NHL Week in Review (Nov. 13-19)

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The NHL has always been a different league than most as it expresses the virtues of frontier justice. The NHL has always been a league that takes out their indiscretions on the ice through the physicality of the game. This is the basis of fighting in the NHL as fighting has been a way to solve issues on the ice between the two tough guys or one tough guy and the cause of the problem. This situation was expressed perfectly in a game last Saturday when the Boston Bruins faced off with the Buffalo Sabres. During the game Ryan Miller came out of his net to play the puck before a Boston player could get to it. This Boston player was Milan Lucic one of the tougher guys on the ice for either team. As Lucic got closer to miller he did not slow down and he collided with Miller sending Miller spinning. As a fan of hockey you have seen this before and the usual recourse would be for the team to defend their goalie and start a fight. The Sabres were poised to do this but then the unusual happened as none of the Sabres stepped up to defend their goaltender. Lucic was waiting for someone to fight him but nothing happened as the Sabres really only mustered a few shoves. Meanwhile the rest of the NHL was watching and the criticism began to flow as the Sabres failed to defend one of the most sacred players on the team. Nobody is supposed to touch your goalie and not defending him is one of the cardinal sins in the NHL. This became even more important when it was announced that Ryan Miller had suffered a concussion on the play knocking him out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. It took one more step up when the NHL decided not to take any action against the hit this week. The Sabres are now labeled as a soft team for not defending their goalie and this title does not sit well for the Sabres as teams could begin to take liberties with their players and with some of the smallest players in the league on the team it could mean more injuries. Luckily for the Sabres there is one saving grace for them and that is they will get their rematch this upcoming week. In this game Lucic will be a marked man throughout the game and you can bet that there will be a fight early in the game. This will be the opportunity to end the talk of them being soft but they will need to take advantage because if they don’t then other teams will know that there is nobody that can punish them for going after a star player. The bigger issue may not lay with the Sabres though as the league’s decision against a suspension could have some major repercussions. Brendan Shanahan met with Lucic for his side to the play and was happy with his excuse that he was skating too fast to avoid the hit and didn’t try to hit Miller. A weak excuse for someone known as a hitter and for someone who was seen extending his arms after the collision as if he was finishing a check but that is besides the point. The biggest takeaway from the incident and the lack of repercussions could be the fact that goalies are not truly safe if they leave their crease. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as the goalies gain a great amount of protection inside the trapezoid and inside their crease. The fact remains that they are still a player and if they choose to play the puck outside of the hash marks they cannot be protected. There needs to be a point to where the protection ends for a goalie and not allowing them to roam the ice freely. If they choose to play the puck far outside their net they cannot be protected if they go so far out and realize that the other team is coming to play the puck. The decision by the league not to punish Lucic for his hit could mean that goalies will no longer be protected if they go outside of their crease to play a puck. Make no mistake the goalies will still be protected in the crease and behind the net but a line has been drawn for their limit and could keep goalies from challenging players for the puck. This decision will have some major effects on the league and with the rematch of the Sabres and Bruins this week all eyes will be on the Sabres to see what they will do.

The NHL continues to move on to the future of the game with these decisions but earlier in the week it was time to look back. On Monday four new players entered the Hockey Hall of Fame among the select few that can call themselves Hall of Famers. The Class of 2011 included Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe, Doug Gilmour, and Ed Belfour. Mark Howe was always in the shadow of his father aka Mr. Hockey, aka Gordie Howe. He stepped out of this shadow however and became one of the best two-way defenders in the NHL. During his induction speech Howe had one of the best moments as he honoured a request made by his father when Mark went to Detroit. Mark Howe put on his father’s #9 Detroit Red Wings Jersey that he could never wear because it was retired when he played for Detroit. With this moment behind them the rest of the Hall of Famers entered into a very exclusive club. Joe Nieuwendyk entered the Hall of Fame as one of the few great leaders and a player that could just simply win as he won three Stanley Cups with three different Teams. Another former Leaf entered the hall as well when Ed Belfour was inducted as the goalie with the third most wins in NHL history. The hometown favorite got the most cheers as former Leafs captain and fan favorite Doug Gilmour was inducted along with three of his teammates. Gilmour was by far the favorite with the induction ceremony taking place just steps away from the Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto. With the induction these four men took their place among the frosted glass in the hall overlooking the Stanley Cup. They will always be remembered either as a complete player, a true winner, one of the best goalies to play the game, or a blue-collar worker who all fans fell in love with. It is yet another aspect to the history of the NHL that promises to continue throughout this season and beyond.

 

Standings:

 

Eastern Conference:

Atlantic Division:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (25)

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (25)

3. New York Rangers (23)

4. New Jersey Devils (21)

5. New York Islanders (13)

Northeast Division:

1. Buffalo Sabres (24)

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (24)

3. Boston Bruins (22)

4. Montreal Canadiens (21)

5. Ottawa Senators (21)

Southeast Division:

1. Florida Panthers (23)

2. Washington Capitals (21)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (20)

4. Winnipeg Jets (19)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (15)

 

Western Conference:

Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks (27)

2. Nashville Predators (24)

3. St. Louis Blues (22)

4. Detroit Red Wings (21)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (10)

Northwest Division:

1. Minnesota Wild (27)

2. Edmonton Oilers (22)

3. Vancouver Canucks (19)

4. Colorado Avalanche (19)

5. Calgary Flames (17)

Pacific Division:

1. San Jose Sharks (23)

2. Phoenix Coyotes (23)

3. Los Angeles Kings (23)

4. Dallas Stars (22)

5. Anaheim Ducks (16)

 

Three Stars:

1. Carey Price, G (Montreal Canadiens)

2-0-0-1

0.66 GAA

.973 SV%

2 SO

 

2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D (San Jose Sharks)

1 G

6 A

7 P

+7 +/-

 

3. Matt Read, RW (Philadelphia Flyers)

4 G

1 A

5 P

+2 +/-

 

Key Scores:

New York Rangers 4 – 2 New York Islanders

– The Battle of New York got under way with the Rangers continuing their strong start to the season beating the struggling Islanders

 

Los Angeles Kings 2 – 1 Anaheim Ducks (SO)

– A battle between to of the California teams went the distance as the Kings took the slight edge in a shootout

 

Winnipeg Jets 4 – 1 Washington Capitals

– The struggling Jets seemed to respond to the boos of their hometown crowd earlier in the week as they beat one of the better teams in the NHL

 

Winnipeg Jets 6 – 4 Philadelphia Flyers

– With Ilya Bryzgalov, who said that he would not play in Winnipeg if the Phoenix Coyotes had moved there, on the bench the fans let the Flyers have it as the Jets took another win

 

Key Matchups Next Week:

New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Nov. 21st; 7:00 pm)

– The Isles will look to change their season but could be in tough as the Penguins have played well without their captain and hope to play even better with their Captain as Sidney Crosby will return to the line up for the first time since last January

 

Boston Bruins vs. Buffalo Sabres (Nov. 23rd; 7:00 pm)

– The Sabres will be looking to give payback to Milan Lucic after he knocked out goalie Ryan Miller as the Bruins continue a big week

 

Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins (Nov. 25th; 1:00 pm)

– The big week for the Bruins ends with a new staple in the NHL season as they will take on the Red Wings in the 1st annual Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC

 

New York Islanders vs. New Jersey Devils (Nov. 26th; 1:00 pm)

– The Islanders will try to get on track against the Devils who seemed to have figured it out lately in the mini Hudson River Rivalry

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