November 15, 2013
Nearly 20 games into the 2013-14 NHL season and the competitive balance is evident. The future of the league is mighty bright. Even after a strike that nearly erased last season, the NHL is thriving at the moment.
The league’s decision to change the divisional structure proved to be a stroke of genius. Now, there are four divisions containing eight teams each in the Eastern Conference and seven in the Western. The league is logistically sound now—this year the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets moved east while the Winnipeg Jets headed west. Suddenly, the NHL makes sense in respect to placement of teams.
Albeit early, the standings are a bit surprising at the moment. The Tampa Bay Lightning currently leads the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division at the moment with 28 points. Yes, star Steven Stamkos is out with a broken right leg for some time, but his team is flush with young talent and veteran leaders like Martin St. Louis. Seeing Stamkos go down was a punch to the gut to devout hockey fans. The kid is miraculous on the ice, have faith that when he returns he’ll be better than ever. He’s only 23 years old and a superstar—like the Terminator, he’ll be back. The Lightning surely didn’t let his absence affect their mood as they won the first game without him on November 12, 2-1 over the Montreal Canadiens. That’s good to see that resilience.
Another surprise are the Colorado Avalanche, who led by 22-year-old Matt Duchene are second in the Western Conference’s Central Division with 28 points. This is somewhat hard to believe, but new head coach and Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy clearly knows how to get the best out of his bunch. Top to bottom, this is the best division in hockey right now with the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. This race will go down to the wire come playoff time.
The Central Division may have the most balance, but the Western Conference’s Pacific Division is the league’s strongest. This one will be a dogfight every time teams take to the ice. The Anaheim Ducks are currently the best team in the league with 31 points, but there’s little breathing room. The Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings all have 10-plus wins at the moment. Yes, they’re all going to beat up on each other throughout the season, but they currently have five playoff teams right now.
So, who’s the best team in the league? Right now it’s anyone’s guess and that’s why it’s great.
Don’t forget about the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan division. The Penguins still have a guy named Sidney Crosby while it’s still good to be Ovi in Washington. Crosby is currently tied for the lead with 23 points while Ovechkin is atop the goal list with 14.
The bottom line is that the NHL got it right this time. Everyone should have a smile on their face. The league is as competitive as ever and here to stay. Embrace it, enjoy it, and fall in love with it.
September 30, 2013
With only days until a new NHL season begins, let’s take a look at what happened this offseason, and look forward to a schedule that includes 6 outdoor games.
The Red Wings and the Leafs outside at the Big House? Check. Dodger Stadium? The Ducks? The Kings? West Coast? Check. A double dip in the Big Apple? Check. The Rangers will play the Devils and Islanders three days apart at Yankee Stadium. It wouldn’t be complete without the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.
With that here’s 5 things we should keep an eye on as the new season begins:
Realignment: Will the Red Wings march through the Eastern Conference? Is Winnipeg out of their league?
Training Camp: Will teams be sharper due to full offseason?
Olympic Year: Who’s going to challenge for the U.S. and Canadian rosters? Will certain players on worse teams focus more on country’s Olympic run?
Best Offseason – Dallas Stars: New GM Jim Nill traded for Tyler Seguin and also brought in Rich Peverly, Shawn Horcoff, and Sergei Gonchar. Combine that with star forward Jamie Benn and goaltender Kari Lehtonen and its great expectations in Dallas.
Of all the teams in league, the Panthers would probably win for negative effects brought on by the realignment. The competition for the Panthers in the new Atlantic Division is a considerable change as the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings are ready and waiting. Keep in mind, the Panthers finished dead last in the weakest division in the NHL last season.
It’s time to drop the gloves. Let’s play hockey.
May 29, 2013
Sports mimic life, the movies, and folklore—Game 7 in any playoff series is the cat’s meow.
Nothing is better than a winner-take-all, no-holds-barred bout between two teams that have grown to hate one another over the previous six rounds.
For some, the rivalry is just blossoming as teams and their fans quickly grow a disdain for all things opposition. For others, the enemy is familiar and not welcome.
Nothing brings such a rivalry to a fever pitch as a Game 7. With the season, pride and bragging rights on the line, losing to a despicable foe stings the worst. Players don’t get to wash away the pain in their soul with a win the next time out. Fans have to stomach the body blow knock-out dealt by the gloating faithful of their rivals. Sometimes these memories torment players, fans, and franchises for an eternity.
Even though one may find themselves on the wrong end of a Game 7, the love of the game leaves them desiring more.
The NHL has received a gift from the hockey Gods—on May 29 the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will duel in a Game 7 that promises to be one for the ages. You see, this game will be something special. This is not a normal Game 7, this is THE Game 7. The next time these bitter rivals will meet in the playoffs it will be in the Stanley Cup Finals.
With NHL realignment set to take place, the Detroit Red Wings will venture into the Eastern Conference next season. This leaves the Chicago Blackhawks as the lone Original Six team in the Western Conference.
All of a sudden there’s much more on the line in this Game 7. The winner gets the satisfaction knowing that they got the last laugh with so much at stake. Sure, the loser may exact their revenge in a somewhat meaningless regular season game next season, but the playoffs are different. Game 7 is different. This rivalry is different.
Two blue collar cities such as Detroit and Chicago are too hard-nosed to lie down for their opponent. Expect both sides to come out swinging and fight til the end. Both sides know how much this means to their diehard fans.
Every year there’s a playoff game that just won’t end—it lasts way past your bedtime. Five overtimes later, you can’t fall asleep, can’t stop watching. Don’t worry, your boss will understand. The whole city understands. The outcome will shape the mood of the office for the rest of the week.
Hockey enthusiasts hope it’s this game. The game and its fans deserve it. History is what we want—expect nothing less.
The lore of Game 7 will undoubtedly leave us in awe.
April 30, 2013
The 2013 NHL playoffs promise to be as fast paced as the abbreviated season. The strike-shortened season was roughly only 100 days long and the league carries plenty of momentum into the “second season.”
The league began the season with a black eye but with a jammed packed schedule that went down to the wire, the NHL recovered nicely from a near catastrophe.
With fans back on board the playoffs will be as captivating as ever. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks dominated their respective conferences this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to meet in the Finals.
Remember, it was just last season when the Los Angeles Kings were the first team in history to win it all as a No. 8 seed.
If there’s one thing that’s for certain, expect the unexpected during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Will be the Best Round 1 Matchup
As a hockey fan, one can’t help but lose sleep over this series. Coming into the season this was an all-or-nothing type of season for both sides. After a poor start, both teams rebounded well to finish the season on a strong note.
Now, two teams under the microscope will duke it out in a series that screams seven games. The Capitals‘ Alex Ovechkin finished the year with a league-best 32 goals and needs to continue that trend if his team is to advance.
The Rangers spent a ton of money in the offseason only to be seller’s at the trade deadline. What’s done is done and the team found a way to manage the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. New to New York, star Rick Nash led the team in goals with 21, now it’s his duty to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory.
So, who will win the series?
Capitals in seven games
The Rangers may be facing an intense amount of pressure, but Ovechkin and the Capitals have their backs against the wall.
The Detroit Red Wings Will Upset the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t play consistently good hockey until a week ago, but now they’re hot at the right time.
Spoiled by decades of success, Wings fans were looking lost until recently. The playoffs seemed like a mirage, but the good organizations always seem to get their way and the Wings are in as the No. 7 seed in the West.
Now, the Anaheim Ducks are the underdog in the series even though they are the No. 2 seed. The Wings took the season series 2-1 and have too much momentum right now for Corey Perry and company to stop. Wings stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are carrying their team nicely right now.
The Wings won four straight games to make the playoffs and in that time Zetterberg notched 10 points.
Red Wings in six games
The Wings are too hot to lose in the first round but will run out of gas shortly after.
One Not So Bold Pick–Sidney Crosby Will be Sidney Crosby
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been without their captain Sydney Crosby since March 30 due to a broken jaw, but he’ll be on the ice in the playoffs.
He may have missed the final 12 games of the season, but he scored 56 points in just 36 games. The Penguins should be considered great without him and with his presence on the ice they are the most dangerous team in the league.
It may take a game or two to get back into the groove, but Crosby is the best all-around player in the league. Even with missing the final 12 games, Crosby only lost out on the Art Ross Trophy (most points/season) by four points. Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis took the trophy with 60 points. St. Louis was then followed by teammate Steven Stamkos’ 57 and then Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby with 56.
Crosby makes everyone better and knowing that Penguins acquisition Jarome Iginla has only played a total of :50 seconds with Crosby, the best is yet to come.
Crosby tallies 17 playoff points—6 goals, 11 assist
The Toronto Maple Leafs Will Win Their Series against the Boston Bruins
These rivals won’t back down, but the Maple Leafs will surprise most when they survive and advance. The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 and although both teams stumbled to the finish line, the Leafs carry positive momentum because the city is buzzing.
The Bruins have looked incomplete of late and can’t seem to finish the game. They have dominated the series between the two of late, winning 9-of-10, but the tides will turn here.
The Leafs are well balanced across the score sheet. Expect Nazem Kadri, a 22-year-old center to get under the Bruins skin and light the lamp. In the end, the Bruins won’t know what hit them.
Maple Leafs in five games
Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks in the Finals
That’s correct, an all Canadian final is in store.
The Montreal Canadiens are almost forgotten about but the finished second in the Eastern Conference. The have a goalie in Carey Price who is made for these moments and a perfect blend of toughness and finesse. They are the team that doesn’t have a scoring sensation but rather a group of guys who pitch in at the right moment. A number of players could get hot and spell disaster for their opponents.
The Vancouver Canucks are playoff tested and feel disrespected. They’re almost forgotten about at the moment. Don’t make a mistake by overlooking them and consider them a “has been.” Remember, they have the Sedin twins. Last time I checked they have some weird twin thing going on that gets the puck to the back of the net with regularity. The Canucks X-factor is Ryan Kesler. He’s a world-class player coming off of injury. With only 17 games played this year, he’s seen just enough ice time to make a big difference in the playoffs.
This series will be a slugfest. Plenty of grit combined with a series littered with scrappy goals will make for a memorable final.
Canadiens in six games
Carey Price wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP
April 24, 2013
With 5 nights left in the 2012-13 NHL regular season, the final spots in both conferences are still up for grabs. 6 teams in the Eastern Conference have clinched playoff berths, as well as 6 teams in the Western Conference.
This is where the fun begins. In the Eastern Conference, it’s 3 teams for two spots involving the Ottawa Senators, the New York Rangers, and the Winnipeg Jets. Ottawa and New York sit 7th and 8th in the conference, each with 52 points. Ottawa has a game in hand on the Rangers.
The story for the Jets took a turn for the worst with their loss last night to the Washington Capitals. Winnipeg must win its final game of the season and hope for the Rangers and Senators to each lose all of their remaining games.
Out West, the game of musical chairs is much more complicated. It’s 5 teams for 2 spots. The Minnesota Wild are 7th with 53 points. With 2 games left, the Wild need at least 2 points to clinch a playoff spot. In the precious 8th spot are the Columbus Blue Jackets. With 2 games left, the Jackets sit 1 point in front of the Detroit Red Wings, who have made the playoffs in 21 straight seasons. The Red Wings have a game in hand on Columbus.
The 4th team still in the mix is the Dallas Stars. However, the stars did not align last night as Dallas lost a heartbreaker 3-2 in regulation to the San Jose Sharks. With 2 games left, the Stars need to win out, and hope Detroit loses 2 of their final 3 in regulation, and Columbus loses their final 2.
The final team will need a miracle. It’s the Phoenix Coyotes. The Yotes’ must win out and have Detroit, Dallas, and Columbus all basically lose out. Except for the Stars, if Columbus and Detroit lose out in regulation and Dallas loses 1 of 2 in regulation and earns just one point in its final game, the Coyotes are in.
7. Minnesota 53 points- 46 GP
8. Columbus 51 points- 46 GP
9. Detroit 50 points- 45 GP
10. Dallas 48 points- 46 GP
11. Phoenix 46 points- 45 GP
7. Ottawa 52 points- 45 GP
8. NY Rangers 52points- 46 GP
9. Winnipeg 51 points- 47 GP