It would be great to report on how I missed last week’s column by suffering a concussion while standing next to NBC’s “Inside the Glass” reporter Pierre McGuire (or CTV Winnipeg’s Kristin Hursh) due to an errant puck or the follow through from a stick on a hard-hitting check along the boards between the benches.
Alas, I must properly report I was nailed in the head by a football being tossed by high school students while attending a prep softball game. (To my fishing buddies, no, I couldn’t make up this tall tale.)
I must also admit I probably selected the wrong side (Boston) in an exciting Stanley Cup Final to snap my personal winning streak.
At press time, Game 6 has already been played, so either the Chicago Blackhawks are celebrating their second Cup in four seasons at the “Madhouse on Madison” or the Bruins forged a seventh and deciding game on Wednesday night, when the Hawks would be prohibitive favorites.
In fact, the team leading 3-games-to-2 has captured the Cup in each of the past five seasons. The last team to rally and take the final two games – and with it Lord Stanley’s prize for hockey supremacy – coming prior to the cancelled season of 2005 when the Tampa Bay Lightning shocked the Calgary Flames for the 2004 crown.
Kudos to the Blackhawks for taking a dramatic overtime victory in Game 4 to avoid a 3-1 series deficit on a Brent Seabrook goal (assists to Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane), which effectively returned the momentum to the Windy City.
Kane then scored twice in Game 5 on Saturday, a 3-1 win over Boston behind goalie Corey Crawford.
Wasn’t it just July 2010 that Hawks GM Stan Bowman was ridiculed for dismantling his Cup champs due to the salary cap? Now, Bowman qualifies for a steep raise on a contract extension for somehow maintaining the team’s core players: Kane, Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and captain Jonathan Toews.
The annual program celebrating award winners from this past season was to be held in Las Vegas. When the season was rescheduled and shortened due to the lockout, a new date could not be easily settled on, so the NHL agreed to return to The Palms in 2014 for the final two years of its contract with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Many of the honorees have already been announced:
Hart Trophy: Alex Ovechkin, Washington
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (Top goal scorer): Ovechkin.
Vezina Trophy (Best goalie): Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus (first Russian winner).
Norris Memorial (Best defenseman): P.K. Subban, Montreal.
Messier Award (Leadership): Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa.
Jack Adams (Coach of the Year): Paul MacLean, Ottawa.
Masterton Memorial (For “perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey”): Josh Harding, Minnesota.
Lady Byng Trophy (Sportsmanship): Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay.
A complete list is available on NHL.com, click “Awards.”
Thinking out loud: The Maloof family owns The Palms and just sold the NBA Sacramento Kings. Ask the boys to bring an NHL franchise to Las Vegas. Rumor has it the Phoenix Coyotes might still be available if a new lease is not finalized for Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.
Looking to ‘14: We offered Minnesota as a 50-1 futures play for this past season. Although the Wild barely made the playoffs, they still did. We played them off in a first-round series with Chicago, making for a tidy profit.
However, the new, 4-division realignment should make it more difficult for a lower echelon team to advance to the playoffs. It makes teams that “tease” (Buffalo, Calgary) even less attractive.
I am currently looking at two teams which will have greatly reduced travel schedules in Dallas (out of the Pacific Division) and Winnipeg (out of the Southeast).
Among teams which qualified for postseason play, yet could improve even more is Ottawa (No. 7 in the East), which ranked among the leaders in player-games lost due to injury. But with the retirement of Alfredsson, this selection remains in limbo.
On the reverse side, a team I believe will slip a few notches include aging sides in Anaheim and Vancouver.
Meanwhile, the 2013-14 season is already on in Toronto, which always seems to be in the need for a goaltender.
With Chicago’s Ray Emery (17-1-0, 1.94 GAA) unavailable with the playoffs in progress, the Leafs went with the best available goalie at the moment in Los Angeles backup Jonathan Bernier (9-3-0, 1.87).
In exchange, the Kings received Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens (the new understudy to Jonathan Quick) and a second round pick in 2014 or 2015.
However, this creates a new problem in Toronto (so what’s new). How does this affect the psyche of James Reimer, who won the starting job this past season? And can the Leafs sign Bernier, a restricted free agent.
Thus, the soap opera should continue in Toronto... and Vancouver, which lost a potential trading partner in its goaltending nightmare to rid themselves of Roberto Luongo and his massive contract.
Contact Nick at [email protected].