NHL Week in Review (May 27-June 2)

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Heading into the Stanley Cup Finals the story surrounded the two best players on either team and how they could carry their teams to the Cup.

That is not an entirely uncommon story as the best players will always be brought to the forefront in any playoff series.

What was more interesting about this version of the story is that both were going to go head-to-head and play against each other.

In so many sports the stories become about the players yet those players are almost never on the same playing surface at the same time.

Even if they are, they rarely have to play against each other directly or have an impact on each others game.

This was not going to be the case in the Finals as the two stars were going to directly affect each other throughout the series.

For Washington, it was Alexander Ovechkin who had been great throughout the playoffs and has been their star player for years.

He is one of the most prolific scorers in NHL history and in order for the Caps to take their first Cup he would need to be the star that he has been in the regular season.

That is the same sentiment that exists in Vegas where their goal of winning a title rests heavily on the shoulders of their goalie.

Marc-Andre Fleury has been the best pick for the expansion team as he was a big factor in helping them to the playoffs.

Although he was injured for the start of the season and the team was able to carry the load he was a cornerstone at the end of the season.

Eventually, when they made the playoffs he was one of the few players on the team who brought playoff experience.

He turned back the clock in these playoffs becoming the Fleury that helped guide the Penguins to two Stanley Cups.

If the knights were going to shock the sports world and take a Cup int heir first season as a team he was going to need to be just as good.

That is where the direct competition was going to kick in as Fleury has to stand tall against one of the best scorers in the game.

The success and failure of either team isn’t entirely on these two players but they do play a very big role.

The success of Fleury might be the biggest as his ability to keep a powerful offence at bay would make a massive difference in the series.

Ovechkin would also need to be great but he has been surrounded by talent on the offensive side of the ice with support.hockey-sidebar

Still, Ovechkin is the leader and leaders like him need to be able to get the goals at the right times and help lead their teams.

So far the series has seen a shift to one side of this equation as the Capitals have taken a 2-1 lead.

As a part of that lead, Ovechkin has been able to put up three points including two goals and has been a driving factor in both of their wins.

On the other side, Fleury hasn’t necessarily been the goalie that he was for the rest of the playoffs.

That pressure that the Caps bring to the series is something different as they have some elite scorers including Ovechkin.

With a 3.42 GAA and a .875 SV% in three games so far he is not at the top of his game and as a result, the Caps have been able to get ahead.

It isn’t entirely his fault as the defence that helped him through the playoffs has not been the same against the Caps.

Still, though, Fleury is being depended on to lead this team and they can’t have him fall apart at the worst time.

The Caps still need two wins to seal this series and there is time for the Knights to come back and for Fleury to step up.

As of right now though, Ovechkin is winning the battle between the two stars and his team is inching closer to that win.

After taking a loss in the first game they have looked different in the last two games and that could be the momentum they need to get that first title.

Overtime

Testimony Shines Light

TSN has shed light on some serious issues with the NHL during their case regarding concussions in the NHL. Videos of depositions with high-ranking NHL officials and team owners were released in a series of reports by Rick Westhead. These videos show one of two things depending on how you see things in this case. In the interviews, the people making the decisions claimed to have no knowledge of CTE or their relation to concussions. This either shows that these important people are either willfully ignorant or are just lying about the fact that concussions are directly related to hits taken in the game.

The Next Generation

This week scouts from around the league focused on Buffalo where the NHL Scouting Combine took place. The NHL Combine is a slightly different look from the combine known as the “Underwear Olympics” in Indianapolis but it is beginning to grow. At the end of the day though this event is a chance for a new generation of players to show what they have. Obviously, the performance they have put in on the ice is going to be the biggest factor but these events can expose some things. Some of the players can gain a lot by showing what they have in these drills while others could bring some doubts into their future.

Closer to a Return

After a successful World Championship Ilya Kovalchuk continues to make progress on trying o find another home in the NHL. He has proven that he can still play at a high level and teams are taking a look at his potential. He has had issues before in the NHL with his attitude and not performing up to his contract. That will give teams some hesitation but he seems to be ready to return and according to him he will be looking to return on a team that can win as he chases that elusive championship.

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