Niskanenpicked up the slack offensively, posting 10 goals and 46 points in 81 games.  A healthy Letang will only add to the Penguins’ great firepower.

Marc-Andre Fleury went 39-18-5 with a 2.37 GAA, .915 SV% and five shutouts this season.  This is the fourth consecutive season in which he posted a sub-2.40 GAA.  Fleury is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL when he is on top of his game.  However, he suffered through postseason struggles in recent years.  If the Penguins are to make a deep run, Fleury will have to be sharp.

Columbus Blue Jackets
226 goals for (12th)
214 goals against (13th)
19.3 PP% (11th)
82.1 PK% (14th)

Blue Jackets fans had to be thrilled to finally witness the breakout year of Ryan Johansen.  He led the team in goals (33) and points (63) in 82 games.  Johansen is an excellent puck handler who is unafraid to drive to the net and he possesses a good shot.  This long-awaited breakout may be just the beginning.  In terms of talent, the Blue Jackets simply do not match up with the Penguins; however, if they are able to limit the production of the Crosby line and get an excellent performance from Johansen, they may have a chance.

Defenseman James Wisniewski had another strong season for the Jackets, scoring 51 points in 75 games.  Johansen and Wisniewski were the only Blue Jackets to post 50-plus points.  Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson were the only others to reach 40-plus.  Sergei Bobrovsky went 32-20-5 this season with a 2.38 GAA, .923 SV% and five shutouts.  Bobrovsky has been nothing short of spectacular in his time with the Blue Jackets, and he must continue to play that well for his team to have any chance to upset the Penguins.


General expectations for this series favor a victory by the Penguins.  The reality is that the Blue Jackets do not possess the collective star power the Penguins have up front.  This will likely be a very short series, unless the Blue Jackets can grind out 1-0 or 2-1 victories.  The Blue Jackets will not be scoring four or five goals in a game unless Fleury struggles as he has in recent years.

2014 NHL PLAYOFFS: LIGHTNING VS. CANADIENS

Thomas Vanek Habs 2014 playoff preview

With 11 wins in their final 15 games, Tomas Vanek and the Canadiens look to upset the Lightning.

by Christopher Wenrich

At first glance, many would think that the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 46-27-9 regular season record, the presence of their now-healthy superstar Steven Stamkos, and the play of goalie Ben Bishop would make them a heavy favorite over the Montreal Canadiens.  Bishop, in particular, was outstanding.  He posted a 37-14-7  record  with a 2.23 goals against average (GAA), a .924 save percentage (SV%) and five shutouts.  As pretty as these statistics may look to the casual observer, they don’t tell the whole story.  The following stats and league ranking are a truer indicator of the Lightning’s season and their playoff hopes.

Tampa Bay
232 goals for (9th)
209 goals against (11th)
18.5 PP% (13th)
80.7 PK% (23rd)

The team ranked ninth in the National Hockey League in goals this season, despite the leg injury which limited Stamkos to 37 games.  When healthy, Stamkos was a goal-scoring machine.  He scored 25 goals and added 15 assists for 40 points in 37 games.  Youngsters Ondrej Palat(59 points in 81 games) and Tyler Johnson (50 points in 82 games) were productive for the Lightning, as well.  Veteran forward Valtteri Filppula added 58 points in 75 games.  The offense took a big hit, however, when their leading scorer was dealt at the trade deadline.

Martin St. Louis topped the Lightning score sheet with 29 goals and 61 points in 62 games before being traded on March 5 to the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Callahan.  Although Callahan is an excellent all-around player who can contribute to the Lightning’s penalty kill (PK), the absence of St. Louis may potentially hinder the offense of the team and the effectiveness of Stamkos.  There is no question that Stamkos is a bona fide  superstar, but the loss of St. Louis puts more pressure on him to fill the net with vulcanized rubber.

Questions about the offense aside, trading for Callahan made sense for the Lightning, as their PK ranked 23rd in the NHL this season.  It’s an alarming statistic, particularly when you consider how fantastic Bishop has been in goal.  The goalie’s numbers may be misleading though, as his play declined sharply after the Olympics.  Prior to the international games, Bishop was 28-8-4 with a 1.98 GAA, a .933 SV% and four shutouts.  After the break, Bishop went 9-6-3 with a 2.79 GAA, a .904 SV% and one shutout.  While a goalie can never be solely blamed for a decline in performance, the drastic changes in the numbers are still startling.

At the moment, the bigger question about Bishop is his health.  He is already scratched from Game 1 due to the upper-body injury he suffered last week.  Backup goalie Anders Lindbackgets the start in his place.  Lindback heated up at the right time, with a 3-0-0 record, 0.67 GAA, .975 SV% and a shutout in his three games in the month of April.  The Lightning will need Lindback to carry that momentum into the playoffs.

Montreal Canadiens
209 goals for (21st)
201 goals against (8th)
17.2 PP% (19th)
85.1 PK% (4th)

Having ranked 21st in the NHL in goals, the Canadiens will not be mistaken for an offensive juggernauts.  However, their trade deadline acquisition of forward Thomas Vanek may have been the move of the year.  The Canadiens lost their first three games after they acquired Vanek, but finished the season 11-3-1.  Vanek was a big contributor to the Habs’ hot streak with 14 points in the last 15 games.

A player of Vanek’s caliber was sorely needed in the lineup, as the closest thing the Canadiens had to an all-star forward was the one-dimensional Max Pacioretty.  The 25-year old scored 39 goals and notched 21 assists for 60 points in 73 games.

Vanek’s presence also takes the pressure off of youngsters David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk.  Although they are past their primes, veterans Tomas PlekanecDaniel Briereand Brian Gionta provide valuable experience which may come in handy during the playoffs.  Having a good mix of veterans reduces the pressures and expectations on younger players and allows them to find their game and grow.  If Galchenyuk shows flashes of his potential in the playoffs, the Canadiens can be a very dangerous team.

Defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov jump-start the Canadiens attack and get the puck to the finishers.  Subban was among the NHL’s highest-scoring and most reliable defensemen this season, with 53 points while playing in all 82 regular season games.  Markov recorded 43 points this season, including 36 assists.

Should the Canadiens defense be beaten, Carey Price awaits in net to stymie any attack.  While having an elite goaltender like Price does not absolve players of their defensive responsibilities, it does give them more offensive freedom to take chances, thus enabling defensemen like Subban and Markov to shine.  Price was superb this season with a 34-20-5 record, 2.32 GAA, .927 SV% (3rd in NHL) and six shutouts (2nd in NHL).  He also was the goalie for the Gold Medal winning Canadian hockey team in this year’s winter Olympics.

The Lightning/Canadiens series is indeed an interesting match of misleading statistics.  The Lightning’s offense and goaltending might not be as good as the regular season numbers indicate.  Likewise, the Canadiens’ offense might not be as bad as the regular season numbers indicate.  Do not be surprised if you see the Canadiens eliminate the Lightning in this opening round series.  They have a proven goaltender, a good defense and an underrated offense that continues to improve.  If Galchenyuk takes his game to another level in the playoffs while the others continue to contribute, the Canadiens could conceivably make a deep run and win the Stanley Cup.

Christopher Wenrich is a contributor for Designated For Assignment.  Follow him on Twitter (@DuggerSports).

2014 NHL PLAYOFFS: DUCKS VS. STARS

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With Teemu Selanne retiring, the Ducks aim to help him go out on top with another Stanley Cup victory.

by Christopher Wenrich

The opening round playoff series between the Anaheim Ducks and the Dallas Stars pits two teams against one another that have each won one Stanley Cup.  Led by superstar winger, Teemu Selanne. and goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere, the then-”Mighty Ducks” won the Lord Stanley’s Cup in the 2006-2007 season. Ironically, both players are set to retire after this post-season. The Stars hoisted the best trophy in sports in 1999, with a star-studded roster that included Brett HullMike ModanoJoe Nieuwendyk, and Ed Belfour. Both teams also lost finals to the New Jersey Devils in 2000 (Ducks) and 2003 (Stars).

The Ducks may no longer be known as the Mighty Ducks, but they were plenty mighty this season, as they scored the most goals in the National Hockey League (263) and finished one point behind Boston for the league’s best record. Selanne, at 43 years of age, will  finish his NHL career with 684 goals, 773 assists and 1,457 regular season points.  Selanne’s post-season career isn’t bad either, with 82 points in 118 games.  The veteran star finished the 2013-2014 season with only 27 points in 64 games. However, when he brought home the Olympic bronze medal for his native Finland, he demonstrated he could still play the game at a high level.

Anaheim Ducks
263 goals for (1st)
203 goals against (9th)
16.0 PP% (22nd)
82.2 PK% (13th)

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry led the Ducks in scoring, as the Ducks generated an NHL-best 263 goals.  Getzlaf registered 31 goals and 87 points in 77 games.  Perry scored 43 goals and 82 points in 81 games.  Oddly, the NHL’s highest-scoring team had no other players reach the 50-point mark this season.  Nick Bonino amassed 49 points in 77 games while defenseman Cam Fowler produced 36 points in 70 games.  Andrew Cogliano netted 40-plus points for the first time since his 2007-2008 rookie season.

Defensemen usually need more seasoning than forwards before they are NHL-ready.  However, rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm was impressive this season, scoring 30 points in 78 games.  More importantly, his +29 rating was second on the Ducks (trailing Perry’s +32).  Plus/minus can be a very misleading stat, as a player’s plus/minus rating is the byproduct of the team he plays for.  However, a rookie defenseman with a plus/minus record that is second-best on an NHL team is quite impressive.

While the Ducks’ 22nd-ranked power play may not sound like much, they led the NHL in goals (263) and five-on-five goals (192).  The Ducks may rely on their top line to do most of the scoring, but they are a crisp passing team that generates scoring chances with each of their lines.

Jonas Hiller had a strong season in goal, posting a 29-13-7 record with a 2.48 GAA, .911 SV% and five shutouts.  As the regular season faded, Frederik Andersen outplayed Hiller, causing speculation that he might steal the starting gig from Hiller in the playoffs.  In 28 games with the Ducks, Hiller was 20-5-0 with a 2.29 GAA, .923 SV% and no shutouts.  Hiller likely will not be the starter when the playoffs begin, with Andersen or John Gibson making the start.  Hiller cannot be amused by his role reversal from number one goaltender to last resort.

Dallas Stars
231 goals for (10th)
223 goals against (17th)
15.9 PP% (23rd)
81.4 PK% (21st)

During the course of an NHL season, a team’s fans would be thrilled to see one young star have a breakout season.  The Stars were doubly blessed as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn both emerged as impact players this season.  The 22-year-old Seguin set career-bests in goals (37), assists (47), and points (84), in 80 games this season.  The 24-year-old Benn set career-bests in goals (34), assists (45), and points (79), in 81 games.  Seguin is an electrifying skater who can make plays at top speed and defeat defenders in one-on-one battles.  His ability to create something out of nothing with his skating and puck handling is remarkable.  He and Benn complement one another greatly on the ice.

Like the Ducks, the Stars rely on their top line to do perhaps too much of the scoring.  Aside from Seguin (84 points), and Benn (79 points), defenseman Alex Goligoski (42 points), was the only other Star to reach 40 points.  Alex Chiasson (35 points) and Valeri Nichushkin (34 points) should not be expected to outplay the Ducks’ checking-line veterans.  If Sergei Gonchar finds his game, he and Goligoski may help the Stars generate the goals needed to upset the Ducks.

Kari Lehtonen was 33-20-10 this season with a 2.41 GAA, .919 SV% and five shutouts.  Lehtonen has the talent to be one of the best goalies in the NHL and is capable of stealing a series, but he has a young team in front of him that can affect his consistency.  Should Lehtonen suffer an injury or struggle, backup Tim Thomas is capable of winning games in goal.

nhl bracket

The Stars might have the edge in goal simply because there is no goalie controversy in Dallas, but the Ducks have the better defense.  The Stars’ top line and the Ducks’ top line may be a push (if not an edge to the Ducks), but the Ducks’ checking-line veterans will likely make the difference in this series.  Barring Herculean efforts by Lehtonen or Thomas in goal, the Ducks should dispose of the Stars without too much difficulty.

Christopher Wenrich is a contributor for Designated For Assignment.  Follow him on Twitter (@DuggerSports).

Sid the Kid Seeks Back to Back Gold

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Whether you watch hockey or not, you’ve probably heard the name Sidney Crosby and you probably know it belongs to the NHL’s poster child. Sidney Crosby is just about as good as it gets when it comes to hockey players these days. He’s been considered by many to be the next Wayne Gretzky and for the last eight years he has gotten as close to meeting to those expectations as anyone could when compared to “The Great One”. It’s no wonder that Team Canada selected the hero of the 2010 Games to be their captain at this year’s Olympics.

Crosby’s goal is to lead Team Canada to back to back Gold Medals, something that has not been accomplished in the Olympics since Russia captured the Gold in 1984 and 1988. “Sid the Kid” is used to coming through in the clutch. He emerged as a top notch prospect at 15 when he skated for Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Fairbault, Minnesota. In one season alone, Crosby scored 72 goals and led the school to a U18 AAA national championship. From there on, he only got better.

The 26-year old was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005 and quickly became the face of the franchise. In his first six seasons in the NHL, Crosby won the Stanley Cup (2009), the Hart Trophy for league MVP, the Art Ross Trophy for points leader (first teenager since Gretzky in 1980), and twice garnered the Ted Lindsay Award for most outstanding player as voted on by the players’ association. He also captured the Rocket Richard and Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2010.  If not for a concussion that affected parts of two seasons and the strike shortened 2012-2013 campaign, Crosby career numbers would be even greater. (266 goals, 477 assists in 528 games.)

Crosby is no stranger to winning medals in international competition either. He won gold and silver in 2004 representing Canada at the World Junior Championships.1 To say the least, at twenty two years old, Sidney Crosby was already an extremely accomplished hockey player.

Outside of winning the Stanley Cup, Crosby’s finest moment was, arguably, the goal he scored goal in overtime of the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal game vs. the US. With Vancouver, British Columbia playing host to the international contest, there was extra pressure on Team Canada to succeed. Team USA’s Zach Parise sent the game to OT with a late third period goal, but Crosby beat goalie Ryan Miller seven minutes and 40 seconds into the extra session to set off a wild countrywide celebration.3

After being held pointless in the semi- and quarterfinal rounds Crosby, an assistant captain in his first Olympic appearance, scored four goals against Switzerland, Germany, and Team USA. His “Golden Goal” brought the Gold medal back to Canada for the first time since 2004. For most of Canada, the goal was almost too good to be true. For Sidney Crosby, it was just another goal. The always-humble Crosby later commented that “I don’t think about it that much.”4

After his performance in 2010, hockey fans around the world are watching closely to see what Captain Crosby has in store for Sochi in 2014. There’s no doubt that he’ll have an impact as the leader of the Canadian hockey squad; it’s only a matter of how memorable he’ll make the games for his home country and hockey team.

1. Penguins NHL site
2. sports-reference.com
3. Sports Illustrated
4. nbcsports.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23