NHL Week in Review (January 5-11)

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The Sochi Olympics are just a few weeks away and as the world watches Sochi for the Olympics one event will stand out. The hockey tournament at the Olympics has been the premier event of every Winter Olympics and a large part has been the involvement of the NHL. The league will take two weeks off as their players travel to Sochi and play for their countries and although the fans and players love it the time off could be the last time ever for the NHL. With the negotiations going so bad this past year and the NHL owners not wanting their players going somewhere while they get nothing the NHL in the Olympics could be a thing of the past. There are many factors to this and plenty to discuss before a decision is to be made for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The focus now is on the Olympics in February though as this week would be the big step towards the Olympic break as many players learned what they will be doing in February. The deadline to submit a roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics was January 7th and with the rosters came the debate. It is one of the biggest times for all fans and analysts as they see the international rosters and begin to debate whether or not they think their country did it right. For many of the teams involved there is little debate as they only have a handful of true stars and all would make the team. There are those elite teams though that are expected to medal every year and have more than enough players to put on a roster. When these teams name their rosters it is less about who is on the team but more about who was left off. It is hard to discredit players who make the team as all could or already have been all-stars at one point making these teams essentially All-Star teams. It is much easier to look at these teams and see a number of players that could have made a big impact on the team but for one reason or another were left off of the roster. That is what this week in hockey was all about as January 7th began the debate for almost every team that will enter the Sochi Olympics. The only team that would not see the debate was the USA because their debate started early. On January 1st the Americans would name their Olympic roster and one player made the biggest buzz. That player was Bobby Ryan but his impact was not about making the team and instead about being left off of the Olympic roster. Out of all of the American players in the NHL Ryan is ranked #5 in points yet he would not make the team in what many considered a major snub for the American team. The Americans were not the only teams to see snubs in the Olympics though, as Russia and the Czech Republic would have snubs on their Olympic Rosters. The Czech Republic team two players would not see their names called in surprising decisions for the Czech team. Radim Vrbata and Jiri Hudler are both ranked in the top 5 in scoring for Czech players in the NHL but both would not make the national team. It was one of the more puzzling decisions at the roster deadline this year. For Russia the biggest snub would be Alexander Semin who has had a fairly good two years and ranks among the top 10 Russians in the NHL in terms of points. Semin would not make the talented team though and will be one less offensive weapon for the Russians to use. For Semin it could be more difficult to swallow the snub this year because he now will not have the chance to participate in front of his home country as he would not get a trip back to Russia to play for the home team. Then there is Canada where hockey is king and every move Team Canada makes comes under intense scrutiny. After winning a gold medal in 2010 the expectations were high leading into the decision and the team would name their roster with plenty of great players. That didn’t mean there weren’t some big name snubs though with Logan Couture and Claude Giroux taking a seat outside of the roster for Sochi. The biggest one though was clearly Martin St. Louis who has been on fire this year and is among the top 10 Canadians in the NHL in scoring, which is saying a lot since the majority of players in the NHL are Canadian. Not only has St. Louis been one of the best players this year but the GM of Canada is his own GM, Steve Yzerman, and has seen exactly how good he has been all season.  St. Louis is clearly the biggest snub for the Canadians and although you would be hard pressed to find someone to kick off the team it is hard to see how he does not make the team with the performance he has had this year. The Olympic rosters are done and there will be no shortage of debate as the games approach. Even after the games are finished whichever team wins the Gold will not be second guessed while the other teams that do not finish at the top of the podium will see their decisions debated for a very long time.

 

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

Buffalo’s Man
The Buffalo Sabres found their man to lead their team into the future and into the trade deadline when they announced that Tim Murray will be their new GM as the rebuild is set to officially begin and will take shape on March 5th when Murray gets to make key decisions for the future

The Comeback
Steven Stamkos was a lock for Team Canada but a broken leg on November 11th would see his status more uncertain but he would make the team and with a very quick rehabilitation is aiming to be with Canada when they open their Olympic Schedule in Sochi

Canadian Nightmare
The Canadian teams in the NHL are not doing very well and the nation is not happy as only two teams are currently in a position to make the playoffs while the rest of the teams in the country are struggling heading into the Olympic Break

 

NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division:
1. Boston Bruins (60)
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (58)
3. Montreal Canadiens (57)
4. Detroit Red Wings (50)
5. Ottawa Senators (48)
6. Toronto Maple Leafs (47)
7. Florida Panthers (41)
8. Buffalo Sabres (29)
Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (68)
2. Washington Capitals (50)
3. Philadelphia Flyers (50)
4. New York Rangers (49)
5. Carolina Hurricanes (47)
6. New Jersey Devils (47)
7. Columbus Blue Jackets (46)
8. New York Islanders (41)

Western Conference
Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks (68)
2. St. Louis Blues (67)
3. Colorado Avalanche (61)
4. Minnesota Wild (53)
5. Dallas Stars (47)
6. Nashville Predators (45)
7. Winnipeg Jets (43)
Pacific Division:
1. Anaheim Ducks (73)
2. San Jose Sharks (62)
3. Los Angeles Kings (59)
4. Vancouver Canucks (57)
5. Phoenix Coyotes (51)
6. Calgary Flames (36)
7. Edmonton Oilers (35)

 

Key Scores:
San Jose Sharks 3 – 2 Chicago Blackhawks (SO)
– The Chicago Blackhawks are beginning to look human for once as they are beginning to slip in the standings thanks, in part to this shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks who would take the 2 points remain among the top in their own division

St. Louis Blues 5 – 2 Edmonton Oilers
– The Blues have been playing second fiddle to the Blackhawks all year and are sneaking under the radar but this win against the still struggling Edmonton Oilers would help them to overtake the lead in the Central division

Carolina Hurricanes 6 – 1 Toronto Maple Leafs
– The Leafs would come out firing at the beginning of the year looking like a playoff team but they have slowed down since the and since the Winter Classic have almost completely stopped which was evident in this blowout by the Hurricanes

Montreal Canadiens 2 – 1 Chicago Blackhawks (OT)
– The Blackhawks continue to slide as they would take the loss against the Canadiens who are one of the few Canadian teams doing well with the win against one of the best teams in the league keeping them at the top of the division

 

Next Week:
Colorado Avalanche vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Tuesday January 14th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Blackhawks are far from done as they are still one of the best in the division but the Avalanche will be looking to take advantage of the small slide from the ‘Hawks to try to remain among the top three in the division

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Wednesday January 15th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The rivalry continues as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin lead their teams against each other once again in a battle of top teams in the Metropolitan division with the Caps eyeing that top spot held by the Pens

Winnipeg Jets vs. Calgary Flames (Thursday January 16th; 9:00 pm ET)
– The Jets and the Flames represent the woes of Canadian teams in the NHL this year with the Flames still trying to figure out anything to get a win while the Jets are hoping to win now before the fans demand a change

Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Saturday January 18th; 7:00 pm ET)
– Hockey Day in Canada will celebrate its 14th year with Canadian games throughout the day leading up to the primetime game between the oldest rivals in the NHL hen the Canadiens travel to Toronto looking to take advantage of the slide by their rivals

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