In a year where offensive parity and a weird medical outbreak kept the big guns from firing on all cylinders, there were still some pretty neat storylines during the 2014-15 hockey campaign
1. Hawks win the Stanley Cup –
June 15, 2015 Thanks to the (literally) tireless efforts of Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawks claimed their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, dusting off the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. Keith, who played an otherworldly average of 31 minutes per game in the post-season, scored the game-winning goal by following up his own rebound on Bolts goalie Ben Bishop. Patrick Kane, who always seems to come through in big contests, added the dagger on a beauty feed from Brad Richards. In terms of sentiment, it was hard to beat captain Jonathan Toews passing the Cup off to Kimmo Timonen, whose career and life almost ended in the summer due to blood clots. Instead, the Finnish D-man ended his career a champion.
2. Edmonton wins lottery – April 18, 2015
They only had the third-best odds, but the Edmonton Oilers still saw NHL vice-president Bill Daly pull their golden card at the draft lottery, giving them the right to select Erie Otters generational phenom Connor McDavid first overall this summer.
It was a stunning reveal, seeing that Edmonton had already won three of the past five lotteries and now they were getting a fourth crack. Even McDavid, who was in attendance at the lottery drawing, looked a little shocked when he realized what had happened. But it’s all in the books now, and the challenge for new GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McLellan is to assemble a lineup that can keep the puck out of the net more often than it can put it in.
3. Hammond saves Senators –
April 11, 2015 Thanks to a 27-year-old rookie goaltender, Ottawa made an unprecedented playoff run. Andrew ‘The Hamburglar’ Hammond went 20-1-2 in the crease, helping the Senators come back from 14 points out of the post-season picture on Feb. 10 to a berth in the playoffs in Game 82. Beating the Flyers got the Sens in and though they lost to the Habs in the first round, it was a remarkable run. Hammond wasn’t the only feel-good story in net, as Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk and Chicago’s Scott Darling were also triumphs.
4. Benn takes scoring title –
April 11, 2015 Stars captain Jamie Benn captured his first Art Ross Trophy in dramatic fashion on the last day of the regular season. Benn tallied a hat trick, then picked up an assist on the game-winning goal against Nashville with nine seconds remaining, giving him the title by the slimmest of margins after the Isles’ John Tavares’ picked up two points earlier in the day. Dallas missed the playoffs and Benn’s 87 points was the lowest winning total in a non-lockout year since Stan Mikita in 1967-68, but it was still a sweet feat.
5. The Kings are dead –
April 9, 2015 Needing two points from Calgary to stay alive, the defending champs from Los Angeles instead went down in flames, 3-1. It was a startling turn of events for the Kings, who were a favorite to win it all again, even if they snuck in as a wild card. But L.A. never got on track, especially with Willie Mitchell gone and Slava Voynov suspended for most of the season. In the end, playing so much post-season hockey in the past few campaigns caught up to the Kings. But they weren’t the only titans on the sidelines: Boston and San Jose missed, too.
6. NHL Mumps go viral –
Dec. 12, 2014 When the Pens’ Sidney Crosby sat in front of cameras after his morning skate, he looked a little different – puffy, if you will. Eventually, the superstar was diagnosed with Mumps, a viral disease that hit a cohort of NHLers, throwing havoc into what is already a minefield of injuries and afflictions.
With Anaheim’s Corey Perry, Minnesota’s Ryan Suter and New Jersey’s Patrik Elias joining Crosby on the shelf, it was clear that the disease did not avoid players with elite skill sets.
7. Stepan with the dagger-
May 13, 2015 The Cup final between Tampa Bay and Chicago was close, but Washington’s second-round series with the Rangers was just as nail-biting, with every game decided by one goal. So it was fitting that New York’s winning marker would come in overtime in Game 7, courtesy of center Derek Stepan. The talented pivot pounced on a long Braden Holtby rebound and went full Mike Foligno in the ensuing celebration, hopping up and down for joy after scoring. New York never had a lead in the series, losing Game 1 to the Caps and then tying Washington at several points. But Stepan’s goal gave the Blueshirts the win in the showdown, prompting comparisons to Stephane Matteau’s previous heroics with the franchise: Stepan! Stepan! Stepan!
8. The devilish Tarasenko –
Nov. 6, 2014 Though big offensive numbers weren’t common this year, don’t think the brightest lights didn’t still shine. In St. Louis, Vladimir Tarasenko continued his campaign of terror on opposing teams, netting 37 goals (tying him for fifth in the NHL) while technically playing on the Blues’ third line with Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera. Many of Tarasenko’s goals were of the highlight-reel variety, including an annihilating stroke against New Jersey in the dying seconds of the first period. After pinging one off the post, Tarasenko reclaimed the puck and basically went around the entire Devils squad for his goal. Frightening to think he’s just hitting his prime years.
9. Avs and Jets captain fight –
Dec. 11, 2014 One of the most obvious storylines of the season was the lack of enforcers who made the cut in the NHL. Toronto went without Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren, while Brian McGrattan suited up just eight times for the Flames and Paul Bissonnette spent the year in the minors (though he did get to hoist the AHL’s Calder Cup with Manchester). There were still scraps, but they tended to be more organic and involving players who also brought other elements to the ice – like skill and points. But if you love the fisticuffs, it must have been heartening to see Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog and his Winnipeg equivalent, Andrew Ladd, throw down in December. The two stars went at it with Landeskog earning the ‘W’. And the tilt had mass appeal, too: voters on hockeyfights.com ranked it one of the best scraps of the season.
10. They’re leaving the ice – again! –
May 17, 2015 The gold medal game for the World Championship was all sorts of sexy: Canada vs. Russia, Sid vs. Ovie, KHL vs. NHL. Then the Canucks smothered the Russians 6-1 in a lopsided and dominating performance. Canada winning its first gold at the event since 2007 would have been a great headline for the final, but instead attention was focused on the fact Russia’s players left the ice before the Canadian national anthem was played during the post-game ceremonies. Interestingly enough, some of the Russians – Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko among them – tried to get their teammates to stay on the ice. On the flip side, former star NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk was accused of beckoning his peers to leave. As a positive coda, Sidney Crosby joined the exclusive “triple gold club,” since he already had won a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal, He’s also the first to captain all three teams he won with.
This feature appears in the 2014-15 Season Commerative edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.