NHL Week in Review (February 17-23)

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The NHL is constantly looking to evolve and are unlike many other sports leagues in North America when it comes to evolution. The NHL is attempting to be a force in the USA and to do that they know that they need to evolve. Unlike the MLB or the NFL the NHL is constantly looking to be a new more improved league that more and more people want to watch. This means that changes are constantly coming in the league with the 2004-05 lockout leading to a new age of change. As bad as a lost season is for any league the NHL actually made more money after the lockout. A lot of that has to do with the changes made in the game that made the NHL a different league than only two years before the 2005-06 season. These changes were more strict regulations on the game that would attempt to eliminate hooking and tying up players in open ice. Of course this will never be eliminated but the rule changes immediately created a new style of play in the league. The NHL became a much faster and more exciting game even if the physicality of the game suffered in the initial years. Since that time the NHL has continually looked to make changes to the game. Sometimes the changes are reactionary after issues arise time and time again and other times the NHL takes the initiative to make changes. This past week another change took the headlines as the game between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators brought on a debate. During the high scoring game the Colorado Avalanche would get a goal that sent the Predators’ bench into a frenzy. Matt Duchene would skate into the Nashville zone and receive a pass that he would take to the net and score. The problem with the play is that Matt Duchene was far into the zone before the puck crossed the blue line. It was a clear offside and yet there was no call on the ice leading to a goal that kept the Avalanche ahead. It wasn’t the winning goal and may not have changed the outcome of the game but the fact was that the linesman blew the call. So the debate about a coaches challenge in the NHL. This is a not a new debate as the talk of challenging a play in the NHL began in the first big change of the rules in 2004-05. The change rarely gained traction for many reasons, the main one being that people were scared it will slow the game down. Many look to football as the example of coaches challenges and although they are effective in that sport it is a completely different beast than hockey. Football is a slower more deliberate game with natural breaks in action that make it easier to challenge a play. Hockey is one of the fastest games in the world with very little natural breaks. The breaks that do come do not take a lot of time and coaches do not have a lot of time to look at a play. Till the debate continues as the Matt Duchene play has sparked up the conversation once again with a target on next year. If the plan does go through to allow a challenge in the NHL there will need to be some very specific rules and regulations to use this challenge. As many have reported their will likely be only one challenge for each game and this challenge must be something obvious. It cannot be about some small play that had little effect on the actual game itself. Instead it would be about questionable goals or something like the Duchene play in order to make the review as short as possible. Even with these rules in place a coaches challenge in the NHL may be a big mistake for the league. The NHL is built on the speed and skill that is on the ice along with the plays that take reaction and timing to occur. The coaches challenge will hurt these plays and stop the flow of the game for the referees to go upstairs and look at a play. It may be able to get calls like the Duchene play right but is that worth ruining the flow of the game of hockey?

 

Overtime:
(Thoughts on the past week in the NHL)

Change in Buffalo
Lindy Ruff was the longest tenured head coach in the NHL as the Buffalo Sabres hired him in 1997 and has been the coach of the team ever since but this week after a terrible start to their season the Sabres needed to make a change as they would fire Ruff and look for a new direction

Hanson’s Punishment
The NHL suspensions have been few and far between this year but they have been there and this week one would cause a stir as Jannik Hanson would be suspended only one game for a blatant forearm to the head of Marian Hossa

Legends reborn
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens have not been much of a factor in the NHL over the past decade even with appearances in the playoffs but this year seems different as both teams are showing signs of life and beginning to fight for the Northeast division

Blackhawks Make History
The Chicago Blackhawks continued to run through the NHL this year as they would set a record as they would earn points in their first 17 games of the season and would remain undefeated in regulation this season

 

NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (24)
2. New Jersey Devils (24)
3. Philadelphia Flyers (19)
4. New York Rangers (18)
5. New York Islanders (17)
Northeast Division:
1. Montreal Canadiens (26)
2. Ottawa Senators (24)
3. Boston Bruins (22)
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (22)
5. Buffalo Sabres (13)
Southeast Division:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (19)
2. Carolina Hurricanes (17)
3. Winnipeg Jets (15)
4. Florida Panthers (14)
5. Washington Capitals (13)

 

Western Conference
Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks (31)
2. St. Louis Blues (22)
3. Nashville Predators (21)
4. Detroit Red Wings (19)
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (12)
Northwest Division:
1. Vancouver Canucks (24)
2. Minnesota Wild (18)
3. Edmonton Oilers (17)
4. Colorado Avalanche (15)
5. Calgary Flames (15)
Pacific Division:
1. Anaheim Ducks (25)
2. Phoenix Coyotes (19)
3. San Jose Sharks (19)
4. Dallas Stars (19)
5. Los Angeles Kings (18)

 

Scores:
Colorado Avalanche 6 – 5 Nashville Predators
– It was a high scoring affair where the Avalanche came out quickly only to let the Predators back into the game but the Avs would put too much on the board for the Preds to handle as they could not keep up in the end

Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 3 Vancouver Canucks
– It is always an interesting game as the Blackhawks and Canucks have one of the best modern rivalries in the game and this year is no different as the Blackhawks would remain undefeated in regulation despite the best efforts of the Canucks

Philadelphia Flyers 6 – 5 Pittsburgh Penguins
– It is a great rivalry between two in-state teams that would open the year against each other in a game where the Penguins would come out on top but this time around it was the Flyers who would win the game getting revenge for their season opening loss

Ottawa Senators 2 – 1 Toronto Maple Leafs
– With so many injuries to key players many expected the Sens to begin to fall behind the rest of the division but they will not give up as they would beat their longtime provincial rivals scoring the winning goal with only 23 seconds left in the game

 

Next Week:
Vancouver Canucks vs. Detroit Red Wings (Monday February 25th; 5:00 pm EST)
– The Canucks continue to rule the Northwest division while the Red Wings have not been the team they used to be as they continue to sit at the bottom of the Central division and are trying to climb back in

Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Wednesday February 27th; 7:30 pm EST)
– The Canadiens and Maple Leafs always have a great rivalry but this year the Northeast division is one of the best battles in the NHL and this game means much more with both teams looking to get every point they can to win the division

Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues (Thursday February 28th; 8:00 pm EST)
– The Blackhawks are the best team in the NHL and have yet to lose a game in regulation as they have taken over the Central division but the Blues are behind them waiting for them to stumble more to be able to challenge for the division

Los Angeles Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks (Saturday March 2nd; 10:00 pm EST)
– The Kings continue to suffer from the Stanley Cup hangover as they sit at the bottom of the Pacific division while the Canucks are quietly one of the best teams in the NHL as they look to continue a strong season beating the struggling Kings

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