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.

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.

November 13, 2008

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NHL Oracle: The Season Ahead For the New Jersey Devils

By: realbigfathead

By Shawn Lucas

The biggest development of the NHL year so far is the New Jersey Devils losing Martin Brodeur to injury.  He is out for 3-4 months after having surgery to repair a torn distal bicep tendon in his left elbow.  For a team that has relied on him to play an average of 73 games a year for the last 12 hockey seasons, this comes as a major blow.

As far as MVPs go team-wise, there doesn’t seem to be any greater in recent memory than Brodeur to the Devils.  The Devils are a team that have consistently relied on their suffocating defense and the one consistent catalyst for that has always been Brodeur. Despite the loss of Hall of Famers like Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens over the last decade, the Devils have competed for the top spot in their division and conference nearly every year.

A future Hall of Famer himself, Brodeur’s many accomplishments include include being a 4-time Vezina winner as the league’s most outstanding goalie, a 4-time winner of the William M. Jennings trophy (awarded to the goaltender of the team with the fewest goals scored against) and posting lifetime averages of 2.20 GAA and .914 save percentage.  That’s a resume most players would love to call their own.

This year began with the expectation that Brodeur would break both Terry Sawchuk’s all-time shutout record, as well as Patrick Roy’s all-time win record.  Getting injured ten games into the season, Brodeur was forced to put his goals on hold.  Left to hold the fort in his place?  Journeymen Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen, who share a combined career win-loss record of 107-168.  The more experienced of the two is Weekes with a top season record of  14-14 in 2005-06 with the New York Rangers.  

With 68 games left to play this season, the Devils new goaltending tandem is tasked with helping the team register an additional 76 points.  They currently stand tied for 8th place with 16 points (7-5-2) and the logical cut-off to make the post-season is 92 points, based on the last 4 years final Eastern Conference standings from NHL.com.  

The Devils cannot be expected to pick up the slack offensively as they have never been an offensive team and currently have only 1 player in double digits for points, Zach Parise (11G, 16P).  Their defense corps cannot be compared to years past either, as it has gone from the future Hall of Fame members mentioned above, to the current likes of John Oduya (21:27 per game, 6P, +7) and Bryce Salvador (-5 on the season, -20 for his career).  

Without a major move from GM Lou Lamoriello or a strong push by their current roster, it seems as though this will be only the second time since Brodeur began his career with the Devils 15 seasons ago, that they will miss the playoffs.  If, however, Weekes and Clemmensen can keep the Devils in the hunt until late February when Brodeur is expected to return, we will definitely have our front runners for the Hart Memorial Trophy (the player adjudged most valuable to his team).