February 8, 2012

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NHL Takes Center Stage with Hockey Day in Canada

By: Matt Bowen

Hockey Day in Canada is celebrating its 12th anniversary on February 11 as the entire country of Canada dedicates a holiday to its favorite pastime. This year the province of Prince Edward Island will be on display as their culture and love for the game will be shown to the world.

Hockey Day in Canada also means that all seven Canadian NHL teams will be in action throughout the day on CBC. With the NHL gaining momentum this season, HDIC is a great chance for hockey fans in the United States to check out every team north of the border. There are only around 30 games remaining for each team and this season’s playoff races promise to go down to the wire.

Here are some players to pay special attention to during Hockey Day in Canada:

Edmonton Oilers vs. Ottawa Senators:

The Oilers are absolutely loaded with young talent and they have a chance to dominate the entire NHL after they get some experience under their belt. Led by Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers are set with top-notch talent for the next decade.

Taylor Hall is one of the many up-and-comers on the Oilers.

Let’s not forget the sudden emergence of 22-year-old Sam Gagner, who’s put up ridiculous numbers since the All-Star Game. Although the Oilers are most likely out of the playoff hunt this year, they are a blast to watch and the future of hockey.

The Senators are holding onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference at the moment and should be commended for coming out of nowhere this season. Much of their success this season stems from the play of young defenseman Erik Karlsson.  He leads NHL defenseman in points thus far and is the prototype for the new-age NHL defenseman. His skating is impeccable and he can flat-out score. Expect to hear Karlsson’s name for years to come.

Winnipeg Jets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins:

Hockey is back in Winnipeg and life is good in Peg City. Led by captain Andrew Ladd, the Jets are in contention for a playoff spot. Just the fact that the NHL is back in the city is good enough for the Jets faithful at the moment.

The team has an up-and-coming superstar in 20-year-old Evander Kane, who unfortunately will have to miss Hockey Day in Canada due to a concussion. Be sure to keep your eye on Kane as he rises to stardom.

If the Jets pick up a scoring threat before the February 27 NHL trade deadline they have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs.

Montreal Canadians vs. Toronto Maple Leafs:

The Canadians may be the most storied team in NHL history, but they’re having a down year. Their opposition during Hockey Day in Canada, the Maple Leafs, are looking good and are in the thick of the playoff push.

Putting records aside, the upcoming match between the bitter rivals will be hockey at its finest. The Canadians will depend on goaltender Carey Price to work his magic against Toronto’s Phil Kessel and company. Carey is one of the league’s best net minders while Kessel is a pure goal-scorer.

No love will be lost when these two Original Six squads take the ice.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames:

In the nightcap of Hockey Day in Canada, the Canucks and Flames square-off at the Saddle Dome.

It’s no surprise that the Canucks are near the top of the Western conference after their Stanley Cup run last season. Although they came up just short of the ultimate goal, Roberto Luongo, Henrik and Daniel Sedin along with Ryan Kesler are still on the top of their game.

Watching the Sedin twins play is like watching poetry in motion. These guys can’t play forever, so catch them while you can.

As for the Flames, famed captain Jerome Iginla is trying to rally the troops at the moment and sneak into the playoffs. The team is currently on the outside looking in, but with a solid finish the Flames will make the playoffs.

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has now started the most games for a goalie in Flames history with 527 and will have to play out of his mind during the stretch if the team is to make the playoffs. Kiprusoff is dazzling between the pipes and a joy to watch. He’s currently sitting on 299 career victories and with a little luck he could celebrate No. 300 at home during HDIC.

The showdown in Cow Town will be the perfect ending to Hockey Day in Canada.

March 29, 2011

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American League Preview

By: Joe Williams

In just two days, the Major League Baseball season will begin with games that may or may not be played, depending on snow. If it seems like it was just a couple months ago that the World Series was finishing up in cold weather, it was. So who will be representing the American League in the Fall/Winter Classic in 2011?

A.L EAST

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles may finally be headed in the right direction. The O’s hired Buck Showalter to be the manager in the middle of last season and he immediately turned the team around. He led them to a 34-23 finish in 2010. Baltimore has added some quality veterans in the offseason which should provide some leadership for a young team. They should be better but it won’t be enough to win the toughest division in baseball.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox won 89 games and missed the playoffs in 2010. They have a star-studded roster and will be in the playoff hunt all season. The additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have the Red Sox as the favorite to win the division and the World Series.

New York Yankees

The Yankees’ success in 2011 will depend on the health of their older stars like Jeter and A-Rod and the questions in the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Riveria are as good as it gets, but questions surround the rest of the staff. Cliff Lee is back in Philadelphiaand Andy Pettitte is retired so the Yankees will have to rely on guys like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova. And if that doesn’t work out, they can always afford to make a deal.

Tampa Bay Rays

The defending A.L. East champs look quite a bit different in 2011. Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano and Matt Garza are out. Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are in. If Manny being Manny happens at the plate and not off the field, the Rays will be right in the mix with Boston and New York.

Toronto Blue Jays

One thing is for sure. The Blue Jays will be the best team in Canada. They led the majors in home runs in 2010 and won 85 games. They may have been good enough to contend in another division, but not the A.L. East. No team would benefit more from realignment than Toronto.

A.L CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox aren’t the superstars of the Yankees or Red Sox but they are solid at every position. What they can get from Jake Peavy will go a long way towards determining how they finish in the Central. The addition of Adam Dunn at DH will be a boost to the lineup as well.

Cleveland Indians

They were bad in 2010. The roster hasn’t changed much. They are going to be bad in 2011. The misery continues for Cleveland fans.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers won 81 games last year. The additions of Joaquin Benoit, Victor Martinez and Brad Pennyoutweigh the losses of Jeremy Bonderman and Johnny Damon. If Miguel Cabrera can leave his off the field problems off the field and be the monster in the middle of that lineup, Detroit could steal the division title.

Kansas City Royals

If you are a Kansas City fan, help is on the way. Next year. The Royals have the best farm system in the majors and should start getting reinforcements in the near future. They will be much better in the next couple years, but will struggle in 2011.

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota won the A.L. Central in 2010 without Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. If both players can come back healthy, the Twins will likely defend that title.

A.L WEST

LA Angels

The Angels were a disappointment in 2010. They were also a disappointment in the offseason. They failed to sign any of the big free agents they wanted. They have been passed in the West and haven’t done anything about it.

Oakland A’s

The A’s have a strong young pitching staff. They play in a winnable division. The question is can they score? Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui will help. Will it be enough?

Seattle Mariners

Seattle lost 101 times in 2010. They will be better. They almost have to be better. They have some great players like Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. They have some young prospects with potential. But they will still finish last in the West.

Texas Rangers

Texas won the A.L. West and went to the World Series in 2010. They can score. And they added Adrian Beltre at third. Cliff Lee is gone and Michael Young has asked for a trade. If the Rangers can keep Young happy and Brandon Webb can get healthy, they have the horses to defend their division title.

March 1, 2010

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Good as Gold

By: Michael

When Zach Parise tied the game with 24 seconds left to send the US and Canada into sudden death overtime I imagined all the emergency service calls flooding the switchboards across Canada as the country went in to collective coronary failure. But then Sid the Kid struck gold and what could have been a national nightmare turned into a tear-drenched rendering of “O, Canada”. It just seems right. The US had shown they could beat Canada only days earlier, surprising the world, and making the Canadians wonder what had become of their national pastime. So when the two met again in the Gold Medal game everything was on the line for Team Canada. Against a backdrop of red-draped fans, the local Vancouver Canuck Roberto Luongo in goal, on home ice and in front of a world stage with only one question to answer – is hockey still our game? – the Canadian team had to come through. It turns out nothing was wrong with Canada’s game – The US was just a really worthy opponent.

When the 22 year old from Nova Scotia had a breakaway opportunity earlier in the game and came up short, people were asking, as they had been all tournament, when their golden boy would pull through. It’s just that his moment hadn’t come yet, like he was being saved for when everything was at stake. How fitting then that Team Canada’s elder statesman, Jarome Iginla, should be the one to provide the assist, setting up Crosby to do what everyone was hoping he could – score the winning goal in the biggest of all games. It seems the hopes and expectations of Canada were not misguided or unfounded, whatever doubts might have been raised. After the game Crosby said what we have come to expect – that it was the team, that no one person makes the team, that it’s a team effort – only this time it sounded really quite genuine and heartfelt and not at all rehearsed. Which is why, at least in part, the kid is as good as gold.

December 3, 2008

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The NHL: No Longer a Canada Thing?

By: realbigfathead

By Shawn Lucas

I was very surprised this week when reading a small article in “The Hockey News.”
Being a lifelong hockey fan, I was completely shocked when reading the names of the top ten active leaders in career points – not so much by the names as  their nationalities….

The NHL has traditionally been dominated by Canadians.  In 2007-08, more than half (52%) of all NHL players were from Canada.  The top ranks of the NHL, though still full of Canadians, is no longer a league dominated by players from The Great White North.

Today’s domination comes from stars such as Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Washington’s Alex tandem of Semin and Ovechkin and who can overlook what has been the strongest team of the last decade, the Detroit Red Wings, whose team boasts the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa and the league’s best defenseman in Nicklas Lidstrom?

The future of hockey definitely looks bright on the global stafe.  On the list of active NHL leaders in career points, there are only 3 Canadians – while the USA is represented 4 times, the most of any country on the list.  There are a few developments that could re-define the list this year.

If Brendan Shanahan, 1340 (CAN) or Mats Sundin, 1321 (SWE) can catch on with a team, then each would bump someone off the list.  As they are not currently active, here is the list of active players and their respective nationalities

1.    Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche, 1641 (CAN)
2.    Mark Recchi, Tampa Bay Lightning, 1393 (CAN)
3.    Mike Modano, Dallas Stars, 1294 (USA)
4.    Jeremy Roenick, San Jose Sharks, 1207 (USA)
5.    Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks, 1176, (FIN)
6.    Sergei Fedorov, Washington Capitals, 1155, (RUS)
7.    Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes, 1127 (CAN)
8.    Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues, 996 (USA)
9.    Doug Weight, N.Y. Islanders, 985 (USA)
10.    Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings, 950 (SWE)