NHL Week in Review (April 29-May 5)

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The NHL has entered their second round of the NHL playoffs after a very eventful first round as eight teams still have the chance to win the Stanley Cup. After a first round that saw the rough and tumble side of the sport come out the second round has been somewhat more calm. The fights and all out brawls have ended and the other sides of the game have come to light. The controversy has also been a lot less in the second round so far but that doesn’t mean there has been no controversy. The biggest news of this week was a classic debate in every sport that involves bug name athletes with money to burn. Before game 2 in the Nashville-Phoenix series, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov decided to go out on the town. Not much is known about where they went or what they did but what is known is they came back late. The two Russian superstars came back to the team hotel late and broke the team curfew. As if that wasn’t bad enough both Kostitsyn and Radulov played the game the next day and were seemingly invisible. Both players are an essential part of the Predators offence but both could not produce and the game ended with the Phoenix Coyotes winning 5-3 and going ahead in the series 2-0. As both players did not play well and broke team rules General Manager David Poile decided to do something that many GMs would not do to two superstars. Poile decided to suspend his two Russian stars for the next game and punish them for breaking the rules. It was a controversial decision because these two players were a big part of the offence and without them many believed that the Preds would suffer and go down 3-0 in the series after losing the next round. It was also a source of controversy because Alexander Radulov was given a lot to come back into the NHL. The Nashville Predators waived the one year contract that they owed him to allow him to play 15 games and the playoffs and essentially allowed him to get back into the NHL without having to commit to the team beyond the end of the playoffs. To do this for a player and then sit him was a big point of contention but the next game seemed to silence many people. The Predators went out without two of their top offensive players and beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 to get back into the series. Winning without Kostitsyn or Radulov gave the Predators’ management legitimacy for their decision but it didn’t last long. In game 4 the Preds again fell to the Coyotes and again did not have Kostitsyn or Radulov in the game. The detractors came out as everyone began saying that the decision to bench the players was a terrible one and the loss was proof of that. The criticism is coming after the attitude that has come to overtake all professional sports. The attitude is one of winning at any costs rather than being an example for the many fans out there. The Predators took a stand against the NHL superstars who believe they can do anything they want with no consequences. Instead of letting them get away with it the Predators took a stand and showed them that this is not the type of team they want and that just because you are talented does not mean you are put above the rules. It was a good decision to bench these players as it showed everyone from outside hockey, especially the children paying attention, that superstars are just like everyone else and have to play by the same rules. Now the decision is an even greater one as the management may have sent their message with the two game suspension. The fact that the Predators are only one game away from elimination will also take a big part of this decision. Expect Kostitsyn and Radulov to be back in the lineup in Game 5 as the Predators will look to stay alive and will need everyone to do it. The biggest thing to take away though is that the Predators were not afraid to stand up to the superstars in the NHL and neither should any other NHL franchise.

As the second round continues on there are a number of story lines to watch but two are very intriguing for all hockey fans. That is the two biggest surprises of the playoffs this year in the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings. The Phoenix Coyotes finished in 3rd place in the western conference after winning their division. Even with this finish the Coyotes were not expected to go very far in the playoffs. They have been in this position before but have yet to win a playoff series since moving to Phoenix. Add that to the fact that the Coyotes are constantly in the midst of an ownership controversy and many believed they would be eliminated in round 1. Instead the “yotes” have pushed through to beat the Chicago Blackhawks and are currently one win away from making the conference finals. Another unexpected team may join them there as the Los Angeles Kings finished in 8th place in the western conference but were able to eliminate the defending Western Conference champions and winners of the President’s Trophy this year in the Vancouver Canucks. Now the Kings are one win away from sweeping the #2 team in the western conference, the St. Louis Blues and could move on to the conference finals. These two teams would be a very interesting story for the playoffs as two very non-traditional hockey markets could end up playing for a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. More than that both teams are playing in a way that could see them win the Stanley Cup and prove that hockey can work in both markets. In the Coyote’s case this could mean another year of staving off relocation or could mean they win the Stanley Cup and immediately move. Of course a lot is still to be solved as both teams still need to win one more game and then get through the western conference finals to get to the main prize. It will be interesting to watch both teams move their way through the playoffs as they look to win their first Stanley Cup and show everyone that hockey works in Southwestern USA.

 

NHL Playoffs Round 2:

 

Eastern Conference:

New York Rangers 2 – 2 Washington Capitals

Game 1: NYR 3 – 1 WSH

Game 2: WSH 3 – 2 NYR

Game 3: NYR 2 – 1 WSH

Game 4: WSH 3 – 2 NYR

Game 5: WSH @ NYR (May 7th; 7:30 pm)

Game 6: NYR @ WSH (May 9th; TBD)

Game 7: WSH @ NYR (May 12th; TBD)

 

Philadelphia Flyers 1 – 2 New Jersey Devils

Game 1: PHI 4 – 3 NJD (OT)

Game 2: NJD 4 – 1 PHI

Game 3: NJD 4 – 3 PHI

Game 4: PHI @ NJD (May 6th; 7:30 pm)

Game 5: NJD @ PHI (May 8th; TBD)

Game 6: PHI @ NJD (May 10th; TBD)

Game 7: NJD @ PHI (May 12th; TBD)

 

Western Conference:

St. Louis Blues 0 – 3 Los Angeles Kings

Game 1: LAK 3 – 1 STL

Game 2: LAK 5 – 2 STL

Game 3: LAK 4 – 2 STL

Game 4: STL @ LAK (May 6th; 3:00 pm)

Game 5: LAK @ STL (May 8th; TBD)

Game 6: STL @ LAK (May 10th; TBD)

Game 7: LAK @ STL (May 12th; TBD)

 

Phoenix Coyotes 3 – 1 Nashville Predators

Game 1: PHX 4 – 3 NSH (OT)

Game 2: PHX 5 – 3 NSH

Game 3: NSH 2 – 0 PHX

Game 4: PHX 1 – 0 NSH

Game 5: NSH @ PHX (May 7th; 10:00 pm)

Game 6: PHX @ NSH (May 9th; TBD)

Game 7: NSH @ PHX (May 11th; TBD)

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