NHL Week in Review (Dec. 25-31)

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Hockey is a sport that is on the cutting edge while also paying special attention to their great history. This history is something that makes the NHL very special as they are one of the oldest leagues in professional sports. The biggest part of this history is the revered group of teams that started it all called the Original Six. These are the original teams that formed the NHL, as the professional hockey league of choice, in 1942. The six teams were created before the league but became the Original Six of the National Hockey League when they formed a complete league in 1942. The Original Six are the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. These six teams are the foundation of the NHL and deserve all the respect, unless your team is facing them, they can get as without them there would be no NHL. The original six are also home to some of the biggest fan bases in the NHL with fans coming from everywhere. These teams were the start to the NHL but as the NHL began to expand and become a much bigger league the Original Six found themselves in unfamiliar spots. The Detroit Red Wings were the only team that did not follow the pattern of the rest of their original six brethren as the other five teams spent the late 90s and 00s without winning. In 1994 the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup and that marked the end of the Original Six domination as no original six team, save Detroit, would win the Stanley Cup for years after. With the expanded league teams began to become more competitive with places like Colorado, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, and Carolina taking over for the Original Six. It seemed as though these legendary teams were fading into the background of the NHL as the new age teams began winning much more. It was a different time in the NHL as the usual powers gave way to surging new teams that made the NHL a much more evenly based league. That was until recently as in 2009-10 one of the Original Six broke through to be only the second Original Six team to win the Cup in 14 years, Detroit was the other team who won  4 times in that 14 years. Then in 2010-11 another Original Six took charge as the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup to create an Original Six Stanley Cup Streak that stands at two. This year the early look at the league sees five of the Original Six teams at the top of the league or holding a spot in the playoffs, if only for now. The Chicago Blackhawks are back after a bad Stanley Cup Hangover as they sit at the top of the league and are looking like the team they were when they won the Cup. The New York Rangers are looking to be a force this year under head coach John Tortorella as they sit right behind Chicago for the NHL lead and are at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Boston Bruins are not far behind the Rangers as they had a short Cup hangover suffering in the first month and playing great as of late. The one team that has been stable since the Rangers won in 1994 has been the Detroit Red Wings and they remain solid although they are not as dominant as they used to be. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been the joke of the league for years as they hold the longest of all Stanley Cup droughts but this year are looking to end a postseason drought as they are currently in 10th place in the East and will be sure to be a factor in the playoff race this year. The only one of the original six is the Montreal Canadiens who have been a playoff caliber team in the past few years but this year seem to be out of it before the halfway point in the season. The last three years have seen a resurgence of the foundation of the league as the Original Six are back to relevance. Although Detroit has always been relevant the other teams have rarely been a big factor even if they made the playoffs. Now with the last two Stanley Cup champions coming from the Original Six and the top teams in the league all from the Original Six it would seem as though the Six have returned to their former greatness which can only mean great things for the NHL, unless you are a fan of a one of the other 26 teams.

With the Original Six teams at the top of the league there are a number who are almost out of the race before it even officially starts. These teams have a big significance in the upcoming months even if they won’t be a part of the playoff race. Their significance is also more than just playoff spoilers as they will become targets for trade speculation as the February Trade Deadline approaches. The NHL has seen a trend lately as the Trade Deadline has lost some significance with trades happening earlier in the new year as teams try to avoid the last second changes. This means that in the coming weeks there could be more trades happening and the teams at the bottom of the league could be major players. Without hopes of playing in the playoffs many of these teams look to get some building blocks for upcoming years and will sacrifice big contracts by major players. Meanwhile the teams in the thick of the playoff race will be looking to pick up these major players in order to make the last run at the playoffs. This means that the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks and the Columbus Blue Jackets could all be looking to unload some of their big players that might cause issues in free agency in order to start their rebuilding process. Some of the biggest names players from these four clubs would be Vaclav Prospal, Bobby Ryan, Tuomo Ruutu, Teemu Selanne, Evgeni Nabokov, and many more. All of these players could move and some might just be rumours but expect these bottom feeder teams to get rid of some of their potential free agents with teams that are in the hunt picking up the last pieces for a playoff run. The trade market has been silent in the last few weeks thanks to a holiday trade freeze but don’t expect the market to stay silent for long. The new year should bring an exciting race towards the playoffs and an increase in movement as teams begin to figure out where they are in the race with half a season left.

 

Standings

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. New York Rangers (50)

2. Philadelphia Flyers (48)

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (46)

4. New Jersey Devils (43)

5. New York Islanders (32)

Northeast Division:

1. Boston Bruins (49)

2. Ottawa Senators (43)

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (41)

4. Buffalo Sabres (38)

5. Montreal Canadiens (35)

Southeast Division:

1. Florida Panthers (47)

2. Winnipeg Jets (43)

3. Washington Capitals (42)

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (37)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (32)

 

Western Conference

Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks (52)

2. Detroit Red Wings (49)

3. St. Louis Blues (49)

4. Nashville Predators (44)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (25)

Northwest Division:

1. Vancouver Canucks (50)

2. Minnesota Wild (48)

3. Colorado Avalanche (43)

4. Calgary Flames (41)

5. Edmonton Oilers (33)

Pacific Division:

1. Los Angeles Kings (44)

2. Dallas Stars (43)

3. San Jose Sharks (42)

4. Phoenix Coyotes (42)

5. Anaheim Ducks (26)

Key Scores:

New York Rangers 3 – 0 New York Islanders

– The Battle of New York got underway for the second time this year as the Rangers continued to play well and the Islanders continued to struggle with the Rangers getting the better of their city rivals

 

Philadelphia Flyers 4 – 2 Pittsburgh Penguins

– The Battle of Pennsylvania took on another meeting in this game as Jaromir Jagr made his return to Pittsburgh for the first time since returning to the NHL and he made good on a return to his former home and earning a goal in the second period

 

Chicago Blackhawks 3 – 2 Detroit Red Wings

– A face off of two Original Six teams saw the Blackhawks continue to play great hockey this year beating the Wings 3-2 as Detroit continues to be a better than average team but not at the top of the league

 

Winnipeg Jets 3 – 2 Toronto Maple Leafs

– The Winnipeg Jets won their third straight game as they continue their midseason surge while the Leafs continue to struggle to stay at the same level as the start of the season

 

Key Matchups Next Week:

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers (January 2nd; 1:00 pm)

– The NHL Winter Classic will take place in Citizens Bank Park as the Flyers host their division rivals the Rangers outside in the elements with the Rangers hoping to hold off the Flyers and stay in first place

 

Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks (January 4th; 10:00 pm)

– The Northwest Division rivals will battle for first place as the Canucks have seen s midseason surge after a shaky start and the Wild have seen a great start to their season and hope to continue it into the second half

 

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (January 6th; 7:00 pm)

– The Rangers will take on divisional rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins as they look to continue their domination over the Atlantic Division while the Penguins look to chip away at the division lead

 

Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (January 7th; 7:00 pm)

– The Red Wings will travel across Ontario to take on another Original Six team in the Toronto Maple Leafs who are struggling to keep up their great pace from the start of the season

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