The Stanley Cup Finals are over. The hockey season is over. And worse, the NHL Front Office and Pittsburgh Penguins have won.

A team that had numerous favorable calls made for them, and at least as many calls not made against them most notably the debacle of Sidney Crosby slamming P.K. Subban’s head into the ice. Not just for the non call, not just for the non suspension, not just for the racial overtones, not for completely ignoring the concussion protocol, but because it showed explicitly what everyone who has any ability to decipher an NHL game already knows: The front office care more about which market, and player, wins the Cup than it does about what is actually best for the game, the players, or the fans.

As if further proof were needed, the Conn-Smyth went to about the fourth or even fifth most influential player on the Penguins winning the Cup. Matt Murray was stellar behind a banged up defense. Geno Malkin was unarguably better, Jake Guentzal played in hall of fame territory. Brian Doumalin was quietly the best of the Penguins defense from their 83rd game of the season right until the end. Justin Schultz did a great deal to fill the Letang void. Then there was Crosby.

In a season when Crosby should rightly have been suspended for nearly removing the finger of Marc Methot, a playoff suspension, as a repeat offender after Crosby attempted to injure Subban would have taken him out at least two games. But using the marking plan that has been in place since 2005 is far, far more important than doing what is right.

 


This week’s Two Man ForeCheck features our first guest, Ryan Crappa of PuckPlanet, Ryan is a AVS and Golden Knights fan and with his appearance we have a very western conference feel to the show. We talk Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, touch on Dustin Byfugelin, The Los Angeles Kings make it onto the table, the potential shakeup in Chicago, coaching in Vegas, we look at the numerous Avalanche bungles, talk about the potential for the Atlanta Calgary Flames to move to Seattle, and what the timelines and needs of a move would be, and so, so much more.


This week on the Two Man ForeCheck we get granular breaking down Pekka Rinne in games one and two, and then again in game three. We talk about Subban’s motive for assuring everyone they’d win game three. We take a hard look at the myth that drafting defensemen in the first round is a waste. We talk about Phil Kessel and Geno Malkin and wonder how much trouble the Penguins are in when people notice Kessel playing physical.


The time is now. No one knows how this series will end. History and statistics are on the side of the Pittsburgh Penguins who are up two to nothing. If it gets to three nothing, the team with that lead wins almost all the time. But games aren’t decided by historical statistics, they are decided by the men on the ice.

If Pekka Rinne remembers not the last couple games, but the last couple months and plays the way he did against Chicago, and Anaheim, and Saint Louis, he’ll be a completely different player. If James Neal can recall that he’s capable of thirty and forty goal seasons, and focuses on the game he might, might just score a goal for the first time in seven games. Similarly Victor Arvidsson who ran the board in the regular season hasn’t scored since April, in the first series, against the Chicago Blackhawks. Whatever jitters he has need to die as thorough a death as the notion Nashville isn’t a hockey town.

Arvidsson, Neal, and Rinne aren’t alone on the ice and aren’t even the only problems. The number of penalties the team has taken needs to be addressed. While I’m all for physicality, and on ice leadership and will never complain about two willing combatants going after it, Subban is a huge part of the team’s success both offensively and defensively. He’s not the first guy to punch Malkin in the face, he won’t be the last, but even on a defense as stacked as Nashville’s Subban is not a player you can lose when your back is against the wall, you’re already down your best center and you’re in the fight of your life with no one stepping up.

This team is better than the part time effort they are putting in. They haven’t played a sixty minuted game since maybe game six in Anaheim, and they won’t be winning their last game of the season if they play 37 to 40 minutes a night until the series is over.


Who is Anders Bjork? One of the newest official members of the Bruins organization. As a college player he is probably a little more likely to start the season in the spoked-P than on Causeway. Even for a player who goes into the college post season there is not the density of games a WHL prospect or even a skater in the USHL would play. Because of that conditioning will be a question in everyone’s mind even if he hits training camp in September and destroys every facet of the physicals. The NHL regular season is twice as long as the most regular season games he’s ever played.

At 5 foot eleven and a hundred and eighty three pounds the Wisconsin born forward is about the same size as longtime Bruins center David Krejci. One of the many products of the United States National Development program. Internationally he’s collected a U18 Gold medal, and a U20 Bronze. The Bruins picked up the man with a very well filled out hockey pedigree at 146 in 2014. Only two players taken after him have played in the NHL to date.

What’s to like about him?

Hands and feet. He can skate, he’s got a more than respectable shot, and he passes well. He has also increased his output every single season to date.

What should you worry about?

I wanted about a dozen Notre Dame games over the last two years, and that is not a team that has a strongly structured style of play. The team was typified in my viewings with strong play by individuals. While Cassidy isn’t Julien, to play in Boston he’s going to have to adapt to the system pretty quickly.

What won’t you see?

Lots of penalties, he’s not a particularly physical player, and while he doesn’t initiate a lot of hitting or extras, he also doesn’t let it draw him into stupid retaliatory penalties.

Projection:

Middle six production. Somewhere between 18 and 26 goals a season, and from 55 to 70 points is a pretty reasonable expectation if he sticks in the NHL.


Every game teaches lessons. Sometimes the lesson is subtle, it might apply to just one player, just one matchup. Or it might show the balance between various units on the opposing teams.

What they should have learned:

Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Use your speed through center ice.
  • Five men pack in the defensive zone to support the puck.
  • Don’t underestimate the speed of the Predators, especially their defense.
  • Trying to play counter punch hockey with a team faster, and about as offensively gifted is perilous.

Nashville Predators

  • Don’t get distracted by officiating.
  • Never, ever take your foot off the snake.
  • Support Rinne, especially when there are long gaps between shots on net.
  • You can play with the defending champions.

It’s pretty simple at this time of year. You either reset and recover after a grueling loss or you are sure to suffer another one.

Three to Watch:

Predators:

  1. P.K. Subban, he’s hot right now, when he’s on a hot streak he can take over and dominate, and he’s got the perfect complements in the rest of the Nashville defense to do that.
  2. James Neal he said before the series started “they didn’t want me” in regards to his former team the Penguins. He’ll love making them pay in multiple ways.
  3. Pekka Rinne he has not allowed three or more goals in back to back games all post season, and after his last four goal game he only allowed one.

Penguins:

  1. Phil Kessel, zero shots on goal is not a common occurrence, and no one should expect a sequel.
  2. Justin Schultz he had a very quiet sixteen minutes of ice time, well below his normal twenty one range.
  3. Matt Murray, like his counterpart he needs to be better to give his team a shot at winning. An .885% isn’t good, it isn’t even average and on any night the opposition plays respectably it’s a loss.

Check out the most recent Two Man ForeCheck on iTunes & TuneIn.


Every hockey year ends in the greatest spectacle in sports. Each new hockey season begins with teams doing whatever it takes to emulate the winners. This season we are on the doorstep of seeing if the swing towards super-density of talent at forward continues, or if the pendulum swings towards defense heavy teams with great goaltending.

When you look at teams in the Stanley Cup Finals you can’t begin to hope to predict who will win without knowing how the teams compare.

Nashville:

  • 2.94 goal for per game (tied for second)
  • 1.81 goals against per game 1st (only team under 2)
  • PP 14.9%
  • PK 88.1%

Pittsburgh

  • 3.05 goals for per game (1st)
  • 2.32 goal against per game (5th)
  • PP 25%
  • PK  85%

The penalty kill and goals against tell us what is readily apparent to any keen hockey observer. The Nashville Predators have a better backend, goaltending and defense together. The other side of that is the Penguins are clearly, indisputably better at center, and overall at forward. The Predators not only have a defense better at defense, they get more of their goals from the backend.

The five areas I breakdown a team when evaluating the Stanley Cup Finals are goaltending, defense, forwards, coaching and intangibles. Using a ten point scale, it’s a pretty close series. When you come down right down to it this series could be over in four games, each decided by one goal and still be an incredible series.

For goaltending, the Predator’s get the edge and get a 9.5 to the Penguins 8. At defense the Penguins round up to a 7 while the Nashville squad get’s another 9.5. Coaching is a push at 9 a side. Forwards the Penguins get a 10, the Predators get a 7.

The intangibles are the really interesting part. The boys from Music City have been utterly fearless all post season. They went through the Chicago Blackhawks and barely broke a sweat, they went toe to toe with the Saint Louis Blues, and then to top it all off they topple the Ducks in the best series in this years playoff by far, and one of the best series in years. The Penguins have the swagger of being the first team with the opportunity to repeat in a long, long time. They went danced with the Senators and got the lone blowout of the series, they downed the Capitals (again) to follow up a series with the Blue Jackets. I think the Penguins are more distractible, but they also have the experience of getting themselves across the finish line.

Predators final score: 43

Penguins final score: 42

 


This week we look at the fall of the House of Karlsson, break down the Nashville Predator’s versus the Pittsburgh Penguin’s in the Stanley Cup Final, we talk about potential candidates for the Buffalo Sabre’s head coaching gig, both ones they are interviewing, and names like Darryl Sutter formerly of the Los Angeles Kings, Norm Bazin of the Lowell Riverhawks, and more names you should know. We ask the question are the Penguins better off trading Murray. Find out who’s a better fit for the Philadelphia Flyers, Keith Yandle or Johnny Hockey as we pile words higher and faster than even a Super Saiyan can manage.

Now you can find us on iTunes, Google Play, and Tunein.


It took three series, four number one goalies, two Vernia winners, and a game seven double overtime, but the Ottawa Senators are done for the year.

What we know from watching this team play for the last two months is they are right there at the cusp of winning it all. Craig Anderson isn’t just the best goalie no one talks about, he’s the best player no one talks about. There might be two other goalies in the NHL who could have taken the team this far, I would quibble at three, and laugh uprorariously at four or more. We know a healthy Bobby Ryan is still at worst among the twenty best shooters in the NHL.Ryan displayed whim of steel and the drive of an freight train delivering goals, hits, overtime game winners, and most of all leadership to a Senators team that no one picked to make it any further than round two.

Erik Karlsson has put any and all reasonable doubts into the grave. Is the the best defender in his own zone? No. Is he the skating tire fire he was there through his first four years? No, not even close. His scoring we’ve all come to expect, what many people will have noticed is that he does his best defensive work out at the top of the defensive zone as teams are still working their way in. The fact that he carried the team this far is amazing, add in the heel fractures and you’re talking about the story of player who will be well remembered ten, twenty, and thirty years after his last game.

Guy Boucher pulled off another maestro level concerto. In fact given the roster he had to do it with, what he did was the equivalent of playing world class concert piano while missing three fingers on one hand. The Senators roster had two viable top four defensemen in Karlsson and Phaneuf, two more filling that role, of you squinted hard enough in Methot and Ceci, and aside from Anderson, Ryan, Turris, and Pageau not much else anywhere on the ice. Any time you have to name a guy who would play third line or below on twenty five teams in the NHL as a top three force among your forwards over the course of a three round playoff run you have a seriously, critically deficient roster and only your coach is keeping it afloat.

That’s why this summer Eugene Melnyk needs to step up and add talent to this roster. Guys like Joe Thornton and TJ Oshie who have played demanding systems before and desperately want to win a Cup would slide right into the roster. Carl Alzner would shore up the backend. Can they land all of those players? Likely not. Will they need to make major moves over the next twelve months to be cap complaint two October’s from now? Absolutely. Kyle Turris, Cody Ceci, Zack Smith,  and Mark Stone are all due contracts in that time. J.G. Pageau is going to get paid somewhere this summer. And the window for Anderson, Karlsson, Ryan is not getting wider.