NHL Week in Review (Jan. 22-28)

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The All-Star game is a long-standing tradition in professional sports as every league looks to showcase the talent in their ranks. It seems like a great idea and also seems to be something that most people would want to watch but that is not the case. The All-Star game is one of the strangest pieces of professional sports simply because it is one of the least popular aspects of a season. From the NFL Pro Bowl to the MLB All-Star game and the NHL All Star game every league looks to make the game interesting. The NHL has tried to do this for years and has been one league that has tried a number of different formats to try to make the All-Star Game more fan appeal. It all started as a way to raise money for certain causes as with the Hod Stuart Benefit All-Star game in 1908 when the Montreal Wanderers played an all-star team from the Eastern Canada Athletic Hockey Association to raise money for Hod Stuart’s family, Stuart drowned in 1907. Since this point there have been many different all-star games or benefit games but it wasn’t until the 1940s when the NHL started holding annual All-Star Games. These official all-star games have been seen many different formats as it began with the Stanley Cup Champions taking on an all-star team from the rest of the league. It then moved into a first team, American team all-stars, vs. second team, all-stars from the Leafs and Canadiens. In the 1970s the format switched to the much more familiar conference vs. conference format when the old Campbell Conference all-stars would take on the Wales Conference all-stars. The format remained this way for many years as the conferences continued to face off even when it became the Eastern and Western Conferences. In the late 1990s the NHL changed their format to a North America vs. Europe game that lasted for some years but eventually it came back to the East vs. West format. Last year the NHL changed the format once again in order to get the fans more interested in the game. The new format became a system where the all-stars that were voted would be drafted by appointed captains. This created a new event as well with the NHL All-Star Draft created as a way for the all-star captains to draft their teams. This new format has been successful for the most part as the NHL created a new format where the best players get to look back to the days of their childhood and the schoolyard as the players choose their team. This year the format remained as Daniel Alfredsson led his team into the draft, along with his assistant captain Henrik Lundqvist, against Zdeno Chara and his assistant captain Joffrey Lupul. This year’s draft between Team Chara and Team Alfredsson was a display of loyalty and rivalry. It showed that rivalries still live in the NHL as Chara refused to take anyone from the Vancouver Canucks and in turn took every Bruin in the draft. Alfredsson refused to take anyone from the Toronto Maple Leafs but took every Ottawa Senator. Both players also stayed loyal to their countrymen as Alfredsson selected every Swede in the draft while Chara took any Slovakian in the draft. This set up a game that fans could truly get behind as the Ottawa fans will clearly be cheering for the Sens and Team Alfredsson while they will be sure to boo Team Chara and the Toronto Maple Leafs players on the team. This could be one of the few all-star games where allegiances mean something as few players have been broken up from their original teams meaning that fans of these teams will have one true all-star team to cheer for. The new format for the NHL All-Star is yet another attempt at making the All-Star game relevant and it seems as though the NHL could be on a path towards doing just that as they have attempted to take over a section of the sports calendar. The format looks to be taking hold and with the NHL Skills competition always a big draw the NHL might be on their way to creating a pretty good All-Star break and finally finding a solution to the biggest problem facing many leagues, how to make the all-star game popular.

With the all-star break comes the official halfway mark of the NHL season and with the second half ready to start the playoff push begins. So far the top teams have begun to separate themselves from the pack. In the Eastern Conference the New York Rangers have taken control of what is proving to be the toughest division in the conference. A tight battle between the Rangers and Flyers has been the story in the conference as the Pittsburgh Penguins have fallen off even with Evgeni taking over in the absence of Sidney Crosby. The Northeast is more predictable this year as the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, have shown little hangover from their championship as they have proven just how good they are. The rest of the division seems to be playing for second but that battle has also become a great one with Toronto and Ottawa continuing to trade wins as they both look to make the playoffs. In the Southeast division the teams have not lived up to their usual standards with the capitals 9 points behind the next division leader. It could come down to a very tight race between the Capitals, Panthers and Jets to determine who will win the division but all will need to pick up their game if they hope to make the playoffs. In the Western conference the central division has again proved to be one of the most difficult to win as Detroit has taken the lead but it is not a big one. The surprising St. Louis Blues are right in the hunt along with Nashville and Chicago both within 3 points of the Red Wings. The Northwest division has seen the Vancouver Canucks take a convincing lead as they are 9 points ahead of the Minnesota Wild who have fallen off after a great start to the season. The battle for second is a very close one as Minnesota, Colorado, and Calgary are all within 3 points of each other. The Pacific Division has not been as powerful as past years but the battle for first place is tight between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. The rest of the division is falling behind with the Anaheim Ducks being the most disappointing team as they are quickly falling to the bottom of the NHL. The Playoff push is starting and with the trade deadline only weeks away teams will be looking to add a few pieces to their team in order to make the last push. The NHL has been unpredictable again this year and the second half looks to continue that trend.

 

Standings:

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. New York Rangers (66)

2. Philadelphia Flyers (63)

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (60)

4. New Jersey Devils (55)

5. New York Islanders (45)

Northeast Division:

1. Boston Bruins (64)

2. Ottawa Senators (60)

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (55)

4. Montreal Canadiens (47)

5. Buffalo Sabres (45)

Southeast Division:

1. Washington Capitals (55)

2. Florida Panthers (55)

3. Winnipeg Jets (50)

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (46)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (45)

 

Western Conference:

Central Division:

1. Detroit Red Wings (67)

2. St. Louis Blues (65)

3. Nashville Predators (64)

4. Chicago Blackhawks (64)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (32)

Northwest Division:

1. Vancouver Canucks (64)

2. Minnesota Wild (55)

3. Colorado Avalanche (54)

4. Calgary Flames (52)

5. Edmonton Oilers (41)

Pacific Division:

1. San Jose Sharks (60)

2. Los Angeles Kings (58)

3. Dallas Stars (52)

4. Phoenix Coyotes (52)

5. Anaheim Ducks (43)

 

Key Scores:

Boston Bruins 6 – 5 Philadelphia Flyers (SO)

– The Flyers and Bruins battled in a matchup between two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference as both teams offences were on display but neither could get the advantage until Tyler Seguin won the game for Boston in a shootout

 

Detroit Red Wings 3 – 1 St. Louis Blues

– The St. Louis Blues have been a big surprise and they took on the beasts of the Central division in the Red Wings as both teams looked to take control of the division but the old stalwart won out as Detroit took the win

 

Buffalo Sabres 2 – 1 New Jersey Devils

– The Sabres were in tough near the end of the second half of the season but will be looking to climb back into the playoff race after falling to last in their division and they are hoping that a win against the Devils is the start

 

Montreal Canadiens 7 – 2 Detroit Red Wings

– In the last game before the All-Star Break the Montreal Canadiens showed an offence that has been asleep in the first half as they scored 7 goals against the Detroit Red Wings to end the first half on a high note

 

Next Week:

NHL All-Star Game:

Team Chara vs. Team Alfredsson (January 29th; 4:00 pm)

– The NHL All-Star game is a true winter classic as Team Chara takes on Team Alfredsson as the Ottawa fans will have their team with captain Daniel Alfredsson and a host of other Senators while Team Chara will be the enemy with a number of Maple Leafs on the team

 

Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins (January 31st; 7:00 pm)

– In the first day of games after the All-Star break the two all-star team captains, Zdeno Chara and Daniel Alfredsson will play for points as Alfredsson leads the Senators against Zdeno Chara and the Bruins in a Northeast Battle

 

New York Rangers vs. Buffalo Sabres (February 1st; 7:30 pm)

– In another battle of New York the very strong Rangers will represent the big city as they try to continue their success against the small town upstate Buffalo Sabres who will be looking to get back into playoff contention

 

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators (February 4th; 7:00 pm)

– The Battle of Ontario has meant something this year as the Leafs and Sens are both fighting it out for the #2 spot in the division and to remain in playoff contention and they will meet again with the Leafs looking to chip away at the season series lead

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