NHL Week in Review (Dec. 18-24)

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The Sports world has one thing that is always for sure in every season and that is injuries. Some are more common than others and some get a lot more focus than others but they will always happen. The one thing that is different in most leagues is the injury reporting as certain leagues are very specific in their listing of injuries. One of these is the MLB where you can regularly see injuries listed like “Left Pectoral Strain” or “Torn Right Labrum” giving exactly what injury to what body part. Other leagues are not as specific like the NFL where they list “Knee” and “Head” as their injuries. Then you have the NHL which is possibly the vaguest of all leagues in injury reporting. It seems to have started almost out of the blue, although some say Pat Quinn started the trend. This trend is the use of two terms that seem to provide some sort of code in the NHL the “Upper Body Injury” and the “Lower Body Injury.” These two terms are the vaguest of all injury terms and really have almost no meaning. The Upper Body Injury is essentially claimed anytime that a player has an injury to his head, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, or stomach. The Lower Body Injury is the term given to any injury at the hips, groin, legs, or feet. It is now common practice to say that a player has either an upper body injury or a lower body injury but it really does not make much sense. First if you watch a hockey game and see a player go down you can usually tell what part of the body was hurt. You may not be able to know exactly what happened but the player will generally favour a body part. This happened recently when I was watching the Avalanche take on the Oilers when Ryan Wilson hit Taylor Hall. Hall went off the ice favouring his shoulder and came back only to hurt it again but it was originally listed as an Upper Body Injury. It was very obvious that the injury was a shoulder injury yet they listed it as Upper Body, although that did not last long as everyone knew what was hurt. It can boggle the mind as to why the NHL does this as they are rarely hiding anything, unless it happens in private or at a practice, and there is no real reason to hide injuries. The biggest questions lie in just that, what are these teams trying to hide and from whom? Are they worried that opposing teams will target their injuries? Are they worried that the NHL will not be happy about what they are doing about the injury? It baffles some as to what the goal is in claiming an Upper Body or Lower Body injury. They should not be worried about other teams trying to hurt their players because having an upper body injury is never going to be safe for a player in a contact sport. What are you really going to protect by not telling anyone that someone has a shoulder injury. The player is still going to be hit in the shoulder with or without an injury. There is not much to achieve by calling a shoulder injury Upper Body or a knee injury a Lower Body because it does not matter either way. If the player is in enough pain that you have to protect him by not telling everyone what his injury is he shouldn’t be on the ice. The NHL is the vaguest lead in reporting injuries and there is no reason except maybe to annoy media. It is a strange practice that makes little sense and with concussions becoming more of an issue the Upper Body Injury could be a way to step around the necessary concussion testing. If this does become a problem the NHL needs to step in and require more detailed injury reporting in order to keep the players safe. Of course until something truly happens to force the hand of the NHL but it should be closely watched.

In the rest of the league much was happening including the continuing spin of the coaching carousel. This week it was the Montreal Canadiens who fired their head coach Jacques Martin after a terrible start to the season. In his place the Canadiens named Randy Cunneyworth as the interim Head Coach. For many teams this would be no big deal as an assistant generally takes over the head coach job for multiple reasons. Firstly this assistant gets the opportunity to prove himself as the head coach in the NHL as in the case of Cunneyworth who will have a little more than half a season to show if he can do it. Secondly he has the knowledge of the team and the rest of the coaches that will prevent the organization from making sweeping changes midseason. These two reasons are the main reasons why the assistant coach generally will get the job on an interim basis after a head coach is fired. For the Montreal Canadiens the replacement of their coach became one of the biggest issues they have had this year. It was not only because the Montreal fans are some of the most passionate in the NHL. Instead it was because the Francophone, Jacques Martin, was replaced by an Anglophone, Randy Cunneyworth. In a city that considers themselves very French replacing a bilingual coach with a unilingual coach tends to upset everyone. The fact that Cunneyworth can only speak English and not French has upset a lot of Canadiens fans who blew up in the media after a very frustrating season. The Canadiens fans should rest easy though as Cunneyworth is the Interim head coach meaning that he is not guaranteed a job next year. With the most passionate fans comes the biggest microscopes and that is what makes the NHL so great with so many passionate fans from Vancouver to Detroit to Montreal. With all of these passionate fans any move their team makes comes under a microscope and everything is criticized but that is what I takes to be in the NHL and whether or not the complaints make sense these teams need to focus and battle on with the midseason on the horizon. It will be an interesting second half as the NHL progresses towards the second half with changes still to come and teams still to play.

 

Standings:

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. New York Rangers (46)

2. Philadelphia Flyers (46)

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (44)

4. New Jersey Devils (39)

5. New York Islanders (28)

Northeast Division:

1. Boston Bruins (47)

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (40)

3. Ottawa Senators (39)

4. Buffalo Sabres (35)

5. Montreal Canadiens (33)

Southeast Division:

1. Florida Panthers (43)

2. Winnipeg Jets (37)

3. Washington Capitals (36)

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (31)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (28)

 

Western Conference:

Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks (48)

2. St. Louis Blues (44)

3. Detroit Red Wings (43)

4. Nashville Predators (40)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (22)

Northwest Division:

1. Minnesota Wild (45)

2. Vancouver Canucks (44)

3. Calgary Flames (38)

4. Colorado Avalanche (37)

5. Edmonton Oilers (33)

Pacific Division:

1. San Jose Sharks (41)

2. Dallas Stars (41)

3. Phoenix Coyotes (39)

4. Los Angeles Kings (37)

5. Anaheim Ducks (24)

 

NHL Three Stars:

1. Brad Marchand, LW (Boston Bruins)

4 G

2 A

6 P

+5  +/-

 

2. Marian Gaborik, RW (NY Rangers)

4 G

1 A

5 P

+6 +/-

 

3. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G (Colorado Avalanche)

3-0-0

1.66 GAA

.950 SV%

0 SO

 

Key Scores:

Boston Bruins 3 – 2 Montreal Canadiens

– The Bruins continued their great season against their longtime rivals evening up the season series at 2 a piece against the Montreal Canadiens who were still getting used to their new coach and trying to get back to their winning ways

 

New York Rangers 4 – 1 New Jersey Devils

– The Hudson River Rivalry saw the Rangers dominate the Devils as they continued their strong season while the Devils continued their season of mediocrity

 

Toronto Maple Leafs 3 – 2 Buffalo Sabres

– The Leafs travelled down the QEW, although not directly, to face off against their border rivals in the Buffalo Sabres and seemingly got back on track beating the Sabres after a big let down in the beginning of December

 

New York Rangers 4 – 2 New York Islanders

– The Battle of New York saw one of the best teams in the NHL take on one of the worst and it showed as the Rangers got past the Isles in their first meeting of the season

 

Next Week:

New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers (December 26th; 7:00 pm)

– The Battle of New York gets underway again only one week after their first meeting as the Rangers look to host the Islanders and continue their strong season and their hold on the Atlantic Conference

 

Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks (December 28th; 10:30 pm)

– The Canucks take on their soon to be conference rivals as they travel down the coast to San Jose for the second of four matchups between these two teams this season as both teams look to stay at the top of their divisions

 

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (December 29th; 7:00 pm)

– The Battle of Pennsylvania takes place for the second time this year with the Flyers taking the first matchup and the Penguins looking to keep up in the Atlantic Division race

 

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Winnipeg Jets (December 31st; 7:00 pm)

– The Leafs will travel to Winnipeg and take on the new Jets in what has become the loudest building in the NHL with fans screaming almost constantly for their team that has been a force as of late and will look to continue their strong play

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