NHL Week in Review (March 10-16)

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In 2011 the Atlanta Thrashers would be one of the first teams in the American South to fail and that meant a change for the team. They would move to a market that had been waiting for a franchise since the 1990s when their old team left. The Winnipeg jets were back but with such a short time to prepare they were forced into the worst travel schedule in the NHL. They would be a part of the Southeast division despite sitting closer to the Midwest in the USA. This meant that they would take tripe from Manitoba to Florida and Washington regularly. The oddity needed to be changed but a lockout got in the way and left the Jets in the same situation they had been in a year before. What did happen was that the conversation about realignment had begun and the NHL executives would begin to look at a new NHL. They would go in thinking mainly about getting Winnipeg into the proper conference but they would look to correct other wrongs as well. One of the most glaring was the fact that the Detroit Red Wings had sat in the Western Conference for years even though they were closer to the eastern conference teams. The Columbus Blue Jackets had the same situation as they sat closer  to the east than to the west yet played in the western Conference. The challenge now facing the NHL was how they would correct all of these oddities while keeping everything fair. Along with this they were looking to make some changes that would help the NHL by creating more rivalries and more exciting games. There were a lot of different proposals but one would come out as the NHL’s official proposal for realignment. This proposal would keep the divide between the Western and Eastern Conference with two divisions in each conference. They would have 7 teams in both western conferences and 8 teams in both eastern conferences. The playoffs will see the top three teams in each division earn a spot while the rest of the conference will fight for the two remaining wild card spots. It was a somewhat controversial change as the numbers make it easier for a team in the west to earn a spot in the playoffs while in the east there are more teams to compete against. Even with the controversy there were some positives top the changes as most of the problems were solved. The Winnipeg Jets would move to Division B where they would sit with a geographical rival in Minnesota along with teams in the Central time zone. The Detroit Red Wings would get their move to the East in Division C where they sit with fellow Original Six teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Montreal Canadiens. The Blue Jackets would get their move as well as they move to Division D as they sit closer to teams like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. There were a lot of problems solved in the new alignment but the biggest obstacle was the playoff format. The realignment would be approved by the NHLPA though as they would request that it be looked at again in 2014 to see if it made a difference or if it made things worse. Later this week the NHL Board of Governors would approve the change as well with the new four division alignment set to begin in the 2013-14 season. It will be an interesting season next year with the new alignment also coming with the new schedule matrix that has every NHL team playing at least once in every NHL arena. The playoffs are where the true value of the realignment will come out as the race may seem too tough for the East with more teams and force the NHLPA to call for another realignment. For now though the alignment is set for the next season and possibly further into the future as the NHL continues to make changes trying to continue the growth of the league.

 

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

Entertainment Takes Another Hit
Kaspars Daugavins would skate out during a penalty shootout for Ottawa this week and pull a move that had only been seen once before in the NHL and like all new moves the haters came out of the woodwork claiming that entertainment has no place in the game

The Halfway Point
The shortened NHL season is halfway through the regular season now and it has been an exciting and unpredictable year but all is being settled down as teams get into a groove and head into the playoff run

End of a Legendary Name?
Blake Geoffrion  has a tough live up to as his great-grandfather Howie Morenz and grandfather Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion are both hall of famers but the name may not be in the game for much longer as Blake suffered a head injury and is contemplating retirement at 25 years old

Coyotes in Danger Again
The Phoenix Coyotes have not been in the news much lately but that is not necessarily a good thing as there is still no owner for the team and the city is looking less likely to continue to support it meaning the NHL may have to abandon the experiment in the desert soon

 

NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (42)
2. New Jersey Devils (32)
3. New York Islanders (29)
4. New York Rangers (28)
5. Philadelphia Flyers (27)
Northeast Division:
1. Montreal Canadiens (42)
2. Boston Bruins (41)
3. Ottawa Senators (34)
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (32)
5. Buffalo Sabres (24)
Southeast Division:
1. Winnipeg Jets (32)
2. Carolina Hurricanes (31)
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (25)
4. Washington Capitals (23)
5. Florida Panthers (20)

 

Western Conference
Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks (49)
2. St. Louis Blues (34)
3. Detroit Red Wings (33)
4. Nashville Predators (28)
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (28)
Northwest Division:
1. Minnesota Wild (32)
2. Vancouver Canucks (32)
3. Calgary Flames (26)
4. Edmonton Oilers (26)
5. Colorado Avalanche (24)
Pacific Division:
1. Anaheim Ducks (44)
2. Los Angeles Kings (32)
3. San Jose Sharks (30)
4. Phoenix Coyotes (30)
5. Dallas Stars (27)

 

Scores:
Edmonton Oilers 6 – 5 Chicago Blackhawks
– Only a few days after their first loss of the season in regulation the Blackhawks would lose their second game of the season this time to the Oilers in a high scoring affair as the Hawks look to prevent a letdown after a great streak

Buffalo Sabres 3 – 1 New York Rangers
– The other team in New York would take advantage of the Rangers who continue to struggle to find their way in this new season after last year’s success as they would lose to the Sabres who are struggling in their own division

San Jose Sharks 4 – 3 Los Angeles Kings
– The Kings and Sharks would face off in a matchup between two teams that continue to fight for a chance to stay in the playoffs with the difference between making it and being eliminated is razor-thin

Chicago Blackhawks 8 – 1 Dallas Stars
– The Blackhawks had a small letdown after their long winning streak but their losing streak would not last long as they put two wins together including this one against the Dallas Stars where the offence was showcased

 

Next Week:
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Colorado Avalanche (Monday March 18th; 9:00 pm ET)
– Two weeks ago the Avalanche ended a chance at history for the Blackhawks as they would hand the Hawks their first loss of the season in regulation and Chicago is looking for revenge against the young team

New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils (Tuesday March 19th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Hudson River Rivalry seemed to be gaining back a lot of its greatness but this year the Rangers have fallen off from their pace of last year although they are beginning to climb back and a win against the Devils will go a long way to help

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres (Thursday March 20th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The QEW highway is all that separates these two teams and this year the Leafs are looking to prevent themselves from continuing to sit at the bottom of the division with the Sabres as they continue to try to get back on track

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Ottawa Senators (Saturday March 23rd; 2:00 pm ET)
– Steven Stamkos takes his Lightning to the Canadian capital as the top scorer in the NHL will look to help his team climb back into the division battle while the Senators continue to try to hold on to hope with so many injuries

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