Saturday, April 12, 2014

Predators win wide-open game against Blackhawks


If this is Barry Trotz’s final home game as head coach of the Nashville Predators – as many have expected – then his team beat the Chicago Blackhawks in … basically the opposite way to how Trotz’s teams have found scrappy success.


The Predators won in a showdown of firepower by a score of 7-5 on Saturday, as you can absurd in these entertaining highlights:


Again, more than a few people wonder if this will be Trotz’s final season as head coach of the Predators. Puck Daddy ventured such an argument, which was expanded upon during the post-game by other observers:


Whether it ends up being the final game of his tenure as head coach or just the last contest of the 2013-14 season, the Predators’ final contest of 2013-14 comes against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.



Playoff Countdown: Lightning battle for home ice


Sunday marks the conclusion to 2013-14 NHL regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.


The matchups in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were finalized Saturday night.


The Columbus Blue Jackets secured the first wild card with a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers and move on to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs. That meant the Detroit Red Wings landed the second wild card and will battle the Boston Bruins.


In the other Eastern Conference series, the New York Rangers, who finished second in the Metropolitan Division, will play the Philadelphia Flyers, who finished third. The second- and third-place finishers in the Atlantic Division -- the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens -- will also go head-to-head.


However, it will require the final day of the regular season to determine whether the Lightning or Canadiens will have home-ice advantage in the first round.


Tampa Bay can secure home ice with a victory against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Sunday. If the Lightning fail to get the two points, the series will open at Bell Centre in Montreal.


The Anaheim Ducks, who beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in a shootout Saturday, clinched the top seed in the Western Conference when they extended the game past regulation. Anaheim will face the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs. It's the second and only other guaranteed matchup; the Kings will face the San Jose Sharks in another first-round series.


The Central Division title is still up for grabs and will be decided Sunday. The St. Louis Blues, who have lost five in a row, will host the Detroit Red Wings at Scottrade Center (12:30 p.m.; NBC, TSN). The Colorado Avalanche will know what they have to do before their game in Anaheim, which begins at 8 p.m. ET.


St. Louis and Colorado each have 111 points, but the Avalanche own the tiebreaker. The division winner will face the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser finishes second and gets the Chicago Blackhawks.


Here's a closer look at the action Sunday:


Detroit Red Wings at St. Louis Blues (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN)

Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils (3 p.m. ET, NESN, MSG)


Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers (3 p.m. ET, SPSO, CSN-PH)


Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals (3 p.m. ET, FS-F, CSN-DC)


New York Islanders at Buffalo Sabres (5 p.m. ET, MSG PLUS, MSG-B, BELL TV)


Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, TVA, ROOT)


Nashville Predators at Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET, FS-TN, FS-N)


Colorado Avalanche at Anaheim Ducks (8 p.m. ET, ALT, PRIME)


Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks (9 p.m. ET, SNET-W, SNET-CGY, SNET-P)


Dallas Stars at Phoenix Coyotes (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, FS-SW, FS-A)


The Stanley Cup Playoffs consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it is now division-based and a wild-card system has been added.


The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It is possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends just three.


Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.


The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. There is no reseeding as the tournament moves to the second round and winners of that series advance to the conference championship series and the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final.



Video: Ed Jovanovski ejected for retaliation on Corey Tropp


Veteran Florida Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski received a five-minute major and game misconduct for this incident in which he responded to a hit by Columbus Blue Jackets winger Corey Tropp:


Jovanovski, 37, has served three suspensions during his lengthy career, yet it’s been quite a while since he received supplementary discipline from the NHL. His most recent situation came in January 2010.


There’s the thought that this could very well be his last game at this level, so it would be a shame if he went out on this note. Then again, there’s a chance he might stick around for 2014-15, too:


Either way, it’s a pretty ugly situation in what is a meaningless game for the Panthers and a significant one for Tropp and the Blue Jackets.



Eastern Conference playoff pairings set


The four first-round Eastern Conference pairings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are set.


The Columbus Blue Jackets assured themselves of the first wild-card spot when they held off the Florida Panthers 3-2 Saturday night in their regular-season finale. The Blue Jackets, who made the playoffs for the second time in their history, will face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the Metropolitan Division.


The Blue Jackets' victory assured that the Detroit Red Wings will end up as the second wild card in the East. Detroit will face the Boston Bruins, who wrapped up the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's regular-season champion Saturday afternoon when they defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-1. The Bruins and Red Wings are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1957, when Boston won their semifinal series in five games.


The Philadelphia Flyers' 4-3 overtime victory against the Penguins on Saturday assured the Flyers third place in the Metropolitan Division. Philadelphia will face the second-place New York Rangers in the first round.


The Montreal Canadiens' 1-0 overtime victory against the Rangers on Saturday moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division and the home-ice edge in their first-round series. The Lightning need a victory against the Washington Capitals on Sunday to pass the Canadiens for second place.


The only certain first-round pairing in the Western Conference is the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, who finished second and third in the Pacific Division. Their series will begin in San Jose.


The Anaheim Ducks can clinch first place in the West with a point against the Kings on Saturday or the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday; that would set up a first-round series between the Ducks and the Dallas Stars, the second of the conference's two wild cards.


The Avalanche and St. Louis Blues are battling for first place in the Central Division; each team enters Sunday with 111 points, but the Avalanche own the tiebreaker with more non-shootout wins. The Blues host the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon and need at least a point to have a chance to win the division and a first-round series against the Minnesota Wild, the first wild-card team. The team that comes in second will have the home-ice edge against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in their first-round series.



WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators


In the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s Chicago Blackhawks – Nashville Predators game doesn’t have significant implications. Still, it carries some importance if you’re a big believer in carrying over momentum. The game is airing on NBCSN and can also be found via the live stream link below:


CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE


The Blackhawks close out their regular season game schedule tonight. They don’t yet know if they’ll face the Colorado Avalanche or St. Louis Blues in a first-round series. Instead, they’re resting up key players while trying to end strong. For the most part, they’ve done that lately; they began April on a four-game winning streak, although Friday’s 4-0 loss to Washington must smart.


Nashville is finishing up its home slate and then the Predators end their 2013-14 campaign altogether on Sunday. While they don’t have much to play for, they’ve already beaten Chicago three out of four times this season have wins in four of their last five games. They may get some motivation from an unusual crowd at home, too:



Favorable Matchups #5: If The Blues and Hawks…

























April 12, 2014, 1:58 PM ET [9 Comments]








Eklund

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This Season...

These teams have played 5 times, the Blues won the first three games, but the second and third took a shootout victory. The Hawks have won the last two by 4-0 and 4-2 scores...


The Last Three Seasons...


Chicago has won 9 games, 7 in regulation

St Louis has won 7 games, 4 in regulation


All-time


Chicago 140 Wins

St Louis 116 Wins

35 Ties.


Playoffs.


Remarkably, they have only played 1 playoff series in the last 20 years....in 2001-2002 and the Blues won that series 4-1.


All time the Hawks have won 7 series and the Blues 3 series.


What's the Buzz?



Join the Discussion: » 9 Comments » Post New Comment


Bruins clinch Presidents’ Trophy with 4-1 win against Sabres


Give it up to the Boston Bruins, they are the class of the NHL regular season.


The Bruins clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for the league’s best record in the regular season after they took out the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Saturday afternoon.


David Krejci had two goals and Patrice Bergeron scored his 30th goal of the season to lead the way for Boston. Tuukka Rask made 24 saves to get the win.


It’s the first time the Bruins have won the Presidents’ Trophy since the 1989-1990 season. That year, the Bruins lost to Mark Messier and the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final.


It wasn’t all good news for Boston, however, as Bergeron departed the game after the second period with what Claude Julien called a “very minor” injury and Daniel Paille was knocked out of the game after a big hit by Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe.



WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins


The stakes are simple for the Flyers. If they knock off the Penguins, they’ll face the New York Rangers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.


CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE


If the Penguins beat the Flyers for just the second time this season, Philly is 3-1-0 against them, the possibility these two teams could face each other in the first round is still in play.


You can read our preview of this afternoon’s game here. Consider this your warm-up act for the postseason.



Backstrom: ‘We’re the ones that should be ashamed’


With the Washington Capitals missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, coach Adam Oates has come under fire for how things have gone this season.


As Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com shares, Caps center Nicklas Backstrom said it’s on the players, not Oates, to take responsibility for the team falling well short of expectations this season.


“He played this game and he knows what he’s talking about,” Backstrom said. “I think it’s us as players. We’re the ones that play the game and we’re the ones that should be ashamed.”


It may not come right out as a defense of Oates as coach, but it reads like one. After seeing the Caps miss the postseason, changes are coming to D.C. somehow. Whether that’s Oates being let go or GM George McPhee or perhaps a pile of trades this summer is ultimately up to owner Ted Leonsis to decide.



Playoff Countdown: Ducks can clinch West title


The conclusion to 2013-14 NHL regular season is fast approaching. After game play Friday, the League is down to 19 games remaining on the schedule, with nine to be played Saturday. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season Sunday and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.


The Boston Bruins are one win away from being the NHL's best regular-season team.


A victory at TD Garden against the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon will give the Bruins 117 points and assure them of winning the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 1989-90.


Though the Sabres enter the day last in the League with 51 points, 64 behind the Bruins, they've given Boston a hard time this season. Buffalo has won two of the previous four games, one in regulation and one in a shootout.


Also in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Flyers can lock up third place in the Metropolitan Division by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m. ET, NBC). The Tampa Bay Lightning will be assured of second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage against the Montreal Canadiens if the Canadiens don't beat the New York Rangers on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC, RDS).


The Anaheim Ducks can win the West, but they'll have to do it against their biggest rivals.


The Pacific Division champions come to Staples Center for their game against the Los Angeles Kings with 112 points. That's one more than the Colorado Avalanche, who end their season in Anaheim on Sunday evening, and the St. Louis Blues, who host the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.


One point for the Ducks will be enough to clinch the top spot in the West, meaning that Anaheim would face the Dallas Stars in the first round. The Ducks own the tiebreaker over the Avalanche and the Blues because they have more wins in regulation and overtime than either.


Here's a list of all the action on the next-to-last day of the regular season.


Buffalo Sabres at Boston Bruins (12:30 p.m. ET, MSG-B, BELL-TV, NESNPLUS)

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins (3 p.m. ET, NBC)


New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC, RDS)


Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET, CBC)


Columbus Blue Jackets at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET, FS-O)


Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, WGN)


San Jose Sharks at Phoenix Coyotes (9 p.m. ET, CSN-CA+, KTVK)


Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers (10 p.m. ET, CBC)


Anaheim Ducks at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET, KDOC, PRIME)


The Stanley Cup Playoffs consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it is now division-based and a wild-card system has been added.


The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It is possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends just three.


Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.


The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. There is no reseeding as the tournament moves to the second round and winners of that series advance to the conference championship series and the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Playing in Devils' finale could be up to Brodeur


NEWARK, N.J. -- The chances New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur will get one final start before the conclusion of the season look pretty good.


At least that's what Devils coach Peter DeBoer would like to see transpire Sunday when the Devils close their 2013-14 schedule against the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center.


It will give fans one more opportunity to chant Brodeur's name and applaud the effort one final time if it is his curtain call for the only organization he's played for the past 20 seasons.



Martin Brodeur



Goalie - NJD


RECORD: 18-14-6

GAA: 2.52 | SVP: 0.901



"Every time I play it could be my last game," Brodeur said following a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Friday. "That's the way I kind of approach it."

Brodeur wasn't so sure he would play against the Islanders but he did. His first appearance in six games got off to a rocky start when he allowed the first goal on New York's second shot, but he finished with 28 saves, including four in overtime.


After the game, Brodeur sat at his locker stall and chatted with reporters inquiring about his future with the Devils. The 41-year-old acknowledged throughout the week he remains noncommittal on his destination. He can become an unrestricted free agent this summer and has expressed all season his desire to play more.


"We'll see for Sunday," Brodeur said. "It doesn't matter; the last game is the last game. I'm going to reflect on having an unbelievable career in New Jersey regardless if I decide to stay or do something else. For me it's not about my last performance, it's about what I've accomplished as a whole."


As a whole, no goalie has done it better. Brodeur is the all-time leader in games (1,257), wins (687), shutouts (124) and minutes played (73,958).


"I got to see him throughout my career and learn from him from the moment I got here," Devils center Travis Zajac said. "I've seen his competitiveness, it's something I learned from here for sure."


The familiar chants of "Marty! Marty!" rarely subsided when the game became a nail-biter. Brodeur made a breakaway save and snared a shot with his glove with the Islanders working a 4-on-3 power-play in overtime.


DeBoer said he is likely to give Brodeur the opportunity to start against the Bruins.


"I'd like Marty to play on Sunday, but I haven't spoken to him about that [yet]," DeBoer said.


Brodeur said a decision is likely to come at practice Saturday.


"It took me a while to really feel comfortable in the nets [Friday] since I hadn't played in about two weeks," Brodeur said. "But when I started getting a little bit more shots, I felt more comfortable as the game wore on. We hardly had any practice time since we've had so many back-to-backs too. So it took a while, but by the end of second, I started feeling the puck a little better."


If Brodeur does start Sunday, it will be his 39th game of 2013-14. That would mark his fewest games played over a full 82-game season since a torn distal biceps tendon, the first major injury of his career, in 2008-09 limited him to 31.


One primary reason Brodeur appeared in fewer games this season was the play of Cory Schneider, who was acquired by the Devils from the Vancouver Canucks at the NHL Draft last June 30 in a trade for a first-round pick. Schneider, who has played seven games more than Brodeur, is third in the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average.


DeBoer said it hasn't been easy pleasing two top-level goalies on the roster.


"There's a lot of people out there who wish they had two goalies like we have but it hasn't been easy on them," DeBoer said. "Both guys want to play and they both deserve more starts than they got. The professionalism they showed made it easier on me but it hasn't but it hasn't been easy on anybody."


There is the feeling Devils fans would prefer if Brodeur closed his career in New Jersey, where it began in 1991-92.


"I did hear the fans, it was pretty nice," Brodeur said. "I made a couple of big saves there and they chanted my name. The fans have always been good to me. Not much I can complain about that."


---



Union, Minnesota set to play for NCAA title


PHILADELPHIA -- After one of the more dramatic nights in NCAA hockey history, the Union College and University of Minnesota hockey teams were back at work Friday, trying to put the celebrations and memories behind them.


"I think when you wake up this morning, you realize that you're playing for a national title and you better get your mind ready to go," said Minnesota center Kyle Rau, a Florida Panthers prospect who assisted on both Gophers goals in their 2-1 win against the University of North Dakota on Thursday. "Because if you're not, you're going to lay an egg."



Union started Thursday with a 5-4 win against Boston College in the first national semifinal, and Minnesota closed the night by scoring the winning goal with 0.6 seconds left against UND.


Both teams hit the ice for short skates before some video work to prepare for the championship game Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).


The teams last played Dec. 31, 2010, when Union beat Minnesota 3-2 in overtime in the first game of the Dodge Holiday Classic played at Minnesota's home rink, Mariucci Arena.


"That was a massive win for us," Union defenseman Mat Bodie, a freshman at the time, said. "Guys were really excited. It was an overtime game. It was at their place. It was one of the bigger programs we've ever beaten. It's all about taking baby steps, and I think that was a huge step in the growth of Union College."


Minnesota coach Don Lucia remembers even then being impressed by the Dutchmen.


"In that game I said you know what, that's a darn good hockey team," Lucia said. "Then they went on that run the last few years and they've been tremendous."


That run included a trip to the 2012 Frozen Four and now a spot in the championship game. It's the first time any Union team plays for an NCAA title since the 1929 men's lacrosse championship.


"It's great for the school, it's great for the program," Bodie said. "It's great for players and everyone involved to get to this point. As far as winning it, it would be huge. I don't really know if you can put it into words, but it would just be huge for everyone involved."


Two of the players most involved in Union's success are Bodie and fellow defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. With 37 points in 30 games, including a goal and an assist Thursday, Bodie is the highest-scoring defenseman still playing. Gostisbehere, Union's only NHL-affiliated player -- he was a 2012 third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers -- had two assists to give him 31 points in 41 games.


By comparison, Minnesota has 13 players with NHL ties on its roster.


"They have two elite defensemen that can control the back end," Lucia said. "One of them for the most part can be on the ice all game long. North Dakota's defensemen were very offensive and very active in the play [Thursday] and that's going to help us with the mentality we're going to have to have in the game [Saturday]."


Union (30-6-4) was the only team in the field to win its conference's regular-season and tournament title (ECAC), so while they don't have the Gophers' pedigree or name recognition, the Dutchmen feel they belong in the championship game. That's why after their win Thursday against Boston College, the celebration was a bit muted.


"It was a huge win for the team and for the program," Bodie said, "but at the end of the day it's just a semifinal game. So you really haven't won anything yet. I think that's why guys weren't celebrating as much as some people might expect."


To win Saturday the Dutchmen know they need a better start than they had Thursday, when they trailed 2:08 into the game.


"You want to get out to a quick start and hopefully we can learn from [Thursday] that you've got to bring it from the opening shift," Bodie said. "We're just treating it like any other game. You prepare the same way and you've just got to be ready to go."


Union coach Rick Bennett said the key for his team is staying ahead of Minnesota's offensive depth. The Gophers have five players with double-figure goals and five with at least 30 points. Rau leads the way with 39 points, and his 14 goals are tied for second.


Minnesota also is tight defensively, backstopped by Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Adam Wilcox, who had 36 saves Thursday. Wilcox was the Big Ten Player of the Year and a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.


"Just a lot of depth," Bennett said. "Obviously their goaltender is phenomenal. We have to make sure that we get some traffic in front of him. … In general we have to be sharp."


Lucia knows his team also has to be better than it was Thursday to take home the sixth NCAA title in program history, and first since 2003.


"I think they're a deep team," Lucia said. "From the goaltender [Colin Stevens] right on out, they're elite at every position. That's why they're playing for a national championship."


---



Puempel rounding out his game in Binghamton


As left wing Matt Puempel of the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators continues to evolve as a hockey player, one thing has remained constant: his natural ability to create offense.


"He's been a goal scorer wherever he's gone, and that has definitely followed him here," said Senators coach Luke Richardson. "His ability to look for openings offensively and his shot -- it's a heavy, major-league shot -- those are just God-given talents that aren't teachable to some people."


The 21-year-old Puempel, selected by Ottawa at No. 24 in the 2011 NHL Draft, spent four years in the Ontario Hockey League with Peterborough and Kitchener from 2009-13. In his first season with Peterborough, he was named the Canadian Major Junior Rookie of the Year after recording 64 points in 69 games.


As left wing Matt Puempel of the Binghamton Senators continues to evolve as a hockey player, one thing has remained constant: his natural ability to create offense. (Photo: JustSports Photography)


Puempel made his professional debut with Binghamton at the end of 2011-12, notching one goal in nine games before heading to Kitchener for his final junior season. He appeared in two regular-season AHL contests and notched two goals in three games during the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs, then joined the Senators full-time at the start of this season.


"Coming out of the OHL, it's similar to the AHL in the lifestyle," Puempel said. "But obviously, the players here are a lot bigger; it's grown men now that you're playing against. The time and space are eliminated pretty quickly, so you have to make plays a lot quicker, or you're going to get hit a lot harder."


Richardson, who played two seasons with Peterborough before beginning his pro career, can speak to the adjustments his top rookie scorer has had to make this year.


"It's a difficult transition when you're always the best player and then you come to the next league and have to start all over again," Richardson said. "It's humbling, but he hasn't taken any strides backwards; he's really taken progressive steps forward. His maturity level has definitely grown his first year pro."


Puempel has put up the numbers to prove it. The 6-foot forward has 28 goals and 18 assists for 46 points in 68 games this season, ranking second on the Senators in goals and fifth in points. He is third among all AHL rookies in goals and in the top 10 for total first-year points.


"It was a tough adjustment at the start, but once you feel more comfortable and confident, I think it becomes more natural with practicing, working out, getting stronger and just trying to get better every day," Puempel said. "It's what you have to do at this level in order to move on [to the NHL]."


The Essex, Ontario, native is in good hands as he develops under fellow first round-draft pick Richardson, who was taken seventh by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1987 draft and played for six different teams during his 20-year NHL career, finishing with Binghamton's parent club, the Ottawa Senators.


"He knows what he's doing back there, that's for sure, and he knew what he was doing when he played too," Puempel said. "He's been in our situation, so he knows where we're trying to go and what we have to do to get there; he helps a lot, and we're really lucky to have him."


A longtime veteran of the game, Richardson has worked closely with Puempel to maximize his instinctive talent.


"At times this year we've put him on lines that are more checking lines, to teach him a bit more of the defensive responsibilities so that he can become that complete 200-foot player," Richardson said. "I think he's realized that playing good defense means you just get the puck back faster. To his credit, he's really worked at it and has gotten better."


Puempel's priorities for his development align with those of his coach.


"I think a big part of the American League is working on defensive zone play in order to make the next, biggest adjustment of everyone's career, which is the NHL," Puempel said.


According to Richardson, the forward has gone above and beyond in his efforts to learn during his first year pro.


"He's the first guy to actually come in to the video room and ask questions about things that went wrong on goals-against," Richardson said. "He's not afraid to put himself out there, which is going to get him to the next level even faster."


But Puempel doesn't just listen to his coaches' feedback; a true professional, he absorbs and reacts.


"He doesn't get down when you talk to him, or pout and [not] produce for a couple weeks," said Richardson. "He's confident in his ability, so he's able to take constructive criticism and implement it into his game.


"He's had to alter some of his game, but at the same time is getting the same results, so that's a real good sign of maturity in a hockey player."


Awaiting his first recall by Ottawa while closing in on a Calder Cup Playoff berth with Binghamton, Puempel is quick to respond when asked what he can bring to the table at the NHL level.


The answer has been the same for the past 21 years.


"Growing up, I've always been known as an offensive guy," Puempel said. "I like to score goals. Hopefully, that's something I can translate to the next level."


For the latest news, scores and stats from around the American Hockey League, visit theahl.com.



UMass-Lowell's Hellebuyck wins Mike Richter Award


PHILADELPHIA -- UMass-Lowell sophomore Connor Hellebuyck won the inaugural Mike Richter Award on Friday as the best goaltender in NCAA hockey.


Hellebuyck, a 2012 fifth-round pick (No. 130) of the Winnipeg Jets, led all college goalies with a 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, and his six shutouts were tied for second. He went 18-9-2 in 29 games.


The 6-foot-4, 185-pound native of Commerence, Mich., signed a three-year, two-way entry-level contract with the Jets on April 5. The contract has an average annual value of $925,000.


Other finalists for the Richter award were Denver senior Sam Brittain, Minnesota sophomore Adam Wilcox, Wisconsin junior Joel Rumpel and Northeastern junior Clay Witt.


"It's a huge honor," Hellebuyck said. "It's a huge milestone in my life I'll never forget. Just being picked for this from some of the great goaltenders that could have easily been chosen, it says something."


Presenting the award were Richter, who spent two seasons at the University of Wisconsin before going on to play 15 NHL seasons with the New York Rangers, and Hockey Hall of Fame member Bernie Parent; Richter, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Abington, Pa., idolized Parent growing up. The award is sponsored by Let's Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation.


---



Super 16: Analytics' rise gives game new dimension


The 2013-14 NHL season may well be remembered as an important one years from now, in part because the use of analytics, or advanced statistics, has taken a significant step forward in media coverage of the sport.


There have been plenty of people using #fancystats for several years, but this season the volume of writers has increased and the "mainstream" nature of the publications for which they work has also increased. This website in particular has begun to employ analytics on a more regular basis, and these weekly power rankings have intentionally been part of that.


The goal was to help show how these new ideas and statistics can be helpful in analyzing the sport. Just as there was in the baseball journalism community when analytics started cropping up, there has been resistance and debate about the validity of these new metrics.


The Toronto Maple Leafs became a flashpoint in this evolving discussion. Toronto is a below-average team, according to data derived from these new analytics, yet spent much of the season among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.


Regression came swiftly, maybe more so than anyone could have imagined. The Maple Leafs, though, will finish this season about where a team near the bottom of the League in Corsi For percentage (CF%), but with great goaltending, should more often than not if this same season played out a bunch of times in a simulation.


There's more work to be done in this field. Analytics in hockey isn't just about specific statistics. It is about philosophies and ways to make an unpredictable game more predictable. This is the same in baseball.


The "Moneyball" movement was not just about on-base percentage plus slugging (OPS) and wins above replacement (WAR), but rather finding new ways to accurately gauge a player's value and for teams to exploit inefficiencies in the player-acquisition market.


Hockey analytics is more than Corsi and Fenwick. It is about the idea that possession matters, the ability to enter the offensive zone with the puck matters, and shooting percentages cannot be trusted, and playing a decent backup goaltender is a better option than going with a Vezina Trophy candidate for a second game in as many nights.


In the same way WAR can show just how great Mike Trout really is, these analytics can show why Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron are among the most valuable players in the NHL even if they are not among the leaders in goals and assists.


They can show which teams might be over-performing or under-performing in a way which wins and losses might not. The Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche are by no means bad teams because they rank lower than the other 100-plus point clubs in Corsi and Fenwick, but it can make it harder to trust them.


To wrap up the Super 16 for the 2013-14 season, here's a look at players who surprised and disappointed, and those who proved to be the most valuable for the best teams in the League.


DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, the new-look version is going to focus more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It’s not always going to look like the League standings, and will likely take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close, the tiebreaker is almost always this: If the two teams started a seven-game series tonight, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. Also, the statistics and team records are through the games on Wednesday night.


1. Boston Bruins (53-18-8) LW: 1


MVP: This team has three of the most valuable players in hockey, and there are valid arguments for each to win a major award. Bergeron has always been considered one of the best all-round forwards in the League, but he's added a few more goals this season (his most since 2005-06) without needing an uncharacteristic spike in shooting percentage. He's also a player who benefits greatly from the way analytics can prove his immense value.


Surprise: Reilly Smith might seem the obvious choice here, but skating next to Bergeron and Brad Marchand is a plum assignment. Carl Soderberg gets the nod as the replacement for the other player, Rich Peverley, in that blockbuster trade with the Dallas Stars. He's been a nice fit next to Chris Kelly and nearly produced as much as Smith.


Disappointment: Loui Eriksson has had injury troubles, but he's still been pretty good when healthy. On a team that crushes it in possession, the famed "merlot line" has not, despite cushy usage by coach Claude Julien.


2. San Jose Sharks (49-22-9) LW: 2


MVP: Joe Pavelski could finish in the top five in Hart Trophy voting, and deservedly so. Joe Thornton has had a fantastic season, and probably hasn't gotten the attention he deserves for it. The pick here is Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who helps this team's great collection of forwards get into the offensive zone and is second on the team to Thornton in CF% at even strength (both are over 58 percent). He's not the classic defensive defenseman like Rod Langway, but he deserves Norris Trophy consideration as a modern version of that type of player.


Surprise: Tommy Wingels had eight goals and 22 points in 80 career games before this season, but he doubled his goal total and added 38 points to help give this team even more depth up front. If Tomas Hertl can rejoin the lineup during the playoffs, this forward corps will be scary good.


Disappointment: Marty Havlat has now missed at least 26 games in five of the past eight full seasons, and even when healthy he wasn't very effective this season despite having easily the most offensive zone starts on the team.


3. Chicago Blackhawks (46-19-15) LW: 6


MVP: Each of the Blackhawks' six world-class players had great seasons, but captain Jonathan Toews did it all before he got hurt. He led Chicago in CF% despite also facing the toughest competition, he won 57 percent of a ton of faceoffs, and he had 28 goals and 66 points in 76 games.


Surprise: Brandon Saad took a nice step forward in his sophomore season, and he and Teuvo Teravainen are going to be nice complements to the big four up front in the next couple of seasons. Saad only has one goal since Feb. 1, but he's still been solid in possession and looks like he might develop into an elite two-way player.


Disappointment: Here's another spot where advanced statistics has an answer for a curious occurrence. Bryan Bickell had a huge postseason and scored a hefty contract in the offseason. He has 11 goals and three assists this season, and his playing time has fluctuated greatly. Bickell has not been bad this season. He's been terribly unlucky at times.


Bickell's CF% (57.8) is among the best on a roster loaded with strong possession players, but his PDO (the team's shooting percentage plus save percentage when he's on the ice) is a comically low 95.6. The team is only shooting worse when Michal Handzus is on the ice and the goalies are stopping the puck better for everyone else. That's a fluke, and don't be surprised if he magically becomes a "playoff performer" again this spring.


4. Los Angeles Kings (45-28-7) LW: 4


MVP: If Bergeron doesn't win the Selke Trophy, it might be because Anze Kopitar does. He faces the toughest competition on the team and earns the most defensive zone assignments among the forwards, and yet the Kings still carve out more than 60 percent of the shot attempts when he's on the ice. Oh, and he's got 16 more points than anyone else on the team.


Surprise: Dwight King had a couple weeks as a leading man in Los Angeles during the 2012 Stanley Cup run, but he became a solid third-line player for this team with 15 goals, 30 points and a CF% north of 58. It's not easy to be above average in puck possession on this team, but he has been.


Disappointment: The biggest disappointment for the Kings this season was the puck didn't go in as much as it should have earlier in the season, and Jonathan Quick had some troubles before an injury and the Olympic break.


5. St. Louis Blues (52-20-7) LW: 3


MVP: There are several strong candidates here, but Alex Pietrangelo is the choice. He logs a ton of minutes and the Blues attempt nearly 55 percent of the shots when he's on the ice. He's also one of five players with at least 50 points.


Surprise: Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko were both touted prospects, so each of them developing into above-average players is not really a revelation. Schwartz was aided by high shooting percentages earlier in the season, but he's also been a strong possession player.


Disappointment: Chris Stewart could have approached his previous career highs of 28 goals and 64 points on this team, but he struggled to earn Ken Hitchcock's trust and the Blues struggled to keep the puck at the other end of the ice when he was on it. He was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in the package for Ryan Miller.


6. Anaheim Ducks (52-20-8) LW: 5


MVP: Corey Perry has a Hart Trophy, and his buddy Ryan Getzlaf would have one in a couple months if Sidney Crosby didn't have his first healthy season since 2010. Getzlaf seems like a good bet to be first runner-up to Crosby. He set a career high in goals and has an outside chance of doing so in points. On a team with some possession issues, Getzlaf has been nearly as valuable as players like Kopitar and Bergeron from a usage standpoint.


Surprise: Patrick Maroon has benefited from great linemates and shielded zone starts and relatively light competition. All that said, he's still been effective, with 28 points and the best CF% (54.3) among the forwards. That's not bad for a player who was not a guarantee to be an NHL regular despite strong numbers in the minors.


Disappointment: After a star turn in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, seven goals and 11 points in 29 games was not a stat line most pundits would have expected from Emerson Etem this season. There's still plenty of time for him to be great, but he didn't exactly tear up the AHL, either.


7. New York Rangers (44-31-5) LW: 8


MVP: While there might have been an expectation for the forwards to benefit most from the coaching change, defenseman Ryan McDonagh has leapt forward in his first season playing for Alain Vigneault. McDonagh is playing nearly 25 minutes per game, and has a career-high 14 goals. He's not a top candidate for the Norris Trophy this season, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't merit serious consideration in a different season. There are a lot of great choices this year, and being a top-10 guy instead of a top-three guy is no great slight.


Surprise: Show of hands: Who predicted Mats Zuccarello would lead this team in scoring? Anyone's hand that is still in the air is lying. From fringe NHL player to leading scorer on a Cup contender … that's a significant improvement.


Disappointment: Brian Boyle's style of play does not seem to have translated for the new coaching staff. Granted, he starts a lot of shifts in the defensive zone, but he's a player who is going to see third-line money in his next contract when he performed like a fourth-liner or an extra this season.


8. Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-5) LW: 9


MVP: The guy with 103 points.


Surprising: Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta have each been thrust into larger roles than expected because of injuries and have arguably been the most valuable players on the team that weren't the first player taken in an NHL Draft.


Disappointment: Sure, the vast amount of injuries has been crippling at times, but the biggest disappointment can be summed up like this: This team performs like a Cup contender during shifts that involve Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and looks like a non-playoff team during shifts that don't.


9. Colorado Avalanche (51-21-7) LW: 10


MVP: Semyon Varlamov has turned potential into prowess with the help of Francois Allaire and Patrick Roy, and is a likely Vezina Trophy finalist. Matt Duchene is an honorable mention here and might be the pick if not for his knee injury.


Surprise: Paul Stastny makes a lot of money to land here, but on a team with possession issues, he's had a really good season. He's the only healthy forward north of 49.1 in CF%, and his per-game production trended upward for the first time in four years. He is a pending free agent, so it was a good time for that.


Disappointment: The three players who have typically made up the fourth line all face easy competition and have somewhere between slightly and really favorable zone starts. When that happens and all three are at 42 or below in CF%, that's an issue … like a "let's find a new fourth line for next season" issue.


10. Detroit Red Wings (38-27-15) LW: 13


MVP: When the NHL took its annual holiday break, Gustav Nyquist had four goals in 14 games. He now has nine more than anyone else on the team, and has carried the offense with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk missing through injury.


Surprise: Of all the players who have contributed after starting the season in the American Hockey League, Luke Glendening is the one who has risen furthest up the organizational depth chart. Nothing about his play or his numbers really stands out, but the best coach in the NHL trusts him to play legitimate minutes in this League. For a player on an AHL-only contract last season, that's a pretty big deal.


Disappointment: Ken Holland had too many players and wasn't able to offload the ones necessary for Nyquist to spend the entire season in the NHL. If it weren't for all the injuries, there would have been some hard choices to make this season.


11. Montreal Canadiens (45-27-8) LW: 11


MVP: In general, the word value gets twisted around a lot when the words "most" and "player" are put next to it. Someone like Crosby or Toews does not provide less value because the team has other great players, nor is a great player on a lesser club more "valuable" despite inferior statistics. That said, the Canadiens would probably be a mess without Carey Price, and he's been great this season, so let's say he fits both definitions.


Surprise: There's not a lot to choose from here. The talented players have played well, but nothing out of the ordinary. Max Pacioretty's goal total might qualify for some, but he's got the goods to be a 40-goal scorer.


Disappointment: Douglas Murray's trajectory as an NHL player is a steep decline, something the Penguins and now the Canadiens have been slow to realize.


12. Tampa Bay Lightning (43-27-9) LW: 7


MVP: There's a case to be made for Jon Cooper, but he's earned plenty of praise in this space. Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman have both been great, filling huge areas of need for what has been a forward-heavy franchise for much of the past eight years. They are two of the breakout stars in the NHL, though Hedman had more of a pedigree previously.


Surprise: Sticking with the co-winner theme, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson have both gone from amateur afterthoughts to candidates to finish in the top four of the Calder Trophy voting. The Lightning have had lots of high draft picks and have other young talent coming, but if these two can be consistent contributors for the next few seasons the Lightning just might be an elite team in the near future.


Disappointment: Martin St. Louis is the greatest player in franchise history* and was a great representative for the franchise for many years. He left on terms that nobody, inside the organization or out, would have wanted.


*A healthy Steven Stamkos will acquire this title someday


13. Columbus Blue Jackets (42-31-7) LW: 16


MVP: Quick quiz: Name the best center in the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets. That's almost a trick. If Ryan Johansen can replicate what he has done this season, he will become the first franchise center to inhabit central Ohio. The comparisons to someone like Getzlaf or Kopitar are legitimate. Fun fact: Johansen has scored five more even-strength goals this season than anyone not named Rick Nash ever has for the Blue Jackets.


Surprising: Johansen was the No. 4 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and has shown flashes of maybe growing into a dominant, two-way center. Predicting it would definitely happen in 2013-14 would have been tough given his recent resume.


Disappointment: Trading Nash has worked out for the Blue Jackets. Adding Marian Gaborik did not go quite as well. The net gain might still be quite alright for Columbus in the long run.


14. Dallas Stars (39-30-11) LW: 12


MVP: This might be the most obvious co-choice on this list. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have been one of the top tandems in the League this season. That said, the slightest of edges goes to Seguin here. Benn has benefitted slightly more from team shooting percentage at even strength (12.5 percent to 11.5 percent) and Seguin is slightly ahead in goals and points.


Surprise: When Cody Eakin played for the Hershey Bears in the AHL, longtime observers of players in that league and of that team liked him as a future NHL player. Did they expect him to be the fourth-leading scorer on a potential playoff team?


Disappointment: Two guys expected to be veteran anchors, Ray Whitney and Sergei Gonchar, have become complementary players on salaries that do not allow someone to be in that role for long.


15. Minnesota Wild (42-26-12) LW: 15


MVP: Though Ryan Suter does play half the game, Zach Parise has been nearly a point-per-game producer when healthy and along with Mikko Koivu has easily been one of the Wild's best at possessing the puck.


Surprise: Mikael Granlund was an elite prospect, but he had a rough first go in the NHL. He's bounced back nicely this season, and a star turn during the 2014 Sochi Olympics didn't hurt, either. The Wild should feel better about counting on him and Charlie Coyle as foundation pieces moving forward.


Disappointment: The simple layout of the player usage chart made popular by Rob Vollman has four quadrants. A player in the top left faces tough competition and zone starts. A player in the bottom right sees the opposite. Players with blue circles dictate possession in a game, while players in red do not. A player with a red circle in the bottom right of a team's usage chart is a problem. When that player is named Dany Heatley and counts $7.5 million against the salary cap, disappointment is an understatement.


16. Philadelphia Flyers (41-29-9) LW: 14


MVP: Mark Messier was the captain of a team facing a must-win game in the Eastern Conference Final. What do people think he should have said, exactly? Claude Giroux's team was a mess, had lost seven of eight games to start the season and had one of the worst offensive starts to a season in recent NHL history. He also made good on his promise, and he's been one of the three or four best players in the League this season. As long as his coach doesn't overshoot when discussing his status, Giroux won't have to deal with the fallout from that moving forward and can just be an elite player.


Surprise: Michael Raffl might be 11th on the Flyers with 22 points, but he's also the only current forward on the roster that doesn't play on the top line with a CF% north of 50.


Disappointment: Vincent Lecavalier spent some time on the fourth line recently, which is not where a player in the first season of a five-year, $22.5 million contract should be. The fourth line is exactly where a player who receives favorable matchups and zone starts but yields the opposition 55 percent of the shots attempts should be, so that's a problem.



Hart choice Crosby produced regardless of linemates


That Sidney Crosby has broken the 100-point barrier for the fifth time in his career is impressive, and his double-figure lead on the rest of the field in the scoring race makes his pending second Art Ross Trophy pretty remarkable as well.


What is the most impressive thing about Crosby's season? He's accomplished all that by playing more time at even strength with Lee Stempniak and Brian Gibbons as linemates than Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.



Sidney Crosby



Sidney Crosby


Center - PIT


GOALS: 36 | ASST: 67 | PTS: 103

SOG: 254 | +/-: 16



Injuries have decimated the Penguins' roster this season, and about the only constant has been Crosby, who is on pace to play more than 80 games for the first time since he appeared in 81 as a rookie; he's already played more than 41 for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Those injuries have taken their toll on his regular linemates, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. That trio has been together for 28.44 percent of Crosby's even-strength shifts, according to DobberHockey.com's line combination tool, but none since Dupuis sustained a season-ending knee injury Dec. 23.


While Crosby and Kunitz have been together about 80 percent of the time at even strength, Crosby has also seen time with a revolving cast of linemates. That includes Gibbons, a 26-year-old undrafted forward who made his NHL debut Nov. 18 but has spent more than 30 percent of his ice time playing with the best player in the world, and Stempniak, a depth pickup at the NHL Trade Deadline who has slid into a top-line role during 12.57 percent of Crosby's even-strength shifts.


Meanwhile, Malkin has played with Crosby on 9.44 percent of Crosby's even-strength shifts and Neal has been with him on 10.7 percent of them.


Regardless of who has been with him, Crosby has produced all season. He's in the top 10 in the League with 36 goals and he has had a hand in 43.5 percent of the Penguins' non-shootout goals. He's been just as productive at home (19 goals, 55 points in 39 games) as on the road (17 goals, 48 points in 40 games), and the later the games have gotten the better Crosby has been -- his 17 third-period goals are the most in the League.



2013-14 SEASON TROPHY TRACKER


With the 2013-14 regular season nearing completion, NHL.com looks at some of the biggest storylines -- and award contenders -- that have developed throughout the year.




The Penguins are 47-8-4 when he has at least one point and 3-16-1 when he's held off the score sheet.


So the fact Crosby has produced at a League-leading level with an ever-changing cast on his wings while leading the Penguins to first place in the Metropolitan Division and a top-two spot in the Eastern Conference makes him the clear choice to win his second Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the League.


Crosby might be the easy choice for the Hart Trophy, but there are a number of other worthy candidates.


FINALISTS


Claude Giroux , Philadelphia Flyers -- When the Flyers were 1-7-0 in October, Giroux said the team would make the playoffs, and with him leading the way they got there.


It took Giroux until Nov. 9 to score his first goal, but he's added a bunch since then. In 64 games since, he has added 26 more goals and his 74 points are second among all players since that date. He's had a hand in 36.5 percent of the Flyers' non-shootout goals this season (81 of 222).


Giroux also is lauded for his all-zone game and work ethic.


"The hard work is contagious," linemate Scott Hartnell said. "When your leader does it, it filters right through everybody."


Ryan Getzlaf , Anaheim Ducks -- The Ducks captain has been the best player on one of the Western Conference's best teams from the first game of the season.


No player in the West has more points, and his 31 goals are a career-high. Getzlaf has been at his best at even strength, with 26 goals and 64 points; he's had a hand in 33.0 percent of the Ducks' 194 even-strength goals. Despite starting 48.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, he finishes there 51.4 percent of the time, according to advanced statistics at BehindtheNet.ca.


The big center plays in all situations, and is third among NHL forwards at more than 21 minutes per game. That includes more than three minutes per game on the power play and more than two minutes per game on the penalty kill; he's one of five forwards in the League to reach those numbers on special teams.


And he's accomplished all that while playing against the second-toughest competition among Ducks forwards, according to BehindtheNet.ca.


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