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What I Learned About 11 Golden Knights Prospects While In San Diego

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the past weekend, I spent four days in San Diego watching the Chicago Wolves play three games in the Western Conference Final of the AHL’s Calder Cup. My focus was specifically on the Golden Knights draft picks and the players Vegas has under control for beyond this season.

To make this easiest to write, and hopefully to read, I’ve listed every player that either played or I was able to talk to while in San Diego, that has time left on their contract with VGK or are RFAs.

Cody Glass (1st Round, 6th overall in 2017, $863,333 AAV through 21-22)

Anyone who reads/follows me closely knows I haven’t been as high on Glass as the rest of the world seems to be. I’ve come to the realization that the reason for this isn’t because I necessarily view him as a player much differently than most, but that my expectations are substantially higher. As the 6th overall pick in a draft class that includes Elias Petterson, Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, Nico Hischier, and many others that have already had major impacts in the NHL, my expectation for Glass is massive. Top-six forward, impact player, one of the faces of the franchise. That’s what I’m looking for, and still, even though the next paragraph is going to make it sound otherwise, I’m not sure he’s going to be that guy.

Glass literally does everything on the hockey rink that you want to see from a center. The skill that jumped out most to me over the three games was his backchecking and breakouts. Every time his line turned it over in the offensive zone, he was flying back to negate any transition chance. His skating speed really showed in that sense, but also showed once the Wolves recovered the puck and began their transition back into the offensive zone. He’s terrific carrying the puck out of the D-zone, through the neutral zone, and into the O-zone. I’ve seen him do it with ease at the CHL level, but to see it look exactly the same at the AHL level gives me a strong belief that it’ll continue in the NHL.

I liked how he played along the walls, I loved his vision, his positioning, his movement in the offensive zone. Pretty much everything he did, I thought, yep, this guy is pretty darn good. But still, over the course of three games, there wasn’t enough shown in his ability to create offense. It’s the only thing I can knock him for, but at the same time, it’s the thing I value most in a high draft pick forward. Aside from the occasional chance created directly off an entry (which I do believe will continue in the NHL), there wasn’t a ton created beyond rebound chances. Again, I’m aware that my expectations are gigantic, and I’m asking a lot out of him having played a month in the AHL, but I still didn’t see enough of what I needed to in order to completely change my mind and say he’s going to be a superstar in the NHL.

Cody Glass is going to be an NHL player, and I’m probably going to be on the bandwagon calling for him to make the roster out of camp, but I’m still on the fence of whether I think he’s closer to a Cody Eakin or a William Karlsson. When all is said and done I’m confident he’ll fall somewhere in between these two, however, my opinion still shades more towards 21 than 71.

Nic Hauge (2nd Round, 34th overall in 2017, $791,667 AAV through 21-22)

I came into the weekend expecting to come out saying Hague is the surefire #1 defensive prospect in the Golden Knights system. That’s not what I ended up seeing. That’s not to say Hague was bad, because he certainly wasn’t, it’s just that the fears I had, which I’ve been told by multiple high-ranking people that I shouldn’t have, didn’t go away.

The biggest among those is whether or not his skating is good enough to keep up with the elite skaters at the NHL level. The place it showed up most was in gap control. When a player would enter the zone, sometimes not even moving that quickly, far too often Hague would be more than a stick length away from him (which is a long way with his long arms and stick). Then, once he did enter, it took too long to close down that space which often led to an easy pass or on multiple occasions a dangerous shot. It’s important to note that I watched him play against the same team, on the road, three times, so there could be a gameplan piece here that I’m missing (and when speaking to Rocky Thompson about Hague he didn’t seem to have any issues with the way he was defending). However, that style won’t work in the NHL and his recovery plan (reaching out with that long stick and poking pucks away) won’t work as often against Nathan MacKinnon as it did Corey Tropp or Sam Carrick.

I still love Hague in the offensive zone and on the power play though. His instincts at the blue line are tremendous and he’s going to be a threat to do some damage when he does eventually make it to the NHL. Really looking forward to watching him play in the preseason against NHL level forwards, but at this moment, he no longer ranks as the “most likely defenseman to make the NHL roster in the Golden Knight system” on my list.

Zack Whitecloud (Undrafted, Signed as free agent, $925,000 AAV through 2019-20)

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League MVP, 30 Goal Scorer, Double OT Hero… And Frustrated – The Story Of Daniel Carr’s 2018-19 Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Daniel Carr signed with the Vegas Golden Knights he probably dreamed of scoring a game-winning goal in double overtime of the Western Conference Final. The setting of that dream was T-Mobile Arena, not at Pechanga Arena in San Diego.

I got a lot of opportunity in Chicago, I played a lot of minutes and had the puck a lot, but at the same time, it was a little frustrating being back in the American League basically all year. -Daniel Carr

Carr has played 100 career NHL games. He’s scored 15 goals, tallied 35 points, and has been in the NHL for significant portions of each of the last three seasons.

On July 1st, 2018, he signed a one-way, one-year, deal at just over the league minimum in Vegas because he thought it was a roster he had a good chance to crack. Heck, we even published a story here on SinBin.vegas comparing him to many of the “misfits” of Golden Knights past.

However, it didn’t turn out that way.  Despite doing some good things in camp and preseason, Carr was beaten out by Tomas Nosek, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Carpenter, and William Carrier, and an empty roster spot as the Golden Knights only carried 22 players until the fifth game of the season… when they called up Tomas Hyka.

But unlike me or probably you, Carr didn’t pull a Shipachyov and pout. Instead, he went down to the AHL and turned in an incredible season. He put up 71 points (30g, 41a) in 52 games, made the All-Star team, led the Wolves to the Central Division title, and was eventually named AHL MVP.

He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. In practice, in the gym, he’s a competitor. -Rocky Thompson

If you sit there and feel sorry for yourself, nobody else does, there’s no point to it. It’s just kind of the way it is. -Carr

To make matters worse, Carr was the second player from the AHL to get his shot on the Golden Knights. He came up to replace Hyka, played in six games and scored a goal. He was sent back to Chicago not because of poor play, but because Max Pacioretty returned from injury. When the next chance came for a player to be called up, it wasn’t Carr, instead, it was Brandon Pirri, and you know the rest of that story.

You know Pirri did a really good job when he got up there and got a really good opportunity playing with Stastny and Tuch, it’s a different hockey game when you are playing like that. Brandon is a finisher and he’s really really good at it, what else can you say. He played with those guys and he got opportunities to score and he finished them. -Carr

When you get called up you’ve got to produce or what happened to me happens. I got called up, we played well while I was there, for the 3rd line in Vegas it was one of the few times where they were consistently plus, but if you don’t produce you don’t stay and I’ve seen that and learned that. That was the frustrating thing for me when I was up there. We were playing well but we weren’t scoring. -Carr

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Rocky Thompson’s Fearless Attitude Toward Pulling The Goalie

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Chicago Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson is known as a cerebral manager of the game. However, sometimes smart and risky are considered synonyms in the game of hockey.

In Game 3 of the AHL Western Conference Finals, Thompson made a move he’s made many times during the regular season, but one that would be considered incredibly aggressive in today’s NHL.

With 4:15 left on the clock trailing by two goals, Thompson pulled Oscar Dansk from the Wolves goal leaving an empty net. 45 seconds later Chicago scored their second goal of the game to cut the lead to one. Thompson placed Dansk back in the net for the next 90 seconds before once again pulling him just outside of the two-minute mark.

It’s playoff time and we needed two goals. It’s the coaches decision and I think he made the right call. It ended up getting us a goal and we had some opportunities after it. -Tye McGinn

To the Wolves, this is perfectly normal. In fact, the four players I asked about it all seemed to have the same type of response; something along the lines of “why wouldn’t we do that?” But, in the NHL, only 31 times this entire season (there are 1272 games in an NHL season) did a head coach remove their goalie from the net prior to 4:15 left on the clock.

In this case, it didn’t work, but it definitely helped give the Wolves a better chance, which is really all you can ask for.

We were two goals down so we had to get one quick and that’s what we did. Obviously pulling the goalie with five minutes it’s a big responsibility for us to play the right way and score a goal. It’s disappointing it didn’t work the second time, but we should have scored earlier to not force us to do that. -Tomas Hyka

It’s a philosophy Thompson has deployed all season. One time earlier in the year, he pulled the goalie with 15 minutes left in the game down by three goals. He went on to pull the goalie three more times in that same game and the Wolves cut the lead to one with more than a minute left on the clock. Another time Thompson pulled the goalie an a 4-on-4 situation to “manufacture a power play.” No matter what though, he’s shown a consistent aggressiveness to pulling the goalie, one he stands behind.

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“We Are Not A Budget Team”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the league calendar gets set to turn to 2019-20 all eyes seem focused on the color red.

Through the first two seasons, the Golden Knights have not had to worry much about in terms of the salary cap. In Year 1, the floor was as much in view as was the cap. In Year 2, money was being thrown around left and right for Marc-Andre Fleury, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, Nate Schmidt, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, and Mark Stone, but there still was no concern for reaching the cap. Now, as decisions need to be made on William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nikita Gusev, Jimmy Schuldt, and others and suddenly the salary cap is the main point of focus in Vegas.

George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon, and the Golden Knights front office have plenty of ways to manage the cap. The most obvious way would be to make a trade or two to move some salary out. This may very well happen. But, despite what you may hear/read, it also may not.

The salary cap in the NHL is incredibly complicated. There are pages and pages of legalese that govern the league’s cap. It’s so complicated that almost every team in the league has a specific person on staff whose job is to do nothing but focus on the cap. For the Golden Knights, that’s Andrew Lugerner.

From the outside looking in, we don’t get to see the whole picture. We don’t have the entire rule book. Instead, we tend to rely on a birds-eye view of simply adding all of the contracts together to come up with a total number. In the Golden Knights case, that number is too high already, and they’ve still got work to do. But that’s not how the salary cap works. There’s daily accumulation, long-term IR, performance bonuses, two-way contracts, assignment clauses, buried contracts, buyouts, discounted cap hits, and probably numerous other loopholes we aren’t aware of.

Luckily, we don’t need to be, we just need to know that whatever is necessary, the Golden Knights have the ability to make it happen.

We are fortunate that we are not a budget team. We aren’t one of those teams that is always on the edge in terms of its financial performance. In fact, our financial performance has been very good and as a result, we can make some things happen that maybe some other teams couldn’t have made happen. -The Creator

That comment was made in regards to promoting Kelly McCrimmon to GM, but it can easily be applied to just about everything else with the organization. If there’s a way to gain an advantage, the Golden Knights owner is going to be willing to pay for it.

He did it in the Expansion Draft by allowing McPhee to add bad contracts for draft picks, he’s allowed the organization to go from an expansion team to one pushing up against the cap in Year 3, and there have been numerous stories of what he’s done in and around the facilities to make Vegas one of, if not the, best place to play in the NHL.

So, if there’s a way to use some of The Creator‘s money to help the Golden Knights get under the cap, McPhee will have the green light to do it.

Just never forget that when we see the red number next to Vegas’ name that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Things do need to happen for the Golden Knights this offseason, but they may not always be things we see. The reason that’s possible is ownership’s willingness to do whatever it takes to create, in his words, “a dynasty.”

Winning The Calder Cup Doesn’t Mean Much For NHL Parent Club’s Future

Tomas Hyka is one of the many Wolves to watch in the Calder Cup Semi-Final. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tomorrow night the Golden Knights AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, will play in the Western Conference Finals of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Obviously, winning a championship is always good, no matter what level it’s at, but just how well does winning the Calder Cup translate to future success for their NHL parent club? The answer is… not so well.

Here is what the last 10 Calder Cup Champions have seen their parent club do over the next three seasons.

YearCalder Cup WinnerYear 1Year 2Year 3
17-18Toronto (TOR)1st RoundN/AN/A
16-17Grand Rapids (DET)Missed PlayoffsMissed PlayoffsN/A
15-16Lake Erie (CBJ)1st Round1st Round2nd Round
14-15Manchester (LAK)1st RoundMissed Playoffs1st Round
13-14Texas (DAL)Missed Playoffs2nd RoundMissed Playoffs
12-13Grand Rapids (DET)1st Round1st Round1st Round
11-12Norfolk (TB)Missed Playoffs1st RoundCup Final
10-11Binghamton (OTT)1st Round2nd RoundMissed Playoffs
09-10Hershey (WSH)2nd Round2nd Round1st Round
08-09Hershey (WSH)1st Round2nd Round2nd Round

And the same table with Calder Cup Final runners-up.

YearCalder Cup Runner-UpYear 1Year 2Year 3
17-18Texas (DAL)1st RoundN/AN/A
16-17Syracuse (TBL)3rd Round1st RoundN/A
15-16Hershey (WSH)2nd Round*Stanley Cup*1st Round
14-15Utica (VAN)Missed PlayoffsMissed PlayoffsMissed Playoffs
13-14St. Johns (WPG)1st RoundMissed PlayoffsMissed Playoffs
12-13Syracuse (TBL)1st RoundCup Final3rd Round
11-12Toronto (TOR)1st RoundMissed PlayoffsMissed Playoffs
10-11Houston (MIN)Missed Playoffs1st Round2nd Round
09-10Texas (DAL)Missed PlayoffsMissed PlayoffsMissed Playoffs
08-09Manitoba (VAN)2nd RoundCup Final1st Round

So, over the past 10 years, only one team that has participated in the Calder Cup Final have seen their parent club win a Stanley Cup within three years of their AHL playoff run.

To make matters worse, you can extend it out to six years from the time the AHL team makes the Calder Cup Final, and there’s still only one team in the previous 10 years to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.

That being said, of the 55 seasons listed in the tables, only 18 teams missed the playoffs.

All in all though, the next couple of weeks of hockey for the Chicago Wolves aren’t exactly about winning for the Golden Knights perspective.

This does not mean the games are not important and/or interesting to watch. Individual players who stand out in the Calder Cup Playoffs often go on to have success in the NHL. Here’s a list of a the last 10 Calder Cup Playoff MVP’s.

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William Karlsson Deserves $6+ Million, But Vegas May Not Have It To Give Him

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the biggest stories of the offseason outside of Vegas is the stalemate between Mitch Marner and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Marner was the 11th most productive player in the entire league last season and his stock has soared. So it appears the two sides are headed for a messy negotiation this summer in Toronto.

To a smaller degree, the Golden Knights have their own Mitch Marner situation.

Like Marner, Golden Knights center William Karlsson is a restricted free agent that wants a long-term deal. Both sides seem to have an interest in getting a deal done to keep Karlsson in Vegas for the foreseeable future, but we’ve been down this path before and it ended in a one-year deal moments before arbitration.

The challenge is with where Karlsson fits in with the rest of the roster. He’s clearly not on Mark Stone’s ($9.5M) level, but is he on Max Pacioretty’s ($7M) or Paul Stastny’s ($6.5M)? Or maybe he should fit in closer to Reilly Smith ($5M), Jonathan Marchessault ($5M), or Alex Tuch ($4.75M).

Karlsson is a center though, and a damn good one at that. He finished in the top 10 in Selke voting in 2017-18 and won the Lady Byng. He backed it up with a down year offensively but carried the torch for the Golden Knights defensively until Stone arrived. So, he probably deserves more than most of the wingers on the team, but the Golden Knights may not have the money.

There in lies the problem, because like it or not, William Karlsson deserves at least $6 million, if not much more. Here’s why.

He’s a center

We’re all aware that centers make up some of the highest paid played players in the league. Currently, seven of the top ten highest paid NHL players are centers, and 19 of the top 50. Karlsson’s 2018-19 $5.25M cap hit was lower than 152 other NHL’ers, and 46 other centers. Numbers alone, Karlsson is a better player than half of the players paid higher.

Only a handful of centers scored 67 or more goals over the past two seasons and Karlsson was one of them. Most of those centers earn well above $6M a season. It’s the market price for two-way centers that log heavy minutes, handle faceoffs, averages 65+ points and receives Selke votes.

Production

Some have devalued Karlsson after a “sub-par” 2018-19 campaign. Sure his scoring numbers dropped after his offensive explosion two seasons ago, but overall the Swede continued to produce for Vegas.

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Why Didn’t Colin Miller Play Game 1?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When a series goes seven games, it’s the nature of the beast for the losing team to look back at every play, every call, and every decision to come up with answers as to what went wrong.

Of course, it’s been harped on time and time again that the call on Cody Eakin was blown and it cost the Golden Knights a chance to still be playing today. However, there’s no denying the fact that Vegas lost three other games in the series that could have nullified that gaffe.

In Games 5 and 6, Vegas played well and close games just didn’t fall their way, but Game 1 was a much different story. When the series got underway in San Jose, the Golden Knights seemed to take a moment to really get going. By the time they did, it was too late and they instantly dug themselves a hole in the series they would eventually climb out of, only to fall right back in.

Over the course of the first six games, head coach Gerard Gallant made one lineup change. That was putting Colin Miller, who was scratched in Game 1, back into the lineup for Nick Holden.

It was a peculiar decision to bench Miller in the first place, and one that would only get weirder as questions would later be answered about the lineup move.

Miller played all 102 games last season, 65 of the 82 in the regular season this year, and all of the previous seven heading into playoffs. Also, Miller took part in 13 of the 14 prior meetings between the Sharks and Golden Knights, scoring three goals, putting up five assists, and recording a +4 rating. Vegas won nine of the 13 games Miller played against San Jose and lost the one he didn’t.

This was the reasoning for scratching Miller after Game 1 from the Golden Knights head coach.

That was… Like I told you the other day, we play 20 hockey players and there’s some good players that are not playing tonight so we decided he’s not going to play tonight. -Gallant

Is he healthy? – SinBin.vegas

Yes, everybody’s healthy. -Gallant

However, it clearly wasn’t that simple.

Miller took warmups prior to Game 1 against the Sharks. No other player (with the exception of Jimmy Schuldt days after he joined the team) skated in warmups and then didn’t play for the Golden Knights in 2018-19. In 2017-18 it happened only a handful of times and in every instance, it was precautionary to cover for a player who might be injured and unable to play.

As Gallant confirmed, no one was injured. Miller skated alongside the scratches in morning skate the day of Game 1, so the decision was clearly not made in the spur of the moment before the game.

To make matters even more confusing, Miller was instantly placed back in the normal rotation on the off-day between Games 1 and 2. He played in every game the rest of the series, and Gallant made an interesting comment when asked about Miller prior to Game 4.

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Change In Title, Not In Command

It was August of 2016 in an airport in Vienna, Austria that Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee first met Kelly McCrimmon.

When George called me in July, I had never talked to him, I had never met him before. -McCrimmon

Both on their way to the Ivan Hlinka prospects tournament in Slovakia, the two met for the first time and eventually formed a partnership that would take the NHL by storm.

It’s the best working relationship I’ve had in this business. -George McPhee

On that day McPhee began the process of courting then owner, general manager, and head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, Kelly McCrimmon, to become his “assistant.”

I told Kelly when I was trying to hire him that he was going to be involved in every single thing we do here. -McPhee

McCrimmon took the job, officially titled “Assistant General Manager” and the two immediately got to work.

However, it was never really a situation with a first and second in command. Instead, McPhee quickly turned over half of his responsibilities, making the relationship much more of an equal partnership. It literally happened days after McCrimmon took the job.

I divvied up the teams, I said you take these 15 NHL teams, I’ll take these 15 NHL teams. You deal with them all year, I’ll deal with these and we shared everything, basically co-managed for three years and that will continue. -McPhee

Quite frankly, since the moment he started, Kelly was the general manager of the Golden Knights in relation to those 15 teams, but in reality, it was much more than just half the league.

The thing that’s special about our organization and our relationship is just the collaboration. -McCrimmon

That has continued ever since.

Literally however insignificant a move we’ve made, it has never ever been someone overruling the other. -McCrimmon

We haven’t disagreed on anything. For two guys who didn’t know each other, to get together and see things the way we see them, it’s just been a real treat to work together and I think we’ve been good and we’re going to keep doing it the same way. -McPhee

That’s why, when McCrimmon’s name started popping up as a prime candidate for open GM positions in Edmonton and Seattle, McPhee knew he couldn’t let his “co-manager” leave. So, he had to come up with a solution.

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McPhee Fires Cryptic Shot At Sharks In Final Press Conference

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Emotions ran very high during the Golden Knights and Sharks seven game first round thriller. From the Ryan Reaves vs. Evander Kane jabs (both literal and figurative) to Joe Thornton’s dirty hit on Tomas Nosek, to the “clown” comment from Gerard Gallant, the series will leave a lasting impression.

George McPhee clearly had some thoughts on the way the Sharks played in the series and in the most calculated way possible, he didn’t take long to let some slip out early in his season-ending press conference.

(Our) guys played their guts out. I like the way they competed for this organization, for this city. I think it’s a team that people can be proud of, they play hard, they play honest, they don’t embellish, we don’t cheat, we play the game right. We play hard. -George McPhee

Who could he possibly be referencing that plays a different way?

Aside from the apology from the NHL, admitting that the Sharks were the benefit of a horrendous call that changed the series, McPhee obviously wasn’t a fan of some of the embellishing, and apparently cheating, the Sharks did in the series.

San Jose benefitted from a 114-105 penalty minute advantage in the series, and were called for more penalties than Vegas in just two of the seven games, in Games 3 and 4.

There was a lot of after-whistle garbage and even an after game scrum that left Cody Eakin with a broken nose.

It was a hard fought series, but clearly, the GM of the Golden Knights felt there were a few liberties taken by the eventual winner of the series. It doesn’t matter now, but there’s no question the Golden Knights franchise, from top to bottom, will be ready to make amends against San Jose as quickly as possible.

Most Intense Series Of Their Careers

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’m sure viewership is low in Las Vegas for the Sharks/Avalanche second round series. Although, San Jose did lose Sunday so maybe VGK fans tuned into the postgame show. Either way, it’s been a painful series to watch for most in Vegas. The two teams have no history of emotions so it’s a little boring, to say the least. There have been twenty-two minutes in penalties and exactly zero chirps. It’s nothing like the first round matchup between Vegas and San Jose. It lacks the same passion.

On Vegas’ locker clean out day I went around the room asking players ‘was this one of the most intense series you’ve played in?’

Here were their responses:

This one was pretty wild. There’s definitely some hate there. It was intense and fun. Fun to be a part of. It just sucks we didn’t come out on top. -Brayden McNabb

I played Game 7 in Boston. Won a Game 7 in Boston but this series was crazy. The momentum shifts, the physicality, the emotions and obviously the drama. It was a lot of fun but I feel like we deserved better. This series could’ve gone either way. Everyone knows that. It was a lot of fun to play in and I think going through this experience… will make this group a lot better. -Max Pacioretty

Very intense. It was a grind. People don’t realize how tough it is to play in the playoffs. A lot of people think teams just walk through and you play and you win. It was tough physically and mentally and it sucks to be on the losing end. -Shea Theodore

The first round is usually the toughest to win. It’s true because everyone is so fired up, everyone is fresh and excited about being in the playoffs. It was an intense series, probably the most intense series I’ve ever been a part of. Going back to when I was with Washington versus Pittsburgh. It had that similar feeling to it, you know, two teams with no love lost on either side. It’s making for a good rivalry though. -Nate Schmidt

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