Islanders Look To Make Another Statement

John Tavares

It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means it’s November and that the New York Islanders should be in the midst of some sort of record-setting losing streak. Well thanks to the additions of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy on October fourth, plus the recently stellar play of goaltender Jaroslav Halak and secondary scoring that has been there all season, the Islanders are playing like the best team in all of New York.

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How do Toews, Kane extensions affect the Hawks big picture?

Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

As expected, the Chicago Blackhawks locked up their future. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane agreed to contract extensions that will last eight years and are worth a reported $10.5 million annually. The contract extensions will go into effect at the start of the 2015-16 season.

Toews and Kane were asking for as much as $12 million per season and were also reported to sign on the dotted line for $10.8 million. That being said, their extensions will make them the two highest paid players in the National Hockey League. [Read more…]

Chicago Blackhawks eliminated in part by themselves

L.A. Kings vs Chicago Blackhawks

The heart-pounding is over, but the pain is just settling in for Chicago Blackhawks fans. The Los Angeles Kings saved themselves the trouble of fighting from behind in a third consecutive series by taking a commanding 3-1 series lead and took care of business during the 11th hour. There is enough to think about in the immediate aftermath of Chicago’s elimination just short of another Stanley Cup Final appearance.

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Team Finland hockey preview: Always a threat

Team Finland hockey

Team Finland hockey has had a number of players play well over a good stretch of time. Teemu Selanne, Sami Salo, Olli Jokinen, and Kimmo Timonen have played in multiple Olympics. Selanne is the all-time leading scorer in Olympic hockey history.

Teams like Slovakia and the Czech Republic are fading as European powerhouses, but Finland has a large number of young players ready to take over for aging stars such as Selanne.

Forwards

Looking past the ‘Finnish Flash,’ Lejonen is deep. Valtteri Filppula, Aleksander Barkov, and Mikael Granlund offer scoring on multiple lines. Jussi Jokinen has played well on Pittsburgh after being left for dead in Carolina. Tuomo Ruutu and former Chicago Blackhawks prospect Petri Kontiola offer two-way play with size. [Read more…]

Team Latvia hockey preview: Experience vast, but not enough

Sandis Ozolinsh

Team Latvia hockey has had some famous players do damage on international ice. Arturs Irbe is easily the most famous player in national history. Latvian head coach and current Buffalo Sabres bench boss Ted Nolan has his work cut out for him as only five players have NHL experience.

The majority of Team Latvia plays in the Kontinental Hockey League for Dynamo Riga based in Latvia.

Forwards

Sabres rookie Zemgus Girgensons is the most relevant player on the top lines. Kaspars Daugavins and Janis Sprukts have time in the NHL, but played character roles. [Read more…]

Team Russia hockey preview: Defending their turf

Team Russia hockey

Canada would have been torn to shreds if it lost to the U.S. in the gold medal game. If Team Russia hockey loses to anyone in the gold medal game, the ridicule would be insurmountable.

The Russians are looking to return to the medal stand for the first time since 2002 when they took home bronze. The Big Red Machine has looked more like a band of misfits than one of the deepest and talented teams assembled for international play. Questioning Russia’s motivation is almost commonplace at this point, so expect the same if there is a lackluster performance. The team is built with a near 50/50 split of NHLers and players from the Kontinental Hockey League based out of Russia. [Read more…]

Team Norway hockey preview: Climbing out from obscurity

Mats Zuccarello

Mats Zuccarello took Olympic hockey by storm with Team Norway in 2010. The diminutive forward helped Team Norway hockey play some of the World’s best teams at a surprisingly high level. While Norway is a far cry away from the medal podium, they could ruin the tournament for a team or two.

Forwards

Zuccarello and former NHLer Patrick Thoresen lead a group of relative unknowns looking to build off of 2010. The majority of the forwards play in Sweden and Russia. [Read more…]

Team Slovakia hockey preview: Somewhere in the middle

Team Slovakia hockey

A little over half of Team Slovakia hockey is playing in the NHL, yet the talent level is somewhere in between great and mediocre. The Hossa brothers Marian and Marcel accent the skill of the team, but their skill levels are on opposite ends of the spectrum for Slovakia.

Slovakia made a miracle run to the Final Four in 2010 before losing to Canada in the semifinals. To make it that far again, stealing points and wins from the U.S. and Canada may be a must. [Read more…]

Team Switzerland hockey preview: Getting closer

Team Switzerland hockey

The 2013 World Championship Runner-Up is on the verge of competing with the big dogs annually. Team Switzerland hockey is looking to medal for the first time since 1948 when they took home bronze. The 2006 and 2010 Olympic teams have been thorns in the Canadians thighs, scoring an upset in 2006 and pushing them to a shootout in 2010.

The Swiss are not in the same preliminary group as Hockey Canada this time, so any upset would have to come in the medal round.

Forwards

Damien Brunner and Nino Niederreiter lead an interesting forward group. The Swiss play a well-balanced two-way game, making the team’s two NHL stars the main scoring threats much like they are in New Jersey and Minnesota, respectively. Simon Moser is the only other forward with experience in North America. He currently plays for the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. [Read more…]

Team Sweden hockey preview: Lying in the weeds

Team Sweden hockey

There is an awful lot of talk about who will win gold in Olympic hockey. What is surprising is that the Team Sweden hockey club is not getting enough love compared to Canada and host country Russia. The 2006 gold medal winners may have been upset in 2010, but are looking like a solid choice to regain their title as the best in the world.

Tre Kronor has depth at every position, even with injuries taking their toll. Only one player, Jimmie Ericsson, plays overseas. That clues you in to how much high-end talent is playing in the NHL for the Swedes. [Read more…]

Team Czech Republic hockey preview: Too many veterans

Jaromir Jagr

Looking up and down the Team Czech Republic roster reveals plenty of notable players. The problem with those names is that the majority of them are on the back end of their careers. Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr, Milan Michalek, Petr Nedved, Tomas Kaberle, Michal Rozsival, and Marek Zidlicky have all seen better days. Players such as Jagr and Elias are still playing at a premium level, but the length of the NHL and travel take their tolls.

Forwards

Looking past the veterans, there is a good group of young forwards who will make noise for the Czechs. David Krejci, Ondrej Palat, Martin Hanzal, and Jakub Voracek have all had success in the NHL and are the future of the Team Czech Republic hockey national team. Expect Krejci and Voracek to play a major role offensively with Hanzal centering the checking line. [Read more…]

Team Slovenia hockey preview: Looking up

Team Slovenia hockey

Anza Kopitar will be lucky to play more than four games for Team Slovenia Hockey in the Winter Olympics. Slovenia defied all odds by qualifying for the games with Kopitar and Detroit Red Wings prospect Jan Mursak as the only players most hockey fans would know.

Kopitar’s father Matjaz coaches Team Slovenia.

Forwards [Read more…]