NHL Week in Review (October 20-26)

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The NHL is quickly becoming a young man’s game as the days of the veterans dominating the league are fading away. It is now the young players who are taking over and dominating the league as they are the new generation of superstars. It wasn’t long ago when young players spent the majority of their first years after being drafted sitting in the AHL. They would do this to help develop their skills at the lower levels before being thrown into the fire of the NHL. Now young players are coming into the NHL Draft more prepared to make an impact on their teams. They are coming into the NHL immediately and becoming the players that teams lean on even if they are under 20. As the shift continues to using young players to build teams a deadline in the NHL calendar becomes much more important. NHL teams must decide on which rookies they want to keep in the NHL before they play 10 games. If a rookie plays 10 games in the NHL it will immediately take away one of the three years of their entry-level contracts. Every player drafted signs a 3-year deal based on the rules of the CBA that do not allow a longer term contracts for entry-level players. These players get three years so that they can decide if they want to stay with their team and to give the team a fair amount of time to make a judgment about the player. These three years are very valuable to teams as they want their players to have more than enough time to develop and contribute to the team. If they are not a player that can contribute to the team immediately paying a year of their contract does not make a lot of sense. So the 9th game of every season becomes a big one for many of the 19-year-old players who still have a year of eligibility in Major Junior hockey. After the 9th game of the season teams are forced to make decisions on these players. They will either keep the player on the team for the season or they will send the player back to their respective Major Junior team. This week was that deadline as teams with some very good rookies would have to decide if they could be used in the NHL. There were the clear decisions for some teams as players like Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones were definite mainstays from the moment they were drafted. Both players were drafted high in the first round and were meant to be players that would have an immediate impact. MacKinnon would be the boost of offence that the Colorado Avalanche had been looking for while Seth Jones was the partner to Shea Webber that the Predators had not been able to find since Ryan Suter left for Minnesota. Jones’ and MacKinnon’s spots on an NHL roster were never in question but many other rookies would see their fate sealed after the 9th game of the season. A number of rookies were not guaranteed to get a spot but over the course of the first nine games they would solidify themselves as a member of the rookie class. Sean Monahan would get his shot this week when the Calgary Flames would keep him on the team. The versatile centreman came better than advertised as he has 6 goals and 3 assists in 10 games with the Flames and looks to be a promising replacement for former captain Jarome Iginla. The Toronto Maple Leafs would also make a key decision this year as they would keep defenceman Morgan Reilly on the big squad. After spending the 2013 season in major junior, Reilly would get his chance to prove himself this year.  He would make that impression on a Leafs squad that does not let a lot of young players on to the NHL roster. One of the biggest surprises of the rookie deadline was in Pittsburgh where a team full of great players with little room for many more brought in a rookie defenceman. Ollii Maatta would make the Penguins this year as the defenceman would make a serious impression on the team. It would be enough to make the team and surprise everyone by doing it. The 9th game of the NHL season has passed and decisions have been made about the rookies in the NHL. With the decisions made the real race for the Calder Trophy begins again as the rookies who made it passed the 9th game will all look to be the rookie of the year and try to help their team to the playoffs and maybe the Stanley Cup.

 

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

Not a Good Return
The cheap shots kept coming this week when Jared Cowen would slash Jakob Silfverberg in his return to Ottawa after being traded in the offseason and the slash would result in a broken hand leaving Silfverberg out for 4-6 weeks

Big Teams in Trouble
The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the biggest markets in the NHL but so far this year both of the big market teams would be some of the worst teams in the league as both have struggled to win games this year

Curtailing Fighting
The NHL took another step towards trying to reduce the risk of injuries this year as they have instructed referees to stop a fight when players take their helmets off in what is not necessarily a new rule but an instruction to the referees

 

NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division:
1. Toronto Maple Leafs (16)
2. Boston Bruins (14)
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (14)
4. Detroit Red Wings (14)
5. Montreal Canadiens (12)
6. Ottawa Senators (10)
7. Florida Panthers (7)
8. Buffalo Sabres (5)
Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (14)
2. Carolina Hurricanes (11)
3. New York Islanders (11)
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (10)
5. Washington Capitals (10)
6. New Jersey Devils (8)
7. New York Rangers (6)
8. Philadelphia Flyers (6)

Western Conference
Central Division:
1. Colorado Avalanche (18)
2. Chicago Blackhawks (15)
3. Minnesota Wild (15)
4. St. Louis Blues (14)
5. Nashville Predators (13)
6. Winnipeg Jets (12)
7. Dallas Stars (9)
Pacific Division:
1. San Jose Sharks (19)
2. Vancouver Canucks (17)
3. Anaheim Ducks (16)
4. Phoenix Coyotes (16)
5. Los Angeles Kings (14)
6. Calgary Flames (12)
7. Edmonton Oilers (7)

 

Key Scores:
Colorado Avalanche 1 – 0 Pittsburgh Penguins
– In a matchup between the two heroes of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia it was a goaltender from Montreal, Quebec that stole the show as Jean Sebastien Giguere was under fire the entire game but would save all 34 shots for the win and the shutout

Washington Capitals 5 – 4 Winnipeg Jets (SO)
– There was no question as to why these two teams were establishing a good rivalry as they would take a good game into a shootout harking back to the last few years when these two teams were in the same division

Ottawa Senators 6 – 1 Detroit Red Wings
– Daniel Alfredsson would play the team he used to captain for the first time this year and it would not be what he envisioned his first game against them would be as the Sens put up 6 points including a goal from new captain Jason Spezza

Vancouver Canucks 3 – 2 New Jersey Devils (SO)
– Once again Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo would face off this year and it was a true goalie battle with Luongo coming out on top once again as Luongo swept the season series between the teams showing that he was the right choice for Vancouver

 

Next Week:
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers (Sunday October 26th; 5:00 pm ET)
– The battle of the Sunshine State is not necessarily the most important rivalry in the NHL but it is still a rivalry and will still get both of these teams up and ready to win in order to get bragging rights for the state

New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders (Tuesday October 29th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Battle of New York is back again this year as the struggling Rangers are looking to get back into the division race by beating the Islanders who are having a great year so far and are trying to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division

Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars (Friday November 1st; 8:30 pm ET)
– The last time these two teams faced off the Stars almost ended the Avalanche’s winning streak at the start of the season and now they are looking to finish what they started and beat the team with the best record in the NHL

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Vancouver Canucks (Saturday November 2nd; 7:00 pm ET)
– The two biggest cities in Canada love their hockey and can’t stand each other’s teams and they will face off for the first time this year looking to take a win against one of the biggest teams in the NHL

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