The NHL playoffs can define a player’s career. It’s when some elevate their games while others crumble, when legacies are made and lost, and when we separate the clutch performers from the choke artists.
There are two schools of thought on all this, and one of them is that everything in that last paragraph is complete nonsense. The playoffs are far too small a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions, and because there’s little evidence that “clutch” even exists in sports, all we're really doing is just crafting lazy and often unfair narratives out of statistical blips that should actually be credited to random chance.
The other school of thought is that while all of that might be true, we don’t care because overreacting to the playoffs is part of the fun of being a sports fan.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going with option no. 2. So here are 10 players that have seen their stock move significantly up or down during the first two rounds.
Over the course of its history, the NHL has developed a long list of playoff traditions that hockey fans now hold dear: the playoff beard, the post-series handshake, the color-coordinated fans, and most important of all, booing Gary Bettman.
Recent years have seen another playoff staple emerge: the sympathetic old guy who hasn’t yet won a Cup.
That’s a veteran player who’s had a long and well-respected career, but is nearing the end of the road without ever having won a ring. As the playoffs drag on and the player gets closer to finally achieving his ultimate goal, it becomes almost impossible not to root for him. (Unless he's playing against your favorite team, in which case you’re still allowed to hope he breaks his hip.)
As an added bonus, when one of these guys is on the roster of the eventual champion, he immediately becomes the favorite to earn one of hockey’s greatest honors — being the first guy the captain hands the Cup to.
The most famous example of this was in 2001, when 40-year-old Ray Bourque finally won his first Stanley Cup in his 22nd season. That led to this scene, which still ranks as one of the best feel-good moments in sports history:
More recently, an emotional Teemu Selanne earned his first Cup in his 15th season in the league, which in hindsight, we will apparently refer to as the halfway point of his career. But this isn’t just a club for the superstars; grinders can earn the honor, too — like veteran fourth-liner Dallas Drake, who won his first Cup in his final NHL game at age 39.
Who’ll get to play the role this year? There’s no shortage of candidates. Here are 10 veteran players vying to be this year’s sympathetic old guy who finally gets a ring.
It feels like just a few weeks ago that we were watching the NHL’s opening night. And it was. Thanks, Bettman!
But in this lockout-shortened season, we’re already in the home stretch. In fact, today is one of just 18 days left on the NHL schedule. In a perfect world, you’d watch them all. But in this imperfect world, there’s a good chance you’re stuck with things like “a job” or “family” or “friends,” so you have to pick your spots.
I’m here for you. I went through each of the remaining 18 days on the NHL regular-season calendar to figure out which were likely to be worth watching, and which could safely be skipped.
In case you were busy learning how boring Nevada is outside of Las Vegas, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Texas's Yu Darvish was one out away from a perfect game, but he was forced to settle for a near shutout as Marwin Gonzalez singled late in the Rangers' 7-0 win over the Houston Astros. "He sure did mar my win tonight, didn't he?" Darvish asked rhetorically after the game, before adding, "see, you can make puns out of anyone's name. Not just mine, Yu guys."
Kobe Bryant got his 19th career triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Dallas Mavericks, 101-81, in a critical Western Conference showdown. The Lakers also retired star center Shaquille O'Neal's no. 34 at the game. Bryant showed great respect for his former teammate, saying, "He's the best player I've ever suited up next to. I mean, even Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal." Bryant's eyes narrowed, as a flood of memories came back to him before he added, "But, of course, Shaquille O'Neal is no Dwight Howard." Bryant's eyes narrowed yet further as he felt compelled to add, "But Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal," before Bryant's eyes became somehow even narrower as he said, "But Shaquille O'Neal is no Dwight Howard." Then Bryant, his eyes now impossibly narrow, added, "But, of course, Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal," before he closed his eyes completely, swallowed hard, and said, "and neither of those guys could hold Elden Campbell's jock."
We’re still two weeks away from the NHL’s April 3 trade deadline, but there’s a good chance action could pick up over the next few days. Recent history has shown a trend toward a quieter deadline day, with most of the bigger dealsgoing downin advance. And because of this season’s modified post-lockout schedule, this week’s annual GM meetings are taking place before the deadline instead of after.
So now seems like a good time to get an early jump on the speculation with a look at 10 of the players who are showing up in trade chatter. Not all of them will be traded (let’s face it, there’s a decent chance none of the top players will), and we all may have moved on to 10 different guys by next week, but right now, these are some of the bigger names driving the rumor mill.
It’s easy to forget that last summer featured some major player transactions in the NHL. Between free agency and an unusually active trade market, plenty of players found new homes. Some of those moves have worked out well. Others not so much. Here are a dozen of the biggest names who switched teams before this season, and an update on the impact they’ve had so far.
Welcome to a weekly blog post of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
The Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three moments or personalities from around the league that produced the most comedic fodder for fans this week.
The third star: Ryan O'Reilly’s dad
It’s always entertaining when a young player’s parents decide to get involved in his contract dispute. For some reason, it’s even better when they decide to do so via Twitter. I’m just disappointed we didn’t have social media when Carl and Bonnie Lindros were in their prime.
It’s probably foolish to try to read anything into two days’ worth of games, especially when half the players in the NHL are still trying to get back to pre-lockout form. But that’s no reason not to try, so here are 10 random observations from the NHL’s opening weekend:
The Blues made a statement
The St. Louis Blues entered the season as a trendy pick to win the Western Conference. They looked the part Saturday, pummeling the Detroit Red Wings, 6-0, and outshooting them, 17-2, in a first-period display that played out as a near-perfect depiction of Ken Hitchcock hockey.
The game also featured the breakout performance of opening weekend, with Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko scoring a pair of goals, including a filthy individual effort in his NHL debut. The 21-year-old 2010 first-round pick has spent the last few seasons in the KHL, and could make a major impact if he can bring consistent production to a Blues offense that wasn’t exactly intimidating last year.
But while Tarasenko could be the league’s next big star, let’s hold off on the hype until we see him do it against an NHL-caliber defense.