Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Dominik Kahun/Olli Määtta Trade Roundtable

On Saturday, June 15th, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins made a trade. Dominik Kahun and a 2019 5th round pick were sent to Pittsburgh in return for Olli Määtta.

This was a pretty surprising trade as there were no rumors of this trade till it was announced. Here are our immediate reactions at the trade!

Wally Mazurek:

As most of you know I am a (Chicago) Blackhawks fan. At the time of this trade I wasn’t very happy as Dominik Kahun is a fan favorite and is a great two-way forward. (Olli) Määtta has been described to me as a two-way defenseman, and also a hard worker. Kahun, is a top nine forward who posses speed, lots of playmaking ability and a decent shot. He also has a great amount of versatility and can play anywhere in a lineup. Kahun won’t blow anyone away with his point scoring, but he will be a great top six guy for Pittsburgh.

Määtta, has been described to me as, a top four defenseman who has a very high hockey IQ, a very active stick, a competent passer and can block a lot of shots. Määtta’s biggest downfall is his speed. Määtta should be able to help with the Blackhawks league worst penalty kill and could be an option on the power play.

Newly signed Blackhawks, Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin should fill in for Kahun very nicely. I started to come around to this trade, but only time will tell who won this trade. If I had to decide on a winner it would be the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Spencer Loane:

Personally, I think this is a great trade for both sides. Dominik Kahun provided a strong impact in his rookie season for Chicago after coming over from Europe, and he could potentially be a great fit in Pittsburgh’s top-six with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby as his center. Kahun works very hard in all three zones and is pretty versatile as well. This proves to me that the Blackhawks are relying on guys like Dylan Sikura, Dominik Kubalik, and potentially even Anton Wedin to replace Kahun.

For the Blackhawks, Olli Maatta is a solid bet for a Top-4 left-handed defenseman that they desperately need. He did have a rough 2018–19 season, as he battled health issues and inconsistency in his play. But, he did have a strong season in 2017–18, and I think that is what the Blackhawks are expecting from him in the future. Määtta is a good puck-moving defenseman that can provide some support on the penalty kill and block shots. He uses his outlets well in his own zone and also has a great first pass. I think that he would make a great fit on a pairing with Henri Jokiharju. Jeremy Colliton’s system relies heavily on transition offense, and having two great puck-movers like Määtta and Jokiharju can lead to that quick transition. I think the Blackhawks might look to see what he can do offensively by using him on the power play more, partly because he did not get much ice time on the man advantage in Pittsburgh. 

Jenn Perez:

Welcome to the offseason hockey fans! The Cup has been lifted and this year’s free agency, NHL draft are going to make big splash! Sit back in the pool, or lay in the sun and let’s take a dive into one of the recent trades in the offseason.

On Saturday, the Chicago Blackhawks made a trade to boost the blue line with a young defenseman Olli Määtta from the Penguins in exchange for Dominik Kahun and a 2019 5th round pick. The Hawks needed to bolster the blue line and Määtta could be a great fit to the roster despite having a down year last season. And with Henri Jokiharju on the roster, could they be the defensive pairing the Hawks need to make the playoffs, or even make the Stanley Cup Final? We shall wait and see, Hawks fans!

player profiles – hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Puck77

National Hockey League: Who Will Take Home The Hart Trophy?

The NHL Awards Show is coming up, and the finalists have already been announced. There are favorites and there are snubs, and fans have been vocal about who should win, and who deserves a nomination.

 

The Hart trophy is no different, and there have been varying cases for all three finalists. The Hart Trophy, for those who don’t know, is awarded to the player who is judged to be the most valuable to his team. Here are the finalists, and why they should, or could, win.

 

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Why He Should Win: Kucherov finished the season with 128 points, which, for this era, is unbelievable. He showed dominance in the league that had not been seen since the Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux era in Pittsburgh. He has already claimed the Art Ross trophy for most points in the entire league. A guy so dominant deserves this trophy certainly, but are point totals really enough?

Why He Should Not Win: Kucherov has every reason to win, but let’s look at what awards the players this trophy. “The player judged to be the most valuable to his team.” His own team. This is not league MVP, which Kucherov would claim, hands down.

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Was Kucherov really that vital to his teams performance? Well, yes, but if you take him out, the Lightning will still be a playoff team. They have Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s also not a captain, nor an assistant captain, so you can’t turn to leadership qualities for help. Yes, he led his team in points by a wide margin, and yes, he had a historical season in every sense. But no, Tampa would not blow up if he were not there.

 

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why He Should Win: Sidney Crosby is the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Phil Kessel was swirling in trade rumors and Evgeni Malkin struggled, Sidney Crosby remained Sidney Crosby. He led the Penguins in points with 100, 18 more than second place Kessel. He led the team in assists with 65, 10 more than second place Kessel. He finished second on the team in goals with 35, behind linemate Jake Guentzel (40) and ahead of third place Kessel (27). He was tied with Kessel for power play goals (12) and had the most time on ice among forwards, averaging 20:59. He is the heart and soul of the Penguins, and their captain.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win: The Penguins had a down year in terms of where they finished as a team, as well as some individually underwhelming production. Crosby did not, as he held strong to his name. However, he’s just like Kucherov in a sense that the Penguins may not be awful if he were to leave them. Crosby is a huge figure in the locker room, but the Penguins still have so much star power with Malkin, Guentzel, Kris Letang, Kessel, Justin Schultz, and Matt Murray. They would still be a far different team, but I still believe they’re good enough to make the playoffs.

 

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Why He Should Win: As the captain of the Oilers, he went on to do McDavid things. He finished second in the league in points with 116, just 12 points behind the otherworldly production of Kucherov. He finished with 41 goals, which is tied with Kucherov for sixth in the league. He also notched 75 assists, second to only Kucherov (87) around the entire league. Edmonton is not a good team, and if you take McDavid off the roster, they’d be worse than the Ottawa Senators. What McDavid does for this team, no one can top it.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win It: While Kucherov was able to lead the Lightning towards a President’s Trophy, and Crosby was able to snag a playoff spot with the Penguins, McDavid was left golfing. He wasn’t good enough to get his team to the playoffs, despite being one of the best players in the league.

 

Deeper Dive

One way to decide whether or not a player was more lucky than successful is by looking at a stat that ultimately quantifies a players luck.

Higher than a 100 PDO means that person was lucky, and likely won’t repeat their season at that clip. Under 100 PDO is unlucky, and likely means that player could have done better. 100 PDO is average, not lucky or unlucky.

Kucherov finished the season with a 102.7, Crosby finished with a 101.9, and McDavid finished with a 100.7. That being said, Kucherov’s historic season was spectacular, but required a lot of luck, and he likely will never reach that total again in his career.

Crosby did not have as spectacular of a year, posting the lowest goal, assist, and point totals among the finalists, but still required some luck to reach triple digits, and if the Penguins struggles continue into next season, Crosby may not reach the 100-point plateau.

Meanwhile, McDavid was just a little over average, not requiring much luck to reach an incredible 116 points, and has a good chance of consistently hitting those marks despite being on a relatively weak roster.

 

In Conclusion

McDavid deserves this trophy through and through, because he produced at a very high rate, and didn’t need a lot of bounces to go his way to reach his mark, showing that he can consistently reach that same production season by season. He’s also the only guy you can look at and say “Without him, his team would really struggle.” He’s also the captain, and the captain of any team is extremely important as is. So while he didn’t produce like Kucherov did, he has the “C” on his sweater, and not as much luck on the ice.

 

Stats via NHL.com

PDO via Hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

NHL Awards: Who Will Take Home The Frank J. Selke Award?

The NHL Awards are just around the corner, so let’s take a look at the Frank J. Selke Award for the league’s best defensive forward.

The Nominees

Patrice Bergeron– C, BOS

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A player that is synonymous with this award, Bergeron is making his 8th consecutive appearance as a finalist. He has cemented his Hall of Fame candidacy with this award alone. He has a career faceoff percentage of 58.3 in the regular season and a career 57.6 Fenwick with a 6.8 Fenwick For. Those career lines are unfathomable in the parody driven NHL of today’s game. He finished the season with 4 Shorthanded goals.

Ryan O’Reilly– C, STL

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O’Reilly had over 1000 faceoff wins and 121 wins in shorthanded situations, both of which led the league. More impressively is the 56.9 FO%. His 94 takeaways ranked 4th among all skaters. This is O’Reilly’s first Selke nomination.

I am not one to toot my own horn but check out the clip below to see my preseason award predictions. (Timestamp 1:20:10)

Mark Stone– RW, OTT/ VGK

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It is a unique situation when a player gets traded midseason and be a finalist for an annual award. But Stone has legitimate claim to the Selke this season. While the depth of Vegas lightened the load on Stone, he carried the game in Ottawa, to the tune of 10.6 E+/-. That is an amazing statistic considering how bad Ottawa was.  However, it is just hard to supplant a Center for this award.

The Snub

It is hard to be overlooked for anything when you have spent 15 years being the consensus best player in the NHL, but Sidney Crosby is constantly overlooked for his defensive play. Crosby averaged 21 minutes a night, while playing in all 3 facets of the game. He has adapted to the changes of the game, while maintaining dominance at the highest level. He had a 55.4 FO%, which was his highest total since 2011. He played more on the Penalty Kill than he has in a very long time. His expected +/- was a whopping 18.5. For a guy that has been on top of the hockey world for so long to never be nominated as a Selke Finalist is a bit of a disservice.

Prediction

I think this year’s winner will be determined by reliability, and for that reason, I choose Ryan O’Reilly to win the Selke Trophy. Patrice Bergeron missed 17 games and that will be the deciding factor.

stats from hockey-reference.com

 

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

The Boston Bruins Have Managed To Reach The National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Final In Great Shape. Now All They Need Is An Opponent. 

 

Forty days ago, nobody was talking about the Boston Bruins as a potential Stanley Cup finalist when the puck dropped to open the National Hockey League playoffs. Don’t tell me you took them. Anyone outside of Massachusetts was taking the Tampa Bay Lightning to dance its way with ease through the NHL’s Eastern Conference. If you don’t remember, dig out your bracket for a quick reminder. 

The Bruins swept away the storm surge out of Carolina, dodged the cannon balls shot out of Columbus and weathered their way through the falling Maple Leafs out of Toronto (ok, very hard to make a Maple Leaf sound threatening, but you get the idea). 

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Now the Bruins are in the midst of enjoying a welcome 11-day break before the Stanley Cup Finals kick-off in Boston on May 27th. For any team and player in the NHL to be granted a break of that magnitude in the middle of the combat know as the NHL playoffs is usually met with open arms and days of treatment on the trainers table. But with the Bruins, such a long layoff may not be their best-case scenario. 

Sweep And Be Swept

Prior to the Bruins four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes, there had been three other sweeps in this year’s playoffs. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets, in what many are still calling the greatest playoff upset in NHL history, swept the Lightning in an awe-inspiring display by Sergei Bobrovsky and gang. Columbus was rewarded with nine days off before their next round against the Bruins. After taking a 2-1 series lead, reality set in for the Cinderella Jackets as they lost the next three games to be ousted in six by Boston. 

The New York Islanders made quick work of the Pittsburgh Penguins in their four-game sweep, needing just six days to dispatch of Sidney Crosby and his crew. This led the Islanders to enjoy 10 days off before meeting the Hurricanes in their second-round series. 

The Islanders did not respond very well to all that time off, as they scored only five goals in being handed four straight losses by the Hurricanes. And as we know, the Hurricanes never tasted victory again, going four-and-out in a series loss to the Bruins. 

The long-winded point being, while series sweeps seem to do the body and mind good in physical healing and mental resetting, it certainly does nothing for momentum and keeping the competitive edge. The Blue Jackets, in the heart of their in-playoff vacation, did a simulated game during a practice and opened the doors to their fans, as over 5,000 people attended the scrimage. It seemed to work initially, but to no avail in the end. 

Cool Your Heels

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is well aware of what such a long break can do for a team, both positive and negative. After giving the Bruins two days off after their series with the Hurricanes, Cassidy has slowly started to ramp things up. A 40-minute practice on Sunday, followed by a longer and more intense workout on Monday. But still, with six more days before the finals start, it could be a difficult road to navigate for the Bruins. 

It’s not as though the Bruins are banged up. Naturally, each player will have the aches, pains and bruises associated with three rounds of NHL playoffs. That’s a given. But on the whole, the Bruins line-up in great shape at this point all things considered. 

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara did miss the series-clinching finale against the Hurricanes with an undisclosed injury, but he has been a part of the last two on-ice sessions for the Bruins, and looks to be good to go for Game 1 of the final come Monday. 

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Winger Chris Wagner, who has played a vital role in these playoffs as part of an effective and interchangable fourth line along with Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, Joakim Nordstrom and Karson Kuhlman, is still “gonna be out for a while” according to Cassidy. Wagner blocked a shot in Game 3 against the Hurricanes and is nursing an injured right arm. He is doubtful for at least Game 1, and potentially the entire series. 

Defenceman Kevan Miller has missed the entire playoffs after suffering a lower-body injury a week before the regular season ended, and recently suffered a setback while rehabbing the ailment. He is not expected back again this season. But again, the Bruins depth has allowed them to weather his injury, with Steven Kampfer and John Moore filling in admirably in Miller’s absense. 

Advantage: Boston

One more thing to consider as we await a winner between the Western Conference finalists San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues. Another advantage the Bruins enjoy this year (and mostly every year for the Eastern Conference finalist) over their unknown Western Conference opponent is travel time. 

As it is for any professional athlete, the schedule and travel can take its toll after a long regular season and nearly six weeks of playoffs for an NHL player. West coast swings, four-games-in-seven-nights-on-the-road trips, in and out of customs all season, it becomes a grind and pretty much eliminates any semblance of a regular sleep pattern. It’s the same for all teams in hockey, but come playoff time the advantage swings decidedly to Eastern Conference clubs.

Since the playoffs have started, the Bruins have travelled 6700 miles, accounting for approximately 20 hours and 40 minutes in the air. 

Compare that to the Blues. In the same time frame, the Blues have amassed a whopping 14,904 miles, leading to just over 37.5 hours in the air. 

It’s even higher for the Sharks, who to this point have travelled 15,532.8 miles in less than six weeks of playoff time. If their series goes seven games, add another 4164.8 miles and 8.5 hours in the air to each team. That’s a load of frequent flyer points.

The games are played on the ice, no question. But any advantage the body can obtain over an opponent is approved at this time of year. Less travel equates to less grind and wear-and-tear. It’s simply one of the advantages the Bruins will enjoy in less than a week’s time. 

Follow me on Twitter @cbradly2928

Statistics provided by hockey-reference and theScore

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals 

 

 

Has the Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin rivalry finally come to an end?

Since Crosby and Ovechkin came into the league, there has been no better rivalry in the NHL. But now that both have hoisted the Stanley Cup, is it still a rivalry?

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Humble Beginnings

Alexander Ovechkin took the league by storm after being selected 1st overall in the 2004 draft. Delayed by a year due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout, his rookie season came in 2005-06 when he recorded 106 points (52 goals, 54 assists) in 81 games. However he wasn’t the only rookie standing in the spotlight that year. Sidney Crosby, drafted 1st overall in 2005, recorded 102 points (39 goals, 63 assists) in 81 games. Even though Ovechkin took home the Calder trophy that year, all eyes were still on Sidney Crosby. This was only the spark of a feud that would last for over 14 years.

The 2008-09 Playoffs

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The Pittsburgh Penguins & Washington Capitals didn’t meet in the playoffs until the 2008-09 season in the 2nd round. The Penguins were coming off a 4-2 series win against the Philadelphia Flyers while the Capitals won a hard fought 4-2 series over the New York Rangers. The Pens & Caps battled back and fourth until it was time for game 7, where the Penguins came out on top. While the Capitals licked their wounds, the Penguins would ultimately go on to hoist their 1st Stanley Cup since 1992. Sidney Crosby recorded 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in 24 games & Ovechkin recorded 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in 14 games.

The 2015-16 Playoffs

The two teams would not meet again until the 2015-16 season. It was 7 years of playoff failures (and misses) by both teams. Much like the 1st time, they met in the 2nd round. Since it had been so long since the two superstars have crossed paths, there was clearly a ton of hype surrounding the series. It did not disappoint. It would go 6 games in favor the Penguins but would end with some fireworks.

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Nick Bonino would send Pittsburgh into a madhouse after scoring in OT to close out the series. You can view the goal here. Much like 2009, the Penguins would go on to win the Cup that year. Sidney Crosby also was rewarded his 1st Conn Smythe trophy as well with 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists) in 24 games. Ovechkin would end the playoffs with 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 12 games.

The 2016-17 Playoffs

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The wait for the next time these two meet wouldn’t be too far down the road. The following season, they met in the 2nd round once again. The Penguins looked like a team poised for another strong Cup run while the Capitals were the favorites to win it all. But this time, there were some very different fireworks from the series.

Matt Niskanen would deliver a cross-check to the head of Sidney Crosby in game 3 of the series, which you can see here. That would keep the superstar sidelined for part of the series, the Penguins didn’t let up. They’d have a healthy Sidney Crosby back in the lineup for game 7 of the series back in Washington. Capitals were coming off a dominating win in game 6 as well. But the Capitals would again come up short & would be sent packing in the 2nd round.

Again, much like the 1st two times, the Penguins would go on to win the Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby would be rewarded his 2nd Conn Smythe as well. He recorded 27 points (8 goals, 19 assists) in 24 games. Ovechkin would record 8 points (5 goals, 3 assists) in 13 games.

The 2017-18 Playoffs

It would be another short wait for to see the two players meet for another best-of-seven series. And like all the other times, it would come in the 2nd round. The Penguins were coming off back-to-back Cups and looked like a team utterly deflated after their 1st round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Then it really showed in their 6 game defeat to the Washington Capitals who finally exorcised the demons by beating the Penguins.

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Once you start knocking down barriers that have held you back for years, you know things are about the get special. The Capitals would go on to win the Stanley Cup that year defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in 5 games. You can see the celebration here. Ovechkin would capture his 1st Conn Smythe trophy as well. Crosby finished the playoffs with 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists) in 12 games. Ovechkin would finish with 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 24 games.

Has the rivalry finally ended?

Sidney Crosby & Alexander Ovechkin have now been on top of the hockey mountain. They have both done everything there is to do in the game. Will they ride off into the sunset now? Highly unlikely. These two have been compared by analysts & fans for over a decade. I think that will continue until the day they both hang up the skates for good.

Where We Are Now.

Sidney Crosby:

3x Cup winner, 7x all-star, 3x Pearson,2x Hart, 2x Conn Smythe, 2x Richard, 2x Ross winner.

1,216 career points (446 goals, 770 assists) in 943 games.

Alexander Ovechkin:

1x Cup winner, 11x all-star, 8x Richard 3x Hart, 3x Pearson, 1x Ross, 1x Conn Smythe, 1x Calder winner.

1,211 career points (658 goals, 553 assists) in 1,084 games.

Stats from HockeyReference & NHL.com

Feature Image Courtesy of Nikos Michals