NHL Week in Review (December 1-7)

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The holiday season is approaching and for the NHL and for hockey in general it means the beginning of their busiest time of year. The holiday season is the time that the NHL sees their big event season. The process of getting ready for an unprecedented 6 outdoor games has already started while the selection for the Olympic teams is right around the corner. There is another event that is taking focus for a small amount of the NHL players as the World Juniors begins on December 26th. Young players in the NHL are eligible to play in the tournament as long as they are under 20 years old. As many NHL fans know 19 year olds are becoming more common in the NHL as younger players are having a bigger impact on their teams. This leaves national teams and NHL teams in an interesting situation at the beginning of December. The month begins with teams naming their selection camp rosters but for managers of these teams they must balance the selection roster between the players that they want and the players they can have. The best players from every country are playing in the NHL right now because they are just that good. They are the players that are making contributions to their team on the highest level of hockey. This leaves a challenge for general managers of both teams with the international GMs having to realize that many of their best players will not be able to attend. So they must figure out who is more likely to attend while those who cannot must be replaced by other great players from the Major Junior world. For NHL GMs it is a bigger question and a question that comes down to the thought process of each general manager and how coaches are using their young players. For some teams their young players on the top lines of the team and they are leading scorers or are having a massive impact on games. These players are the ones that will never be released to play an international tournament that gives their NHL team nothing in return. Other teams see their young players are not getting a lot of ice time for the simple fact that they are sitting behind great veterans. These teams have a bigger decision to make as they either believe more NHL ice time is the best to develop players or that sending them to an international tournament is a better way of developing them. On one hand getting more time, despite how much of it, in the top league in the world is a great way to develop. It is a way for players to almost be thrown into the fire and forced to learn as they go, which many times is a great way to learn. On the other hand is learning on the third line of an NHL team better for development than going to a tournament and taking on the best in the world on a top line? The World Juniors feature major competition and for young players it is a chance to test what they have under the pressure of a major tournament. For some countries it is much more pressure as Canadians are looking to win a tournament that has become a holiday tradition for the entire country. It is a chance for these young players to be put in a situation not far off from the playoffs as the pressure is there and those that are in the NHL will be leaned on to lead their team. There are a few players that will be getting the opportunity to travel to Malmo, Sweden this year but many more that will be sticking with their clubs. The Buffalo Sabres are one team that is betting on the development in the tournament as they have released Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov to the Russian team for the tournament. Both players are sure to be big players for the Russians. The other big team in the tournament will not see any of their NHL players make an appearance as the Canadians in the NHL are all sticking with their NHL teams. Nathan MacKinnon was never put on the selection roster as he was never going to leave Colorado but Sean Monahan and Morgan Reilly would be put on the roster in hopes that they could help out. The Toronto Maple Leafs would not release Reilly while the injured Monahan would not get his rehab assignment in Sweden instead staying with the Flames. Joining the Canadians in losing some great players the Finnish team will not get to see Aleksander Barkov play as he will remain in Florida this holiday season. There will be a few more decisions to make in the coming days but more than ever the best junior players are staying with their NHL teams in yet another sign that the NHL is getting younger with these 19-year-old players being too valuable to their professional clubs to let go to the World Juniors. Still NHL teams will keep a close eye on the tournament as many will see their drafted players who were sent back to juniors play in tough competition. As the World Juniors approach the NHL will have a major role as potential stars will be in Sweden this holiday season as NHLers and potential NHLers face off.

 

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

King Henrik, New Yorker for Life
The New York Rangers have not had the best year so far but they know one player that they need if they want to recover and they would show that they knew it when they signed Henrik Lundqvist to a 7-year $59.5 million contract extension

Pens falling
The Pittsburgh Penguins are the best team in the Metropolitan Division and they are doing it with some major injuries as they have been hampered by the injury bug with Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis on the injury report

Time is Ticking
December is here and that gives international hockey federations one month to decide who they will put on their roster as the roster deadline for the Olympics will be January 7th 2014 with the final roster push starting now

 

NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division:
1. Montreal Canadiens (41)
2. Boston Bruins (40)
3. Detroit Red Wings (37)
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (36)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (35)
6. Ottawa Senators (27)
7. Florida Panthers (23)
8. Buffalo Sabres (14)
Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (41)
2. Washington Capitals (32)
3. New York Rangers (31)
4. Carolina Hurricanes (31)
5. New Jersey Devils (30)
6. Philadelphia Flyers (28)
7. Columbus Blue Jackets (27)
8. New York Islanders (21)

Western Conference
Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks (45)
2. St. Louis Blues (41)
3. Colorado Avalanche (40)
4. Minnesota Wild (39)
5. Dallas Stars (33)
6. Winnipeg Jets (32)
7. Nashville Predators (29)
Pacific Division:
1. Anaheim Ducks (45)
2. San Jose Sharks (43)
3. Los Angeles Kings (42)
4. Phoenix Coyotes (37)
5. Vancouver Canucks (37)
6. Calgary Flames (26)
7. Edmonton Oilers (23)

 

Key Scores:
Detroit Red Wings 4 – 2 Ottawa Senators
– Daniel Alfredsson spent his entire career in Ottawa until last offseason when the Senators captain chose to leave and sign with the Red Wings and he would return for the first time this week as he would receive plenty of cheers in his return and would earn a goal in the win

Montreal Canadiens 2 – 1 Boston Bruins
– The Canadiens and Bruins have a great rivalry that goes back years and this year it is becoming that much more important as the Canadiens would take the win and would take first place in the Atlantic division as the race is on between two longtime rivals

Edmonton Oilers 8 – 2 Colorado Avalanche
– The Avalanche have been one of the better teams this year while the Oilers have struggled to put up any goals which is why when the Oilers put up 8 goals against the Avs in a game that saw many claiming that the Avalanche run was coming to an end

New Jersey Devils 4 – 3 New York Rangers (OT)
– The Hudson River Rivalry is less about fighting for the top spot and more about trying to stay away from the bottom half of the Metropolitan division and this time it would be the Devils earning points to stay away from the bottom of the division

 

Next Week:
Boston Bruins vs. Calgary Flames (Tuesday December 10th; 9:30 pm ET)
– Last year Calgary captain Jarome Iginla would be traded to the Penguins for a chance at the Stanley Cup and in the offseason he would go to Boston for the same reason and now he returns to Calgary for the first time in a different jersey

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Wednesday December 11th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Flyers are trying to climb back into the hunt after a terrible start and they are slowly making their way up the rankings and a good chance at continuing this climb would be to beat the top team in the conference in the Blackhawks

Montreal Canadiens vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Thursday December 12th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Flyers would use one of their buyouts last year to release Danny Briere and bring in young talent and now Briere will look to show they made a mistake as he travels back to Philadelphia for the first time in a Canadiens jersey

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings (Saturday December 14th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Penguins are suffering thanks to the injury bug but they are looking to continue to roll as the top team in the Metropolitan division while the Red Wings are beginning to adjust to the new conference and are looking to make a run at the best teams in the East

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