April 24, 2013

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NHL PLAYOFF RACES

By: Tyler Vespa

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.

Can Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers hold on and make the NHL playoffs?

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.

Western Conference

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

Eastern Conference

7. Ottawa        52 points- 45 GP

8. NY Rangers 52points- 46 GP

9. Winnipeg    51 points- 47 GP

April 2, 2013

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Why NHL Realignment Makes Sense

By: Tyler Vespa

With the NHL realignment approved for next season, the league will now feature four divisions instead of six. These would be the Midwest, the Pacific, the Central and the Atlantic. The Midwest and Pacific divisions would makeup the Western Conference, while the Central and the Atlantic divisions would make up the Eastern Conference. The Central and Atlantic divisions will have 8 teams each, while the Pacific and the Midwest will each have 7 teams.

The Red Wings will say goodbye to the Western Conference and move to the East nest season.

Here is what the NHL will look like next season:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Midwest

Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche

Dallas Stars

Minnesota Wild

Nashville Predators

St. Louis Blues

Winnipeg Jets

Pacific

Anaheim Ducks

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings

Phoenix Coyotes

San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Central

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

Detroit Red Wings

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Atlantic

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

The playoffs will still feature 16 teams, eight from each conference, but will not be division based with a new wild-card feature. The top 3 teams from each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs The final 4 places will be filled in by the next two highest placed teams in each conference, and will be based on regular season points, regardless of their division. This means one division could send 5 teams while another could only send three.

Regular season points will also determine the seeding of the teams. Meaning, the division winner with the most points will play the wild card team with the least points, and so forth.

This plan is exactly what the league needed after two lockouts in the past 8 seasons. Something needed to change. As you can see the only two teams changing conferences will be the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Detroit has been crying for this move for years.

With that I give you 4 reasons this plan for realignment is a win-win for the league and everybody associated with it:

Geographic simplicity: We will see fewer issues with time zones and travel. Teams in the same conference will enjoy easier travel simply because they are now crossing over fewer time zones.

More Original 6 matchups: Detroit is now in the same division with 3 other teams from the Original 6: Boston, Montreal and Toronto. Also, the Red Wings and the New York Rangers are in the same conference.

New Playoff Format: With the imbalance of teams in each division, there is talk of a “Wild Card Format” being added to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This could mean a play-in game where two teams play one game to become the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Another win or go home game would be genius.

Dream for Television: The Eastern Conference would have a rivalry game almost every night. Teams in Canada will get awesome exposure, with a myriad of Canadian vs. Canadian rivalries. New rivalries and big matchups will be made out West such as with the 3 California teams; San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Even more Canadian exposure is bred with Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

February 9, 2012

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Detroit Red Wings Home Winning Streak

By: Junior

When it comes to the Detroit Red Wings, people have grown to expect the continued success they have had in the NHL. Having won four Stanley Cups in the last 14 years and having not missed the playoffs in the last 20, winning in the regular season normally wouldn’t make headlines. That being said, their newest winning streak is above and beyond even what Detroit fans have come to expect from their team.

The Red Wings have won their last 18 games at home, adding more meaning to the nickname “Hockeytown”. The Wings play their next 5 games at home, so how long can this streak continue? I break down each game and see which one of them could be the end of the streak.

Anaheim Ducks - 2/10

Detroit won both previous contests with the Ducks, 5-0 and 4-2, respectively. Detroit is the first stop of a long, 8-game road trip for the Ducks. Anaheim will look to win early in that trip, before the road takes its toll, so look for Anaheim to be aggressive. However, the Ducks haven’t been able to keep opponents from lighting the lamp, and Detroit has proven they can do that frequently against Anaheim. I don’t think the record ends here.

Philadelphia Flyers - 2/12

The Red Wings haven’t played the Flyers yet this season, and they split a pair of games in the preseason. Philadelphia is 2nd in the NHL in scoring and will test Jimmy Howard often throughout this game. Howard should have some support though, as the Flyers give up close to 3 goals a game. The key to this game is the Power Play, as Philadelphia is very effective with the extra man, while Detroit has struggled short-handed. This game is scary, and I think the streak could end here.

Jimmy Howard will have his work cut out for him when the Flyers visit Joe Louis Arena.

Dallas Stars - 2/14

Since I am known to be wrong, we will continue just in case my Philly prediction is incorrect. Dallas has been a worthy opponent to Detroit this season, losing two contests by a goal each, 5-4 and 3-2 in a shootout. The season is winding down, and at this moment Dallas is 2 points out of the playoffs. This game would break the NHL’s all-time home winning streak record, so the Red Wings will be fighting just as hard. If the Red Wings get this far in the streak, I think they will pull this one out. 

Nashville Predators - 2/17

Nashville is playing solid hockey lately, going 14-4 in their last 18 games. Add to that they should be well rested heading into the game, and this could spell trouble for Detroit. The Predators and Red Wings have split a pair of games so far this year, each winning on their home ice.  This rubber match could have significant playoff implications for both teams, as the Western Conference is a tight race. Again power plays could become a factor in this game as well, as Nashville is deadly on the power play, but doesn’t do a great job of killing them. The third tough opponent in a row, I think this could be a game that ends the streak, if it hasn’t been already.

San Jose Sharks – 2/19

If things weren’t hard enough, San Jose presents yet another problem for the Wings. A team that has already beaten Detroit twice this year, the Sharks would love to end the Red Wings home streak if the opportunity presented itself. San Jose is very similar to Nashville in that they are strong on the power play and would love to gain some points on Detroit in the playoff race. Antti Niemi has done a good job keeping Detroit out of the net, and Joe Thornton has scored 4 goals against Detroit this year. However, I think it is hard to win three in a row against the Red Wings, and I think Detroit will come out ready to rebound from one of the previous losses I predicted.

April 7, 2011

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NHL Playoffs: Who Are This Year’s Wild Card Players?

By: Dicky Phillips

The Stanley Cup Finals are right around the corner.

It’s time to elevate the noise meter at the rink, raise the roof, and pack the arena so full that fans are hanging from the rafters. The NHL post-season is nearly upon us!  And, if you’re an NHL fan, you know that there is still a lot to be sorted out.

In other major American sports, the championship contenders are a little easier to predict.  In baseball, for instance, you always expect the Red Sox and Yankees to be in the picture. In the NFL, the Patriots, Colts, and Steelers are likely to make a push come Playoff time. And in the NBA, it’s a surprise when the Lakers and Celtics aren’t listed as a possible Finals match-up.

Of course, the NHL has a few teams that consistently stand out.  But, as the Montreal Canadians showed us in the 2010 Playoffs against the Presidents Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, seeds mean almost zilch! Nada. Nothing!

Every team has a good chance at advancing when the playoffs finally do arrive, so coaches will expect their teams to be mentally prepared and will look for any sense of momentum to carry them into the first round.  Post-season experience is a huge asset, and good defense (led by strong goal-tending) is a must.

One additional factor that should not be overlooked, however, is the Wild Card Player. If a team is to go deep into the post-season, they will need a star performance from a player that wasn’t necessarily expected to perform like a star.  Look at Dustin Byfuglien’s turn for the Blackhawks last year—the big-bodied, hard hitting utility player had no problem stepping up in the 2010 Playoffs against great defensemen like Chris Pronger.  Or how about Jean-Sebastain Giguere’s play in the 2003 Playoffs for Anaheim?  Yes, he had a pretty good regular season, but no one expected the lights-out performance he brought to the post-season.  Five shutouts?  While they didn’t win the Cup, Giguere led the Ducks right to the brink.

So who will the Wild Card Players be this year?  Here are our predictions:

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

Kesler uses his speed and hockey IQ to make sure that he is always in a position to help his team. And he’s having another career year. Led by the Sedin brothers and Luongo in net, the Canucks (with the best record in the NHL) are the favorite of most to win the Cup.  With most opposing teams very aware of what the Sedins are capable of, however, less attention will be given to Kesler, which could prove to be a very costly oversight.

Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks

Old Joe, meet New Joe.  Joe Thornton is having one of the least productive seasons of his career, so someone needs to pick it up.  Joe Pavelski can be that guy.  Prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, many hockey fans had no idea who Pavelski was.  Pavelski, however, had a terrific post-season last year and seems poised to be just as great this year.  The Sharks are heading into the Playoffs as arguably the hottest team in the NHL, and they will need a player like Pavelski to keep them going strong.

The “Energy Line,” Boston Bruins

“Energy Line,” or the fourth line of the Boston Bruins, isn’t just one player, but a few.  For the entire season the Bruins’ fourth line has been able to create momentum for, or maintain the momentum of, the other three lines.  With Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille, the Energy Line has even contributed on the point sheet.  Although sometimes out-skilled, this line more than makes up for it with heart and a fighting will.

March 23, 2009

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Free Ground Shipping on all REAL.BIG. Wall Graphics

By: Sonya

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