March 7, 2013

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Will the Chicago Blackhawks Ever Lose?

By: Matt Bowen

What the Chicago Blackhawks are doing this season is nothing short of miraculous and the notion of them going undefeated isn’t far-fetched. Their 21-0-3 record is already an NHL record for most consecutive games to start the season with at least one point.

They are unblemished precisely halfway through the strike-shortened 48-game season. In a season where 60 points is considered to be a lock for the playoffs, Chicago already has 45. They currently lead the Western Conference’s Central Division by a massive 19 points over the Detroit Red Wings right now.

They are looking like one of the most dominant teams is sports history. A perfect blend of size, speed and grit has the Blackhawks looking unstoppable.

What are they missing? The answer is simple—nothing.

They have three superstars in Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but that’s not why they’re so good. Its guys like unsung hero Patrick Sharpe, up-and-coming force Viktor Stalberg and young role players like Andrew Shaw and Nick Leddy who make all the difference.

Throw in a pair of all-world defensemen like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and the Blackhawks are the strongest team top to bottom in the entire NHL.

Oh, here’s the best part. The team has two cast-away goaltenders in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery who play like every second between the pipes could be their last in the NHL. The two have basically split time this year and both are perfect thus far. Crawford is currently 11-0-3 while Emery is 10-0-0. Most NHL teams have a definite No. 1 between the pipes who plays about 67 percent of the time. Not the Blackhawks, they came into the season searching for a No. 1 netminder and have found two.

So, why are the Blackhawks so good?

They’re 13-0-3 in one goal games. They’re latest streak of 11-0-0 is the best in franchise history. They’ve scored 78 times while only surrendering 46 goals.

Never mind their abundance of skill in every facet of the game; the Hawks have won big, small and most importantly ugly. That’s what makes a good team a great team.

There’s something different about the Hawks this year. They’re something special. Being in the presence of greatness certainly stirs the imagination. One can’t help but wonder what awe-inspiring feat the Blackhawks will eclipse next.

To think there is a team in the league that can beat them in a playoff series in absolutely absurd.

True poetry on ice, Chicago will end up as arguably the best team in league history.

When the season is complete, the great debate can then begin over what kind of numbers they would have racked up had an entire 82-game season been played.

January 9, 2013

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Four Words for Hockey Fans: The NHL Is Back!

By: Matt Bowen

It may have brought up bad memories or left a bad taste in one’s mouth, but the best news for any hockey fan this New Year is that the NHL is back in session.

The NHL is back!

Just when fans were beginning to accept the thought of missing another season due to a labor dispute, the NHL and NHLPA worked out a deal. Hockey enthusiasts everywhere have not forgotten the locked out 2004-05 season and this time the league got a much needed deal done in the eleventh hour.

So, when does the puck drop?

That’s the beauty of this deal, we don’t really know yet.

What we do know is that the season will be 48 games, teams will report to camp no later than Sunday, January 13, and that the regular season will most likely begin within a week from then.

So, as gut wrenching as it was to miss months of NHL hockey already, instant gratification takes place with games beginning seemingly overnight thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. The new CBA’s biggest perk is certainly the 10-year deal with an opt-out clause after eight years.

This is what the league needed most—to guarantee its fans that the game can gain momentum after its latest hiccup. The NHL has officially done that and the sky is now the limit.

While there may be plenty of jilted fans at the moment, as soon as the lamp is lit smiles will overcome those who currently frown.

What’s not to love about NHL action?

At this point, a 48-game season is perfect. There will be a league-wide competitive (dis)advantage with the lack of preseason play.  The teams that gel together the fastest will find themselves in the playoffs.  Rookies will have a true trial-by-fire. No team can afford a losing streak of more than three games.

So, who are the teams to keep an eye on this season?

The Minnesota Wild and their fans have been waiting for this moment since last summer when they landed free agent stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The passion for hockey runs thick in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the buzz surrounding the Wild right now has reached a fever pitch.

Another team to expect big things from is the Edmonton Oilers. After having the No. 1 overall draft pick three-straight seasons, the shortened season could be a blessing to the franchise looking for prominence. The trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will look to get off to a fast start and reach the playoffs. With so much young talent on the Oilers it’s only a matter of time before the team is the most feared in the entire NHL.

One NHL team to fear right now is the New York Rangers. They are built to win now and the addition of superstar Rick Nash in the offseason only bolsters their chances for a Stanley Cup.  With Henrik Lunqvist between the pipes, captain Ryan Callahan, sharp shooter Marian Hossa, and all-world talent Brad Richards to accompany Nash, anything short of a Cup in 2013 will be considered a failure.

Hockey fans get ready—the season will be here in the blink of an eye.  True NHL action is what we’ve been waiting for and the league will definitely deliver.

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)