The Boston Bruins locked up the 2013-14 Presidents’ Trophy on Saturday at home with a 4-1 victory over the lowly Buffalo Sabres. It marks only the second time in franchise history that the Bruins have captured the leagues’ top team award since its establishment prior to the 1985-86 NHL season – also accomplishing the feat in 1989-90.
Now, with the award – the notoriety of being the best team in the regular season – comes a whole lot of pressure. In the past decade – since the 2003-04 season – only two teams have won the Presidents’ Trophy and gone on to win the Stanley Cup. The Detroit Red Wings accomplished it in 2007-08 and the Chicago Blackhawks followed suit during the shortened season last year (2012-13).
So how fulfilling is it for Bruins fans to see their team take home the regular season’s highest award?
“We’ve still got to do some work here in order to get the trophy that we all really want,” said Bruins’ head coach Claude Julien in an article by Howard Ulman.
Ultimately, a Stanley Cup win would mark the end to a successful season. Until then, the Bruins will have to enjoy their Presidents’ Trophy win and look forward to their first round matchup against an underrated Detroit Red Wings team – a team that’s defeated them three out of four times this season.
The Red Wings outscored Boston 13-9 in their four meetings this season. Henrik Zetterberg – who could be back at some point in the first round – tied for the most points in the season series with four (3g-1a). In fact, this could be one of the bigger upsets in the first round if Detroit can play their quick north-south game.
Stay tuned. This Bruins-Wings series should be one of best series to watch.
Thoughts and Shots
London Knights: The ‘Back Door’ Entrance
On Friday, the Memorial Cup host London Knights were ousted in the second round of the OHL playoffs. Defeated by the Guelph Storm in five games, the OHL’s defending champion Knights have just over a month before they will see game action again – when the Memorial Cup tournament starts May 16.
Entering the tournament through ‘the back door’ seems to be an unwanted trend with fans as this marks the sixth straight year that the host team won’t win their league championship. Could the Knights have suspended goalie Anthony Stolarz back? Could Zach Bell return from a broken leg? The biggest question of all though, is whether or not the Knights even belong in the tourney. This is a flawed system – one the CHL will eventually have to consider taking a look at.
M.I.A: Hurt Heading to the Playoffs
Often, you don’t hear about player injuries until after the playoffs. However, this year, it seems some players are limping their way in. Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss are out for Detroit. David Backes and T.J. Oshie are feeling the effects of injuries in St. Louis. And Steve Mason had a run-in with the injury bug for Philadelphia. All of these and other plaguing injuries around the league could change the outlook of the playoffs for their respective teams.
Who’s in and who’s out will certainly be one of the deciding factors during the most important time of the year. Say goodbye to St. Louis if they can’t find a way to battle throughout the injury bug – especially the way Ryan Miller has played since coming over from Buffalo.
Hart Debate: One Man Missing
Forget for a second that there are far too many NHL player awards. But who would have guessed at the beginning of the season that Alex Ovechkin wouldn’t be up for the league’s most valuable player award – especially with a total of 51 goals and 79 points.
Then again, his minus-35 rating was a league worst and Washington missed the playoffs for the first time in six years. Don’t forget he was called out for his mediocre backchecking by head coach Adam Oates. Regardless, it’s unusual for the Maurice Richard award winner to be an after thought in the voting for the NHL’s MVP, but there’s no question that the Capitals’ sniper is anything but an MVP this season.
Sheriff in Town
Toronto made the first jump into the free agent market and it wasn’t a player they brought on board. The Maple Leafs signed three-time Stanley Cup champion Brendan Shanahan as the new president of the team.
It’s different, but it fits right into the new trend of hiring recent stars into the front offices of NHL franchises. Although it’s an interesting step for Tim Leiweke and the Leafs, the move brings with it a culture change along with experience and winning ways. Shanahan is sure to make some changes of his own over the offseason. It’ll be an exciting and nervous time for players, personnel and the Toronto fan base over the coming months.
Don’t Leave Yet, Van City
With speculation swirling that season ticket holders were unclear about their renewals with the Vancouver Canucks, the team’s owners stepped in firing general manager Mike Gillis and hiring former fan favourite Trevor Linden as the team’s new president.
Many have questioned the move, debating Linden’s ability to run an NHL franchise with no front office experience. I think it’s a great move by the Canucks – a team floundering for something go right after trading away arguably the best goalie tandem for next to nothing. Goodbye Mike Gillis. There’s a new leader in town and Vancouver fans can expect a different frame of mind come 2014-15.
A Stormy End For Ryan Malone
Drugs and alcohol abuse is better documented in professional sports than ever before. So what was Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone thinking driving under the influence (not to mention the possession of cocaine).
Malone has been a healthy scratch for the Lightning for the past three games and didn’t travel with the team following his arrest for their final regular season game. There’s no indication, yet, whether or not he will be in the lineup for the team’s first round playoff series against Montreal.
Malone’s career seems to be at an inevitable end. In 57 games this season, the big forward recorded just 15 points (5g-10a) and certainly doesn’t seem to be on the rise in his career.
The Ageless Wonder
Jaromir Jagr seemed to set a new milestone every time he stepped on the ice this season – including passing the great Gordie Howe on the all-time assists list. Jagr amazed everyone by playing in all 82 games for the New Jersey Devils this season and leading the team in points with 67 (24g-43a).
Add to that his plus-16 rating and six game-winning goals and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 42-year old back for another season in the NHL. Even if you’re not a JJ fan, you have to be amazed at how strong he is on the puck. Good luck Jaromir in 2014-15.
The Flash ‘Finnished’?
One of the most memorable goal celebrations in NHL history is Teemu Selanne’s sniper show after scoring his 54th goal of his rookie season – breaking Mike Bossy’s previous record. Now, at the age of 43, Selanne’s celebrations are much tamer and not as often.
In 64 games this season, the Finnish Flash has 27 points (9g-18a) and is more of a player-coach than a rookie sniper. That, however, doesn’t take away from 1,457 career points (684g-773a) scored in 1,451 career games. One thing is for sure, he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer when his turn comes around in 2017.
The Devil’s Goodbye
He’s first in all-time wins. He’s first in all-time shutouts. Heck, he leads the way with career goals against. And he’s played his entire career with the New Jersey Devils. Whether he retires this offseason or not, some believe that Martin Brodeur could be waving goodbye to Jersey and his Devil teammates. Or not.
“It’s not out of the question that the Devils will be in the running for me to come back,” said Brodeur in an article by Tom Canavan. “I haven’t talked to Lou (Lamoriello) about what he wants to do with backing up Schneids. Again, if I am mentally ready to do that job, I am going to look for the Devils a little bit.”
Come on folks. He’s a lifetime Devil and there’s not many one-team players left anymore. Why not back up Cory Schneider. Sure, he won’t see the same kind of playing time, but he’s in a place that he can call home and have his number raised to their rafters.
The Final Shift
Possibly the most emotional hockey moment of this week goes to Ryan Smyth, the Edmonton Oilers, and (believe it or not) the Vancouver Canucks. Smyth played in his final game as an NHLer this weekend, in what was ultimately a chippy affair. High-sticked twice, dropping the mitts (kind of) with Ryan Kesler, Smyth and the Oilers won an emotional game for Captain Canada.
To add to the great game for fans, Smyth broke down on the bench in the closing minutes of the game. He stayed on the ice following the final buzzer to give fans a chance to thank him and it was then that the Vancouver Canuck players reentered the playing surface to say their goodbyes to the hard-nosed gritty forward – a gesture beyond classy.
A player that changed hockey at the World Championships for Canada, Ryan Smyth will have a tough time getting into the Hall, but will be remembered for his give-it-all attitude on and off the ice.
Have some thoughts about this week’s column, let me know on Twitter @AndrewGForbes or Google+.
Tape2Tape is a weekly column looking at some of the biggest story lines from around the different hockey leagues. It will discuss ten topics in short, but detailed, snippets and focus in on one larger story from the past week. Agree or disagree, writer – Andrew Forbes – would love to hear what you have to say.
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