NHL Week in Review (December 22-28)

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The NHL CBA signed only last year did a lot to change the NHL, including providing a long labour peace. One of the aspects that is brand new was used for the first time this year as the Christmas break would begin early in the week. The Christmas Break is something that was added to the CBA by the NHLPA and was an aspect that the players loved. It is some time off for all players to go back home and celebrate the holidays with their families with three days off. It may not be that much to a lot of people but the three days is something that means a lot to players. These players are constantly going from the start of the season to the end. There are rarely any breaks for players as they travel from city to city and have multiple practices throughout the week leaving little time for families. Three days becomes a very important thing for these players as they get some time to escape and decompress from the season. The new break also is an unofficial mark to the halfway point of the season as most teams would go on the break approaching the 41 game mark in their season. With the Christmas Break over teams are entering their second half of the season but there is some time to look back at the year that was in the NHL. The year started off with a few surprises as the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs started off as two of the best teams in the league. It looked like a fluke for both teams but they would continue their strong play for much of the first quarter of the season. Then they would begin to come down to earth as the Leafs would start a long stretch of losses and close calls while the Avs would fail to put up the same numbers as they had become used to. Then there were the usual teams that everyone expected to do well and have throughout the first half of the year. The Chicago Blackhawks still looking like the best team in the league while the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and St. Louis Blues are ready to challenge them as the playoff race approaches. In the East the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals are the teams to beat once again as it does not seem to be changing any time soon. These teams have all done well in the first half but the grind is just starting and these teams will be truly tested in the home stretch of the season. Teams were not the only ones making impressions in the first half though as a number of players stepped into the limelight. There were the standout rookies like Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, and Torey Krug but one would standout above the rest of them. Tomas Hertl has been the leader for the Calder Torphy this year as he burst out onto the season in the first half. He has become a feared goal scorer with only half a season under his belt. Now the challenge begins though as the rookies will have the grind of the second half to work through to solidify their spot among the best in the league. There have been some breakout veterans as well with Alex Steen having a career year this year and would earn a big contract extension for the first half of the year. Aside from Steen there has not been a lot of change at the top of the heap with Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin leading the pack once again this year. Knowing both of these players the race is just beginning for them as the second half will see plenty of drama and another battle between the two best players in the NHL. The second half of the season is fast approaching and with it comes more excitement. The Stadium Series is set to begin while the Olympics are around the corner and after that the playoff push begins. The first half has been a great one and there is only more to come as the second half of the season comes with 2014 approaching.

 

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

Captain’s Deal
The free agent market is not a great one this year and as the season goes on the market gets weaker as players continue to get locked up including Dion Phaneuf who is reportedly closer to a long-term deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs

Stadium Series Unsuccessful?
The Stadium Series is right around the corner but there has been some issues as prices have been decreased for the game at Dodger Stadium with tickets not selling as the NHL’s idea to increase their standing in the USA may not have worked too well

Do or Die time for the Jets
The Winnipeg Jets came into the league with plenty of fanfare but they have not been able to match the excitement with performance on the ice and as tickets are beginning to be easier to get there is a need for the team to get better fast

 

NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division:
1. Boston Bruins (54)
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (50)
3. Montreal Canadiens (49)
4. Detroit Red Wings (45)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (43)
6. Ottawa Senators (39)
7. Florida Panthers (33)
8. Buffalo Sabres (24)
Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (57)
2. Washington Capitals (44)
3. Philadelphia Flyers (40)
4. New Jersey Devils (40)
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (38)
6. New York Rangers (38)
7. Carolina Hurricanes (37)
8. New York Islanders (29)

Western Conference
Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks (61)
2. St. Louis Blues (55)
3. Colorado Avalanche (49)
4. Minnesota Wild (45)
5. Dallas Stars (44)
6. Winnipeg Jets (39)
7. Nashville Predators (38)
Pacific Division:
1. Anaheim Ducks (61)
2. San Jose Sharks (54)
3. Los Angeles Kings (54)
4. Vancouver Canucks (50)
5. Phoenix Coyotes (47)
6. Calgary Flames (34)
7. Edmonton Oilers (30)

 

Key Scores:
New York Rangers 2 – 1 Toronto Maple Leafs (SO)
– The two most valuable teams in the NHL would face off with the Leafs continuing to struggle and continuing to extend games into shootouts while the Rangers try to continue their move up the standings

Ottawa Senators 5 – 0 Pittsburgh Penguins
– The Sens against the Pens was a matchup that many had already determined before it began but it would be a surprising finish as the Pens’ usual offensive power would be non-existent with the Sens coming out on top

Winnipeg Jets 6 – 4 Minnesota Wild
– The Wild-Jets rivalry is still young and with the Wild dominating the series so far it has not had a lot of fire attached to it but the Jets would finally step out of the shadow of their cross-border rivals to get their first win against the Wild

St. Louis Blues 6 – 5 Chicago Blackhawks (SO)
– The Blackhawks are sitting atop the division and the conference but the Blues are right there beside them and the rivalry is gaining ground again this year as the Blues took the win in a tight game that forced a shootout

 

Next Week:
Washington Capitals vs. Ottawa Senators (Monday December 30th; 7:30 pm ET)
– The Sens would beat the Pens in a big way last week and they are hoping to repeat their performance against another top team in the conference while the Caps are hoping to get past the sneaky Sens

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings (Wednesday January 1st; 1:00 pm ET)
– The Stadium Series is unofficially kicked off with the Winter Classic as two longtime rivals take their fight to the outdoors in what will be the largest NHL game ever as these two Original Six teams travel to the Big House in front of a record crowd for one of the biggest games of the year

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Friday January 3rd; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Penguins are hoping to continue their dominance of the division while the Rangers are trying to continue their climb up the standings as they hope to start of the second half with a big win

Winnipeg Jets vs. Boston Bruins (Saturday January 4th; 1:00 pm ET)
– The Jets are hoping that their second half of the season is much different from the first ans they are hoping that it can start with a win over the Boston Bruins who are trying to continue their strong start to the season

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