NHL Week in Review (Dec. 11-17)

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The biggest story in the NHL for the past three years has been the issue of concussions in the NHL. The league has attempted to stop the concussions by taking a firm stand against head shots and illegal hits. With Brendan Shanahan at the helm of the NHL discipline increase the suspensions have increase and the NHL began making progress on eliminating dangerous hits. Although dangerous hits have gone down the few bad hits are getting more publicity making it seem that there are more dangerous hits. There is also a trend with concussions increasing since the NHL established their new rules. It may seem that nothing has been done but that is the opposite as the NHL also created new testing restrictions for potential concussions on the ice. As a result of these new testing restrictions concussions are now being recognized on a regular basis. Instead of putting players out on the ice after a head injury the new tests determine a concussion and stop the player from returning and causing more damage to his brain. For many the restrictions are too much and for some they are not enough with more restrictions wanted, including removing fighting. Many of these people may be pleased though as more restrictions may be on their way with a rash of head injuries this past week. The difference between these new injuries and some other one’s is that these recent injuries are with some of the best players in the game. It all started when last year when two key players for their teams took head injuries that ended their seasons. Sidney Crosby was one of these players as he was injured in January 2011 and missed the rest of the 2010-11 season. Crosby returned this year but only lasted 8 games before an errant elbow caught him in the head and then a collision with his own player sent him out for the game. After the game it was announced that Crosby would miss two games to be safe because of the collision with his teammate. Then it was announced that the symptoms of his concussion had returned and he would be out indefinitely with “Concussion-like Symptoms,” otherwise known as a concussion. Another player was also injured in January as Marc Savard suffered two concussions in one week. Since then he has not stepped on to the ice and the rumours are swirling that he may never play hockey again. Savard is not at the same level as Crosby but he was showing signs of being an essential part of the Boston Bruins’ offence. Now because of his concussion issues Savard may never come back to the NHL. Another player that may be done thanks to a concussion, plus his many years of service, is Flyers’ captain Chris Pronger. Pronger has missed most of the season with what was originally reported as a flu but was revealed later to be Post-Concussion Syndrome. This past week Pronger was placed on long-term IR and will miss the rest of the season. Pronger has played for a long time in the NHL and has done great things as well as being labeled the dirtiest player in the league. This latest injury could mean the end of his career as Pronger does not have a lot of years left and with this season gone Pronger will need to decide whether he wants to return and risk possible further damage or to hang the skates up for good and progress into his retirement. This will be a big decision for the big defenceman and will probably be made in the offseason based on a number of different issues that he will need to review. Along with Pronger this season has seen a number of big players fall to concussions with their seasons in the balance. The Flyers lost another key player as Claude Giroux, the NHL Scoring leader, was hit by a knee in a freak play by his teammate Wayne Simmonds. Giroux is out indefinitely for the season as the Flyers are required to replace a player that could have had the season of his career this year. Also this season was the new goal scoring leader as Milan Michalek took over the top spot this week and then was injured. Michalek will also be out indefinitely with a concussion that will see one of the league’s best goal scorers this season sit in the players box. With so many concussions to some the NHL’s biggest players the NHL may need to do something but there is one thing that should be expressed. Many of these injuries were not from illegal hits, in fact most were from freak plays that happen in a game that is as fast as hockey. With so many concussions from key players the future of hockey is a bit uncertain as the NHL will look to solve the problem but will likely find no solution as removing hitting or fighting will never prevent freak accidents.

With Philadelphia suffering from some key injuries they will be looking to move on and continue working towards the playoffs. Before the playoffs they will be featured in the annual NHL Winter Classic alongside the New York Rangers. As a part of this game both teams will be featured on the second season of the HBO documentary “24-7.” This special follows both teams leading up to the Winter Classic and recently began their new season last week. This documentary is an essential part of the NHL and the NHL Marketing plan. The NHL has one very unique issue that is separate from most other major sports leagues and that is they continue to struggle to find viable markets in the US. They are being clobbered by the NFL and MLB and in some places NCAA Football and are struggling to find their place in these markets. As a result of this the NHL is attempting to find different ways of marketing their sport in the US and they are taking their cues from the biggest sports league in North America. The NFL has been able to engrain themselves in the American culture and a large part of this is that they consistently sell stories that people follow. A part of this is their network and film company who repeatedly pump out documentaries on teams and players that will allow the fans to gain an insight into the game. This includes their HBO documentary series “Hard Knocks” that follows one NFL team through training camp. The documentary allows fans to take a look inside the training camps and allows fans to create connections with the team or players on the team. The NHL is attempting to create this connection through their own HBO documentary as they bring fans inside the locker room and on to the planes to see how the hockey world works. “24-7” is an essential part to the NHL in the US as they continue to try to find their niche in the American market and allowing fans to take a look inside two NHL teams is a great way to start.

 

Standings:

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (43)

2. New York Rangers (40)

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (40)

4. New Jersey Devils (37)

5. New York Islanders (26)

Northeast Division:

1. Boston Bruins (43)

2. Buffalo Sabres (35)

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (35)

4. Ottawa Senators (34)

5. Montreal Canadiens (33)

Southeast Division:

1. Florida Panthers (40)

2. Winnipeg Jets (34)

3. Washington Capitals (33)

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (30)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (25)

 

Western Conference

Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks (44)

2. Detroit Red Wings (41)

3. St. Louis Blues (40)

4. Nashville Predators (38)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (22)

Northwest Division:

1. Minnesota Wild (45)

2. Vancouver Canucks (40)

3. Calgary Flames (32)

4. Edmonton Oilers (31)

5. Colorado Avalanche (31)

Pacific Division:

1. San Jose Sharks (37)

2. Dallas Stars (37)

3. Phoenix Coyotes (35)

4. Los Angeles Kings (32)

5. Anaheim Ducks (23)

 

NHL Three Stars:

1. Jason Spezza, C (Ottawa Senators)

3 G

5 A

8 P

+5 +/-

 

2. Pekka Rinne, G (Nashville Predators)

3-0-0

1.66 GAA

.957 SV%

0 SO

 

3. Evgeni Malkin, C (Pittsburgh Penguins)

5 G

3 A

8 P

+1 +/-

 

Key Scores:

Winnipeg Jets 2 – 1 Minnesota Wild

– The border rivalry between these two will get more intense as they join the same conference next year but for now they will take the few games and it started with the surging Jets taking out the Wild who are currently the best team in the NHL

 

Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 3 Minnesota Wild (SO)

– In a battle for the top of the NHL Chicago was able to stave off a comeback but could not prevent the Wild from taking a point with the Blackhawks winning in a shootout thanks to a great move by Patrick Kane

 

Buffalo Sabres 5 – 4 Toronto Maple Leafs

– The battle of the QEW saw the Maples Leafs travel down the highway to their neighbours to the south and could not pull off a win with Tim Connolly returning to Buffalo for the first time since leaving in the offseason

 

Vancouver Canucks 5 – 3 Toronto Maple Leafs

– The Vancouver Canucks travelled across country to face their cross-country rivals in the Toronto Maple Leafs who continued their struggles as of late losing the Canucks making it two losses in a row

 

Key Matchups Next Week:

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens (December 19th; 7:00 pm)

– The Classic rivalry will reach its fourth game this year with the series 2-1 in favour of the Canadiens but it might even out with Montreal Struggling and under a new coach while Boston continues to roll after a rough start to the season

 

New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils (December 20th; 7:00 pm)

– The Hudson River Rivalry will start late as they have not faced each other this year but it will still be a good one as the neighbours separated by a river will face off as the Rangers look to stay at the top of the division and the Devils look to make up ground

 

New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers (December 22nd; 7:00 pm)

– The Battle of New York will see the Rangers face off in their second rivalry game of the week and their second of three big games with the Islanders looking to turn around their season and the Rangers look to remain at the top of the division

 

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers (December 23rd; 7:00 pm)

– In a preview of the Winter Classic the Rangers and Flyers will get to face-off before the New Year’s Day meeting with camera’s following both for the HBO documentary “24/7: Flyers-Rangers”

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