Archive for June, 2012

2012 NHL Draft Recap

After a weekend where the NHL’s newest players were drafted in Pittsburgh, you can expect a lot from the 2012 Draft class. Edmonton didn’t trade away their first pick, and the Oilers did select Nail Yakupov as the first overall pick. To think about it, a line with him, Taylor Hall, and Ryan Nugent-H0pkins might just become one of the most imposing lines to be reckoned within the next 5 years. The Columbus Blue Jackets selected top defenseman, Ryan Murray, second overall. Murray will be a good top-4 D-man alongside fellow young gun John Moore and veterans Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski. The Canadiens selected prolific goal-scorer Alex Galchenyuk third overall. It was something the Habs really needed. But the biggest trade of the night occurred during the 8th pick. The Carolina Hurricanes traded the pick, Brandon Sutter, and Brian Dumoulin to the Draft host team Pittsburgh Penguins, in exchange for Jordan Staal, who previously rejected a 10-year contract extension the day prior that would’ve made him a Penguin for the rest of his NHL playing career. Instead, he now plays with his brothers Eric and Jared in Carolina.

The Washington Capitals have their pieces set. By getting the 11th pick in the draft as a result of trading Semyon Varlamov to Colorado, the Caps selected Filip Forsberg. It’s a nice selection, just in case Alex Semin leaves Washington. And since they announced that they wouldn’t re-sign veteran forward Mike Knuble, they drafted rugged forward Tom Wilson 16th. As for my team, Chicago selected what some people call the best steal of the Draft: Teuvo Teravainen. Let’s just say the next Teemu Selanne has arrived. By the end of the night, fires from two of the most heated rivalries were fueled. With Tim Thomas waiving his no-trade clause, the Boston Bruins selected Malcolm Subban, the younger brother of Montréal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. Now hockey’s greatest rivalry is a part of the Subban household. As for the New Jerey Devils, we thought they were gonna forfeit the pick as consequence for Ilya Kovalchuk’s long-term contract. They didn’t. Instead, they selected Stefan Matteau from the U.S. National Talent Development Program. Name sound familiar? Should be: He’s the son of Stephane Matteau, the former Ranger who was immortalized by scoring the winning goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final in double overtime. Yes, Howie Rose, we still remember that call.

Day 2 of the Draft lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes. The only major deal made that day was also made by the Penguins. They traded defenseman Zbynek Michalek to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for prospects and the Coyotes’ third-round pick. But here are some highlights from Day 2: Lukas Sutter was drafted in the second round by the Winnipeg Jets, Brock McGinn, younger brother of Sane Jose Sharks forward Jamie McGinn, was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes, the Bruins traded Benoit Pouliot to Tampa Bay, and “The Monster” Jonas Gustavsson was sent west to Winnipeg to back-up Ondrej Pavelec (or become the no. 1 should Pavelec play in the KHL next year).

With the moves Pittsburgh made this weekend, they’re ready for the start of Free Agency in 8 days. So too are the other 29 NHL teams. Will Bobby Ryan play for the team he grew up on, the Philadelphia Flyers? Who will trade for Rick Nash? And Where will big Free Agent names like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter end up? The frenzy begins July 1st. Happy Canada day, y’all!

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Final Take: The 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings Season

On Fox Sports Net affiliates, the last part of any of their sports’ their post-game show is called a “Final Take”, usually recapping the game itself set to music. Well, here’s my version, this time, it’s my take of the Los Angeles Kings’ season, culminating with their first Stanley Cup championship last night.

At the end of last season, when the Los Angeles Kings was eliminated in the first round for a second straight year, General Manager Dean Lombardi need to make some drastic changes in order for the Kings to become Stanley Cup contenders. The day before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the first move was made. The Kings traded Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds to the Philadelphia Flyers for Mike Richards. The day after the Draft, the next move was made. The Kings traded veteran forward Ryan Smyth back toa place he knows best: the Edmonton Oilers, in exchange for an underrated grinder with a Stanley Cup ring: Colin Fraser. Then on the first day of Free Agency, the Kings signed Simon Gagne. It seemed like the Kings were ready to contend for Lord Stanley.

The Kings started the season in Stockholm with a game against the New York Rangers. After their European premiere, the Kings were playing like a .500 team headed into December. After a 4-game losing streak, head coach Terry Murray was relieved of his duties. While the search for a new head coach took place, assistant coach John Stevens took helm of the Kings bench. It wasn’t that long before their new head coach was named. Darryl Sutter, the man who first coached with the Chicago Blackhawks and then coached the Calgary Flames to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2004, was the new head coach. After continuing to tread water for the next three months, the Kings make their final move that would set the pace for the events to come. On Trade Deadline Day, the Kings sent out defenseman Jack Johnson to Columbus in exchange for prolific goal scorer Jeff Carter. The Kings started to contend in the month of March, going 10-4-1: the best month they would play this season. By the end of the season, the Kings were locked into the 8th spot in the Western Conference.

The Kings’ first round opponent was the defending Western Conference AND Presidents’ Trophy champion Vancouver Canucks. After two 4-2 wins in Vancouver, the Kings took a 3-0 series lead with a with a 1-0 shutout; ironic for a team that lost 6 times in the regular season by that score. After dropping Game 4, Jarret Stoll delivered the dagger to the Canucks in overtime of Game 5. 4 wins down, 12 wins to go. In the next round, the Kings faced off against another division champion, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues were no match for the Kings as they turned Brian Elliott into a mortal, outscoring the Bluenotes 15-6 in a 4-game sweep. 8 wins down, 8 wins to go. In the Western Conference Final, the Kings faced off against the third and final division champion in the conference, the Phoenix Coyotes. Like in the first two rounds, the Kings took a 3-0 series lead. While they didn’t seal the deal in Game 4, the Kings sealed the deal in Game 5 in dramatic fashion, when Dustin Penner scored the overtime winner. Suddenly, a city best known for Dodger baseball and Laker dynasties suddenly became A HOCKEY TOWN!

The Kings opponent in the Stanley Cup Final was, like them, another improbable team destined for greatness. The 6-seed New Jersey Devils fought their way past the surprise Southeast Division champion Florida Panthers, a physically and mentally drained Philadelphia Flyers,  and put the ghosts of 1994 to rest by ousting their Hudson River rival New York Rangers in 6. Yet for the Kings, the beat goes on. They took a 3-0 series lead, headed into Game 4 for the fourth straight series: the first time this has ever been done in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And with a sense of desperation coming towards New Jersey, the Devils won the next two games. It was the first time in the playoff season that the Kings played past 5 games in a best-of-7 series. In the Kings’ final home game of the 2011-2012 season, they beat the Devils 6-1, in the largest margin of victory in a Stanley Cup-clinching game since 1991.

And so, after 45 years of trying, the Los Angeles Kings are finally Stanley Cup Champions. The team founded by Canadian magnate Jack Kent Cooke when the NHL expanded to 12 teams in 1967, originally draped in “Forum Blue” and Gold, and molded by legendary players like Rogie Vachon, Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor, Charlie Simmer, Luc Robitaille, and Wayne Gretzky, and moments like the Miracle on Manchester and the Stunner at Staples, made way for hockey to grow in the Western United States. And even though their rival Anaheim Ducks became the first West Coast team to win the Stanley Cup 5 years ago, this championship is for the Original West Coast NHL team.

This improbable championship continues the trend of  “It doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season. All that matters is what you do when the playoffs come.” Look at the 2011 St.Louis Cardinals.  They were 10 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the race for the National League Wild Card headed into the September stretch run. They won 23 of their last 32 games to earn the Wild Card. Then they beat the best team in the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games with a 1-0 shutout in the Division Series. In the National League Championship Series, they beat their division rival, the Milwaukee Brewers, in 6 games to earn their first trip to the World Series in 5 years. In the Fall Classic, they beat the two-time American League Champion Texas Rangers in an epic 7-game series to win their 11th World Series championship. Also look at the 2011 New York Football Giants. They began the season 6-2, but a 4-game losing streak pushed them to the brink of missing the playoffs for the third-straight year. After beating the Dallas Cowboys in a New Year’s Day showdown, the Giants won the NFC East and was slated to host the 5-seed Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Playoff. They dispatched the Falcons 24-2. The Giants next game was against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. and like what happened the last time these two teams met in the Playoffs, the Giants stunned the Packers on their own turf, this time by a score of 37-20. In the NFC Championship game, the Giants faced the surprising San Francisco 49ers. After Kyle Williams got stripped of the ball for his 2nd turnover of the game, a Lawrence Tynes field goal sent the Giants to their 5th Super Bowl appearance. In Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, the AFC champion New England Patriots tried to put the ghosts of Super Bowl XLII to rest. It didn’t happen as the Giants won their 4th Super Bowl Championship, beating the Patriots, 21-17.  What all three of these teams have in common is they defied the odds. They made seeding seem irrelevant. Once the playoffs began, whoever’s the last team standing wins it all. These three teams won in an improbable fashion, and will be remembered for what they did when it mattered the most. That’s what the Los Angeles Kings were, and they deserve to wear their crown. Like Mike “Doc” Emrick said in the final moments of Game 6, “The Kings are THE Kings.”

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