Saturday Seven: And Then There Were Eight

Curtis LeBlanc
April 29 2017 11:47AM

The first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs did not go as many had expected. From the Toronto Maple Leafs giving the league-best Washington Capitals a run for their money in six games to the Nashville Predators sweeping the perennial cup-contender Chicago Blackhawks, it was heartbreaking and exhilarating for fans of the fastest game on earth.

With only eight teams remaining and second round series under way, there's been a lot to talk about in the hockey world.

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A few thoughts on the Sens' attendance problem

Ryan Fancey
April 28 2017 01:41PM

Chances are you've heard a lot about the Ottawa Senators' inability to sell out playoff games over the last few days, especially if you're a hockey fan living in Ontario. On one hand you have folks living in Ottawa going on the defensive about it, and those down in the Golden Horseshoe using it as a rallying point to troll their intraprovincial rivals. Either way, this situation is getting a lot of air time (or Twitter focus, I guess), and as a person residing in the the nation's capital, I've given it my fair share of thought.

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NHL Second Round Playoff Preview: New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Pat Keogh
April 27 2017 09:00AM

The dust has settled on the first round and here at NHL Numbers we have yet another second round series to preview, the New York Rangers/Ottawa Senators Eastern Conference Semifinal. After a hard-hitting series against Montreal in which ultimately speed and skill prevailed, the Rangers will head to Ottawa starting on Thursday night to meet their opponents, fresh off their own triumph over the injury-depleted Boston Bruins. 

That series saw big performances from Ottawa’s big guns, such as Derick Brassard, Bobby Ryan, and of course the sensational Erik Karlsson. The big question that this series will answer is whether New York’s speed game can break through Ottawa’s defensive system, and who will prevail among the two Swedish superstars on opposite ends of the ice, Henrik Lundqvist or the aforementioned Erik Karlsson.

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Future Free Agents: Alexander Radulov

Cam Lewis
April 27 2017 07:00AM

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© Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The narrative surrounding Alexander Radulov has completely flipped in the past year. When he was inked by the Montreal Canadiens to a one-year, $5.75 million deal on the first day of free agency, not long after the team had pulled off a massively polarizing swap of P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, it was met with a scoff and a laugh. Radulov, an enigmatic Russian who was too lazy and into himself for the NHL attempting another comeback with this impending disaster in Montreal. Comedy! 

But Radulov was a hit this year. He was Montreal's most valuable player (not named Carey Price) for good chunks of the season, and dragged the team on his back throughout the first round of the playoffs. The team didn't win, but Radulov's performance resulted in him being called 'the best player in the league' by the notoriously xenophobic Don Cherry. 

Now nobody's laughing at the idea of Radulov, finally, at the age of 30, living up to his hype and becoming a star player in the NHL. In fact, he's going to be heading into free agency this summer not as a question mark maybe worth a one-year gamble, but instead as a player who's certainly going to lock down a lucrative, long-term contract. 

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NHL Second Round Playoff Preview: Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Cam Lewis
April 26 2017 10:49AM

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Well, not actually, because anything can happen, a key player can get injured, a goalie can get hot, and a surprise team can win, but the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are clearly the two best teams in the NHL. They finished with the best and second best records during the regular season, their underlying numbers match it, and whoever comes out of this series will become the favourite to win it all. 

The Penguins have been the obstacle in the path to success for the Capitals forever now. Ever since Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the league in 2005-06, the Penguins have come out on top. Last season, Pittsburgh beat Washington in what was as tight and well played of a series as you'll see en route to their second Stanley Cup in the Crosby era. In fact, Washington has only even beaten Pittsburgh in a playoff series once in franchise history, and that came back in 1994. 

We ask every single season, but can this be Washington's year? Can Alex Ovechkin finally beat Sidney Crosby? This might be his best — and last — chance. 

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