Sports Illustrated NHL Preview: Blackhawks Will Repeat As Stanley Cup Champs

40COVv25blackSPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s NHL Preview—on newsstands now—breaks down the 2013-14 season with 20 pages of scouting reports chock full of analysis, 40COVv25pengstory lines and conference power rankings, as well as SI’s Stanley Cup prediction. Who will take home the most famous trophy in sports? SI predicts that the Blackhawks will defeat the Penguins and become the first team to repeat as Cup champs since the 1997–98 Red Wings. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is featured on the national cover of this week’s SI, his first cover appearance. Penguins center Sidney Crosby (sixth SI cover) appears on a regional cover.

SI NHL Power Rankings

Eastern Conference (by Brian Cazeneuve)
1.    Pittsburgh Penguins
2.    Boston Bruins
3.    New York Rangers
4.    Detroit Red Wings
5.    Ottawa Senators
6.    Montreal Canadiens
7.    Toronto Maple Leafs
8.    New York Islanders
9.    Philadelphia Flyers
10.    Columbus Blue Jackets
11.    Washington Capitals
12.    Tampa Bay Lightning
13.    Carolina Hurricanes
14.    Buffalo Sabres
15.    New Jersey Devils
16.    Florida Panthers

SI’s Brian Cazeneuve writes: “It’s hard to pick against the defending conference champs, especially in the wake of their total domination of the Pens last June, but Pittsburgh has the most talent. They’re the favorites.” (PAGE 68)

Western Conference (by Sarah Kwak)
1.    Chicago Blackhawks
2.    Los Angeles Kings
3.    San Jose Sharks
4.    St. Louis Blues
5.    Vancouver Canucks
6.    Minnesota Wild
7.    Edmonton Oilers
8.    Anaheim Ducks
9.    Nashville Predators
10.    Winnipeg Jets
11.    Phoenix Coyotes
12.    Dallas Stars
13.    Colorado Avalanche
14.    Calgary Flames

Sarah Kwak writes: “The Blackhawks will benefit from playing in the weak (now that Detroit is gone) Central Division. Oh, yes, Toews and Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane (23 goals, 55 points), 24, are entering their prime. There’s no other pick. Not even close.” (PAGE 72)

SI’s Stanley Cup finals pick: Blackhawks over Penguins

SI’s Al Muir previews a breakout player, a coach on the hot seat and a hidden gem from the Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions in the Eastern Conference and the Central and Pacific divisions in the Western Conference.

Metropolitan Division:
Breakout Player: Chris Kreider, forward, Rangers
Coach on the Hot Seat: Peter Laviolette, Flyers
Hidden Gem: Andrew MacDonald, defenseman, Islanders

Atlantic Division:
Breakout Player: Jonathan Bernier, goalie, Maple Leafs
Coach on the Hot Seat: Kevin Dineen, Panthers
Hidden Gem: Dennis Seidenberg, defenseman, Bruins

Central Division:
Breakout Player: Jonas Brodin, defenseman, Wild
Coach on the Hot Seat: Claude Noel, Jets
Hidden Gem: Kari Lehtonen, goalie, Stars

Pacific Division:
Breakout Player: Kyle Palmieri, forward, Ducks
Coach on the Hot Seat: Todd McLellan, Sharks
Hidden Gem: Mark Giordano, defenseman, Flames


Stanley Cup Champs: Dave Bolland’s Cup-Winning Goal for the Blackhawks Featured on Regional Cover of This Week’s SI

27COVwdkpromoAfter last night’s thrilling end to a brilliant and punishing six-game Stanley Cup Final series, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED was able to produce a regional cover showcasing the game-winning goal by the Blackhawks’ Dave Bolland just in time to make the presses for this week’s issue. The regional cover, which hits newsstands Wednesday, marks the 13th appearance on an SI cover by a Chicago Blackhawk.

Inside the issue, Brian Cazeneuve writes that the 2013 Stanley Cup Final put the finishing touch on a year that began gloomily—with the league’s third lockout in two decades—but turned into a season to celebrate for the NHL.

“Nobody could have drawn up anything as perfect as this series, a marquee matchup between two Original Six franchises that turned out to be one of the most competitive and compelling finals in recent memory,” says Cazeneuve. (PAGE 36)

Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp agrees. “It’s only fitting,” said Sharp, “that two of the oldest teams would give people a series for the history books.” (PAGE 36)

So where does the NHL go from here? After a season with strong attendance figures and the best TV ratings in nearly 20 years, Cazeneuve writes that the NHL must build on the momentum and success of 2013. To start, he suggests the NHL should allow its players to participate in the 2014 Olympics and move the financially troubled Coyotes out of Phoenix.

“I think [the NHL] and the players share a common goal to grow this sport to unparalleled heights,” says deputy commissioner Bill Daly, “and we are all excited to get there.” (PAGE 39)

SI COVER TWEET: As revealed on @SInowLIVE. This Week’s Regional Cover features 2013 #StanleyCup Champions @NHLBlackhawks: http://on.si.com/133wYmK | http://bit.ly/1ciHE0r

*** Please note: This week’s national SI cover will be released tomorrow, Wednesday June 26.


Destiny’s Children

Bruins picIn this week’s issue, SI’s Brian Cazeneueve takes a look at the Boston Bruins’ unlikely road to the Stanley Cup Final after their near loss in the first round. After squandering a 3-1 series lead to the Maple Leafs, the Bruins found themselves trailing Toronto 4-1 with 14:31 left in the third period of game seven. But when Milan Lucic found an open Nathan Horton in front of the goal, the Bruins brought the score to 4-2 with 10:42 to play. A shift in momentum and confidence would inevitably allow the Bruins to become the first team in NHL history to rally from a three goal deficit in the third period to win a game seven.

“They’re a team that waits for your mistakes,” said the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby after being swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by the surging Bruins. “There are times when they possess the puck. It doesn’t mean they’re carrying the play. They’re just patient. We were trying to get three goals back on one shift. You can’t do that against a team that thrives on your mistakes.” (PAGE 44)

Also in this week’s issue, Pierre McGuire breaks down the keys to a Stanley Cup victory for the Bruins and Blackhawks and Cazeneueve predicts the Bruins to take the cup in grueling seven game series.


SI.com Week in Review

SI.com®With the NBA and NHL playoffs in full steam, daily baseball games and much more in the world of sports, there’s a chance you couldn’t get to all of the great content on SI.com this week. Inside SI has you covered. Here’s a selection of some of the top Sports Illustrated stories and video productions from the past week.

Miscellaneous

SI announced 10 finalists for its inaugural College Athlete of the Year.

Richard Deitsch reviews Fox Sports 1’s new big hires and more in his weekly Media Circus column.

Jeff Pearlman  reminisces about the USFL 30 years later

NBA

Ian Thompson says Steph Curry is the latest to establish himself as a star in the playoffs.

Lee Jenkins writes that Kevin Durant can only do so much for OKC.

Rob Mahoney lists five players who have disappointed in the playoffs so far. He also notes the biggest surprises of the playoffs so far.

Do the NBA Playoffs Underdogs stand a chance? Chris Mannix and Maggie Gray discuss the Warriors and Bulls (video).

Mannix discusses how the injuries of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Amar’e Stoudemire have affected their respective teams (video).

NHL

Sara Kwak says the Isles vs. Penguins has been the most thrilling series so far.

Allan Muir says the Senators showed their superiority over the shorthanded Habs.

While this week’s SI cover man Sidney Crosby worked his magic in the Penguins’ Game 5 Win, Eli Bernstein says the play of both goalies proved to be the difference.

Stu Hackel on how the NHL may change their policy on head shots.

MLB

Tom Verducci says expensive free agents are once again failing to meet expectations.

Jay Jaffe says Matt Harvey is fastest-starting Mets ace ever.

Cliff Cocoran provides this week’s Awards Watch.

SI.com’s Tom Verducci takes a look at the increasing strikeout rate around the MLB and asks if the Braves’ power can overcome their swing-and-miss ways (video).

The Tigers top Joe Lemire’s power rankings.

NFL

Peter King notes differing draft strategies, who will control the ’14 draft and more in this week’s MMQB.

Jim Trotter writes on how the California workers comp bill will have a lasting effect on NFL players.

Don Banks asks if betters days are coming for minority hires in the NFL?

Chris Burke on each team’s most pressing question as minicamp looms.

Golf

Micahael Bamberger writes that TV saved Tiger Woods from withdrawing from the Masters.

Gary Van Sickle says McIlroy, Stricker and Scott make TPC Sawgrass look easy

Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd, Adam Scott, Justin Leonard and others talk ship in the Players Champions Confidential.
College Football

Andy Staples takes a stab at his post spring top 25.

Holly Anderson hands out her Sixth annual Switzies, which celebrate the ‘best’ of the 2013 offseason.

Stewart Mandel on how Ohio State aims to break the SEC’s title streak in 2013.

College Basketball

Rick Pitino talks Kentucky Derby, Final Four and 2013-14’s prospects in a Q&A with Pete Thamel.

Luke Winn gives out his second annual data-based hoops awards.

Tennis

Bruce Jenkins writes that Madrid red clay is a welcome sight after 2012 left all feeling blue

In his weekly mailbag, Jon Wertheim wonders if Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens can find peace.
Soccer

Grant Wahl provides updates on Alex Morgan, Frank Lampard and various MLS nuggets in his Planet Futbol Column.

Wahl writes that the sports world won’t be the same without Sir Alex Ferguson. Wahl also  talks about the legacy of Ferguson and discusses the future of the club in this SI.com video.

Jonathan Wilsion says David Moyes is a safe choice for Manchester United, but comes with risk.

Sid Lowe writes that Jose Mourinho’s separation from Real Madrid getting messy.

MMA & Boxing

Floyd Mayweather tops Chris Mannix’s Pound-For-Pound Top 15.

Floyd Mayweather talks about his title fight victory over Robert Guerrero, and looks ahead towards the rest of his multi-fight contract (video).

Jeff Wagenheim discusses Anderson Silva’s punishment, Johny Hendricks’ beard, and more in his MMA mailbag.

Racing

Lars Anderson on what we learned on a rainy, dark day at Talladega.

Carl Estes provides this week’s power rankings.


Chicago Blackhawks on Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

12COV18NAT_PromoLed by Hart Trophy favorite Patrick Kane, young captain Jonathan Toews and a ragtag group of role players, the Chicago Blackhawks’ historic 21-0-3 start to the lockout shortened season captivated a city and reinvigorated the beleaguered NHL. This week’s Sports Illustrated,  which features the Blackhawks on the cover, examines the resilient team that has helped bring hockey back. This is the third time the Blackhawks have appeared on an SI cover.

The ‘Hawks, who’s win streak finally came to an end last Friday,  have sprinted out to the best NHL start since 2006-07 and done so in a compressed schedule that has featured numerous close wins. Along the way, Brian Cazeneuve writes on how they’ve reinvigorated the spirits of Chicago fans still upset over the departure of key players from the 2010 Stanley cup team (a sign at a recent game read: “#23 isn’t just about Michael anymore”) and shown the resilience of the NHL (arenas are filled to 96.7% of capacity since the season started, and 109.4% in Chicago.) Cazeneuve says: “And just like that—from completely locked out to totally locked in—Chicago has given the league a much needed boost.” (PAGE 39)

GM Stan Bowman headed the revitalization process prior to the season by adding gritty role players instead of marquee free agents. Bowman’s faith has allowed former castoff players like Daniel Carcillo (the man nicknamed “Car Bomb” who scored a game-winner with 49.3 seconds left to extend the streak against the Avalanche last week) and goaltenders Corey Crawford and Ray Emery to thrive.

“The Miami Heat can win 15, 16 games in a row, but how many teams can really win an NBA Title? Three? Four? I mean, the Kings won the Cup as an eight seed last year. In our league, if the 30th team beats the first team one night, it’s not a big deal. No game is a gimme,” said Kane (PAGE 36)

No player has stepped up more in the streak than Kane, who was previously known more for his off-the-ice antics than his amazing skills on it. Cazeneuve writes that Kane used the lockout to develop as a person, moving to an apartment with his mother in Biel, Switzerland, while he played in the Swiss League. “The biggest thing about this year is that I didn’t want to disappoint my parents…Hurting myself was one thing; hurting people close to me woke me up.” (PAGE 39)

Despite the surging streak, Toews and the Blackhawks know it’s not how you start, but how you’re playing once the Stanley Cup playoffs come around.

“The wins now are great, but we know they won’t mean anything if we can’t reset our sights on winning in June.” (PAGE 39)


Also in this week’s Oct. 24 issue: Dan Wheldon in memoriam, Plaxico Burress sounds off on the NFL’s illegal hits, Jaromir Jagr’s return from Siberian exile and the soon-to-be winningest QB in college football history

You’ve seen the two covers for this week’s issue and our World Series prediction as well as details from Gary Smith’s interview with Jerry West, who discussed in great detail the depression that plagued him throughout his Hall of Fame career and most of his life. Here is what else readers will find in this week’s Oct. 24 issue, on newsstands now.

DAN WHELDON: 1978–2011 – LARS ANDERSON (@LarsAndersonSI)

Two-time Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon’s future seemed bright on Sunday morning, when the 33-year-old signed a contract to race for Andretti Autosport in 2012. Hours later, just 11 laps into the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wheldon was dead, killed in a 15-car wreck. Series champion Dario Franchitti said afterward, “One minute you’re joking around at driver intros—the next, Dan’s gone. I’m struggling to get it together.” When the day ended with a low-speed, five-lap tribute to Wheldon, IndyCar’s season came to an end—and the sport had lost one of its most popular, most engaging drivers (page 56).

On the Tablets: A slideshow of highlights from Dan Wheldon’s career on the IndyCar circuit.

SCORECARD: LEARNING TO PLAY NICE – DAMON HACK (@si_damonhack)

From a numbers standpoint, the response to the NFL’s Black Sunday—Oct. 17, 2010, when three players were concussed on violent hits—has been effective. The number of fines for illegal hits is down, and no suspensions have been handed out. But the NFL has not completely gotten through to players. To wit (page 15):

  • Jets receiver Plaxico Burress: “If you have a chance to knock me out or break my leg, man, knock me out. That’s missing a game or two, not the whole season. As receivers, we know what we signed up for.”
  • Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who has been fined $95,000 for illegal hits since the start of last season: “They teach you growing up that you’ve got to be violent and put the fear of God in people, but when you get to the league that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life, they tell you to change your game 100 percent or get money taken from you. I try lowering my target zone, but if you have a receiver who’s 5′ 8″, it’s still going to be a helmet-to-helmet collision. How do you avoid that when you’re running full speed?”
  • Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, recalling a clear shot he had on Matt Ryan in Week 5: “I didn’t quite know how to hit him. I didn’t want to hit him too high, when it should be natural to just go hit him. I ended up getting the sack, but I didn’t hit him as hard as I wanted to.”

Read the rest of this entry »


In the 5.30.11 Edition of SI: NBA Finals, Fred Wilpon, Tiki Barber, NHL Playoffs and Inside the Indy 500

On the Cover: The NBA Conference Finalists Get Down and Dirty

What Loyalty to Bernie Madoff is Costing Fred Wilpon and the Mets

Time for Tiki Barber to Get Back at His Critics

Puck Possession Is the Key to Winning the Stanley Cup

Inside the Evolution of the Indy 500 After 100 Years

The May 30, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated—on newsstands now—features Miami’s LeBron James and Chicago’s Joakim Noah pursuing a loose ball in the Eastern Conference Finals on the cover. It is the 13th cover appearance for James, which ties him for 14th all time with New York Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. 

FRED WILPON PAYS THE PRICE – TOM VERDUCCI (@TOMVERDUCCI)

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon shares detailed and personal accounts of the Bernard Madoff scandal and Irving Picard lawsuit with senior writer Tom Verducci. Wilpon acknowledges the $1 billion lawsuit could cost him ownership of the Mets, saying (page 64): “I think the club became in jeopardy when he filed [for] this billion dollars. That’s when I decided to sell part of the club and maintain control in our operations and share the partnership with somebody.”

Wilpon says the Mets “are bleeding cash” and acknowledges that they stand to lose as much as $70 million this year.

In the summer of 2002, after Wilpon became the sole owner of the Mets, he reached out to four or five “extremely close friends” to offer them a piece of the team. One of those men was Bernie Madoff who turned down the offer. Looking back on it, Wilpon recalls: “Bernie didn’t want to be in the public eye, which I can now understand more.”

To read the full online version of Fred Wilpon Pays the Price, click here.

On the Tablets: A Sports Illustrated audio podcast interview with Tom Verducci.

TIKI BARBER GETS REAL – L. JON WERTHEIM (@jon_wertheim)

Former Pro Bowl running back Tiki Barber seemed destined for success after football, but a failed television career and a scandal shattered his post football ambitions.  Now 36, he attempts an NFL comeback and to repair his bruised image (page 46).

Former teammate Michael Strahan says: “When people are like, ‘What’s up with Tiki?’ I don’t even know where to begin. You can be critical, even of your old team, but people felt Tiki was malicious. You take that, and then the team you criticized wins the Super Bowl? That can be hard to recover from.  Especially in New York.”

Says Roman Oben, a Giants tackle from 1996 to ’99 (page 46): “A lot of players want to be taken seriously as more than a football player. But we’d beat the Cowboys and fly home. Guys are yelling, playing cards and watching movies. Tiki’s sitting there, legs crossed, reading Wuthering Heights or whatever. Come on. Some guys let you know how bad they had it growing up. Tiki wanted you to know the opposite: Hey, I’m not from the hood.”

To read the full online version of Tiki Barber Gets Real, click here.

On the Tablets: Exclusive video of Barber’s workouts as he attempts an NFL comeback.

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: BULLYING THE BULLS – IAN THOMSEN (@SI_IanThomsen)

For all the attention paid to James and the other two members of Miami’s Big Three, it was the physical play of Udonis Haslem that set the Heat back on track against Chicago after he missed all but 13 games this season.  Says Dwyane Wade (page 36): “He’s the heartbeat of our team. Our team is that much better with U-D being back.”

To read the full online version of Bullying the Bulls, click here.

On the Tablets: Video highlights from the Bulls-Heat series.

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: A BEAUTIFUL RIVALRY – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)

Oklahoma City and Dallas are perfect foils. The Thunder is a young team and new to the NBA elite while the experienced Mavericks have yet to fulfill their championship hopes. These teams are not only in the middle of a down-and-dirty playoff series but also at the beginning of what promises to be an interstate rivalry for years to come. Says Kevin Durant, a former Texas Longhorn (page 40): “Anytime you have an Oklahoma team against a Texas team you’re going to have that extra little bit of intensity from the fans. That’s just the way it is down here.”

To read the full online version of The Beginning of a Beautiful Rivalry, click here.

On the Tablets: Video highlights from the Western Conference finals and hot spots of the five best rivalries in NBA history.

NHL PLAYOFFS: KEEP BOTH EYES ON THE PUCK – BRIAN CAZENEUVE

Nobody in the NHL can agree on just how to quantify puck possession. But everybody knows that hockey’s most elusive statistic is essential to winning the Stanley Cup.  Says Tampa Bay Lightning G.M. Steve Yzerman (page 60): “Without the red line and with relaxed rules on icing, the puck can go from behind your net into the other team’s end in an instant, so there’s not much playing in the neutral zone anymore. The more you have the puck, the more you can attack and generate ­offense. That’s the way I believe you defend a lead now: Attack and make the other team defend.”

To read the full online version of Keep Both Eyes on the Puck, click here.

On the Tablets: A closer look at the leading contenders from each of the four remaining teams to take home the Conn Smythe Trophy: Martin St. Louis (Lightning), Joe Thornton (Sharks), Tim Thomas (Bruins) and Ryan Kesler (Canucks).

100 YEARS OF THE INDY 500 – CHARLES LEERHSEN

This year’s Indianapolis 500 marks 100 years since the inaugural race. The Indy 500 has evolved into a far safer and more streamlined event over the years, but can it regain its former roar? Sports Illustrated takes a closer look at some of the memorable moments that have been made on the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as how the cars at the hallowed Brickyard have evolved since Ray Harroun won the 1911 race in a Marmon Wasp (page 52).

To see Danica Patrick answer a question from a Sports Illustrated Facebook fan, click here. To read the full online version of 100 Years of the Indy 500, click here.

On the Tablets: Nine photos of past action from the Indy 500.

THE PREAKNESS: LEADING FROM THE FRONT – TIM LAYDEN (@SITimLayden)

By pushing the pace from the start, Shackleford never allowed Animal Kingdom to relax as he did in the Kentucky Derby. In holding off the 2–1 favorite by a half length on the backstretch, Shackleford defied the racetrack wisdom that a fast pace benefits fast-finishing horses (like Animal Kingdom) by wearing out the leaders.  Says Shackleford’s trainer, Dale Romans (page 44): “When the pace is slow, you keep closers in the race.”

To read the full online version of Leading From the Front, click here.

On the Tablets: A slideshow of Sports Illustrated’s best photos from the Preakness.

POINT AFTER: END OF THE STORY – JOE POSNANSKI (@JPosnanski)

During an interview on Thursday with senior writer Joe Posnanki, Dick Ebersol summed up his career thusly: “The most important thing to me was to tell stories.” Ebersol saw past the excess hype, one-liners and camera angles of today’s sports media landscape and focused on captivating narratives. With Ebersol’s departure from NBC, fans may have seen the last giant of network television sports. Speaking with Posnanski shortly after Ebersol’s resignation, Al Michaels said (page 74): “I think Dick saw his role as 75 percent creative and 25 percent business. And I think things were changing so that [the ratio] was going to be the other way around…. Dick took chances. I don’t know who will take those chances now.”

To read the full online version of End of the Story, click here.

SCORECARD: TOO MUCH INFORMATION? – Jack McCallum

This week marks the national release of These Guys Have All the Fun, an inside look at the lives of the talent as ESPN since the network’s inception in 1979. As ESPN continues to grow, its audience has become more invested with its anchors, which raises the question: How fair is to scrutinize the private lives of people delivering the news? (page 12)

To read the full online version of Too Much Information?, click here.

THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 23)

• Anna McClung (Gate City, Va.) – Soccer                                            

• Kyle Winter (San Antonio) – Track and Field                                     

• Adrienne Monka (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) – Softball                                

• Nyko Bodnar (Long Beach, Calif.) – Diving

• Grace Gaeng (Bel Air, Md.) – Lacrosse

• Paul Karmas (Queens, N.Y.) – Baseball

Follow Faces in the Crowd on Twitter @SI_Faces.

INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS (page 24)

  • Boxing: Golden Oldie – At the record age of 46, a revived (and aggressive!) Bernard Hopkins took the light heavyweight title. (Chris Mannix, @ChrisMannixSI)
  • Golf: Grandfathered In – After a crushing playoff loss at the Players, David Toms rebounded with an emotional win in honor of his late grandfather at the Colonial. (Gary Van Sickle, @GaryVanSickle)
  • Soccer: The Best Ever? – Barcelona goes for the accolade of “best club ever” in Saturday’s Champions League final. Here’s how Manchester United can stop them. (Jen Chang, @JenChang88)
  • Baseball: Bigs Break – They’re minor leaguers now, but these five players will be major contributors soon. (Joe Sheehan, @joe_sheehan)

THIS WEEK ON THE TABLETS

  • SI Digital Bonus: Game 6 – Five months after Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Peter Gammons analyzed the might-have-beens and should-have-dones with the players and managers of the Mets and the Red Sox.


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