Tambellini's Face Says It All: Oilers Win NHL Draft Lottery

Written by Mike Salerno on .

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly announced the results of the 2012 NHL Draft Lottery from five to one on Tuesday night, and for the third time in six years, the worst team in the league did not win it.

The Edmonton Oilers will be the first team on the clock for the third consecutive season, after winning the lottery with the second best chances heading into the evening. Columbus, who has already been through enough this season, did not secure the first overall pick despite holding the best chance to win the lottery.

So we can add this to the firing of their head coach, computers becoming self-aware and rooting against them, a failed acquisition of Jeff Carter and an uncertain future ahead for their captain.

Through all these hardships, the one silver lining seemed to be that their year-long sentence in the NHL's basement would be rewarded with the consensus top prospect, Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting. Well, think again Jackets fans.

The lottery, which was televised on TSN and NBC Sports Network, seemed to be a tale of two facial expressions.

Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini could hardly keep his surprise and excitement to a minimum, displaying a silly grin almost as if to say "Wow, we have absolutely no business picking ahead of Columbus."

tambellini

Look at him. You can literally hear his thought process. "No, seriously Bill. Stop it. I almost feel bad for ol' Scotty Howson here. No really I do. Okay, I don't. This is freakin' awesome."

The camera was unable to find Columbus general manager Scott Howson when they officially announced they'd be picking second. We can only assume he was stomping his feet and sulking off camera.

The first team Daly announced was the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will pick fifth, just as they were slotted in the final regular season standings. General manager Brian Burke may have aired all Leafs fans grievances without even saying a word:

brian_burke

Hey Brian, can you show us your bitter beer face? Oh, wait. Nevermind. Great job on that.

Yakupov has been firmly in the top spot of every Central Scouting ranking as well as virtually everyone's mock drafts all year long. But with a wealth of young stars at forward that include the previous two first overall picks, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner, it's not a sure thing that Tambellini will go with Yakupov.

Now let's face it. Edmonton, and not Columbus, having the first pick makes the next two months much more entertaining. It's no secret that the Oilers need a cornerstone defenseman. Will they ignore that need again in 2012 and take the best player available? Will they pass on Yakupov for Everett Silvertips blueliner Ryan Murray? Perhaps they'll trade down for one of the slew of defensemen expected to be taken in the top 10?

Mystery surrounding the top overall pick is a good thing for the league. Say what you will about the lottery system, and how the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals would've been different if Patrick Kane was playing for Philadelphia and not Chicago. But in 2012, it's added more excitement to the days and weeks leading up to the draft we haven't seen in years. Nobody seems to be complaining about it, either.

Oh right, except for Columbus. Our bad.

Tonight's Healthy Scratches Picks: Western Conference Quarterfinals

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

Earlier today, we gave you our Eastern Conference quarterfinals predictions. Those were considerably easier to make picks for, given the fact that there is a clear and present hierarchy among the conference's playoff teams.

The Western Conference? Not so much. You could make an argument that any of the eight teams left standing could go on a long playoff run. Now you know why this article took so much longer to produce. Anyway, here are Tonight's Healthy Scratches Western Conference Quarterfinals picks:

Western Conference Quarterfinals
Mike Frank Brian
1) Vancouver vs. 8) Los Angeles           
2) St. Louis vs. 7) San Jose              
3) Phoenix vs. 6) Chicago            
4) Nashville vs. 5) Detroit            

Well that sure is embarrassing. Don't worry, we won't try to pass this off as some misguided "great minds think alike" routine. As we did with the Eastern Conference, here's a breakdown of each series:

NHL Draft: Murray Jumps Grigorenko in Final CSS Rankings

Written by Brian McCormack on .

It's not the Mega-Millions, but the winner of Tuesday night's NHL Draft lottery will earn a heck of a prize: the right to take Nail Yakupov, ranked first overall in the NHL Central Scouting Service's final rankings.

Yakupov has been the consensus first-overall pick since the summer. He finished the season in Sarnia with 69 points in only 42 games, adding five points in six playoff games.

Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray jumped Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts to move into the second spot on the list. Murray is widely considered the most complete defenseman on the list, ahead of the likes of Jacob Trouba and Moose Jaw's Morgan Rielly, who managed a point per game while held to only 18 games this year.

Tonight's Healthy Scratches Picks: Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Written by Mike Salerno on .

It's been a long, enjoyable NHL season kids. We've had our fair share of surprises in the standings, teams finding ways into and out of the top eight, and even one division that seemingly nobody wanted to win. Since we weren't bringing you any of the best news from the luxury box at the beginning of the season, we unfortunately don't have preseason predictions to poke fun at.

However, now that we've got an avenue for our thoughtless predictions, ideas and jokes, we are proud to present to you Tonight's Healthy Scratches Eastern Conference Quarterfinals picks:

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Mike Frank Brian
1) New York vs. 8) Ottawa

   
2) Boston vs. 7) Washington   
  
   
3) Florida vs. 6) New Jersey    
  
   
4) Pittsburgh vs. 5) Philadelphia    
   
   

The award for "Least Original Picker" goes to Brian, who went all chalk in his East picks. Here's to hoping his bracket doesn't do as well as President Obama's did in the early rounds of March Madness this year. Now, let's break down each series:

Patrick Kane's Shootout Move: "Anything Datsyuk Can Do, I Can Do Better"

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Okay, maybe anything but backcheck.

The final game of the regular season for both the Blackhawks and Red Wings came down to the shootout this afternoon, and two of the premiere talents in the skills competition put their craftiness on full display.

The two players, who are arguably the most exciting shootout performers in the league, led off for their respective teams with nothing really left to be decided. The Wings' third-period rally from two goals down to force overtime gave them the tiebreaker over Chicago and solidified them in the fifth spot in the Western Conference.

Detroit will take on Nashville in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, while the Hawks await the outcome of a pair of games tonight to determine which west-coast city they'll be travelling for game one of their series next week.

Each player has put their stamp on any highlight reel showcasing the best shootout goals of the season, from Kane's million-move goal in Minnesota to Datsyuk's well, Datsyukian deke.

Today, Datsyuk added a new wrinkle to his arsenal, have a look for yourself:

The rare miss afforded Kane, Chicago's own shootout specialist and part-time superhero, a chance to one-up the flashy Datsyuk. He didn't disappoint:

Kane skated back to the bench with a wry smile, knowing full well he almost lost the puck as he put it back between his legs. That turned out to be the only goal of the shootout as the Blackhawks went on to win 3-2.

Say what you will about the shootout as a tiebreaker in the NHL, but when you've got guys like Datsyuk and Kane flaunting their talents in a one-on-one situation, it makes for must-see television.

Tortorella Hit With $20,000 Fine

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

Twenty thousand? Well worth it.

Okay, maybe New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella wasn't exactly channelling his inner Olaf Sanderson when he went on his tirade against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, but he said what nearly everyone has been thinking.

Either way, the NHL decided to slap the fiery, yet never dishonest, coach with a $20,000 fine earlier today for his comments following last night's 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh.

Regardless of what some experts may think on the whining duo in Pittsburgh, Torts' rant could possibly be just what is needed to add even more fuel to the Atlantic Division's fire.

On the heels of last weekend's maylay during the closing minutes of Pittsburgh's tilt against Philadelphia, Tortorella's comments directed at not only Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the Penguins' organization as whole, has the making of a playoff powder keg just waiting to explode.

I mean, whenever the words "Craig Berube is acting the role of peacemaker" are uttered, you have to assume something serious is about to go down.

One of the stars on the Penguins that Tortorella was most likely referencing last night, chimed in on the situation this afternoon.

"I don’t know what he’s talking about. I mean, if you want you can put a camera on us all game, put a camera on (Ryan Callahan) all game," Crosby told reporters. "You’ll see who’s over there more. He should worry about his own players."

Any chance Mr. Gary Bettman can bypass the final couple of games and just get us right to the playoffs? Please? Didn't think so. I guess the Rangers and their fans will just have to wait for a chance for the opportunity in the later rounds of the playoffs to continuing their war with the Penguins--should either team advance, that is.

Jets' Ladd Gets Assist From Brothers

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

ladd2

When the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Winnipeg Jets in overtime last Saturday, ending their nearly fairy-tale first season back in the NHL since 1996, it seemed as if the only thing Jets fans had to look forward to was the final home game of a very rewarding season. That was until the Ladd brothers decided to record this classic, however.

In an effort to get their brother, and Jets captain, Andrew Ladd on the cover of next year's NHL 13 video game, Josh and Mike Ladd listed the many reasons why the elder Ladd deserves the prestigious honor.

Oh, to have younger brothers!

Not too sure what the best part of this soon-to-be viral video was: The arguing of how the throwback 'Hawks Ladd jersey was cooler? Or maybe it was how Andrew fell short of teammate Blake Wheeler's breakout season in nearly every offensive statistical category? Or, quite possibly the best shootout blooper in history, when Ladd decided to play dump-and-chase, on his shootout attempt back in 2009 against Columbus.

Make no mistake, this video just may get Ladd a plethora of votes for the campaign, which EA Sports released last week. Ladd, who will be going up against teammate Evander Kane in the first round of voting, could possibly give the Jets fans something to look forward to while the NHL playoffs commence next week.

The voting, which is a three-round process, will culminate the first week of June following a 16-player, single-elimination tournament. The winner will be announced at the 2012 NHL Awards on June 20, in Las Vegas.

Crazy Eights: Caps and Sabres Battle for East's Final Playoff Spot

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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Shortly after midnight on September 29th, Evan Longoria laced an offering from Yankee reliever Scott Proctor into the left-field seats at Tropicana Field and launched the Rays into the postseason after climbing out of a 7-0 hole.

On April 11, 2010, Claude Giroux's shootout winner put the Philadelphia Flyers past the Rangers and into playoffs, leading to their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

In week 15 of the 2010 NFL season, DeSean Jackson's walk-off punt return capped off a stunning comeback win for the Philadelphia Eagles, overcoming a 31-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the NY Giants, 38-31. The Eagles would win the NFC East, while the Giants' season was brought to an abrupt end.

A playoff run can quite often hinge on one play, one game, one statement. Perhaps last night in Buffalo we saw our statement moment, in an eighth place race that will almost certainly go down to the final day.

Rangers Blitz Flyers Early, Clinch Top Seed in Eastern Conference

Written by Mike Salerno on .

The Rangers jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period and held on to clinch the Atlantic Division title and the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a 5-3 victory over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

The win clinched the Eastern Conference for New York (51-22-7) and gave them a momentary two-point lead over the Vancouver Canucks in the Presidents’ Trophy race. The Rangers also swept the season series against Philadelphia for the second time in the teams' history.

New York got goals from Ryan McDonagh, Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan as they opened up a wide margin as the teams skated off after one period. After Jakub Voracek’s third-chance attempt banked off Marc Staal’s skate and past Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik extended the Rangers lead back to four with a blistering wrist shot from 15 feet that beat Ilya Bryzgalov to the glove side.

Bryzgalov returned to the Flyers (46-25-9) lineup after missing three games with a chipped bone in his foot and got little help from his mates early on. Two of the Rangers four first period markers came on the power play, including goals by Boyle and Callahan, which came on rebounds of initial shots.

Philadelphia closed within two goals after Andreas Lilja scored his first of the season midway through the third period, but the Flyers were unable to solve Lundqvist again. The Rangers netminder made 38 saves for his 39th victory of the season.

Sharks, Coyotes Meet in Crucial Tilt in the Desert

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

In the days leading up to the trade deadline just over a month ago, the San Jose Sharks were sitting in third place of the Western Conference playoff chase. It might not have been a comfortable seat, but it was still seat amongst the divisional leaders.

Unable to land big-ticket Rick Nash at the deadline, Sharks GM Doug Wilson added two depth players in T.J. Galiardi and Daniel Winnik to add some much needed grit to the Sharks' lineup, helping thwart off the the torrid Coyotes (undefeated in February) and the rolling Stars.

Maybe he should have broke the bank for Nash.

Since the deadline, the Sharks have either been clinging onto the eighth and final playoff spot, or, sitting on the outside trying to claw their way back through the blood race that has become the playoff chase in the West.

Already climbing up the boards, boasting a four-game win streak at the time of the deadline, the Stars have gone 9-4-1, surpassing both their struggling division rivals, in the Sharks (7-6-3) and Coyotes (5-6-4), to take the lead in the Pacific.

After Wednesday night's disappointing 3-1 loss to the Ducks, coupled with Los Angeles' shutout over Edmonton, the Sharks now find themselves clutching to the final playoff spot, tied with the Kings with 88 points. Although they're only one point behind the Stars, the Coyotes are knocking on their tank, with 87.

To say tonight's game between San Jose and Phoenix is important for all teams in the Pacific, is probably the understatement of the year. Tonight is just the beginning for the Sharks, however.

Despite being on the brink of elimination, the Sharks could essentially control their own fate.

After tonight's game against the 'Yotes, the Sharks close out their season with a pair of home-and-home series against both the Stars and the Kings.

The Sharks must take it one game at a time, however. Starting with a trip to the desert tonight, where they've been, well, terrible.

The Coyotes have won three of the five games thus far in the season's series against San Jose, all three victories coming at home.

In addition to San Jose's struggles at the Jobing.com Arena and a sub-.500 record on the road, they'll also have another obstacle to overcome: the return of captain Shane Doan.

Doan, who had been serving a three-game suspension for his moronic ill-timed elbow on the Stars' Jamie Benn, will make his return for the crucial match-up.

The Coyotes captain, who is third leading scorer on the team, will more than likely give his team not only a mental shove, but an offensive punch as well. Especially against the consistently inconsistent Antti Niemi, despite going 6-3-1 in his past 10 starts.

Should the Sharks jump back into the driver's seat of the Pacific with a victory in the desert tonight, they best strap on their seatbelt, break the rearview mirror and never look back for the remainder of the season.


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