Welcome to Clearing the Puck! Your weekly look at the world of hockey from the week of May 19th-May 25th. This week we look back on the Blues advancing to the Stanley Cup final, the Ottawa Senators have a new head coach and there’s a team who isn’t good but they know it.
Incase this is your first time, here is the rundown. What we’re going to be doing at Puck77 is putting out a weekly recap. There are going to be observations, summaries and some cool things that we noticed around the web from the NHL and the world of hockey from the last week. There will be 10 points every Saturday morning. Included will be links to articles from our website as well as many others to help fill you in on some of the best hockey and NHL content from around the web. Without further ado, let’s dive into the week!
St. Louis Blues Continue the Dream
The St. Louis Blues continue to defy expectations. Well known is the fact that they were dead last in the league, they made some changes and they have been one of the best resurgence stories in years. Led by some timely goal scoring from Jaden Schwartz and stable goaltending from Jordan Binnington, the Blues took the injury plagued San Jose Sharks down in six games. After losing the first game of the series in convincing fashion, many wrote the Blues off but much like every other time they’ve been written off this year, St. Louis fought back and counter punched winning four of the next five, not even needing a seventh game.
Video courtesy of Sportsnet
They had players step up at key times all throughout the playoffs and this series was no exception. Tyler Bozak provided the game winner in game four, Schwartz had a hat-trick in a pivotal game five and Binnington provided air tight play in goal as they shut the Sharks out in game six. The Blues magical run continues onto Boston for the Stanley Cup. Can their magic continue?
San Jose has to Face the Music
The sharks missed out on what may be one of their last true chances at the Cup. They face questions as to who stays and who goes as they have integral pending free agents Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton with limited salary cap space. What to make of their restricted free agents? Both Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier are in need of new deals as well. General manager Doug Wilson has a lot of work to do if he wants to extend the Cup Window another year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Erik Karlsson will be a part of those plans as he tweeted out this message, thanking Sharks fans and seemingly saying goodbye.
Tweet courtesy of @ErikKarlsson65
The message conveyed doesn’t sound like someone who realistically thinks there’s a chance to return. The questions immediately turn to captain Joe Pavelski. It’s likely the Sharks retain their captain but it’s no guarantee. There are a lot of questions in the Shark Tank.
Ottawa lands DJ Smith
If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, you think this is hilarious. If you are an Ottawa Senators fan, you are worried because of his failures as the Leafs assistant coach. If you’re an optimist, you’re just happy with the new blood. It’s probably best to be in that third camp. Last time DJ Smith was a head coach, he led the Oshawa Generals to a Memorial Cup in the 2014-15 season. Prior to that, he was an assistant in the bench of the Windsor Spitfires, winning two more Memorial Cups there. Having worked with and developed young players in the OHL, as well as with the Leafs, DJ Smith has shown the ability to develop prospects.
Now for the pessimist point of view. Smith was not great in his role with the Maple Leafs. He failed to scheme an effective defensive system and he lacked directing the special teams. His contract was up in Toronto and there was no guarantee he was being brought back. For more on the entire situation, you can check out this piece here by our very own Josh Tessler.
Puck77 Three Round Mock Draft!
It’s here! The team here at Puck77 along with many outside contributors completed a three round 2019 mock draft. Each team was represented by a different member of the team. Acting as that teams GM we tried to draft according to the route that we felt the team could do. From having players taken right before our picks to making off-the-board picks, this activity felt authentic and genuine.
Special thanks to all involved from the Puck77 team. Thank you as well to everyone from outside of the team that helped out and represented a team such as Steven Ellis (The Hockey News), CJ Turtoro (SB Nation), Tom Hunter (Puck Don’t Lie), Jesse Marshall (The Athletic), Jeff Chapman (SB Nation), Josh Walfish (Daily Hampshire Gazette), Ryan Quigley (SB Nation), James Reeve (Fansided) and Dave Stevenson (Fansided) for helping us out! They are all in the tweet below so make sure to give them a follow!
Corey Pronman’s Draft Rankings
Draft season is here for most teams and this week one of the best in the business released his rankings. Corey Pronman’s NHL Draft rankings from the Athletic put his rankings out for the subscribers of the Athletic to consume. He has some major differences from other public rankings and does a fantastic job explaining why he has players where they are. Draft season is always fun because the rankings can vary from person to person and let’s be honest, we’re all wrong in some things and right on others. It all comes down to watching, evaluating and then making your best estimation on who’s better than who. Check them out if you haven’t yet and you subscribe to the Athletic. If you don’t already subscribe, then you probably should.
Phil “The Thrill” on the move?
The lovable Phil Kessel could be in the move again. Seemingly on the trade block since donning in Pittsburgh Penguins colours, the sniper has been rumoured to be going to the Minnesota Wild for Jason Zucker and more. Including Jack Johnson and Victor Rask in the deal has been discussed as well. The Penguins have been trying to improve their backend on limited funds and seem to have settled on giving up Kessel, and his cap hit of $6.8 million, in order to gain a defenseman in a trade or free agency. It was first reported by Josh Yohe of the Athletic Pittsburgh here.
Tweet courtesy of @FriedgeHNIC
As stated above, the Wild don’t seem to be on Kessel’s list. He is said to be weighing his options and allowing time for other deals to manifest. Kessel is able to score goals and out to points without a doubt. His demeanour has been criticized as being slightly aloof while also managing to be abrasive with some teammates and coaches but he produces. Kessel can be a key cog on any team looking to compete for a Cup, but if the Wild are hoping that he’s their “Guy” then they could be falling into a problematic situation similar to the Toronto Maple Leafs did years ago.
Tweet courtesy of @Sportsnet
Finland, Canada Tie it at the Buzzer, Wins in OT!
The quarter finals of the IIHF World Championships went down on Thursday. Canada set to play the pesky team from Switzerland. A team that always seems to give the Canadians issues, the Swiss opened the scoring early in the game. After Mark Stone put Canada on the board, Nico Hischier responded at the end of the second period. With less than a minute left, Canada had an empty net while down 2-1. Hoping to avoid a second consecutive year of heartbreak at the tournament at the hands of the Swiss, they pushed for a goal. The hockey gods answered their wishes and with 0.4 seconds left in regulation, Damon Severson‘s point shot hit the Swiss goalkeeper only to trickle through, barely making it across the goal line to tie the game. In overtime, Mark Stone directed the puck into the net to give Canada the victory they never imagined with a few seconds left in regulation.
Tweet courtesy of @HC_Men
Similarly, the Finnish squad led by 2019 top prospect Kaapo Kakko was up against the reigning champions, Sweden. The game was back and fourth. Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed three goals from distance, only one of which had a serious screen in front of him. This seemed to give the Fins all the life they needed. Fighting back to get within a goal, the Finnish team pulled their goalie. The captain of team Finland, Marko Antilla, scored his first goal of the tournament with 1:28 left in the game to tie it up for the Fins! After an offside review called by the officials, it was confirmed, Finland tied the game. Going into overtime the Swedes has the obvious advantage skill-wise as they were loaded with NHL talent including tournament leading scorer, Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (18 points in 8 games). That didn’t matter however as the Fins were relentless. Less than two minutes into the extra frame, Sakari Manninen streaked down the left wing and fired a laser beam of the far side shoulder of the future Hall of Famer, Lundqvist. Game over, Finland was onto the semis.
Tweet courtesy of @IIHFHockey
The other two quarterfinal games were competitive in their own right but neither held the drama of these two games. For a full recap of the days events, check out the World Championship recaps by Frederick Frandsen here.
Larkin can still have Lar-kids (I’m sorry)
If you’ve been following the World Championships, you know that Detroit Red Wings center, and likely next captain, Dylan Larkin has been one of the best players on the American squad. He produced five points in seven games, with two game winning goals including an overtime winner against Finland. He’s been a good 200-foot presence who has showed up offensively in the big moments.
What you also might know is that he didn’t play the final game of the Americans tournament, a 4-3 loss to Russia in the quarterfinals. The reason he didn’t play was that he was hit in the… how do I say this without getting in trouble? Let’s just say we were concerned about his future children. Thankfully all is well and his chance at being woken up with breakfast on some future Fathers Day is still there.
Tweet courtesy of @TSN_Sports
I don’t know about you, but that didn’t look pleasant. Sitting out the rest of the tournament definitely seemed wise. Also, credit for the terrible pun goes to Steve Dangle (Sportsnet, Steve Dangle Podcast) and Ryan Hana (Winged Wheel Podcast).
Tweet courtesy of @Steve_Dangle
All QMJHL Memorial Cup Final!
The Prince Albert Raiders continued the WHL Champion losing streak in the Memorial Cup tournament losing all three of their games. The last time a WHL champion won a game at the tournament was in 2015 when the Kelowna Rockets advanced to the final. The OHL champion Guelph Storm represented the league well but fell in the semi-final to the QMJHL champs in the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 6-4 last night. This set up a final with the host Halifax Mooseheads who won the round robin.
Video courtesy of Sportsnet
The years final is set to be the first all QMJHL final since 2006 when the Quebec Remparts defeated the Moncton Wildcats. The final should be great action as these two teams know each other well from playing in the QMJHL together. It should be an action packed, fast-paced and intense final!
“We’re Sh*t! And we know we are!”
We couldn’t leave you without your weekly laugh. Possibly the best story of the IIHF World Championships didn’t come from a team with crazy talent or an unbelievable performance. It was the fun loving, boisterous and recently hockey-crazed team from Great Britain. The British entrant was entertaining from start to finish. They had some great jerseys and even better personalities. As you can see in the video above, they got their lone win in overtime against France. The goal was outstanding and it cleared them of relegation, actually pushing France to relegation. The best part of the game though? The post game celebration. The entire team gathers together at center ice and chanted “We’re shit! And we know we are!” This is other level self-depreciation and we all loved it!
Tweet courtesy of @CaitlinSports
Thank you as always for joining me this week to clear the puck and find the news for the week! Tune in next week when we finally have some Stanley Cup final games played and the World Championships and Memorial Cup both conclude!
For more on the NHL, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!
All stats and information courtesy of NHL.com, Hockey Reference, the IIHF, the OHL, the WHL, the QMJHL and eliteprospects.com