Tuesday night the Chicago Blackhawks played host to the Florida Panthers with both teams in the hunt for the NHL Playoffs as the Blackhawks sit in 3rd place in the Central Division with 77 points and the Panthers are just 2 points behind the Bruins for the final wild card spot with 65 points. Mid-way through the first period, Patrick Kane played a puck in the corner boards and received a cross-check to the back from Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic that knocked Kane off balance and crashing into the boards. He got up slowly, skated off the ice with the help of the trainers, and now we know he broke his collarbone and had surgery to repair it yesterday.
The worst thing that the Blackhawks could have happen to them at this point of the season is lose their best player for the season. After the surgery, Kane is essentially out for the season UNLESS Chicago can make it deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs as it will take 12 weeks for a full recovery. Kane had tallied 64 points in 61 games, good enough to lead the NHL. On pace for his best season since 2009-10, Kane had a very realistic shot at being the first American-born NHL player to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league MVP. That now seems to be a race between Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Pekka RInne, Carey Price, and John Tavares.
So what do the Blackhawks do next? The NHL trade deadline is just days away (March 2nd) and Kane is on Long-term Injured Reserve, meaning the salary cap hit that Kane takes from the Blackhawks ($6.3 million) is off their books as long as Kane is deemed inactive, and once the playoffs begin, salaries don't matter. So GM Stan Bowman has basically been given $6 million dollars of house money to work with.
Chicago is left with 2 options -
1) Do nothing. The Blackhawks still remain one of the deepest teams in the NHL and outside of calling up Teuvo Teravainen from AHL Rockford, the Blackhawks could essentially plug and play their roster until Kane returns. Their options on the wing include Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, and even Brad Richards who had been playing mostly at center for Chicago. Teravainen is expected to play between Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell on the 3rd line moving forward.
2) Make a deadline deal. The more likely avenue the Blackhawks will go down, as it is very rare a team is given such a silver-lining to a terrible situation. With Chicago already worrying about cap space heading into next season, they will only be interested in expiring contracted players like Jaromir Jagr and Antoine Vermette. If the Blackhawks want to go the defensive route as they have been less-than stellar on the blue line since trading Nick Leddy, the Blackhawks could look at players like Jeff Petry or Marek Zidlicky. If the Blackhawks want to try to replace the production that Kane brought to the team (they can't) they should look to Vermette. If they want to implement leadership and basically say "sorry" for taking away his chance at one last Stanley Cup in 2013, they should sign Jagr.
It will be interesting to follow the rumblings from Chicago the next few days as the NHL trade deadline nears, but not as interesting as it would be if Kane were to make a superhero return to Chicago in the Conference or Stanley Cup Finals, should they make it that far. Stay tuned.
In 2013-2014, Alex Ovechkin tallied 79 points, led the NHL in goals and still ended the year as a minus-35. That's astonishing. That means the opposition scored 35 times more against Ovi than he scored against them. That's not even taking account for the times when he didn't register a goal or assist, but was on the ice when his team scored on even strength. A minus-35 over an 82 game schedule makes for a -.426 per game, meaning just about every other game he was costing his team a goal and the Capitals missed the playoffs.
Enter Barry Trotz.
Trotz came to Washington after 15 seasons with Nashville and has instilled a more well-rounded game from the Capitals Star-player and Captain and the results are a league-leading 37 goals through 58 games, and 59 points total. Also, Ovi has tallied a plus +11 this season and the Capitals are comfortably 7th in the Eastern Conference, eight points clear of 8th place Boston with 24 games to play.
Not to say that Ovechkin ever fell off statistically, but that plus/minus stat is a pretty telling sign of a successful team or not. If your best player leads the league for minus, you're not going to go far. Seeing his game this year compared to last, he is seeing the puck better and finding the net in the fashion that he did back in his first 5 years in the NHL where he was a perennial 50+ goal scorer. At his pace now, Ovi will have 84 points and 51 goals, which more than likely will give him the Maurice Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals for the 5th time in his career, unless Rick Nash ups his Goals per game average to .64/Game...ok now I'm getting nerdy.
Ovi never left, but his game is back to full power and then some. Even better than the 2005-2010 version of himself where he was a madman offensively, and a kid on the ice. Nearing 30 years old, Ovi is playing like a kid again and that's good for the Capitals and great for the NHL.
Whether you love him or hate, what are your thoughts on Alexander Ovechkin and the season he is having?
With every team in the NHL having 30 games or less to play in the season and the trade deadline nearing, here is a look at the NHL playoff picture and who is in and who is out.
Eastern Conference - IN: Tampa Bay, Montreal, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Detroit, Pittsburgh, LAST 2: Washington, Boston BUBBLE: Florida, Philadelphia OUT: Carolina, Buffalo
The East is obviously the easier of the two conferences to say who will make the playoffs and who won't as the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers chances are on life support right now. The Flyers just lost Goalie Steve Mason to a freak lower-body injury, and the Panthers, although riding a revived Roberto Luongo's All-Star season, haven't impressed after using free agency in the off-season to bolster what was the worst team in the NHL last year. On top of that, do you really think a team like Boston, who has been the juggernaut of the East for the last 5 years, would have a dip in results where they would be in danger of falling out of the NHL Wild Card spot? Also, sorry Sabres fans but this is season is an absolute joke.
Western Conference - IN: Nashville, Anaheim, St. Louis, Chicago, Winnipeg, Calgary LAST 2: San Jose, Vancouver BUBBLE: Minnesota, Los Angeles, Dallas, Colorado OUT: Edmonton, Arizona
The Western Conference is much more interesting to dive into considering the defending Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings are on the outside looking in at the playoffs right now and teams like Winnipeg and Calgary are in prime positions to lock down their post-season spots. Who would've guessed in October that prior to the trade deadline, Nashville would be in President's trophy contention and L.A., along with Dallas and Colorado would be fighting to make it into the Wild Card spots? Is it better for the NHL to have L.A. in the playoffs? Of Course, but they do not deserve it right now with the way they are playing. Since the beginning of 2015, the Kings have lost 10 of 15 games, and 17 of their last 20. Dallas, Colorado, Minnesota, as well as L.A. were all playoff teams last year and have been pretty much replaced with team who seem to want it more. Colorado had the 2nd highest points total last year and was the 1 seed in the West, where did that all go? Guess Paul Stastny a lot to the Avalanche. But hey, who can't wait for the heated rivalry of Anaheim-Winnipeg in the first round?
Is your team in the hunt? Who do you think is in and out coming down the stretch to the NHL Playoffs?
With less than a month until the NHL's trade deadline, there are plenty of players to be aware of as teams try to build towards the playoffs or build for next year. Here are three to keep note of -
1. Antoine Vermette - C - Arizona Coyotes
Vermette has been a bright spot for a team that has been less than great this season. Posting 33 points (11G, 22A) in 53 games of work, Vermette is on pace for a 50+ point season, something he hasn't done since 2009-10 with Columbus, on a team that, if it wasn't for Edmonton throwing their hat into the Conor McDavid mix, would be bottom feeding in the Western Conference. Vermette has been rumored to be on Montreal's radar to fill Lars Eller's absence, but that doesn't seem likely as he would more than likely warrant a first-round pick for his services.
2. Phil Kessel - RW - Toronto Maple Leafs
Who isn't on the table when it comes to the Maple Leafs? After an up and down season had Leafs fans just begging and hoping for a chance to erase the playoff memory of fumbling away a 3 goal lead in the 3rd period of Game 7 in 2013 against the Bruins, the Leafs hit a historical 11-game losing streak. The Leafs are in the Jack Eichel mix, sitting just 5 points ahead of next-to-last place Carolina (because really, Buffalo is getting that first pick), and are losing games once thought to be winnable on paper. Kessel is the BEST player the Leafs have, but the split in the fan base that Kessel causes between people who love him and people who hate him, may be enough to move him and build for the future. Easily, a first-round pick would be needed in any move involving Kessel as he more than likely will eclipse 30 goals for the 6th time in his career.
3. Eric Staal - C - Carolina Hurricanes
It has been a long time since Staal was a 100-point player in the Hurricanes 2005-06 Stanley Cup season. Since then, Carolina has missed the playoffs every season except in 2008-09. Staal has been the face of the franchise for a long time, but it has been for a franchise that never takes the next step when one would think they would be in prime position to do so. Staal provides leadership, good size, and the ability to produce on both sides of the ice and has done so on a team that has not picked above the 5th pick in the last 5 drafts, so it can't be all his fault. A multitude of picks and prospects would be on the table for Carolina in exchange for Staal, as the Hurricanes look to be primed for the 3rd pick in the upcoming draft.
The NHL Trade Deadline is on March 5th. Who do you think will be on the move?
Sparky - NE QB Tom Brady - 24.00 pts Leroy - Den RB CJ Anderson - 16.90 pts Listener (Ross) - Ind QB Andrew Luck - 16.50 pts
Ramie - Den QB Peyton Manning - 12.50 pts Gary - GB RB Eddie Lacy - 12.00 pts
Ramie - Ind QB Andrew Luck - 20.80 pts Leroy - Pit WR Antonio Brown - 20.70 pts Sparky - Dal RB Demarco Murray - 18.70 pts
Listener - Dal QB Tony Romo - 18.70 pts Gary - Pit QB Ben Roethlisberger - 18.60 pts