NHL Week in Review (April 7-13)

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The exciting and unpredictable 2013 season is coming to a close as the teams are preparing for the playoffs while other look for that playoff spot. As the games become that much more important a debate that has been going since the last lockout in 2004-05. After that lockout there were a lot of changes to the game that were put in place to try to make the game more exciting. One of these was the shootout that was put in as a piece of in-game entertainment if teams could not determine a winner after a 5 minute 4-on-4 overtime. The shootout was put in to add another piece of entertainment but also to try to shorten games and prevent the 4-overtime games. The breakaway has always been one of the most exciting parts of the game along with the penalty shot. It has always been a chance to see the skill of certain players who can get creative to try to beat goaltenders. For this reason the NHL decided that they would put the shootout into the game to try to add more entertainment to a game that struggled in some key markets. The results have been a change in the way the NHL scores their games as two points go to the winner while a losing in overtime will earn the team one point. That one extra point can be very important and at this time of any season when teams may be only one point out of the playoffs. This is where the debate really heats up as many think that the one point should not be determined by a gimmick like the shootout. The difference between making the playoffs and sitting on the outside could be whether or not a team has that one player who can make a good move on a breakaway. That, to many, is not the way the NHL should operate as a gimmick goal should not determine a winner in important games. The voices have become louder as the years have moved on with more and more people coming out against the move. The shootout is an entertaining part of the NHL where players like Patrick Kane can show off their talents. It is also a chance for lesser known stars like Kasper Daugavins can attempt to make an impact. Still even as entertaining as it can be and the skill that can be displayed during the shootout it is still a very strange way to decide a game. Anything can happen in a shootout and a fluke goal is very likely to end the game and take one point away from the losing team. There have been many alternatives suggested including going to a 3-on-3 overtime if the 4-on-4 overtime solves nothing. Some have asked just to return to the old way where the game will go on until a winner is determined. Others have asked to just end the game with a tie if overtime solves nothing. With so many suggestions and so much resistance the shootout is clearly not a favorite of many in the game but it is in place. There is no sign that the NHL will get rid of the shootout anytime soon meaning it is here to stay. With the NHL clear on its position the players and coaches need to adjust to the shootout, which has yet to happen. Instead of a fighter on the bench, as the traditional fighter has become useless, coaches may want to find that one guy who could be a shootout specialist. Teams may want to look for players who have the skill to score on the shootout while they also look for goalies who can handle breakaways. The shootout is here to stay and no matter the amount of resistance it will not change meaning that teams will need to change. Adjustments must be made by teams to suit the shootout in order for them not to lose that one critical point in this gimmick.

 

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

Bad Luck Number
Martin Brodeur will go down as the best goalie in NHL history when he retires but he may be stuck with a strange number in his win column as he has been stuck at 666 wins as the Devils goaltender has struggled through multiple weeks to get #667

Still the Scapegoat
It seems that whenever the Flyers struggle Ilya Bryzgalov becomes the scapegoat and this week he would be in the headlines as many believed he was benched for falling asleep during a meeting even if he had just finished a 23 game starting stretch

First to the Party
The Chicago Blackhawks have done some amazing things this year as they would start the season with a great winning streak and would add to the season accomplishments by becoming the first team to clinch a playoff spot

Winter Classic is Official
It became official on Sunday when the NHL announced that the cancelled 2012 Winter Classic would get a second shot in 2013 when the Detroit Red Wings host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Big House for the 2013 Winter Classic

 

NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Division Leaders:
1. d-Pittsburgh Penguins (64)
2. p-Montreal Canadiens (57)
3. Washington Capitals (48)
In the Playoffs:
4. Boston Bruins (56)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (51)
6. Ottawa Senators (48)
7. New York Islanders (47)
8. New York Rangers (46)
In the Hunt:
9. Winnipeg Jets (44)
10. New Jersey Devils (40)
11. Buffalo Sabres (40)
12. Tampa Bay Lightning (37)
13. Philadelphia Flyers (37)
14. Carolina Hurricanes (36)
Out of the Running:
15. Florida Panthers (32)

 

Western Conference
Division Leaders:
1. d-Chicago Blackhawks (66)
2. p-Anaheim Ducks (59)
3. Vancouver Canucks (52)
In the Playoffs:
4. Los Angeles Kings (52)
5. San Jose Sharks (49)
6. St. Louis Blues (48)
7. Minnesota Wild (47)
8. Dallas Stars (45)
In the Hunt:
9. Detroit Red Wings (45)
10. Columbus Blue Jackets (45)
11. Phoenix Coyotes (43)
12. Edmonton Oilers (39)
13. Nashville Predators (38)
14. Calgary Flames (36)
15. Colorado Avalanche (34)

d-Clinched Division
p-Clinched Playoff Spot

 

Scores:
Chicago Blackhawks 5 – 3 Nashville Predators
– The Blackhawks have been the best team in the NHL this year and they would once again be the first to achieve a goal this year as they would take the win against the Predators and take the first playoff spot in the NHL

Pittsburgh Penguins 5 – 3 Carolina Hurricanes
– The Penguins have been the second best team all year as a long winning streak in the middle of the season put them in an almost guaranteed playoffs spot but the win against the Hurricanes would be the clincher though as they would officially take the Atlantic Division

Montreal Canadiens 5 – 1 Buffalo Sabres
– The Montreal Canadiens took a massive step in one of the biggest comebacks of the year as they would finish near the bottom of the league in 2012 and would clinch a playoff berth after beating the Sabres

New York Rangers 1 – 0 New York Islanders (OT)
– The Battle of New York is finally an important one as both teams are sitting in a playoff spot right beside each other and they continue to battle for position while also trying to stay in the playoffs and fend off the rest of the Eastern Conference

 

Next Week:
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens (Monday April 15th; 7:30 pm ET)
– The Flyers had a good run in the middle of the season but since then have fallen off while the Canadiens clinched their spot in the playoffs as both teams face off with the Flyers trying to get a last-minute surge to get into the playoffs and the Canadiens look to build momentum before the postseason

Minnesota Wild vs. Edmonton Oilers (Tuesday April 16th; 9:30 pm ET)
– The Wild were in a tight battle with the Vancouver Canucks for the division crown but have dropped off and are now just looking to stay in the playoff picture while the Oilers are trying to cap off a comeback season with a playoff berth

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Winnipeg Jets (Thursday April 18th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Jets are sitting very close to a playoff spot and are trying to get in, in only their second year back as an NHL franchise and a win against the Hurricanes could help them get there while the Hurricanes are essentially playing spoiler

Detroit Red Wings vs. Vancouver Canucks (Saturday April 20th; 10:00 pm ET)
– Both the Canucks and Red Wings have not had the season they hoped for yet they are still in the playoff picture as the Canucks look to try to tighten their grip on the northwestern division while the Red Wings are just looking to stay in the playoffs

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