The Las Vegas Golden Knights continue to find different ways to win. Their top line has been great all playoffs, but in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals, their fourth line dominated. They didn’t just score the tying goal, the game winner and the empty net insurance goal, they shredded the Capitals on virtually every shift.
Pierre-Edward Bellamare played 11:12 and had a CF-CA of 20-8 and his scoring chances were 11-1.
Tomas Nosek played 11:39 with a CF-CA of 24-9 and scoring chances 14-3.
Ryan Reaves played 9:43 with a CF-CA of 18-8 and scoring chances 9-3.
For good measure, defender Deryk Engelland played 20:46 with a CF-CA of 34-25 and scoring chances 13-9.
Reaves and Engelland have been mocked mercifully by some analytics people for years, but on the biggest stage they were very good. Reaves has a two-game goal scoring streak. Vegas continues to write the most unpredictable script we have seen in NHL history, and it will be almost impossible to match in the future.
1. Tom Wilson’s hit was late, no question, and it should have been a minor penalty, which he was assessed. The NHL got it right by not going any further. I understand many cringe because it is Wilson, but it wasn’t a headshot, it was simply a late hit.
2. This is the 79th time the Stanley Cup has been decided in a seven-game series. In the previous 78, the winner of game one went 61-17 (78.2%). Can the Capitals buck the trend?
Since the NHL expanded to 21 teams in 1979/1980, we have watched 37 seasons, and ten times we have witnessed a team win game one, but lose the series.
1985 Flyers (lost to Edmonton 4-1)
1986 Flames (lost to Montreal 4-1)
1991 Minnesota North Stars (lost to Pittsburgh 4-2)
1993 LA Kings (lost to Montreal 4-1)
1994 Vancouver Canucks (lost to NYR 4-3)
1999 Buffalo Sabres (lost to Dallas 4-2)
2002 Carolina Hurricanes (lost to Detroit 4-1)
2004 Calgary Flames (lost to Tampa Bay 4-3)
2009 Detroit Red Wings (lost to Pittsburgh 4-3)
2011 Vancouver Canucks (lost to Boston 4-3)
Detroit and Vancouver (2011) were actually up 2-0, but lost the series, and both were at home to start.
The Flyers, Flames (1986) and Red Wings won game one at home, but then lost the series.
The odds aren’t great for the Capitals, and since the 21-team expansion, teams losing game one have won the series 27% of the time, but it is worth nothing the last two teams to lose a series after winning game one were both up 2-0 in the series. It isn’t over yet, Capitals fans.
3. The NHL confirmed the salary cap will be between $78-82 million yesterday, and most are projecting it to be $80 million, which would be a $5 million increase from this past season. The Oilers shouldn’t have any cap problems even with Connor McDavid’s new deal kicking in. Here is how they look today courtesy of NHL Numbers.
4. The Oilers have nine forwards totaling $37,075 million in Connor McDavid ($12.5m), Leon Draisaitl ($8.5m), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic ($6m), Zack Kassian ($1.95m), Jesse Puljujarvi (925K) Ty Rattie (800K), Jujhar Khaira (675K) and Pontus Aberg (650K).
That is 15 skaters at $61.574. We can also add in $1.33 for Benoit Pouliot (buyout), so they sit at $62.9 million. I didn’t include Al Montoya’s salary, because I expect he will be waived to the minors and his $1.06 million cap hit won’t count against the cap, even if he isn’t claimed.
That leaves the Oilers with essentially $17.1 million to fill out eight roster spots, between five forwards and three defenders. Ryan Strome (projected $2.5m), Drake Caggiula ($1.2m), UFA vet winger ($2m), Darnell Nurse ($4.5m, six-year deal), Matt Benning ($1.6m) and UFA RD, Ryan Sproul ($750K). These six total $12.55m, leaving the Oilers five million to fill out two more forward spots. The Oilers shouldn’t be in a major cap crunch, and in fact, they should have a few million in cap space when the season starts, so if they are in playoff hunt at the deadline they could add a player without too much difficulty.
5. I’m sure some of you are wondering who is Sproul. He was the 55th pick in the 2011 draft by the Detroit Red Wings. He has spent the past four seasons in the AHL, while playing 44 games in the NHL. He was traded to the New York Rangers last season, and is a group VI free agent. He turned 25 in January. He is 6’4, 205 pounds and shoots right.
In 275 AHL games, he has produced 34 goals and 120 points. I believe the Oilers #7 defender needs to be a right shot, and while Sproul has yet to prove he is a regular NHLer, I’d take a chance on signing him to a cheap one-year deal. He would be somewhat of a project, and with Trent Yawney’s track record I’d take the gamble. You are signing him to bring some offence, not be an elite defender. I’ve been watching him for the past few years, and I see him as someone with good potential.
6. “He has a huge shot, a huge shot and he skates well. He could be a powerplay specialist with his shot, but he is also a bit of a freelance defender. I see him as a low risk project,” said Craig Button when I asked him about Sproul.
7. Engelland and Reaves are proving no respected media person or blogger should ever write “not good at hockey” when referring to a player who is in the NHL. All it does it show readers the author is a buffoon. Are those two as skilled as Connor McDavid and other stars? Of course not, but Reaves would still skate circles around 99% of the hockey playing population. Don’t ever forget that. You can dislike a player and their style, but the “bad at hockey” takes are idiotic. Not surprisingly, I haven’t seen those who loved taking the pot shots apologize.
8. Often it is too difficult to answer a question, or statement, on Twitter correctly with the limited word count.
If you have to spend this much money in hiring supporting staff it is the worst possible indictment about your head coach.
— DefendTheDen (@Vretz2121) May 26, 2018
I don’t see how adding a good coaching staff is an indictment on the head coach. When the Pittsburgh Penguins added one of the best scorers in the NHL, Phil Kessel, to their team, was that an indictment on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? I don’t think so. The goal is to ice the best team, and in coaching you should strive for having a great staff. A head coach can’t coach by himself, and adding quality coaches should only make, and the team, better. I think the Oilers made three solid hires and I suspect we will see some different approaches in how they attack and defend this season.
9. Reading this reply from Curtis Lazar illustrates why he was so respected by his teammates and those who have played with him in junior and in the NHL. He is one of those players you pull for, hoping he carves out a solid NHL career. If not, I have no doubt he will be successful elsewhere because of his personality, work ethic and how he treats people.
— Curtis Lazar (@CurtisLazar95) May 29, 2018
10. I have seen many NHL media people ripping the NBA because Golden State and Cleveland are in the Finals for a record-breaking fourth consecutive time. Both teams trailed in the conference final 3-2, before winning games six and seven. Even with these two teams going at it for the fourth time, the NBA has had six different champions since 2009, while the NHL has had four.
If the NBA isn’t your thing, that is fine, but I don’t see the need to tear it down and say it is predictable and boring because the same two teams are in it. Golden State could go down as one of the greatest teams ever, and Lebron James is, without question, the greatest of his generation and one of the best of all-time. I’ve enjoyed both playoffs, and the NBA conference Finals were closer than the NHL’s, but I suspect the Stanley Cup Final will be more competitive than the NBA final. The Warriors are stacked.
Both leagues are good, and both have offered some great intrigue this spring.
ULTIMATE SPORTS FAN
My eighth annual Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity is here again. On June 9th and 10th, I am riding in the 190km MS Bike Tour, and I’ve come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan.
Here’s how it works: You make a $125 donation and you get one entry. If you make a $250 donation you get two entries, and so on.
We only take 100 entries and we will raise $12,500 for MS. The draw will be the week of June 5th.
This year’s winner will win the following prizes and more.: The final package is valued at over $6,000.00
- The “Oilers experience” at the Oilers home opener in October, which includes tickets, parking, dinner and a behind the scenes tour.
- A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
- A game used Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stick.
- A signed Mike Reilly Eskimos jersey (you pick the size) courtesy of The Sports Closet.
- Twenty tickets, and a hot dog and beverage (non-alcoholic), to an Oil Kings home game. Also, you will get an Oil King player of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. (Between November 1st and December 15th.)
- Ten tickets to the Rugby match Canada v. Scotland on Saturday, June 9th at Commonwealth presented by MB Events.
- A signed Matt Barzal jersey
- $500 GC at Match Eatery and Public House (either location).
We are already 70% sold out in four days, so if you want a chance to win and help end MS get in the draw today.
You can make your donation here. (click Donate Now to the right of my picture).
Thank you and good luck.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Steve Bluett: The Ultimate Hockey Statistician
- Oilers revamp coaching staff and Chiarelli trade talk
- Powerplay changes that will help the Oilers
- Tuesday Tidbits: Game Seven, Tavares and Nurse contracts
- Novice Hockey will be half ice
- Can The Oilers Acquire a Right-Shot Defenceman?