Friday, January 29, 2016

Can Carey Price Save the Montreal Canadiens?

Imagine... a team that started out the season on a historic 9-0-0 record is out of a playoff spot at this point in the year. This is mainly because Carey Price, the backbone of the franchise and reigning league MVP, has been injured since early December; however, Mike Condon and Ben Scrivens have been phenomenal in net and are an above average goaltending duo.

What is really getting the Habs is their lack of offence. Although, often, they are outdoing the other team in shots, Their top scorers, PK Subban and Max Pacioretty are above average at best, and the rest of their players are failing to produce. PK Subban, the defenceman, is leading the team in points, and it is usually a bad sign when a defenceman is the leading scorer on a team. Sure, Gallagher, another one of their best players, was injured for almost a month, but they have to get past all the bad luck and not get too far behind a playoff spot if they want to make a lat-minute push when Price gets back.

Another issue dooming the Canadiens is that they are making too many little mistakes. In a game against the Bruins, Andrei Markov passed the puck straight to a Bruins player after Condon made a great save. 

Not only that, but the Habs were wiped with a score of 5-2 twice in two days to the Blue Jackets, and Subban, Markov, and other Habs players put the blame on themselves. 

I don't like that the Habs are struggling so much, but when will this end? They have been the NHL's worst team for too long now. When will they get better? And will they be able to make a push for the playoffs once Price returns?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Evgeny Kuznetsov is on Fire

Who is leading the Washington Capitals right now? I wonder. I open the Capitals' homepage, look at the player stats, and do a double take. That Russian - again? I thought that ended in the beginning of the season when he had a hot streak. No, not Alex Ovechkin, but yes, Evgeny Kuznetsov.

As of now, Kuznetsov has 15 goals and 33 assists, giving him 48 points, good for four better than Nicklas Backstrom and six more than countryman Alex Ovechkin. On top of that, he is seventh in the league in points, fourth in assists, and second in plus-minus. On the team, only Alex Ovechkin and Justin Williams have more goals than him, and he is 46th in the league in goals, and that is only because of ties.

Looking at Kuznetsov, it is not his ability to hit or shoot that makes him so good. Rather, it is his ability to skate so well, it looks like he's not even moving, and his skillful ability to puckhandle.

So, believe in him. These breakout performances last playoffs were not a fluke. This guy is capable of becoming one of the best players in the league, and I think he will be by 2020, if not already. As coach Barry Trotz said about him in October - "He’s not afraid of the big moments. He’s not afraid of the top players in the league. He wants to be one of the best guys in the game, and I think he can be." And its not just the coach, fellow teammates have said it as well. He has the ability to be a top-five player in this league. With the amount of poise, skill, and commitment to getting better, it’s amazing to watch him every day," says Braden Holtby, one of the best goalies in the game.

Kuznetsov truly is a breakout star in his own right. Keep watching his and I think that after Alex Ovechkin retires, he will become the Caps' next Alex Ovechkin.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What if Jaromir Jagr Hadn't Played in the KHL?

On December 20, Jaromir Jagr passed Marcel Dionne for fourth all-time on the NHL goal list with 732 goals. While it took Dionne 1348 games, Jagr took 1581, but that was because in this era, defence has much more of an emphasis and goaltenders are much better. According to Yahoo Sports, "Jagr is fourth in goals behind Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801) and Brett Hull (741). His 1,826 points (through Sunday’s games) rank fourth behind Wayne Gretzky (2,857), Mark Messier (1,887) and Gordie Howe (1,850)."

It's fair bet to say that he could get ahead of Messier and Howe in the next season or two, and he could very well pass Hull and possibly Howe in goals, if he plays for long enough. However, the question is, what if he hadn't gone to play in the KHL? Where would he have been now?
In 1994-95, there was an NHL lockout that took away half of the season, then another in 2004-05. (Apparently this is a thing that happens every ten years nowadays *Thank you, Gary Bettman* because there was also one in 2012-13.) Anyway, he also played in the KHL for three seasons from 2008-11. Based on projections from Yahoo Sports, if he hadn't spent that much time off from the NHL, he would have ended up with 852 career goals and 2,174 career points, not counting injuries, slumps, etc. 

This "what-if" will forever continue to haunt us hockey fans - where would Jagr be right now without these years he took off?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ryan Whitney Article on the Players' Tribune

"In 2013, Ryan Whitney's ankles were shot and his NHL career was done. Instead of going back to school or hitting the beach, Whitney decided to explore playing abroad, perhaps in Sweden or Switzerland. He would end up in Russia, however, where he'd encounter weird groceries, Red Army-era coaches and cigarette-smoking nurses.

'Let me preface the rest of this story by saying that I’m a kid from Boston about to get on a plane and be thrown into a very strange experience on the other side of the world. You may experience some strong language. Viewer discretion is advised.'"

... Ryan Whitney has written an article about being a North American player playing abroad in Russia on The Players' Tribune. Check out his article using this link: