NHL week in Review (Nov. 20-26)

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This week saw the return of the best player in hockey after a concussion had put him out of the game since January 2011. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL bar none and he has proven this with his dominance over the few years that he has been in the league. Even before Crosby made the NHL he was considered one of the best hockey players in the world breaking almost all of Wayne Gretzky’s minor league records. He then played for the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL and continued to dominate everyone. In 2005 he was grouped with Alexander Ovechkin, who was drafted a year earlier but decided to spend 2004 in Russia, as the future of the NHL. Since the beginning of his career in the 2005-06 season Crosby has proved that there is nobody like him in the NHL and drew many comparison’s to Wayne Gretzky as he was touted as “The Next One” in reference to “The Great One.” He would not win the Calder Trophy as Ovechkin would take the trophy and would outperform him on points. This did not phase Crosby as he would help carry the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals the next two years and win the Cup in 2009. As one of the youngest captains in the NHL, Crosby has proven himself to be a true leader and easily the best player in the NHL. The Penguins also rely heavily on his production along with Evgeni Malkin to win games and just be successful. Generally when Crosby is not with the team the Penguins begin to slide as he is the key to their team. This was expressed last season when Crosby took a big hit to the head in the Winter Classic against the Capitals that saw him get slightly injured. Then less than a week later he took a seemingly harmless hit against the Lightning that actually fired up his previous hit and saw Crosby leave the game with a concussion. After further analysis it was determined that Crosby had a severe concussion and would miss the rest of the season. As the Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs the question began to circle about when Crosby could come back. As this season started Crosby was not ready to play as he missed the first month of the season. Luckily for Pittsburgh the Penguins recovered from the lack of Crosby and were one of the best teams. Then this past week Crosby came back to the NHL for the first time since his concussion and made the Penguins look scary. In his first game back Crosby scored two goals and had two assists as the rust wore off quickly. His return was much more than the return of the best player on the Penguins roster. It was a big deal for many reasons as Crosby has become the symbol for concussions in the NHL. His return will be closely watched for the rest of the season as everyone want to know the effect that his concussion would have one him. They want to see if Crosby can return to be the player he once was after a serious concussion or if he will never be the same. There is no doubt that his skill will not disappear but the major question is whether or not he will be willing to go into the corner and fight those physical battles that you need to be able to do in the NHL. The preliminary results are good as Crosby has seemed even more physical in his first week of play as he seems to be making up for lost time in that department. The rest of the season will be a test though as Crosby will try to be the all-star he has always been but may need to overcome a fear of getting another concussion. Meanwhile the NHL executives are breathing a sigh of relief with his return as Crosby has almost single-handedly boosted the standing of the NHL in the U.S. With Crosby playing teams sell out buildings in the NHL allowing them to start making money off of teams that generally do not make much for the league. The sales of jerseys and merchandise also go up with Crosby in the league as more and more people are drawn to Crosby. The return of Sid the Kid is good for hockey and whether you like him or you hate him the fact remains that with Crosby in the NHL everything is better and boring games get much more interesting.

The NHL has Crosby to help them in the U.S. but the American market is very hard to crack with so much competing for the same dollars. With the U.S. all sitting down this Thursday to watch the NFL after, or before, their thanksgiving dinner the NHL tried to capitalize. With thanksgiving being such a big tradition in the U.S. the NHL attempted to take advantage of a captive audience on the Friday after thanksgiving. With no NFL games that Friday and only a handful of NCAA Football games the NHL created their newest tradition. The Thanksgiving Day Showdown is the newest in a long line of attempts for the NHL to own certain days in the Sports calendar. With the Winter Classic seemingly taking off in some places on New Year’s Day the NHL decided to try to own the Friday after Thanksgiving as well .They hosted the Thanksgiving Showdown with two traditional American teams. The Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings faced off in a very good game that went to overtime and set the standard for the future of this game. They also hitched themselves to the tradition of Black and Gold Fridays that the Bruins have done in the past years that has become a local tradition the day after Thanksgiving. The NHL will continue to make an attempt at these types of games and don’t expect anything special in Canada to come along soon. With the game so strong in Canada little is needed to grow the sport as teams are already successful without the gimmicks that many teams need in the southern U.S. The Thanksgiving game is the new game of the NHL and don’t expect them to stop trying to find ways to grow the sport in the U.S. as teams continue to struggle and may end of folding or moving.

 

Standings:

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (302)

2. Philadelphia Flyers (29)

3. New York Rangers (27)

4. New Jersey Devils (25)

5. New York Islanders (16)

Northeast Division:

1. Boston Bruins (29)

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (28)

3. Buffalo Sabres (27)

4. Montreal Canadiens (24)

5. Ottawa Senators (22)

Southeast Division:

1. Florida Panthers (28)

2. Washington Capitals (25)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (24)

4. Winnipeg Jets (22)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (20)

 

Western Conference

Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks (31)

2. Detroit Red Wings (29)

3. St. Louis Blues (26)

4. Nashville Predators (24)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (15)

Northwest Division:

1. Minnesota Wild (29)

2. Vancouver Canucks (27)

3. Edmonton Oilers (26)

4. Colorado Avalanche (21)

5. Calgary Flames (17)

Pacific Division:

1. San Jose Sharks (27)

2. Phoenix Coyotes (27)

3. Dallas Stars (27)

4. Los Angeles Kings (26)

5. Anaheim Ducks (16)

 

Three Stars:

1. Sidney Crosby, C (Pittsburgh Penguins)

2 G

7 A

9 P

+7 +/-

 

2. Cory Schneider, G (Vancouver Canucks)

3-0-0

0.67 GAA

.978 SV%

2 SO

 

3. Brian Elliott, G (St. Louis Blues)

3-0-0

0.98 GAA

.963 SV%

1 SO

 

Key Scores:

Pittsburgh Penguins 5 – 0 New York Islanders

– Sidney Crosby made his return to hockey for the first time since last season’s concussion and had 2 goals and 2 assists in his first action

 

Boston Bruins 4 – 3 Buffalo Sabres (SO)

– The Sabres had a score to settle with Milan Lucic after he knocked their goalie out with a concussion in their last meeting but they didn’t get much with Lucic winning a fight and Boston winning the game in a shootout

 

Detroit Red Wings 3 – 2 Boston Bruins (SO)

– In the first annual Thanksgiving Showdown the Bruins and Red Wings put on a show for the American fans as Boston’s undefeated November ended in a shootout

 

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 3 Montreal Canadiens (OT)

– Sidney Crosby made his first appearance on primetime TV against the Canadiens but could only manage one assist as he slowed down from his fast start

 

Key Matchups Next Week:

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings (November 28th; 10:30 pm)

– The Pacific rivalry between the L.A. Kings and the San Jose Sharks continues this week with a Monday Night matchup as the Sharks look to continue their hold in the division

 

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (November 30th; 7:00 pm)

– The Original Six Matchup will be a tough one for the Leafs who continue to build up injuries while the Bruins look to end their already stellar November in style

 

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals (December 1st; 7:00 pm)

– The modern rivalry returns to its glory with Ovechkin vs. Crosby for the first time this year as the two rivals will take centre stage

 

Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers (December 3rd; 10:00 pm)

– The Battle of Alberta takes the storied rivalry to Hockey Night in Canada with the late game as Edmonton looks to continue their great season and Calgary tries to get back on track

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