Murray And Jones Are Playing For MORE Than The Stanley Cup

The 2016 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks features a battle between two young up-and-coming goaltenders, Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray and San Jose’s Martin Jones. Both have given their teams what they have sorely lacked in previous years; steady, dependable, shut-down goaltending, the kind that wins Stanley Cups.

But Murray and Jones are playing for more than the NHL’s ultimate trophy. First, the winning goaltender will probably win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both goaltenders are the main reason why their teams are in the final.

And there is a long-term prize available. The winning goaltender and probably the loser too if he plays well will probably get an invitation to the training camp of Team Canada for the upcoming World Cup this autumn and future international hockey events down the road . So there is a good chance that Murray and Jones might end up being teammates later in the year or some time in the future. Murray could also be invited to the under-23 Team North America camp. Since the NHL plans to revive the World Cup as an event to played every four years, as well as the Olympics and other international events, good performances by both goaltenders in this final will build their reputation as reliable goaltenders in big games and earn them consideration for future international events.

Both goaltenders eliminated some formidable opposition to reach this point. Murray eliminated Pittsburgh nemesis New York Rangers featuring goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, then President’s Trophy winner Washington, and then Pittsburgh’s toughest Eastern Conference opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, though the series was marred by key injuries to Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop and star forward Steve Stamkos.

Jones was matched in the first round against former Conn Smythe Trophy winner, goaltender Jonathan Quick and the Sharks dispatched the favored Los Angeles Kings in only five games. Then came a match-up with the up-and-coming Nashville Predators and steady Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, which San Jose won in a 7-game thriller with Jones posting a crucial shut-out in the clinching game. The St. Louis Blues proved to be an easier foe with Jones posting back-to-back shut-outs to move the Sharks into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time ever.

So both goaltenders should be the key players for their teams. Any noticeable difference in performance between them could well prove to be the deciding element of this year’s final. This series could well be the start of a personal rivalry that could go on for years.

2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final Playoff Predictions

And now the round everybody has been waiting for, featuring Pittsburgh and San Jose. I modestly congratulate myself for being 100% right as to my Conference Final predictions. As is my custom with all previous rounds, I’ll analyze what happened in the Conference Finals first and try to make sense of it all.

Biggest Winners: Players

1. Martin Jones

Jones continued his potential Conn Smythe goaltending performance by posting two back-to-back shutouts that destroyed any illusions that the St. Louis Blues were this year’s team of destiny. One more major challenge awaits him, but he, more than any other player is the reason why San Jose is in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time.

2. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns

In fact I could list the entire San Jose offense here but these three players deserve special mention. No team has found a way to cool off any of these players or even some of the others not mentioned here. San Jose has been waiting a long time to get consistent playoff performances like this and if they continue to be this hot in the final round, San Jose just might celebrate its first Stanley Cup.

3. Matt Murray

Once again the Pittsburgh offense which is supposed to be the strength of this team was not the deciding factor but in the end it was Murray’s excellent goaltending that saved the day. Every game that Pittsburgh won, Murray held the Lightning attack to under three goals. He is the main reason Pittsburgh is back in the Stanley Cup Final.

Biggest Losers: Players

1. Brian Elliott/Jake Allen

It’s not that Elliott or Allen played poorly. It’s just that when you compare their performance to what Jones has given San Jose, Matt Murray’s performance for Pittsburgh, or when one remembers the performance that Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick gave when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy, you realize that Elliott/Allen are just not good enough. Both are good goalies and Elliott was able to pull off the upset against Chicago and the defeat of Dallas but they are not consistent enough, nor stingy enough to carry a team to a Stanley Cup Championship. Goaltending is probably one of the major factors St. Louis must improve if they are going to go all the way.

2. Marc Andre Fleury

This is just a repeat of what I wrote in the Conference Final predictions. After Murray had a rough outing against tough Tampa Bay, coach Mike Sullivan started Fleury who gave up his usual 4-plus goals in a Lightning victory. Unless Murray is really horrible or gets injured against San Jose, Fleury has played his last game in Pittsburgh.

Biggest Winners: Teams

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

Imagine if the St. Louis Blues had won the third round. Then imagine if they had gone on to win the Stanley Cup. That would have meant that the poor Maple Leafs and all their fans, who have suffered under two long periods of bad ownership/management, first by Harold Ballard and then by the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund, who incredibly somehow managed to surpass Ballard’s horrible ownership record, now would have to be all by themselves instead of sharing the longest current streak, now officially at 49 years without winning the Stanley Cup. But if the Blues make the right moves in the off season, there is the chance they might finally get over the top next year. In contrast, the Leafs, still paying for  the Teachers’ time of ownership, are still at the bottom of the heap with next year’s number one draft choice. Every Leaf fan, player, and member of the organization, in gratitude for the ousting of St. Louis which spared the Leafs the ultimate humiliation, should put on a Sharks uniform and cheer unrepentantly for San Jose in this year’s Final.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins are not so much a big winner as they escaped being a big loser. If they had lost to Tampa Bay in the playoffs for a second time, with Tampa Bay not having its best goaltender, Ben Bishop, or its best forward, Steve Stamkos except for the last game, they would have been behind a huge psychological eight ball. As it was they just squeaked through thanks to goaltender Matt Murray. The stage is set for future Penguin-Lightning playoff confrontations.

Team Eliminated By Corruption?

This may be monotonous but it is so important that I will repeat it now and probably again and again in future articles. I recently wrote two articles for this blog explaining that there is a cure for coronary heart disease that is being covered up by foul, slimy, underhanded practices in the world health industry. Tampa Bay was without its captain and best forward Steve Stamkos for the entire playoffs except for the desperate game 7 match with Pittsburgh. Had Stamkos been given this remedy (officially labeled “alternative medicine” by the FDA, Health Canada and the other official powers-that-be), it is likely he would not have had to have surgery to remove blood clots or have missed a single game in the playoffs. When Stamkos returned, he was probably too rusty to be effective, but what would have been the result if he had been able to play the entire Conference Final? On the Pittsburgh side, Pascal Dupuis has been forced into unnecessary retirement for the same reason. The NHL takes its marching orders from official government medicine and will not consider “alternative medicine”, much of which is far more effective and far more cheaper than “official” medical practices. Pittsburgh may have “officially” eliminated Tampa Bay but there may be truth in the belief that the Lightning were eliminated by a corrupt health industry.

Stupidity Redeemed By Repentance

After steady Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray had a tough game against Tampa Bay, coach Mike Sullivan made the worst coaching decision of the playoffs so far by starting Jekyll and Hyde, erratic, playoff goaltender Marc Andre Fleury in the next game. Fleury was his usual self, giving up four goals including the overtime winner. Fortunately it was only game 5 so Sullivan had a chance to repent the error of his ways and restore Murray and Fleury has not been seen since.

 

Stanley Cup Final

Pittsburgh-San Jose

This is the battle of the two up-and-coming, would-be-Conn Smythe Trophy winner goaltenders, Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, and San Jose’s Martin Jones. The goaltending match-up is so even that whichever team’s goaltender is a little bit better will be the likely winner. The coaching match is even too, with San Jose’s Peter DeBoer who has a habit of taking underdog teams to the Stanley Cup Final against Mike Sullivan who seems to have finally righted the ship in Pittsburgh. Both coaches are seeking their first Stanley Cup.

On paper this seems a mismatch. San Jose has no player to compare with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The problem is that while Crosby and Malkin have made contributions to the Pittsburgh victories, they have not played like Crosby and Malkin who are supposed to be head and shoulders above everybody else. On the other hand, the San Jose offense has been getting contributions from everybody and there are too many players contributing to be entirely smothered. Pittsburgh is favored, has home ice advantage, and should win but I am going to pick an upset. I say that Martin Jones is just a little bit better than Matt Murray, that the San Jose offence cannot be stopped,  that San Jose is the team of destiny, and that coach Peter DeBoer will achieve with the underdog Sharks what he failed to do with the underdog New Jersey Devils and win San Jose’s first Stanley Cup in 6 games.

San Jose Showed What St. Louis Lacks

So far, I am 50% right in my predictions for the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the San Jose Sharks ousting the St. Louis Blues in six games – and significantly for the reasons why I said they would. I said that the main difference between the two teams were two factors, goaltending and offence.

San Jose goaltender Martin Jones outplayed two far better goaltenders in the early rounds, Los Angeles Kings’ former Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Quick, and steady Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne. No matter who St. Louis put in the net, Brian Elliott or Jake Allen, they were no match for Jones. Two convincing back-to-back shutouts were the back-breaking, demoralizing factors that broke the spirit of St. Louis and sapped their will to win.

And that points to the second reason why St. Louis lost, they have no hot playoff shooters whom San Jose would have had to cool off. St. Louis has Vladimir Tarasenko, and got a modest contribution from Paul Stastny… and nobody else. In contrast San Jose is getting contributions from everybody, particularly Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Joel Ward, and even Patrick Marleau. St. Louis may have a better defense on paper but there were too many hot shooters for them to contain.

This is a bitter defeat for St. Louis, who like San Jose have choked so many times in the early rounds and who, like the Sharks thought they were the team of destiny, finally breaking through to the Western Conference Final and ousting long time nemesis Chicago along the way. On the positive side, this defeat should make plain what St. Louis has lacked and continues to lack. They have to get themselves a shut-down goaltender and add hot shooters who consistently come up big in the playoffs.

Like the Islanders and Capitals, this off-season will be a key one for the Blues to determine which direction they will go. They have made significant gains in the playoffs this year but if they want to go farther, they have to add more. The pressure is now on the St. Louis ownership and management to come up with a positive answer.

As for the Sharks, this convincing victory should give them more confidence and strengthen the belief that they are the team of destiny. They will be the underdog in the Stanley Cup Final, whether it is Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay. But if they keep getting the contributions they are getting from Jones and  the San Jose offence, maybe a destiny upset might be in the cards.

Pascal Dupuis Did NOT Have To Retire Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, I told how I had beaten coronary heart disease with the help of a chelation remedy – literally within hours. If this works – and the fact that I am still alive should be proof enough – why has the remedy not been recognized?

Very early when I began to do research on the Internet about the chelation remedy, I became aware that there was a lot of hatred against it. The most famous advocate of using this type of medicine was double-Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling (above top right). Typical of the hatred that I found were several websites created solely to denounce Pauling for advocating chelation. These websites use scare tactics to discourage people from taking their own life into their hands and trusting themselves with their own health. (This is done with other remedies besides chelation as well.) In them, the doctor is like a god-like figure, never to be disputed or questioned. Usually there is a declaration absolving him of all responsibility if patients decide to try something on their own, and another sentence suggesting “guilt” if somebody does try it. While I do not recommend ignoring a medical professional’s advice, my experience proves that there are choices that do work for various illnesses that established medicine refuses to recognize.

And many “interest groups” have good reason to hate the chelation remedy or any cure for coronary heart disease. It almost goes without saying that heart surgeons will not like chelation. The most frequent operations that they perform are the bypass and the stent. The chelation remedy would make these kinds of operations a rare occurrence. The high death rate that coronary heart disease causes means that the chelation remedy is unlikely to win any friends in the funeral business either. Also companies that make foods that are cholesterol-free will not welcome a remedy that solves cholesterol problems by removing it completely from the body.

But the worst haters are probably the pharmaceutical companies. When patients have conventional heart surgery, as a consequence, on average, they have to take 12 medications sometimes rising to as many as 30. There has been recent data released and it was found that in the United States alone, $75 billion is spent yearly on heart medication. How many medications do I take since the chelation remedy rid me of coronary heart disease? Zero! I only take CoQ10 regularly because of my heart failure, and the chelation remedy once or twice a year. If the chelation remedy is recognized, it is goodbye to 30 unnecessary medications and $75 billion in annual profits.

So how is the chelation remedy being blocked from official recognition? Through the clinical trial system where even murder is used to discredit it. In recent centuries, people have come to practice the “scientific method” as a way of believing in things. Experiments are conducted and have to be successfully replicated and verified before it can be said that things “work” or are “believable”. The clinical trial system operates on this basis. At its best, the clinical trial system can detect and prevent quack medicines like thalidomide and other “bad” medicine from reaching the public. At its worst, it can also keep valid cures from reaching them too.

A few years ago, a clinical trial was arranged for a chelation remedy under the name of “TACT”, but right away it seemed that its opponents went out of their way to make sure that it was discredited. A clinical trial should be as brief as possible and not take very long, but for some reason TACT went on for well-over a half decade and cost far more money than it should have. One way of discrediting a potential medical product is to claim that it can do more than its makers intended it to do. The chelation remedy is supposed to be treatment for coronary heart disease and nothing more, but somehow a claim was made that chelation benefits autistic children. While it would be fairly straight forward and easy to prove that chelation benefits coronary heart disease patients by doing a follow-up angiogram like what occurred in my case, it is far more difficult to prove that chelation benefits autistic children.

Despite the warning that the chelation remedy is not recommended for children, experiments were carried out in America where two young autistic children were given the remedy and promptly died. The opponents of chelation got what they were looking for and TACT was cancelled and a fearful warning was issued about this “dangerous” drug. Of course the chelation remedy is powerful medicine and has to be respected. But that is no different than any other drug. There are explicit instructions from the company about what is a safe level and warnings not to exceed it, along with the warning about who can take it. If the chelation remedy is dangerous and cannot be recognized, why are sleeping pills also not recognized? More people commit suicide with them than the chelation remedy could ever come close to.

Today the chelation remedy is officially classified as “alternative medicine” and will not be recommended by doctors of conventional medicine or Heart Associations. If heart and stroke patients want to try it, they are on their own and have to do the research and have the courage to fly in face of official denunciation and scare tactics like I did.

And since the NHL and ever other professional and amateur sports organization complies with official government stances on medicine, the chelation remedy is never used. If Dupuis wants to cure himself and get back playing in the NHL, he is on his own. He can buy the product over the Internet like I did (bottom left) or go to a professional chelation clinic and get his clots removed under a doctor’s supervision (bottom right). Then he would have to be tested for heart failure.

This cunning fraud is not just confined to coronary heart disease. I have heard that shiatsu massage properly given can cure hay fever permanently and other allergies. But like the chelation remedy, shiatsu massage is not recognized as a cure and is also classified as “alternative medicine”. There are probably other “alternative medicines” for other diseases that are not recognized as well.

A few years ago, there was survey done in Canada in which 37% of those questioned said they would consider “alternative medicine” instead of official conventional medicine to cure their illnesses. And this figure is growing. Some day there will be a breakthrough and the chelation remedy will be recognized for the cure it is. But for now NHL players like Dupuis (top left)  have to either end their careers or do the research and have the courage to take a chance like I did to keep on playing and living.

Pascal Dupuis Did NOT Have To Retire Part 1

While NHL fans are awaiting the outcome of the Conference Finals and whether or not there will be NHL expansion, I must find other topics of interest. One seemingly trivial topic that did not attract much notice was the retirement of Pittsburgh Penguin, Pascal Dupuis (above top left) due to recurring blood clots. Dupuis is also Pittsburgh’s choice this year for the Bill Masterton Trophy. But this story is not trivial and can affect every figure in sports, and everybody else all over the planet.

Blood clots are also significantly affecting the Penguins current opponents in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Star Lightning forward Steve Stamkos (above top right)  has not played a single playoff game since recovering from surgery for the removal of a blood clot in his neck. As for Dupuis, he has tried to come back several times but has finally given up for good. Too bad he – and the Penguins, the Lightning and the NHL – does not know the truth, that only an insider like myself found out – the hard way.

 
Blood clots are a form of coronary heart disease (sometimes popularly called “hardening of the arteries”). This disease is the worst killer in North America – even more than cancer – and probably in the world. Over 10,000 Canadians die each year. In the United States it is probably hideous Holocaust numbers. It can strike anyone (and mammals and birds) at any time of life. It has killed or maimed too many notable sports figures to count, Dupuis, Johnny Unitas, Ron Lancaster, Bobby Ackles, – and most tragically for hockey, top New York Rangers draft pick Alexei Cherepanov in 2008, aged only 19 (above bottom left).

Coronary heart disease can cause death and serious health problems in several ways. If too much heart plaque concentrates around the heart area, it can cause a heart attack, sometimes fatally. If the concentration occurs in the brain, the result is a stroke. Then there are the various “minor” health problems like Dupuis’s and Stamkos’s clots.

In 2008, I was diagnosed with coronary heart disease after various tests showed that I had a blockage of unknown size and unknown location somewhere around my heart. I was scheduled for an angiogram (where a long tube with a mini-camera is inserted into an artery to hunt for the blockage) two months later and given a box of nitroglycerin to carry at all times in case the worst should occur. Once the blockage was found I would probably be scheduled for some form of open heart surgery, probably a bypass or stent operation, if I was fortunate enough to live that long.

Fortunately I lived in the age of the Internet and was able to take action of my own. First I thought that since it was 2008, was the composition of heart plaque known? Through research on the Internet I discovered this was true. I then thought, “If the composition of heart plaque is known, why doesn’t somebody invent some kind of drug or remedy to remove it without anybody having to go through open heart surgery?” So on a whim I typed “stuff to remove heart plaque” into the Internet search engine and to my amazement, up came several websites claiming they had products to do just that.

I had two reactions; on one hand I had hope again and rejoiced because this was offering me an alternative to open heart surgery or death; on the other I was cynical, skeptical, and suspicious because no doctor had told me about such products and this might only be people telling me what I wanted to hear. After all, coronary heart disease is officially classified as “incurable”.

But the chance to be cured was too good to be ignored, especially when compared with the two alternatives, death or heart surgery. So I spent over a month doing research on the Internet about these products. There was a lot of hatred and scare tactics on the Internet, though significantly NOT by people who had used the product. I visited the companies’ websites, viewed forums by people who had used these products, found out possible side effects, learned whatever I could and in the end I asked myself what was the worst that could happen if I tried one of them.

There were four restrictions about taking this product and none applied to me. It was not recommended for children nor for pregnant women, and it was not recommended for people with either liver or kidney disease. The only side effect was diarrhea. So the worst that could happen to me was that I would stay the same, have a bad case of diarrhea, and waste $180 (including the price of shipping) plus another dollar to buy a jug of distilled water to mix the remedy. But what if it worked?

I have wasted money in worse ways so I decided to try one. It came from Minnesota and arrived by special courier four days later. It was a six week program, requiring me to take the remedy six times a day at different intervals, gradually being reduced to four times a day.

To make a long story short, I cynically took my six doses that first day and then retired to bed. I did not feel any better but when I woke up 4½ hours later, everything had changed. I now could feel blood flow around my heart that I could not feel before. It was 16½ hours after I had taken my first dose. And it was only now that I truly began to believe that this remedy was doing what it promised to do: remove heart plaque from my body.

Two weeks later was my angiogram and it confirmed what I believed; the tube with the camera could not find anything to operate on. I had beaten coronary heart disease without open heart surgery.   Eight years later I am still alive and have no more chest pains.

So what is this stuff and how does it work? To understand what had happened, people have to know two things; the difference between veins and arteries and capillaries; and the composition of heart plaque. The walls of veins have only two layers while arteries and capillaries have three. This is why most blockages occur in the latter.

Heart plaque is composed of two substances, cholesterol and minerals. If somebody were to pour a gallon of pure cholesterol down a completely clean artery, nothing would stick and everything would be converted into urine. But because humans, mammals, and birds eat, breathe, and absorb minerals, some of them stick to the walls of arteries and capillaries. Then when cholesterol is absorbed, it in turn sticks to the minerals – not to the walls of the blood vessels – forming heart plaque.

The remedy I took is called a chelation remedy (above bottom right) – chelation meaning to purify. In effect it is an acid. It goes into the circulatory system where it dissolves the bond between the minerals and the wall of the blood vessels and sweeps them away. Since the cholesterol has nothing more to stick to, it too gets swept away and everything gets safely converted into urine by the kidneys.

Chelation has been around since the 1950s, when it was used to remove toxic mineral buildup in miners. There are two ways of doing it, either buying it over the Internet like I did and being my own doctor, or (if a patient does not trust himself/herself) going to a special chelation clinic (there are lots of these clinics around the world) and getting the plaque removed under a doctor’s supervision. But this is more expensive. There are many videos about chelation on You Tube.

So Pascal Dupuis and Steve Stamkos could get rid of their blood clots by the chelation remedy and be playing again. Of course the plaque will return again over time but by taking the remedy at regular intervals for the rest of their lives, they will never get into the danger zone again. And chelation has another huge advantage over open heart surgery. Surgery only gets rid of the plaque around the heart area while the chelation remedy gets rid of it from the entire body. So not only are people protected from heart attacks, they are also protected from strokes in the brain and blood clots anywhere else.

Unfortunately in my case, while my angiogram confirmed I no longer had coronary heart disease, the first disease had caused a second disease, heart failure, which is damage to the heart itself. This occurred because the effort of my heart to pump the blood when the blood vessels were clogged strained the heart’s muscles. (There have been developments concerning this disease but that merits a separate article.) So if Dupuis were to be allowed to return, he would also have to be cleared for heart failure as well.

So if a cure for coronary heart disease exists why do not doctors prescribe it? Why do so few people know about it? Why are scare tactics being used to discourage people from trying it? The answer is in part 2.

Next: Why No Cure?

 

Updated Lottery Mock Draft!

It’s that time of the year, the lottery’s done, and the dust has been settled. So given the knowledge we have, here’s our updated mock draft. We have a few explanations below, so tell us what you think!

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs – Auston Matthews
  2. Winnipeg Jets – Patrik Laine
  3. Columbus Blue Jackets -Jesse Puljujarvi
  4. Edmonton Oilers – Jacob Chychrun
  5. Vancouver Canucks – Pierre-Luc Dubois
  6. Calgary Flames – Matthew Tkachuk
  7. Arizona Coyotes – Mikhail Sergachev
  8. Buffalo Sabres – Alex Nylander
  9. Montreal Canadiens – Logan Brown
  10. Colorado Avalanche – Olli Juolevi
  11. New Jersey Devils – Tyson Jost
  12. Ottawa Senators – Max Jones
  13. Carolina Hurricanes – Michael McLeod
  14. Boston Bruins – Clayton Keller

 

Analysis:

The whole Matthews vs Laine debate is just media hype in my opinion. It’s not really close, and Laine’s hype comes from a handful of games. Every year there’s always a scenario pitting the  established guy versus this hotshot underdog! Who’s going to be picked first?! At the end of the day, it brings in views. I’m not saying that Laine will be a ECHL player for his entire career, but at this point Matthews is a clear #1 selection for me. All of that is my opinion and there’s a pretty good chance I’m wrong.

Look for the Edmonton Oilers to trade down. Possibly with the Montreal Canadiens. The best players available are all forwards (Tkachuk, Nylander, Dubois), and the best defenseman are all available lower down (Chychrun, Sergachev, Juolevi). The Oilers are full of young wingers, and the Habs would love to get their hands on Pierre Luc Dubois. If a trade doesn’t happen, the trade talks for players such as Eberle, Hall, and Yakupov to heat up. But for simplicity’s sake, we’re assuming no trades happen.

We also know that the Canucks are planning to draft a forward so that removes a few defenseman, off our list. For us it’s a coin flip between Dubois and Tkachuk but Dubios’ offensive talent gives him a little edge over Tkachuk.

The Sabres could use a little more talent on the wings, so they take the best wing available left in Alex Nylander.

The Montreal Canadiens need a bigger center and choose the 6’6 Logan Brown. His game is a bit more polished and could possibly slot in at the 3C position next year. Well this is as long as Michel Therrien doesn’t play him on the wing à la Galchenyuk.

 

Agree? Disagree? Let us know! Comment below or “like” us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog/ or by tweeting us at @hkyblogger!

Ball Is In The Court Of Islanders Management

Now that the New York Islanders have been eliminated by the much superior Tampa Bay Lightning, the question is where do they go from here? The answer will be provided by General Manager Garth Snow and upper management.

If anyone doubted the hunger of John Tavares to make a mark in the playoffs, this year’s result should silence the critics. When the Islanders were eliminated, Tavares was among the leaders in points and goals. He desperately wants to lift the Islanders to the level of the Steve Stamkos Lightning, the Sidney Crosby Penguins, and the Jonathan Toews Blackhawks.

And that is the problem. To get to that level, to be a true Stanley Cup contender, the Islanders need to upgrade their talent. Just having Tavares as one star is not enough. The Islanders need several more significant additions before they can reach the level of the Lightning, the team that eliminated them. They took a significant step forward this year by finally winning a playoff round after going eons without winning one. But being able to eliminate the new-kid-on-the-block Florida Panthers is far different from being able to eliminate one of the conference’s leading Stanley Cup contenders, Tampa Bay. The Islanders put up a valiant struggle but do not have the talent to compete.

All the teams that win the Stanley Cup usually have several stars, not one. It is rare that a team with only one top star wins a Stanley Cup. After Wayne Gretzky got traded from Edmonton, he never won another Cup. It is the great team, not the great player who wins an NHL championship. There are no other Islander players joining Tavares on the leader board. He cannot do it all by himself. He needs several other stars to pick up the slack when he has a bad game or when he is checked effectively.

When the Islanders were in their glory years from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, they were a team full of star players. Five of them, Billy Smith, Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, and Brian Trottier are now in the Hockey Hall of Fame after winning four consecutive Stanley Cups.

The current players on the Islanders cannot do any more than they have done so now it up to the Islander management and ownership to take the next step. They have to draft well and sign key free agents if they are to reach the level of the Lightning. How much is ownership and management prepared to do this?

Clearly a team built around Tavares is heading in the right direction. But he has to have more players of the same caliber as himself for this team to really make a move in the playoffs.

Right now the Islanders can be classed with wheel-spinners Minnesota, Anaheim, and Washington. To advance deep into the playoffs and being able to eliminate really good teams is going to take a momentous step, a significant upgrade. The Islanders seem to have the spirit and the coaching to do it. Now they need the talent and that is up to management.

2016 NHL THIRD ROUND PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

I certainly had a better fate as a soothsayer in the second round as opposed to the first round with three correct predictions and only just failing with Nashville in a tough, thrilling 7 game series. As in the first round, some players and teams deserve a little more commemoration and some players and teams merit some criticism before moving on to third round predictions. So once again, before casting a predictions spell, I’ll briefly analyze what happened in the second round and list teams and players to whom significant consequences might befall.

Players Who Won Big

1. Matt Murray

Murray has given Pittsburgh the kind of steady goaltending that his predecessor and backup, Marc Andre Fleury has failed to give during the previous playoff years since Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Pittsburgh could get swept by Tampa Bay in the coming round and yet all Murray has to do is keep the scores low and close and the starting goaltender job for next year will be his. He is Pittsburgh’s leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

2. Victor Hedman

On Tampa Bay’s side, Hedman has been proving his quality which made him a high number one pick by the Lightning. Despite the absence of two of Tampa Bay’s top players, Steve Stamkos and Anton Stralman, the Lightning have made it all the way to the third round. Hedman has been a leader in getting his team this far and along with goaltender Ben Bishop, is the Lightning’s leading player for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

3. T. J. Oshie

Despite Washington’s elimination, Oshie came up big for them against a quality opponent, Pittsburgh. Oshie’s contribution, to score, assist, and make key plays at critical times has been so sorely lacking during the Ovechkin era. Alas, it was still not enough to get choker Washington into the Conference Final. Forget Ovechkin, Washington should now be Oshie’s team, and the focus of management in the off season should be to build a contender around him.

4. Martin Jones

Once again Jones outplayed an established goaltender, Nashville’s steady Pekka Rinne, and finished the series in fine style with a convincing shutout. The Sharks should be over the hill, but thanks to Jones’s playoff-caliber goaltending, San Jose, like St. Louis is now in new territory, past the usual round 2 choke act. Jones, along with Pittsburgh’s Murray are the leading goaltenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

5. Joe Thornton

Like I said in my round 2 predictions, after all the years I’ve criticized severely Joe Thornton, he deserves a special pat on the back for his contributions in these two series in his old hockey age. He may not be the main man any more but he made significant contributions to San Jose’s two victories.

6. Logan Couture

Along with goaltender Jones, Couture is San Jose’s main contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He has been unstoppable in both playoff rounds and his offense, combined with Jones’s goaltending has put the Sharks in a round they have seldom visited. He is the main man for San Jose and the Sharks are his team now.

Players Who Lost Big

1. Brooks Orpik

In my second round predictions, I zeroed in on Alexander Ovechkin as the player with the most to lose if Washington was defeated, and as a sideline mentioned Orpik and Nicklas Backstrom as other players whose future in Washington was on the line. Washington got significant contributions from Ovechkin and Backstrom but three actions by Orpik contributed significantly to the Washington defeat. First he got himself suspended for three games just when his team needed him the most. And his suspension directly led to mistake number two, the insertion of Mike Weber into the lineup. Weber mishandled the puck leading to an overtime Pittsburgh goal and a 3-1 series lead. Finally Orpik high-sticked an opponent, drawing a double-minor during which Pittsburgh scored two goals. Orpik is now in his mid-thirties. His days as a Capital may be over.

2. Marc Andre Fleury

This may be the first and only time when a player who does not play in the playoffs is a big loser. As noted above, the steady play of Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray is making Fleury obsolete. His only hope is for Murray to be horrible against Tampa Bay or for Murray to get injured to remain in Pittsburgh. Actually Fleury has lost his position years earlier by his erratic goaltending in the playoffs since the Pittsburgh victory of 2009, particularly a horrible performance against underdog Philadelphia which may be the worst goaltending in an entire playoff round that I have ever seen. The goaltending job in Pittsburgh has been open for years and finally Murray has provided the playoff goaltending needed to grab the job from Fleury. Pittsburgh management will not continue to keep Fleury with his big contact and inferior playoff goaltending.

Players Under The Gun

1. Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin

Crosby and Malkin were mostly silent during the Washington series, were outplayed by their direct rivals, Ovechkin and Backstrom… and Pittsburgh still won. But now they are not facing traditional choke team Washington, but their most dangerous Eastern Conference rival, Tampa Bay. During the playoff years since the 2009 Stanley Cup victory, Pittsburgh could usually blame erratic goaltender Marc Andre Fleury and overall bad defensive play for their defeats. But that excuse is gone thanks to the steady goaltending Matt Murray has given the Penguins. Crosby and Malkin cannot afford to be invisible against Tampa Bay, especially since the Lightning are without several key injured players, most notably Steve Stamkos. Tampa Bay do not have a habit of choking like Washington has. They have already ousted the Penguins in their only meeting during the Crosby-Malkin era. In the absence of Stamkos and other key Tampa Bay players, if Crosby and Malkin are not the difference, it will be difficult for Pittsburgh to win against the Lightning, not only now but also in future playoff meetings against Tampa Bay that are likely to occur frequently in the immediate future.

2. Brian Elliott

Elliott nearly gave the series away to Dallas and ended his career in St. Louis by playing a horrible first period on home ice in game 6. Fortunately he had a second chance in game 7 and redeemed himself. He cannot afford the luxury of occasional bad play if St. Louis wants to go even further than round 3. Now he will be facing one of the two newest goaltenders who are leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, San Jose’s Martin Jones. Jones has shown he can outplay top goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne so Elliott cannot afford even one bad period. He has to rise to the occasion for St. Louis.

Teams That Won Big

1. St. Louis Blues

The Blues came close to being in the category Teams That Lost Big when goaltender Brian Elliott played like a bonehead on home ice in game 6, when he tried to hand the series to Dallas and let in three goals in the first period when Dallas got a grand total of seven shots. But instead of choking in the second round as usual, St Louis showed poise, desperation, and determination that has been so significantly lacking in too many round 2s to count and this time routed Dallas convincingly in Dallas’s own arena in game 7. Has St Louis finally got over the hump? First they eliminated one of the teams that traditionally eliminated them, defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago and now Dallas, both in 7-game series thrillers. They are now in round 3, strange territory for them. How will they fare?

2. San Jose Sharks

They are supposed to be old and over-the-hill, but San Jose, like St. Louis is now in new territory after getting through round 2 where they usually choke against tough Nashville in a gritty 7-game series. Much of the credit should go to coach Peter DeBoer who took under-talented New Jersey all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and has now got the supposedly washed up Sharks past the two rounds where they traditionally blow it. On the ice, the two main reasons for San Jose’s success have been forward Logan Couture and goaltender Martin Jones. Is San Jose the team of destiny? They will start to believe it after the victory over Nashville.

Teams That Lost Big

1. Washington Capitals

I’ve covered this in finer detail in its own article. Briefly I will repeat that Washington has never been to the Eastern Conference Final during the Ovechkin era and HAD to win this series to make whatever achievements that had occurred during the regular season count. I don’t care if Pittsburgh was a quality opponent and may well win the Stanley Cup, Ovechkin-Backstrom was supposed to be better then Crosby-Malkin at least 50% of the time. Actually Ovechkin and Backstrom, outplayed their two Pittsburgh rivals and even with the additional outstanding contribution from T. J. Oshie, it still was not enough. As noted above, Brooks Orpik played like a numskull and goaltender Braden Holtby failed to be a difference-maker. It won’t help that traditional second round choker Washington’s defeat will be contrasted with traditional second round choker St. Louis’s victory over Dallas and that the Blues also managed to finally eliminate the team they traditionally lose to, Chicago. And to rub salt into Washington’s wounds, fellow traditional round 2 choker San Jose also advanced. For now at least, St. Louis and San Jose may have finally got over their playoff humps while Washington remains behind its mound. What the Capitals do or do not do in the off season will be significant for the future of this team.

Eastern Conference Final

Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay

When Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin entered the NHL at the same time, it was prophesied that Pittsburgh-Washington would be the main rivalry in the Eastern Conference until the end of their careers. But that has proved to be a complete fizzle. Washington has not been Pittsburgh’s most dangerous opponent. It is now this team, the Lightning. They have already met once in the playoffs during the Crosby-Malkin era with Tampa Bay ousting the Penguins in an upset. This series should have been the best so far in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs but it is marred by injuries to key Tampa Bay players, Steve Stamkos, Anton Stralman, and J. T. Brown. But Stralman and Brown wore full contact uniforms in practice recently so they may get into the lineup soon, and there is even a glimmer of hope that Stamkos may return if the series goes long enough. This is the kind of series Stamkos would have loved, a direct head-to-head confrontation with Crosby and Malkin to prove whose superstar team is the best in the conference if not the entire NHL. It would also be a chance to prove that he, not Ovechkin is their main Eastern Conference rival. That Tampa Bay has advanced this far convincingly without some of their key stars shows how good this team really is. Besides the forwards, there is the Victor Hedman-Kris Letang defense match-up and the duel between goaltenders Matt Murray and Ben Bishop. This series is not just for this year. This may be the first round of many Penguin-Lightning confrontations in the immediate future and the winner will acquire a psychological edge over his opponent in future meetings. If everyone had been healthy, I would have picked Tampa Bay to win a 7 game thriller, but because of the injuries, Pittsburgh should win in 6 or 5 games. But if the injured Tampa Bay players return and they are effective, it would not be an upset if the Lightning wins. All the pressure is on the Penguins in this series because of the Tampa Bay injuries. Because if the Penguins cannot beat Tampa Bay when they are significantly injured, how can they beat them in future meetings if Tampa Bay is healthy?

Western Conference Final
St. Louis-San Jose

This series could be termed “The Battle Of The Desperates” or “The Battle Of The Chokers”. After getting through the rounds where they traditionally choke, both teams probably think that they are the team of destiny. St. Louis has the home ice advantage but that meant nothing to the Sharks when they played Los Angeles. The Sharks also won the regular season meetings, 2-1. Coaching is pretty even with St. Louis’s Ken Hitchcock having won the Stanley Cup with Dallas, while San Jose’s Peter DeBoer has a history of taking underdog teams farther than they should go. So what are the factors which will make a difference? St. Louis has a better defense than San Jose and the home ice edge, but despite these advantages, I don’t think they are the key ones. I believe that San Jose goaltender Martin Jones is a better goaltender than suspect Brian Elliott and that no one so far has been able to shut down or match Logan Couture. Those two factors will carry San Jose to victory in 6 or 7 games though it would not be an upset if St. Louis wins. Either way this will be a bitter defeat for the losing team because both teams have waited so long to be a champion and they both have advanced farther in the playoffs than they usually do and want to grab an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup while they still can.

What The Washington Capitals Defeat Means

When Pittsburgh Penguin forward Nick Bonino scored in overtime in game 6 to eliminate the Washington Capitals, he caused the greatest anguish of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. Washington HAD to win this series no matter who their opponent was, no matter how good their opponent is. Pittsburgh was the hottest team in the league at the end and they may well be the Stanley Cup champion. It doesn’t matter. Washington HAD to win this series.

It all goes back to the year both Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the NHL and were projected to be rivals for best player in the league until their careers ended. But their paths widely diverged since then. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Ovechkin’s Russian rival, have won the Stanley Cup with Malkin also winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player. Crosby has also won 2 Olympic Gold Medals to Ovechkin’s none.

Ovechkin has piled up individual trophies but as a team player, his record is horrible. He has never even been to an Eastern Conference Final, never mind winning the Stanley Cup. Just as dismal is his international record. The Russian team used to be second to Canada, if not the favored team in international competition. But in Ovechkin’s heyday, the Russians have been horrible, first in Vancouver in 2010, and even worse, on home ice in Sochi in 2014. He has never been the difference-maker, the player who lifted his team above everyone else.

Ovechkin and the Capitals were expected to match their rivals, the  Pittsburgh Penguins, to win in head-to-head matches in the playoffs at least 50% of the time. But not only have the Capitals failed to match Pittsburgh, they get put out of the playoffs in the first or second round by lesser teams – Philadelphia, Montreal, Tampa Bay, and the New York Rangers. Many times the Capitals would be ahead in a series only to squander it and find a way to lose. The Ovechkin era Capitals are wheel-spinners, the worst chokers of the Eastern Conference.

For Ovechkin, and long-time teammates, Nicklas Backstrom, and Brooks Orpik, this year may have been their best and last chance to finally get over the hump. Washington won the President’s Trophy and finished ahead of everyone by a mile. Now all that means nothing, all is in ruins. To show real improvement, that Washington really had improved, that there was hope for the future, the playoff wheel-spinning Capitals HAD to make it to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time during the Ovechkin era. Now once more Washington failed to win AGAIN when they had to.

What is particularly agonizing about this defeat is Ovechkin and Backstrom badly outplayed their direct rivals, Crosby and Malkin who were mostly silent in this series. Washington also got a big contribution from T. J. Oshie who came through in critical times for the Capitals, something that was so sorely lacking in the playoffs during the Ovechkin era. But Orpik stupidly got himself suspended, just when his team needed him the most.

It did not help that the hockey gods in their wisdom unkindly removed the erratic, Jekyll and Hyde Pittsburgh playoff goaltender Marc Andre Fleury and replaced him with the steady Matt Murray who has given Pittsburgh the kind of playoff goaltending they have been searching for since 2009. Fleury might have been counted on to blow a couple of games as he has so often done since 2009. If Murray does not get injured and continues to play well, Fleury has probably played his last game as a Penguin.

But on the flip side, Washington goaltender Braden Holtby had to significantly outplay Murray and he failed to do so. The question of goaltender will be an issue in Washington’s future.

Even more frustrating is that Washington changed coaches during the Ovechkin era AGAIN, bringing in Barry Trotz who had some success with the under-talented Nashville Predators. Now twice he becomes the latest of a string of coaches who failed to get an Ovechkin-led team into the Conference Final or the equivalent Olympic Medal round.

The biggest problem is where do the Capitals go from here? Some speculators might be smug and say that nothing can diminish the Capitals outstanding regular season and that they ran into an unfortunate playoff opponent. But Pittsburgh will be around again next year. So will Tampa Bay. The New York Rangers are still around. Even up-and-coming Philadelphia started to smell the Capitals blood, winning two straight games, and it took a gritty 1-0 win in Philadelphia to get Washington to the next round. There is also the improved New York Islanders, plus any team that did not make the playoffs, particularly the Boston Bruins if they draft and trade well in the off-season. The likely-hood of Washington repeating its outstanding regular season and finding playoff success next year is doubtful.

Ovechkin and Orpik are in the 30s, past their prime, on the downside of their careers. They will not improve as players. There is the question of goaltending. There is the fact that the Capitals got an outstanding effort from T. J. Oshie and it still was not enough. And the excuse of changing the coach should be over and done with.

The ugly truth may be that the Washington Capitals, that Alexander Ovechkin, is not good enough. The facts speak for themselves; Ovechkin’s international record and that Washington has never even made it to the Eastern Conference Final during the prime of Ovechkin’s career.

When Wayne Gretzky was traded from Edmonton in 1988, the excuse was made that he was a “wasting asset”. But Gretzky was only 27, still in the prime of his career, and Edmonton was still winning Stanley Cups. He was hardly a “wasting asset”.

But surely that term more properly belongs to Ovechkin, despite getting a significant contribution from him in this round. With Crosby and Malkin mostly silent, Ovechkin’s, Oshie’s, and Backstrom’s contributions were still not enough. The time has probably come to trade Ovechkin, Orpik, and Backstrom while Washington can still get something for them. Their career playoff records speak for themselves. They are not good enough.

Washington is now at a crossroads. The team can pat itself on the back and rest on its regular season laurels or make a significant, deep reappraisal about the talent and future of this team.

Whether they make a significant move or do nothing at all, anything Washington does or does not do in this off season will be controversial. That is the result of this defeat by Pittsburgh, off season anguish and turmoil whether they do something or not. The future that might have been clear if Washington had at last, at least made the Eastern Conference Final is now in doubt.

Minnesota Saves Calgary and Ottawa

Less than four days after I wrote an article speculating that fired Anaheim Duck coach Bruce Boudreau had probably coached his last NHL game, at least for a while, he is back in the NHL as a head coach once again. What makes his return even more incredulous is that his new employer is the Minnesota Wild who it is rumored, beat out Calgary and Ottawa in a race to get him. Evidently these teams, unlike myself, see Boudreau as the next Moses who can get to the Stanley Grail – Cup.

Minnesota used to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs regularly. A few years ago, they spent a lot of money on free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Now instead of missing the playoffs, they qualify, maybe win a playoff round against a lesser team like Colorado and St. Louis, and then get put out by a better team, usually Chicago, but this year Dallas. They are a team of wheel-spinners, stuck at the first or second rounds of the playoffs.

Evidently management sees the problem as a coaching one, firing Mike Yeo, and now interim coach John Torchetti. What they will not admit is that even with Parise and Suter, Minnesota simply does not have enough talent to be a true Stanley Cup contender.

A few years ago, Boudreau got his first head coaching job in Washington, but became one of a string of coaches of the wheel-spinning Capitals who failed to get the Alexander Ovechkin-led team even to the Eastern Conference Final. Then he became coach of Anaheim. This time he did better, getting the Ducks to the Western Conference Final after beating lesser teams Winnipeg and Calgary. But like in Washington, each time he had to play a true Stanley Cup contender like Los Angeles and Chicago, Boudreau was sent packing. He failed to lift his team to a higher level.

But isn’t this the same situation in Minnesota? The Wild have even less talent than Washington and Anaheim. Isn’t the problem that Minnesota cannot advance deep into the playoffs and win a playoff round against the better teams? If Boudreau cannot do this with the more talented Capitals and Ducks, how is he supposed to do what he could not do before with the less talented Wild?

The type of coach Minnesota really needs (since they will not significantly increase their talent level) is in San Jose, where Peter DeBoer took under-talented New Jersey to the Stanley Cup Final and now seems poised to take the over-the-hill Sharks past up-and-coming Nashville after eliminating favored Los Angeles in the first round.

As for Boudreau, he is the type of coach who can make a bad team good but not a good team great. He is probably more suited for teams like perpetual doormats and under-achievers Columbus and Edmonton.

The only thing Minnesota has done is spared Ottawa and Calgary the mistake of hiring Boudreau. They would do better to try and find their own Peter DeBoer somewhere else. As for Minnesota, unless management significantly upgrades its talent, the results are probably going to be the same.

Right now, Minnesota General Manager Chuck Fletcher is being congratulated for signing Boudreau. He had better be right in his choice because if Boudreau stays true to form in his playoff coaching career, the next firing in Minnesota will probably be Fletcher.