2016-2017 Hockey Champions

hockey champs 2

It is the middle of June and the ice has finally melted on the 2016-2017 hockey season.  Here is a recap on the champions of each league:

National Hockey League (NHL):  Pittsburgh Penguins

  • The Penguins are the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998.  The Penguins defeated Columbus (4-1), Washington (4-3), Ottawa (4-3) and Nashville (4-2) to win their 5th cup in franchise history.  Sidney Crosby was named the MVP.

American Hockey League (AHL):  Grand Rapids Griffins

  • The Griffins defeated the Syracuse Crunch in six games to win their second Calder Cup.  They defeated Milwaukee (3-0), Chicago (4-1) and San Jose (4-1) on their way to the Cup final.    Griffins’ forward Tyler Bertuzzi was named the finals MVP.  The Griffins are the top farm team for the Detroit Red Wings.

ECHL:  Colorado Eagles

  • The Eagles won their first Kelly Cup championship in team history.  Defenseman Matt Register was named the MVP to become the first defenseman in the ECHL’s 29-year history to receive the award.   The Eagles defeated Idaho (4-1), Allen (4-2), Toledo (4-1) and South Carolina (4-0) to win the Cup.  The Eagles are affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche.

Federal Hockey League (FHL):  Danville Dashers

  •  The Dashers completed the best season in Danville history by winning the Commissioner’s Cup after setting a new league record with 129 points in the regular season.  The Dashers defeated Watertown (2-1) and Berlin (3-2) to win their first championship.  Danville forward Gehrett Sargis was named the MVP of the Commissioner Cup playoffs with four goals and four assists.

Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL):  Macon Mayhem

  • The Mayhem won their first President’s Cup title in just their second season.  They defeated Columbus (2-1), Pensacola (2-0) and Peoria (2-0).  Goalie Jordan Ruby was named the MVP.

North American Hockey League (NAHL):  Lone Star Brahmas

  • The Brahmas were crowned Robertson Cup National Champions.  Drake Glover was named the tournament MVP to lead the Brahmas their first title.   Lone Star defeated Wichita Falls (3-0), Corpus Christi (3-2), Janesville (2-0) and Aston (1-0) on their way to the Robertson Cup.

United States Hockey League (USHL):  Chicago Steel

  • The Steel won the Clark Cup Championship beating the Sioux City Musketeers 3 games to 2 for their first title.  Eduards Tralmaks was the MVP with 10 goals and two assists in the playoffs.    His 10 goals are tied for the most in USHL playoff history.  Chicago defeated Youngstown (3-2) and Dubuque (3-1) in the playoffs.

Western Hockey League (WHL):  Seattle Thunderbirds

  • The Thunderbirds captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time in the team’s 40-year history.  Mathew Barzal was named the MVP.   Seattle defeated Tri-City (4-0), Everett (4-0), Kelowna (4-2) and Regina (4-2).    The Thunderbirds won a dramatic Game 6 at Regina in overtime to win the cup.

National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL):  Buffalo Beauts

  • The Beauts stunned heavily favored Boston Pride to win the Isobel Cup.  Despite a third place finish in the regular season, Buffalo defeated the Pride 3-2 to win the title.  Buffalo goalie Brianne McLaughlin was named MVP with 60 saves in the game.  The Beauts defeated New York (4-2) and Boston (3-2) in the playoffs.

Hockey Tonk Hangover

perds loss

This is not the post I wanted to make this morning.   This is the morning after the Nashville Predators lost Game Six of the Stanley Cup final, giving the Penguins another title.  It was a heartbreaking defeat as the game was scoreless until the final few minutes of regulation.   As we were assuming overtime might decide it, Patric Hornqvist slipped the puck in off of Predators’ goalie Pekka Rhinne for the game winner.  Carl Hagelin ended all hope of a comeback with an empty net goal with 14 seconds left.

I won’t lie.  It hurts.

Yes, I know the Predators had an amazing run and played in their first Stanley Cup final but at the moment it means nothing.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are grueling.   Two months of playoff hockey.  It takes its toll on players, coaches and fans.  I’m tired and emotionally spent.  I’ve always said that the playoffs should all be best-of-five series instead of seven game marathons.

preds fansYes, the Predators did the unthinkable.  They swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the St. Louis Blues in six games and out-hustled the Anaheim Ducks in six to advance to the Stanley Cup final.   Music City was absolutely crazy and a town painted in gold.  Fans packed viewing locations on Broadway, Hall of Fame Park and other designated viewing areas to support the team.   It was an amazing experience.

As far as the final thoughts about the Stanley Cup final, I think the Predators missed Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala.  It might have been a different series had they remained healthy.  I read some comments on social media where Predator fans are posted memes about the refs but as Predators’ captain Mike Fisher said, “It’s just sports”.   Yes, the refs were horrible in this series.  The NHL needs to do something about that but the fact remains that the Predators still had power play opportunities and were still shutout – even with a 5-on-3 advantage – so you can’t pin that one on the refs.  Another thing I have noticed is the poor sportsmanship from Penguin fans.  One went back and commented on my post on a Predators’ site that was unnecessary.  I’m just surprised on their reactions.  I even saw a Penguins fan and I wished them good luck before the game.  He did the same.  There was no “Penguins suck” or any other trash talk.

I also wish Predator fans would get rid of the ridiculous chant after our team scores.  So the sportsmanship works both ways.

P.K. Subban already predicts that the Predators will be back.  I guess he means the Stanley Cup final.  Honestly, I wish he would stop talking.  I’m really not sure he’s that good on the ice.  I have not been a fan.

In every postseason there is always a goaltender that gets hot and leads his team.   Pekka Rinne did that but he really had problems on the road in the final.  He was as bad as he could have been.  He wasn’t particularly great during the regular season.  I’m just wondering if the Predators might need to get another goalie ready.  I don’t think Saros is the answer.

Another area the Predators need to get better is on the power play.  The team has not been much of a threat on power play opportunities.  When the Predators start on a power play I have not gotten my hopes up because it hasn’t been an advantage.

The most frustrating part of the play of the Predators is shot selection.  When the puck is in the offensive zone the team passes too many times in an attempt to get a perfect shot.  It seems very indecisive and then when they take a shot it is a poor choice.   With the goal scorers the team has on offense, this shouldn’t be happening.

Yes, I’m a little bitter right now.  If you get this far you should win it because you never know if you will ever get back here or not.  It’s a long season.   In fact, training camp starts again in September.

With that said, it was a season that no one expected.  Not even myself.  If you look back at my past blog posts you will see that I did not pick the Predators to win any of their playoff series so they surprised me and exceeded any expectations anyone had.  For the first time, I watched more hockey this season than any other.  My wife and I were doubtful how good the Predators would be after the regular season.

Losing always hurts but I’m sure it will hurt less in the days and weeks ahead.  It has been a fun season.

Can The Predators Dethrone The Penguins?

Here we are.   The Stanley Cup final.  I never imagined that the Nashville Predators would be here.  It’s an amazing time to live in the Music City.  The Predators have exceeded all expectations.  Swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.  Eliminated the St. Louis Blues in six.  Then out hustled the Anaheim Ducks in six physical games.  The Predators have not trailed in any of their playoff series so far.  

So how will they do against the Pittsburgh Penguins?

The Penguins are overwhelming favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.  They have the experience with having won four cups in their history.  They have a superstar in Sidney Crosby.  The Penguins have dispatched of the Columbus Bluejackets in five games, Washington Capitals in seven and the Ottawa Senators in seven. 

I think it’s going to be difficult for the Predators to defeat the Penguins.  This series might really show how much Ryan Johansen’s injury will hurt the Predators’ matchups with the Penguins.  

The Predators still have a problem with shot selection.  They make too many passes looking to set up the perfect shot.  They also have too many breakdowns on the defensive end which an experienced championship team like the Penguins could exploit.  

The one wildcard in all of this is Pekka Rinne.  He has been the best Predators’ player in several games.  It will depend which Pekka shows up in the final as to how successful the Predators will be in competing with the Penguins.  

I do not think the Predators have enough to overcome the Penguins.  Although I would love to see the Music City to win the Stanley Cup, realistically I think the Penguins will repeat in five games.