2014-15 Day One Preview

It’s finally the day we’ve been counting down to for the past 5 months. No, not Christmas. It’s October 8th, 2014. The first day of the 2014-15 NHL Regular Season. There are four games featured tonight, and there are some to be some intense and wild ones. The Toronto Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00PM EST, a long time rivalry in which the teams seem to begin each and every season against each other. The Philadelphia Flyers will fly to Boston for a 7:30PM EST matinee. The Boston Bruins are the defending President’s Trophy winners and will look to keep their form. The Calgary Flames will play host to the new-look Vancouver Canucks at 10:00PM EST. Remember last year’s game which had 158PIM within the first two seconds of the game? Yea. Also at 10:00PM EST, The defending Stanley Cup champions will raise the banner in front of who else but the San Jose Sharks, the team they erased a 3-0 deficit against last Spring.

Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs

(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Long-time rivals since the league was created, it is well-known that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens hate each other. In fact, this past summer, Josh Gorges declined a trade to Toronto for the fact that he hates them too much. In last year’s season series, Montreal took three games out of five. No matter how good or bad each team is, it’s always a physical, intense and close game. This season, it looks like Montreal may have the upper hand in the standings. As for tonight, I expect the same result. Toronto lost much of its depth this offseason and now feature a much younger and quicker team, with Orr and McLaren gone, and Komarov back in. Montreal has possibly the best goaltender in the world in Carey Price, and also 2012-13 Norris Trophy winner, PK Subban. I see Van Riemsdyk and Josh Leivo scoring for Toronto. While Pacioretty, Gallagher, and Eller will tally for the Habs.

Prediction: Montreal Wins 3-2.

Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins

Kevin Marshall

These are two teams who often pride themselves on their physical style. Don’t expect anything different tonight. Boston is no doubt the favourite for this game, backstopped by last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Tuukka Rask. The Bruins won all three contests between the teams in 2013-14. Philadelphia is led by Claude Giroux, who will need to take the team on his back if they expect another playoff position this year. I expect this game to go as expected, mainly because Boston has one of the deepest teams in the league, while Philadelphia features a team with a very young bottom two lines. On defence, there are paying way too much for a rather average lineup. Steve Mason is their backstop, and he had an up year last year. Unfortuanetly for them, Boston is far better and will prevail in their first game of 2014-15. Voracek will score for the Flyers, while Lucic, Krug, and Reilly (twice) will put up goals for Boston.
Prediction: Boston wins 4-1

Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames

It’s no secret these west coast teams hate each other after just two seconds of a game last year. While Hartley lined up his three enforcers at the opening face-off, Torterella responded by putting Bieksa as his centre. There were 158 PIM in those two seconds and Torts was suspended 15 days for trying to go into the Flames dressing room. Both teams have new looks this season however, with Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller backstopping the Canucks and Flames, respectively. While Vancouver’s changes turned them into a possible playoff team, Calgary is still expected to be a bottom feeder in the tough Western Conference. Vancouver got rid of Kesler and added Bonino and Vrbata. Calgary got Diaz, Raymond, and Setoguchi, while they also drafted Sam Bennett 4th overall, and made the team. Calgary is too young and straight up bad to score of Miller, who will prove himself again. For Vancouver, Bonino, Edler, and Hansen will score.

Prediction: Vancouver wins 3-0

San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Probably the best game of the first day of the 2014-15 season sees defending Stanley Cup champs host the confused Sharks. No doubt, every players has round one fresh in their mind for tonight. In case you forgot somehow, San Jose took a commanding 3-0 series lead and were looking like Cup favourites until they imploded and lost the series 4-3, while LA went on to hoist the Cup. The Sharks come into this season with a very young bottom two lines, possibly featuring an all rookie line. While there have been rumours Joe Thornton may centre the fourth line. Even their starter is up in the air. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, its the exact same team, minus Willie Mitchell. There’s no doubt most will favourite L.A. to win this game, but I could see the determined San Jose Sharks pull off an upset. The Sharks seem to start every year well, it’ll be no different in 2014-15. Nieto, Pavelski, and Wingels will score for the Sharks, while for the Kings, it’ll be Lewis and Toffoli on pace for 82 goals after one game.

Prediction: San Jose wins 3-2.

It’s guaranteed to be a great night when hockey is on, but tonight is extra special. Gather around, grab some good friends and good food and enjoy the great game on ice. And remember, it’s only the first night of the next 172, of nights of hockey. Good luck to all!

 

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David Krejci Extension With the Boston Bruins Is A Win-Win

Last Thursday, the Bruins announced that they had signed David Krejci to a six-year, $43 million contract extension to keep the team’s top center in town through the 2020-2021 season. The extension, which is set to kick in next season, will make Krejci the highest paid player on the Bruins with an annual cap hit of $7.25 million. There is no question that Krejci has been one of team’s top performers, but should he be the team’s highest paid player?

Regular Season Production

Over the last three seasons, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron have been the top two forwards in average time on ice per game for the Bruins. After finishing a close second, in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, Krejci led all Boston forwards in time on ice. Krejci has certainly made the most of his ice time, finishing among the top three Bruins in points in each of the last three seasons, most notably leading the team in assists and points last year. As impressive as his performance has been over the last three seasons, throughout his career, he has never been a point per game player across an entire season. To put that in perspective, only two forwards with a cap hit of $7 million or more (this year) have never produced a point per game season, those two being Rick Nash and Paul Stastny. If this leaves you wanting more, Krejci has more than shown his worth in the postseason.

Playoff Production

As you probably already know, the Bruins have been to two of the last four Stanley Cup Finals. In Boston’s two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, David Krejci led the NHL in points, including putting up 26 points in 22 playoff games in 2013-2014 (for an impressive 1.18 points per game). For better or worse, as Krejci’s offense goes, so too have gone the Bruins. Last season, Krejci and linemates Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla combined for 18 points over 12 playoffs games, as Boston was bounced from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Three years ago, when the Bruins were eliminated in the first round, Krejci was only able to produce three points in the seven game series with the Washington Capitals. While his offensive production has been stellar in two of the last four years, his coach, Claude Julien, has shown the utmost confidence in Krejci, giving him the most ice time of all Bruins forwards over the last four playoff runs. Having signed Krejci to a long-term extension, the hope (and expectation) is that Krejci can find a way to consistently achieve success in the playoffs and, in the process, help bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston.

So between his ice time and offensive production, does Krejci deserve to be the highest paid Boston Bruin? Does his offensive production outweigh the offensive and defensive contributions of Patrice Bergeron? Or the defensive dominance of Zdeno Chara? How about the Vezina worthy goaltending of Tuukka Rask? In my opinion, Krejci deserved to get paid, but more in line with these three, somewhere in the range of $6.5-$7.0 million per. Hopefully he can prove me wrong. What do you think? Did the Bruins overpay? Would Krejci have made more on the open market?

Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars Both Winners in Seguin Trade

The Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars gave hockey fans a reason to pause their Fourth of July celebrations by completing a seven-player blockbuster trade highlighted by star forwards Tyler Seguin and Loui Eriksson.

TSN’s Darren Dreger first reported the entire deal, which was completed afterEriksson and Rich Peverley waived their no-trade clauses. It includes forwards Reilly Smith, Mark Fraser, Eriksson and defenseman Joe Morrow going from Dallas to Boston in exchange for defenseman Ryan Button and forwards Seguin and Peverley.

This is a great trade for both teams because it allows them to upgrade certain weaknesses right now and also have important assets for future success.

At first glance, it looks like a bold move by the Bruins because giving up on an ultra-talented forward of Seguin’s caliber is a risk. The former No. 2 overall draft pick led the team in scoring during the 2011-12 season with 67 points and finished the 2013 season with a respectable 32 points in 48 games.

The most disappointing part of his brief career in Boston was his lackluster performance in the playoffs. Since a breakout four-point second period in Game 2 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, Seguin tallied just 12 points in his last 40 playoff games. He failed to find the back of the net in Boston’s last 11 playoff games of 2013.

With that said, his playmaking and goal-scoring skills are phenomenal, and he will significantly upgrade the talent and overall speed of the Stars offense. Dallas desperately needed additional depth at the center position, which was a huge weakness of the team last season.

Seguin wasn’t able to play center in Boston because of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejciand Chris Kelly being on the roster, but he will finally be able to play in his natural position as a member of the Stars. Seguin’s arrival will also allow superstar forward Jamie Benn to play on the wing in Dallas, which is where he’s most comfortable.

The young forward will also benefit from the leadership and wisdom of MarkRecchi, who was a teammate of Seguin’s in Boston during the team’s 2011 Stanley Cup title run and is now a member of the Stars’ front office.

The acquisition of Peverley brings great speed, excellent penalty killing and versatility to the Dallas lineup with his ability to play center or on the wing.

Peverley will also help the Stars improve on faceoffs, where they ranked 27th last year with a weak 47.1 percent success rate. He finished eighth in faceoff percentage (58.4) among all players who took 250 or more draws last season.

As for Boston, this is a win-now type of move for a team coming off a six-game defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

The two most notable players coming to Boston are Eriksson, who is one of the league’s most underrated and durable players, as well as top prospect Joe Morrow, a defenseman who was a first-round pick in 2011.

Hi-res-166238737_crop_exactRonald Martinez/Getty Images

Eriksson is only 27 years old and has tallied 63-plus points (including an average of 29.5 goals) in the last four non-lockout seasons. The Swedish forward finished 2013 with 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 48 games.

He’s a better fit in Boston’s rigid, defensive style of hockey than Seguin because of his impressive stick work, willingness to play physical and strong penalty-killing ability. Unlike Seguin, Eriksson will go to the dirty areas and win puck battles consistently. He’s also a phenomenal skater and protects the puck well.

Another benefit of acquiring Eriksson is the team-friendly $4.25 million salary cap hit in his contract, which doesn’t expire until after the 2015-16 season, per CapGeek.

Taking on this deal and getting rid of Seguin’s six-year, $34 million contract (which begins in 2013-14) along with the other salary involved in this trade results in the Bruins having just over $9 million in salary cap space. This will allow general manager Peter Chiarellito re-sign star goaltender Tuukka Rask (anRFA) and make one more significant upgrade to his roster in free agency or via the trade market.

Morrow is a high-end prospect with impressive offensive ability. He projects to be a top-four NHL defenseman and will compete with young Bruins blueliners Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski for ice time next season.

This is the second time he’s been traded since January. He was also dealt from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stars in the Brenden Morrow deal from late March. Is the 20-year-old in high demand or is there a concern among teams that is causing him to be traded? We will soon find out, but there’s no question that he has impressive skill and potential.

Hi-res-117271888_crop_exactNick Laham/Getty Images
Joe Morrow

After all the analysis, I believe both teams will be improved next year and in the future because of this deal.

The Stars have acquired an elite talent in Seguin, who could be a franchise cornerstone player along with Benn for a decade or more. Acquiring Peverley also gives Dallas valuable depth, versatility, faceoff skill and championship experience.

The Bruins have upgraded their depth on the wing by adding Eriksson, which gives them another two-way top-six forward capable of shining on special teams. The acquisition of Morrow strengthens Boston’s prospect pool with another talented young defenseman.

It will take many years to accurately judge who ultimately won this blockbuster trade, but one thing we already know is that the Bruins and Stars are both committed to making bold moves to ensure success right now and well into the future.