Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Amateur's Guide to the 2013 NHL Draft

The NHL entry draft is tomorrow in Jersey – I will be going and wanted to give any amateur’s out there a brief overview. Every franchise of the NHL select the rights to amateur hockey players who are eligible for the draft: North American players 18–20 years old and Europeans of all ages entering league for the first time. The draft happens once a year, where the teams take turns choosing players from junior, collegiate and European hockey. There are 30 teams in the NHL and to choose the order of draft selection by a combination of lottery, regular season standing, and playoff results. The 14 teams that do not participate in the post-season enter the Draft Lottery which determines the draft order for the first 14 picks.** Which ever team wins the Stanley Cup will get 30th, last pick and the runner up will get the 29th pick, so on and so forth. Teams with better results get later picks, whereas teams that had poor results get earlier picks. Keep in mind draft picks can be traded. The NHL draft has 7 rounds and over 200 prospects will be drafted.
Currently, the Colorado Avalanche holds the 1st draft pick after winning the Draft Lottery on April 29th and the Chicago Blackhawks, the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions hold the 30th pick. Rumors are circulating about what prospect will receive the first pick by the Avs; the Avs have been publicly proclaiming that Nathan Mackinnon is the top-pick for their team, but with the NHL draft less than 24 hours away anything could happen.

My top draft prospects that I am excited to see are:
1. Jonathan Drouin
2. Max Domi
3. Samuel Morin
4. Jordan Subban

Other people I am hoping to see at the NHL Draft:
• Adam Oates
• Mark Howe
• P.K Subban

"Like" The Amateur Fan on Facebook and "Follow" @theamateurfan on Twitter for live updates and pictures from the NHL Draft.

** Read a previous blog about the NHL Draft Lottery:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who will fill the net for the Flyers?

Yesterday’s announcement made the amnesty buyout rumors for Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov official; the Flyers will be using one of their compliance buyouts to end his nine-year, $51 million contract after only 2 years between the pipes for the Flyers. Bryzgalov will no longer count against the Flyers salary cap and he will be getting paid $1.643 million per year for the next 14 years not to play for the team.

Bryzgalov, who has been known to have a roller coaster relationship with the Philadelphia media, released a politically correct statement through his agent Ritch Winter, thanking Mr. Snider, the fans and his teammates. The most interesting part of his statement was: “A heavy sword makes a very strong arm.” Of course something outlandish, in true Bryz style in full caps-lock to finish the statement:


I think Philadelphia will miss Bryz and his antics. The Flyers still have a goaltending issue to figure out, they just watched as Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy with the Columbus Blue Jackets less than a year after he was let go from being a Flyers goaltender. There are two ways the Flyers can get a good goaltender: draft one and develop him within the organization or trade for an underperforming goaltender with potential. As it stands the Flyers have: Anthony Stolarz, who was drafted and is currently being developed within the organization but is not quite ready for the big stage yet. They also have Steven Mason, who after winning the Calder Trophy was severally underperforming with the Blue Jackets and came to the Flyers at the trade deadline this season to have a great end to his season. Mason is experienced and is ready to play and has the potential to find his greatness again in between the pipes for the Flyers.

GM Holmgren is known to be a man of bold moves, even with the compliance buy out of Bryzgalov and Danny Briere cap space is still and issue for the Flyers. But, let’s look at some trade options for goaltending options because you can never count Holmgren out for a big move. Ray Emery, a 30 year old NHL experienced goaltender, who is a pending unrestricted free agent. Emery played a great season for the Blackhawks going 17-1 with a 1.94 goals against average. Emery was comparable with Corey Crawford, who lead the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup 2013 but a lower body injury took him out of the net in early April. Emery has been back and healthy since late May but was never called upon to play for the Blackhawks. Though taking Emery would be a risk since he hasn’t been a full-time starter in the NHL since 2010.

I think that Emery and Mason would make a good pair for the Flyers. If Holmgren were to take a large risk and spend a lot of money again he will be looking to get Roberto Luongo on his roster. Luongo’s salary is $5.3 million; previously Luongo had a long list of suitors, even though not many teams are looking to fill their number spot. That list has dwindled to just: Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes and the Florida Panthers a team he is very partial to. Luongo, who keeps a house in Tampa during the offseason, expressed a lot of interest in moving back there but could he end up in Philadelphia?

Another option that would cost the Flyers a lot might be Ryan Miller, who has a very long list of suitors. Miller, a veteran player would round out the young talent nicely, he also has a nice resume of big stage games, the Olympics and the Veizna trophy to name of few. There are the three trade options that I see for the Philadelphia Flyers if they are looking to get some veteran talent in their net. In true Philadelphia style, it is difficult to predict Holmgren will do.

Mason was an outstanding goaltender for the Flyers during the end of their 2013 season and I would love to see him start 50% of their games during the 2013-2014 season. The Flyers continue their search for a franchise goaltender. If the Flyers are up for a trade, that trade will have to happen in a matter of days by the July 4 deadline. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

2013 Stanley Cup Champions: Chicago Blackhawks win it all!!

The Chicago Blackhawks accomplished a huge upset during the last two minutes of the 3rd period with a set of goals separated by 17 seconds to win the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks started the season with 24 games without a regulation loss and have won the Cup for the 2nd time in the past 4 years. The Boston Bruins dominated the first period; they pushed the pace of the game and had strong physical play at both ends of the ice. Patrice Bergeron returned to the ice for the Bruins and played a fine game during the first period. Also, Jonathan Toews returned to the ice for the Chicago Blackhawks and seemed to perform well, despite his upper body injury. Shaw took a puck to the face and laid motionless on the ice for awhile but received some sticks during the 1st intermission and returned to the game during the second period. Chara’s confidence seemed be lagging, he had been on the ice for 9 of the last 10 the Blackhawk goals. The Bruins could not cash in on any of their power play attempts but the penalty kill had been outstanding and Tuukka Rask made big saves. Corey Crawford was forced to come up with some big saves against the Bruins as well. Toews scored the go ahead goal for the Blackhawks and kept them in the game. Late in the 3rd period Lucic beat Crawford with the puck for the Bruins to take the lead, 2-1. As time was running out the Blackhawks pushed and scored a pair of goals in the last two minutes of the 3rd period to tie, take the lead and win the game. They beat the 2012 Stanley Cup reining Champions and played an amazing series; the Chicago Blackhawks take home the 2013 Stanley Cup.

Monday, June 24, 2013


The BIG HOCKEY NEWS is: I won tickets to attend the NHL Draft Sunday, June 30 in New Jersey at the Prudential Center. I am not really sure what to expect but my excitement is through the roof. I am hoping to be able to document as much of my experience as possible to share on my blog! Apparently, of the contest I signed up for only 25 people were selected out of the 10,000+ that signed up to receive tickets and I feel blessed by the Hockey Gods to have been selected! Now that the postseason is coming to an end, I have some time to really focus on the draft prospects. Jonathan Drouin has been my top favorite for months now and I just realized PK Subban's younger brother is a 1st round wild card for the draft. I love sibbling match-ups in the NHL: Bures, Schenn, Sedins, Stall and next the Subban brothers! That's it for now! Let's get back to Game 6! P.S "Like" my new facebook page "The Amateur Fan" on facebook

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chicago Blackhawks win Game 5

“..another hard fought game..” said netminder Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks Game 5 victory over the Boston Bruins. The Blackhawks continued to play the game with speed and push the pace against the very physical Bruins. Zdeno Chara had a large target on his back and the Blackhawks made it known they would be aggressively hitting him during Game 5. The Blackhawks created a lot of great scoring opportunities and a rebound to Patrick Kane ended in the first goal of the night for the Blackhawks taking a 1-0 lead. Kane was on fire during Game 5, beating Tuukka Rask in the net again during the second period with little resistance from the Bruins. The Blackhawks take a 2 goal advantage, leading through the end of the second period. In the third period, the Bruins were missing Patrice Bergeron, who headed to the hospital in an ambulance for observation, no future details were provided on his status after the game. Another player missing a lot of ice time during the third period was Jonathan Toews, Coach Joel Quenneville loosely suggested that he suffered from an upper body injury from cumulative hits but hopefully will be back for Game 6. Chara managed to rocket the puck over the glove side of Corey Crawford to cut the Blackhawks lead in half late in the third period. With seconds left in regulation and one goal separating the Bruins from sending this game into another overtime, the Blackhawks scored in an empty net to take a 2 goal lead and clinch the win, 3-1.
Chicago’s momentum was outstanding throughout Game 5. Kane was on fire; scoring two major goals for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford had a great performance making large saves and recorded 23 saves in net for the Blackhawks.  Crawfords glove side has been criticized recently and although he surrendered one goal to Chara on the glove side, he played an outstanding game in between the pipes. The Blackhawks targeted Chara and were able to beat him with their speed and aggressive physical play against the Bruins Captain. After playing an uncharacteristically weak game during Game 4 and the first two periods of Game 5, Rask bounced back during the 3rd period making major saves that kept the Bruins alive. The Bruins were tight through the neutral zone but did not shoot the puck enough, only taking 23 scoring chances, giving Blackhawks netminder Crawford a relatively easy game.  The Bruins struggled to keep up with the speed of the Blackhawks, which is what had the Bruins playing on their heels for the entire game. The Blackhawks also did a great job at dominating both ends of the ice for extended periods of play.  With any hope for the Bruins, Bergeron will return to play, without Bergeron the Bruins could be in trouble headed into the final games of the series.  Going into Game 6 the Bruins will have to refocus in order to win at home and keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive.  The Blackhawks have claimed the series lead 3-2 and will meet the Bruins in Boston to play Game 6 on Monday.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Blackhawks tie the series with Game 4 win

The Chicago Blackhawks took back the ice Wednesday night, winning Game 4 to tie the series 2-2 against the Boston Bruins.  The Blackhawks needed to split the games in Boston in order to keep their playoff dreams alive and they got it done in a thrilling see-saw 6-5 win in over time. After being shut out in Game 3, the Blackhawks came back to score 6 amazing goals on the previous stonewall goaltender, Tuukka Rask, who stayed in goal the entire game for the Bruins. The Bruins were uncharacteristically loose and Rask was not his normal self in goal. Bruins coach Claude Julien said, "It was certainly a tough outing for us tonight." At the other end of the ice for the Blackhawks Corey Crawford in goal, said, “It was a pretty crazy hockey game.” The Bruins have successfully exploited Crawford’s weak glove side, scoring goals on that side during all four games, which especially helped to keep the Bruins alive during Game 4.  Crawford’s inability to stop anything on his glove side is worrisome going into the end of the series; it is really going to force Chicago to be strong offensively.  Although the numbers are stacked against Crawford and he notices the target on his glove side, he is a mentally tough player so don’t expect to see this affect his game.  Crawford’s glove side has been targeted numerous times in the postseason: the Red Wings were able to beat him five times to the glove side, where as the L.A Kings were not during the Western Conference finals.  Crawford faced some crazy goals during Game 4: the first goal from Patrice Bergeron that bounced off of the top of the net out of sight for Crawford then landing right in front and Johnny Boychuk’s blast from the point.  
Game 4 appeared to be a continuation of the strong first period the Blackhawks had during Game 2 but this time they continued their push through the entire 60 plus minutes into over time.  Although the Blackhawks lost the lead several times there was a determined team on the ice and they kept challenging Rask and the Bruins. Their first goal was luck, bouncing in off the goal post but the goals that followed showed skill and strategy, as they creatively beat Rask in the net. The Blackhawks had a short handed goal for the first time in 129 minutes of play, hopefully ending their power play woes. The Bruins were playing on their heels, always a few strides behind the Blackhawks.   During the second period, there was a combination of 5 goals scored.  The combination of Toews and Kane paid off for the Blackhawks as they scored goals 2:08 minutes apart claiming a 3-1 lead for the Blackhawks.  Lucic cut the lead in half, shooting the puck past Chara for a score, 3-2. Then 49 seconds later Kruger restored the two goals lead for the Blackhawks.  Bergeron came through at the end of the second period with a set of goals for the Bruins and rallied to tie the Blackhawks 4-4.  The Bruins had been solid on the penalty kill, not allowing a goal since the second round but Sharp ended that with a goal, taking the lead 5-4. The last goal during regulation came from Boychuk to tie the game 5-5, sending the game into over time for the 3rd time during this series. The Blackhawks ended the game during overtime with a slap shot from Seabrook to clinch the 6-5 win, tying the series 2-2.
The uncharacteristic play from the Bruins and the strong consistent push from the Blackhawks during Game 4 gives this series an unpredictable future. Will the Blackhawks continue with their depth and rally for comebacks? And, will the Bruins tighten up their game or will they continue to play a loose game? During Game 4, the Blackhawks figured out how to score on Rask, through rebounds and bodies at the net, while the Bruins continued to target the weak glove side of Crawford.  All questions will be answered by the Blackhawks and the Bruins on Saturday when they meet in Chicago for Game 5 to break the series tie.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Boston Bruins v. Chicago Blacks heading into Game 4

During Game 3 the Boston Bruins blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0, a series that was once  tilted in favor of the Blackhawks now has them playing on their heels. The Bruins did not just win Game 3 but they dominated the Blackhawks.  They seem to have figured their game out; from defense to offense they are leaving no holes in their game.  The Bruins are doing all the right things.  Game 3 was built off of the Bruins momentum from the end of Game 2, where they were excelling and creating opportunities from unlikely sources.  The Bruins continue to excel at the physical aspect of the game, leaving no path of least resistance for the Blackhawks.  The Bruins, who came off of a clean sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins to lose Game 1 of the final to the Blackhawks now, are in the position to end the series by Game 5. The Blackhawks are facing a few challenges in this series.  Their weak power play has gotten the best of them; they need to have a power play strategy, practice the power play and put the power play out of their mind once it is over. Ray Ferraro, now TSN analyst who made his living on the power play during his NHL career said:
 "You have to be careful not to let an ineffective power play seep into the rest of your game and frustrate you.”
 In addition to their ineffective power plays, minutes before Game 3 started the Blackhawks lost high scoring right winger, Marian Hossa to an upper body injury; Hossa is expected to return for Game 4 which could impact the Blackhawks power play.  With talented players like: Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Keith in the lineup it’s puzzling why the power play is such an issue.  Another issue facing the Blackhawks is: Tuukka Rask.  The Blackhawks need to score goals, which means they have to get the puck past the glove hand of Rask.  In order for the Blackhawks to score on him they will need to force rebound opportunities and overwhelm Rask with bodies in front of the net.  Instead of trying to score on Rask straight on, the Blackhawks will have to block Rask with bodies and shot around him to score.  The Blackhawks needed a clean sweep in Boston to put the Bruins in a 3-1 hole like LA, but a split in Boston will still put the Blackhawks in a good position.

Going into Game 4 tonight the Blackhawks still have a chance.  They are a proven team; the Blackhawks are more battletested after defeating the reigning champs: The L.A Kings, a rigid and regimented team who had the best chance of a repeat cup after the extended off season this year.  Also a note worthy accomplishment for the Blackhawks from the second round was their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Detroit Redwings.  The Blackhawks can once again tilt the series in their favor despite their weak power play.  In fact, power play woes have plagued the last two teams who won the Stanley Cup, Boston Bruins 2011 and L.A Kings 2012; ineffective power plays did not prevent either team from winning the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks will have to take the ice tonight and out play the Bruins with their special teams and the Bruins will be relying on Rask for another clean sweep in the net. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Stanley Cup Final Game 2

The Chicago Blackhawks took to the ice strong tonight against the Boston Bruins, leading in shots on goal during the first period.  The Blackhawks had great depth on their blue line and were taking to the forecheck.  After back and forth play through the neutral zone, the Blackhawks had a flurry of shots on goal against the Bruins and finally got the puck past Tuukka Rask, giving the Blackhawks a 1 to nothing lead.  The Blackhawks dominated the first period and Rask was the Bruins MVP during that period and the key element to keeping the score low and manageable for the Bruins come back. The Bruins came back stronger in the second period getting into a groove late in the period with a goal.  The Bruins finally started bring the heat and the speed, just as it appeared the Blackhawks started to slow down. Third period was a wash with no goals and the series again was pushed into overtime.  The Bruins and Blackhawks traded chances during over time but in the end the Bruins tied up the series with an overtime goal.
For the second time in this series, the team that won did not lead during the game. The Blackhawks started off this game strong but were up against a stone wall in the Bruins net, Tuukka Rask, blocking 18 of 19 shots during the first period. Although the Blackhawks dominated the Bruins during the first period, the Bruins began to push the pace with their defense and got physical in the second period, turning their opportunities around.  The Blackhawks lost the momentum of the game after the first period and continue to struggle on their power play.  The Bruins came through with goals from unlikely sources, Kelly and Paille.  With top lines going toe to toe both teams need goals from unlikely sources on their third and fourth lines. This tied series will meet again in Boston on Monday and either the Bruins or Blackhawks will lead the series after Game 3. Let's go!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stanley Cup Final Game 1

Last night the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks met for the first time in 20 months for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. They played a classic hockey game of champions as they took the game to triple over time, the fifth longest game in Stanley Cup history.  Chicago relentlessly applied the pressure to the hard hitting Bruins and their efforts finally paid off.  Lucic scored the first goal of the series for the Bruins during the first period, taking an early lead.  The Blackhawks, known for their speed took to the fore-check and generated deep plays in the Bruins zone that caused turn overs and scoring chances. Tuukka Rask held fast in the net for the Bruins blocking opportunities during the first period, as the Blackhawks put the heat on him.  If it weren't for Rask there might have been a different out come during the first period. The Bruins top line had a ton of energy and responded to the speed of the Blackhawks.  Moving into the second period the Bruins still had good momentum and Lucic scored his second point of the game and second point for the Bruins; Bruins had a two point lead, 2-0. The Blackhawks responded by a forced turn over, as they took the puck to the other end of the ice and Saad scored his first goal, cutting the Bruins lead in half.  During the third period Bergeron took a one timer right into the net to give the Bruins a 2 goal cushion, 3-1. The Blackhawks came back with a goal from Bolland and then Oduya got the best of Rask, evening the score 3-3 late in the 3rd period sending this series into its first over time.  This series went into triple over time with Crawford and Rask making amazing saves. There were great scoring chances for both teams and after 112 minutes of play Shaw scored the winning goal off of a double deflection.  

The Chicago Blackhawks got this series off to a great start; they were relentless; kept their speed and fore-checking through the neutral zone.  Although they did not hold a lead during the game, their momentum was always giving them scoring chances and opportunities.  Corey Crawford was the key element to keeping the Blackhawks in the game.  The Blackhawks are not without error, they were called twice for too many men on the ice and had some poor line changes but these are all correctable mistakes.  The Bruins lost a two goal lead and missed the opportunity to take away the home ice advantage from Chicago. Lucic was a strong player for the Bruins, he was all over the ice last night and strong on the fore-check, as well as tracking down the puck.  Also, Rask was a fortress in goal for the Bruins. The Bruins players were missing the depth in their long contests.  The Bruins have 2 days to figure out how to beat Crawford and a key to that would be to find scorers other than the top line. If this series continues like Game 1 the series might be over sooner than later.  The Chicago Blackhawks lead early in the series 1-0 and will face-off again on Saturday in Chicago. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Stanley Cup Final

The Stanley Cup final will begin tonight, with a best of 7 series match up between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Both teams have great depth, enormous talent and are overall well balanced teams.  The Bruins have size and strength, and use that to their advantage to get the puck deep, hit bodies and make plays in the corners that lead to goals. On the other hand, the Blackhawks use their speed and quickness to their advantage to speed through the neutral zone and create odd man rushes that lead to goals. Although Tuukka Rask had been a solid goaltender for the Bruins when they faced the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blackhawks do a better job of putting more bodies in front of the net so that Rask won’t always have a clear view of the puck.  The Blackhawks have been good on the penalty kill and with the weak power play the Bruins have exemplified, penalty kills should be no struggle for the Blackhawks.  A major weakness for the Blackhawks is their faceoff wins, especially in their own zone, while the Bruins are good at face offs the Blackhawks struggle. The elite scores for the Blackhawks have to be more consistent offensively, especially since the Bruins excel at shutting down the elite scorers.   Overall, the Bruins have struggled against teams with speed; they play more of a physical game and use their size to their advantage.  With the Blackhawks suffering big hits from the Bruins they could be worn down quickly, it will be interesting to see how the Blackhawks deal with a physical team engaging them in big hits.  The Blackhawks will have to improve on their face offs if they want to win, especially when they are in their own zone. With Toews, Kane and Sharp struggling get the puck into the net, Bryan Bickell has emerged strong, establishing a position near the net and has been hard to knock down.  Bickell will have to continue this level of performance against the Bruins.  Another game changer for the Blackhawks, Maria Hossa, with his speed, strength, excellent puck handling and quick release shots the Blackhawks will be leaning on him to help them inch closer to the Stanley Cup. Zdeno Chara, the best defenseman and an awesome weapon for the Bruins, goes into battles to win but is not invulnerable the Blackhawks will have to force him into corners and take advantage of any turnovers that he might give them.  To quote a good friend Dave Null: “The mark of a champion is being able to step it up when it's all on the line... I think that we're about to see what Toews and Kane are really made of.” I am picking the Blackhawks to win, but ultimately the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins will decide who wins the Stanley Cup, Game 1 starts tonight!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Chicago Blackhawks eliminate the L.A Kings in Game 5

Last night the Chicago Blackhawks dethroned the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions, the L.A. Kings, as they were eliminated from the playoffs in Game 5. The Kings started off with an inconsistent game during the first period, at times floundering and falling all over the place but then by the end of the game there were applying pressure and came back in the last 9 seconds of the 3rd period to take Game 5 to a double over time. Mike Richards was back on the ice and he made major contributions to keeping the Kings alive including the 3rd period goal that sent the Kings to over time. The Blackhawks had Duncan Keith back from his one-game suspension, an important player who made major contributions, logging more than 38 minutes of ice time and opening up goal scoring for the game.  
The Blackhawks took the early lead in the first period, by a goal from Keith and then Kane scored to take a 2-0 lead. The Kings were floundering and falling all over the place trying to block shots, they looked very unorganized and the game did not look promising for the defending champs. The Kings came back in the second period to cut the Blackhawks lead in half, with the only goal of the second period. Using the momentum they had been created in the second period the Kings, after numerous attempts, finally got the puck into the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2 early in the third period.  An intense third period ensued between the Blackhawks and the defending champs, with 4 minutes remaining in regulation time the Blackhawks claimed the lead 3-2. During the remaining 4 minutes of the game the puck was back and forth with the Kings making numerous failed attempts to score, finally with only seconds left in the game and the feeling that the Blackhawks had won, the L.A. Kings resurrected the game with a game saving goal. Game 5 was pushed into over time with the Kings applying pressure to the Blackhawks. There were good opportunities on both ends of the ice and a lot of back and forth play during the first over time. There were extended periods of time when the Kings were dominating and attempting to keep their playoff dreams alive. When one over time wasn’t enough for these two determined teams the game was pushed into a second over time for the first time in this series. Kane came through with a hat trick, scoring in double overtime to win the Western Conference title for the Blackhawks.
After an outstanding performance, the defending champs will be heading home, while the Blackhawks will be advancing to the Stanley Cup final. The Chicago Blackhawks will face the Boston Bruins, who ousted the Pittsburgh Penguins in 4 games to win the Eastern Conference title. Game 1 will be Wednesday in Chicago, giving both of these teams a few days to rest before they battle for the Stanley Cup!!