For the last time this season, we're about to sit down to an NHL series. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks will play for all the marbles beginning tonight.
Received wisdom says this will be the last time this Hawks team will choose partners and dance. Chicago faces a brutal reckoning as its two top players begin soaking up nearly 30 percent of its cap space beginning in 2015-16. The last time the Blackhawks gutted their own roster was after the 2010 Stanley Cup win. What happened next was not pretty, as the champs were bounced in the first round in 2011, and again in 2012.
But is this really their last hurrah? Elliotte Friedman questions the conventional thinking:
You have to believe Chicago is coming back next season with a skating core of Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad ("We'll get him signed," GM Stan Bowman told The Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc last week), Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews. In Games 6 and 7 of the Anaheim series, those players combined for nine of the Blackhawks' 10 goals and 10 of their 18 assists.
Only two of them, Keith (31) and Hossa (35), are older than 27. Hossa is still a two-way force and Keith is so mutantly immune to fatigue that Professor X was probably waiting at his home Sunday morning.
The Blackhawks already own some real talent at AHL Rockford, led by Teuvo Teravainen, now with the big club. Not all of these players will make an impact, but there's enough volume to believe some will. Whatever happens against Tampa Bay, they are better prepared to reload.
There's plenty more, as well as Friedman's always worthy 30 Thoughts, so go enjoy some pre-game entertainment. [SportsNet]
Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup finals begins at 7 p.m. Central time tonight. People, I don't need to tell you...the Jurassic World promos will be everywhere, and they will be relentless. Some of us may not make it to the final horn, and by "some of us" I mean me, pretty much. But no matter what happens, I just want you to know that I will remember each and every one of you for as long as I can.
Ready? Okay go let's GO!
Will the Bolts/Blackhawks contest come down to a goalie duel? Kevin Woodley of NHL.com discusses what to expect from the double-initialed ones, Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford.
And in case you're interested, here's the official Stanley Cup Final teaser trailer:
Meanwhile, Jared Clinton of The Hockey News looks at each team line by line to predict how they'll play the final series. [THN]
CoachWatch 2015 continues as the New Jersey Devils announce John Hynes as their 17th coach. GM Ray Shero has known Hynes since their days in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and says he didn't offer the job to anyone else. Shero also says that no decisions have been made about the rest of the coaching staff.
Read more about new #NJDevils Head Coach John Hynes: http://t.co/YohNzxcKPK pic.twitter.com/HwC5Vb7c7R— New Jersey Devils (@NHLDevils) June 2, 2015
On the opposite coast, the agonizing reappraisal has begun as Anaheim Ducks executive VP and GM Bob Murray says the team is "evaluating" the status of head coach Bruce Boudreau. [Anaheim Ducks]
The Dallas Stars will hold their 2015 training camp at Cedar Park Center and not the aging Fort Worth Convention Center Arena. Travis L. Brown details the behind-the-scenes snafus that drove the Stars out of Cowtown, as well as the new initiative that may bring them back. [Star-Telegram]
Mike Heika is ramping it up as the 2015 NHL draft approaches. His top 10 (North) Stars draft picks list features some obvious names, but in an order that may surprise you. What do you think of his choices?
The 10 best draft picks in Dallas Stars history | @MikeHeika http://t.co/jW9i6LaUSA pic.twitter.com/mFKwASXhRN— SportsDayDFW (@SportsDayDFW) June 2, 2015
First it giveth, then it taketh away: Heika offers the flip side of the draft in his 10-worst companion list. Forget Cam Fowler and Dmitry Kulikov: Did you remember that the North Stars used a first overall on Not Steve Yzerman? Oh yes they did. Keep an eye out for that and more, plus one fellow whose real hockey career began after his playing days were over. [DMN]
Speaking of Yzerman, Dan Herrejon of The Hockey Writers traces the steps of the GM of the Year finalist as he built a contender in Tampa Bay. [THW]
And as it turns out, Yzerman sees some of himself in Jonathan Toews. These two go back a long way — specifically, to the 2007 World Championships, when Yzerman chose a teenage Taser for a key role in the Canadian national team's eventual victory. Chris Johnston tells more. [SportsNet]
You've read about how the Bolts have taken extraordinary measures to keep the Blackhawks Bandwagon out of Amalie Arena. Now the mayor of Chicago has retaliated with...friendship. It's a trap! [TSN]
And just like that, many an offseason dream is dashed as defenseman and former UFA Jeff Petry signs a six-year contract in Montreal. I know, I know, he never even got to meet us. [Montreal Canadiens]
In other playoff news, the Calder Cup finals have been set. The Manchester Monarchs get the first home-ice advantage against the Utica Comets. The AHL has posted the final schedule. [AHL]
Finally: Breaking news from Allen, courtesy of the Americans' broadcaster, Tommy Daniels.
Americans Win!! Series tied 1-1 after a 5-2 win over S Carolina. 3 stars of the game 1 @gsteffes22 2) @Asuchak16 3) @dysice26 #RockYourRed— Tommy Daniels (@tommydaniels99) June 3, 2015