Devils Will Make First Round Selection, Eyeing Subban?

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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The New Jersey Devils announces on Wednesday that they will indeed be staying put and utilizing their first round pick in the NHL Draft on June 22nd.

The Devils will be forced to surrender a first-round pick in one of the next three years, a penalty for attempting to circumvent the salary cap when they made their first contract pitch to forward Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010. Surprisingly, the Devils opted not to give away the pick this year, even though they pick in the 29th slot out of thirty teams, and will almost certainly be in more favorable slots in the next two years.

So who is it the Devils are so excited about that they deem it imperative to hang on to that 29th overall pick for dear life and possibly hurt their draft status one or two years down the road?

Could it be Malcolm Subban?

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Looking Ahead: Penguins Open 2012-13 As Stanley Cup Favorites

Written by Mike Salerno on .

For the Los Angeles Kings and their fans, last night's Stanley Cup-clinching victory kicked off a three-month long party in Tinsel Town. Everyone from diehard Kings fans to transplanted casual Lakers supporters will bask in the glory that comes with being a Stanley Cup champion all summer long.

The rest of us? Well, we've already started the countdown to Opening Night (assuming there is one).

A reputable offshore betting site, Bovada.lv--formerly Bodog.com, has catered to the early stages of our hockey withdrawal. This morning, they released their initial odds for the 2012-13 NHL season. Surprisingly, the Kings are not the favorite to become the first repeat champion since the Red Wings in 1996-97 and 1997-98. They've got the second best odds heading into the offseason, at 11:1.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, who barring a catastrophic off-ice accident will enter next year with a healthy Sidney Crosby and likely defending Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin among others, are the favorites to return to their Cup-winning form from 2009. According to Bovada.lv, they've got a 7:1 chance to recapture Lord Stanley's Cup.

The Devils, this year's runners-up, are facing some long odds at 30:1. Obviously, it's been widely speculated that their captain Zach Parise, an unrestricted free agent, will not re-sign with the team. If Lou Lamioriello is somehow able to retain Parise though, expect a significant jump in those odds.

Likewise, the Detroit Red Wings, who will be enduring the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom, open at a surprisingly high 12:1. However, it's also expected that they'll be major players in the free agent market this July.

Among some of the more ambitious wagers for the bettors who like to live on the edge, may we offer the New York Rangers (12:1), the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins (14:1) and the Washington Capitals (25:1). That's right, folks. These people do this for a living. They've found a way to make the Capitals one of the most intriguing stories of this offseason, alright. They'll dare you to pick them to win the Stanley Cup.

Obviously, these odds are subject to change on a whim, based mostly on the destinations of unrestricted free agents Parise, Ryan Suter, Alexander Radulov and others.

With that said, as the League continues hurtling toward terrifyingly pessimistic labor negotiations, it's a wonder Bovada didn't add a prop bet to this wager entitled "nobody." It's entirely possible that no one, not the Kings, Donald Fehr, nor Gary Bettman, will be crowned champion in 2013. While we are all hopeful that Bettman, Fehr & co. can avoid work stoppages that stunted the game's growth in 1994 and 2004, we're not so sure we'll get our wish.

For our readers who are also compulsive gamblers, we sure do hope your bets get ruled "no action" in the case of a lockout.

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Kings Stanley Cup Win Reflects History NHL Can’t Afford To Repeat

Written by Brian McCormack on .

June 14, 1994. The New York Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup, shattering a 54-year drought in America’s largest media market. Brian Leetch became the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Sports Illustrated ran a front-page story lauding the NHL and it’s rise to prominence as the NBA sank into the background. The NHL product was on the rise and the sky was the limit.

Then the NHL put up it's own low ceiling.

On October 1, 1994 the NHL let all of that momentum and popularity go to waste with a 104-day work stoppage that killed half the season. The league never fully recovered before a second and much more detrimental lockout in the fall of 2004 shook the sport to it's core, almost beyond repair.

Monday night, once again, the Stanley Cup was hoisted in a major media market of the United States, one that had waited 44 years to bear witness to the most coveted of trophies. Again, and for only the third time in history, an American-born player was named playoff MVP. And again the US is clamoring for the NHL in record numbers.

Now more than ever, the NHL must realize its own potential, both to carry the game to new heights and to tear it down once again to the depths of irrelevancy in the eyes of the casual, prospective fan.  Gary Bettman cannot allow history to repeat itself once again.

For Kings' Quick, Hardware Only Beginning To Pile Up

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Martin Brodeur sought out his counterpart, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, on the handshake line, to extend a heartfelt congratulations on besting him over six games in the Stanley Cup Final.

While it was tough to understand most of what he said during the two players' encounter, one word Brodeur uttered was abundantly clear: "unbelieveable."

The future Hall-of-Famer was right. He had been wholly outdueled by his American opponent, who more than lived up to the connotations stemming from his last name. Quick, like Tim Thomas with Boston one year ago, carried his team to the holiest of hockey grails, as they hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup tonight after a Cup-clinching 6-1 victory over New Jersey.

Quick became just the third US-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, along with Thomas in 2011 and Brian Leetch in 1994.

Despite there being several Kings players who were worthy recipients of this year's award, including captain Dustin Brown, who had a goal and an assist in the decisive Game 6 victory, there was hardly any questioning who Gary Bettman would announce prior to handing the League's holy grail over to Los Angeles.

Quick finished with a microscopic 1.41 goals against average and a .946 save percentage, tied for the third lowest in Stanley Cup Playoff history. His three shutouts led all NHL goaltenders. Not a bad encore for the guy who single-handedly captured the eighth seed in the Western Conference with his brilliant play down the stretch.

During the second round, it was announced that Quick was one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. Despite having rather similar statistics to Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who was also given the nod as a Hart Trophy finalist over Quick, it was argued that an east coast bias may prevent the League's best goaltender from being recognized as such.

After all, it's a foregone conclusion that most hockey writers located on the east coast are tucked away in bed just as Los Angeles is dropping the puck for most of their games, right?

Well now, Quick has capped off his coming out party with the two greatest pieces of hardware any NHL player has dreamed of grasping. While postseason performances obviously don't factor into the voting for regular season awards, Quick did more than enough to earn even more. In a few weeks' time, he may very well add the Vezina Trophy to his collection.

And if you think this is the last time he'll be in consideration for any of those three trophies, you may now go back to rooting for the Lakers.

NCAA Hockey Exploring Number of Rules Changes

Written by Mike Salerno on .

According to a press release on NCAA.org, the governing body of college hockey is exploring a number of rule changes for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Most notably among them, the NCAA is considering allowing players the option of playing with a three-quarters visor as opposed to the full cage or visor.

The interesting thing, though, is that unlike most other rules committees, they're taking the pulse of the players themselves. According to the release, a survey of 1,000 current college hockey players revealed that 83% of those polled would prefer the use of the three-quarters visor if given the option. The overwhelming opinion was apparently met with support for better, injury-preventing technology:

"The development of newer, better facial shields that are more protective than traditional half-shields is one driving factor for the committee’s reconsideration of appropriate equipment. In its review, the committee believes that other aspects of equipment must be considered in conjunction with visor technology. For example, representatives of the NHL recently discussed working with manufacturers to develop softer padding, and the NCAA will engage in that discussion."

If the three-quarters visors were to be enacted, the NCAA would compare injury data with the United States Hockey League and other entities after their first year with the new equipment.

However, the idea that removing a piece of protective equipment will force players to compete with more respect and awareness for their fellow player remains to be questionably optimistic. We're not sure if more vulnerability will ultimately protect players from serious injury, but it's certainly an unconventional way of attacking the influx of head and facial injuries at the top amateur levels:

"Committee members understand the challenge of explaining how removing a piece of protective equipment may have a positive impact on student-athlete safety.“Our coaches and student-athletes feel the game will be played with more respect, and players will play with less of a sense of invincibility,” said Ed McLaughlin, the chair of the Ice Hockey Rules Committee and director of athletics at Niagara. “We’ve talked about the visors, but also about softer padding in general as another important part of this.”

Interesting, Mr. McLaughlin. Very interesting.

After the jump, the NCAA looks at changing regular season overtime procedures, making hand passes illegal in the defensive zone, net dislodgement rules and defining a "distinct kicking motion."

Homeward Down: Kings Continue NHL Trend of Futility

Written by Mike Salerno on .

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With the Kings just one win away from their championship since joining the NHL in 1967, Phil Pritchard, the "Keeper of the Cup," and his best friend, a nearly three-foot tall silver chalice, were in attendance this evening at the STAPLES Center to take in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

On second thought, perhaps that was the problem.

The Devils, led by a brilliant shot by rookie Adam Henrique that skimmed off the near-side post and past Jonathan Quick late in the third period, extended the 2011-12 season by three days with a 3-1 victory. The win forced a fifth game 2,435 miles away on Saturday and reinforced an interesting coincidence in recent years: with Lord Stanley's Cup at stake, the home team may be in trouble.

Since 2008, the home team is now 2-6 when either side is on the verge of clinching the series. Furthermore, the last four Stanley Cup champions have celebrated on the other team's ice.

Tonight, the Kings' attempt to buck that trend went about as well as this attempted hit, a big swing and a miss (h/t to Travis Hughes of SBNation for the .GIF):

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The only two instances where home ice was defended came in a pair of Game 6 situations. Each time the same team, Pittsburgh in 2009 and Boston in 2011, then went on the road to win Game 7.

Now, of course, if this trend really were something of substance, the Kings would in turn win Saturday's Game 5 and bring the Cup back to Los Angeles. Wait, you mean the same Kings team who is a perfect 8-0 in these playoffs? Yikes.

With three of the four games thus far turning on the slightest of margins, it is a wonder that Mr. Pritchard and the Stanley Cup were in attendance so soon. But if recent history is any indicator, expect to see him shortly after the final horn of Game 5. That is, assuming he gets his Discover card to work in time.

Without a Dought: Doughty's Return to Form Under Darryl Sutter

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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Despite a Game 4 loss that will force a Game 5 in Newark on Saturday, Drew Doughty was again part of the action, tying the game in the third period with a powerplay goal. It was his fourth goal and 14th point in 18 playoff games this season.

The offensive pop Doughty has shown, and is expected to produce, comes with a defensive swagger that was missing for much of the beginning of this season. In fact, many could argue that Drew Doughty was missing for the majority of the start of the season.

But Darryl Sutter, who has taken charge in helping this Kings roster find themselves, found Drew Doughty.

And the Kings now find themselves a win short of greatness heading into New Jersey.

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KopiStar: Spotlight in Hollywood Reminding Us Anze is Among NHL's Elite

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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For anyone who thought Jonathan Quick overtaking Henrik Lundqvist for the Vezina Trophy was absurd, think a little harder now.

For anyone who thought Dustin Brown was a movable asset at the deadline for the LA Kings, give it some thought.

If you're a Flyers fan (or GM) who thought that Jeff Carter and Mike Richards lacked the discipline and leadership to win a Stanley Cup, don't watch the likely short remainder of this series.

The spotlight is shining brightly on Hollywood's hockey scene, a moment that was fast approaching when Dustin Brown donned the 'C' the first time, when Drew Doughty pulled a Kings sweater over his head on stage in Ottawa in 2008, when even a rising phenom in Jonathan Bernier couldn't unseat Quick. The acquisitions of Richards and Carter only made that spotlight warmer.

And in that bright light, finally flooding a stage with one of the league's more talented casts, Anze Kopitar is reminding us that he truly is one of hockey's leading men.

Power Outage: Devils Power Play Going Cold at Wrong Time

Written by Dan Lio on .

We get it. That Jonathan Quick fellow is rather good at this game.

He’s kept the Devils to just two goals in three full contests, and is as big a reason as any the Kings are one game away from hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.

But this New Jersey squad is not one starved for offensive firepower, especially with the man advantage. However, their inability to cash in on the power play, namely on last night’s 5-on-3 chance, has directly contributed to the 3-0 series hole they find themselves in.

In a hotly contested Game 3 last night, a game one might’ve called a “must-win” for New Jersey, the Kings went on a parade to the penalty box, yielding six power play chances for the Devils. Yes, Jonathan Quick stymied them on each of those six opportunities with some magnificent stops.

It’s fair to question how deep into the Devils snipers’ minds Quick has set up shop.  New Jersey is 0-for-12 with the man advantage in this series. Their power play looks as stagnant as the water in Morris County right now.

Gagne Returning to Kings Lineup for Game 3

Written by Christian A. on .

After missing the Kings' last 48 regular season games and the entirety of the playoffs, Simon Gagne will finally get his chance to lace 'em up tonight when Los Angeles hosts the Devils in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Gagne has not seen game action since December 26 when he suffered a concussion. In fact, he hadn't even resumed on-ice activities until May 25. The 32-year-old winger appeared in 34 games for Los Angeles before the injury and had 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points in that span.

However, he does have a history of success against the Devils, whatever that's worth. Gagne has scored 22 goals and 10 assists in 55 regular season games against the New Jersey Devils during the course of his career, most of which he spent playing for the rival Philadelphia Flyers, according to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record.

He'll will join Mike Richards and Jeff Carter as outcasted Flyers looking for redemption from their 2010 loss in the Final with L.A.

The Kings are hopeful that Gagne, who is known for his prowess with the man advantage, will inject some life into their power play. Los Angeles has converted just two of their last 28 power play chances dating back to Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals


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