NHL Week in Review (April 6-12)

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The NHL Playoffs are right around the corner with only one day left in the regular season and all of the playoff spots locked up. There is no more playoff race as all eight spots in each conference are now gone. The only thing left to do is to determine the final matchups of the playoffs with teams continuing to fight for positioning. This year there are the usual teams who have made a great run into the playoffs and will return for another strong performance. Above all of them the Boston Bruins stand at the top of the NHL this year winning the President’s Trophy with the league’s best record. The Bruins will be joined by other perennial playoff teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, and the Los Angeles Kings. The Detroit Red Wings would also return to the playoffs for the 23rd straight season continuing their record run of consistency. As all of these teams prepare for yet another playoff run they will be joined by a number of teams that have found it to be much rarer to see the playoffs. The Colorado Avalanche are back in the playoffs after a year away and will be one of the more inexperienced playoff teams including the Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Dallas Stars. These teams and more are now getting closer to accomplishing what they have looked for all season. They are now within reach of winning the Stanley Cup as their offseason and midseason moves have worked up to this point and the work that all of the players and coaches have put in has put them in a position to win. All 16 of these teams will have gone through 82 games for the chance to win another 16 games and take home the biggest prize in hockey. It is great for the teams and the players along with the fans as they all cheer on their teams for the grind of the NHL playoffs. Yet there are a number of other teams and supporters that will watch the playoffs with a little bit of anger as they see rivals and teams that they were supposed to be better than all playing into the summer. It is a frustrating time for a number of teams as they all look to the playoffs as something that should have been and never was. This year there are plenty of teams that are thinking that but there are only a few teams that truly can say that they should have been there and are now on the outside looking in. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of these teams as they seemed to be turning the corner after a 7-year playoff drought that ended in 2013. It was expected that they would be back in the playoffs, although not very close to the Stanley Cup, but with a late season collapse where they lost 8 straight games they would fall out of the playoffs after it seemed like they were all but guaranteed a spot before the Olympic Break. Another Canadian team would disappoint as well with the Vancouver Canucks were seen as a playoff team before the season with the main question being whether they could get back to the Stanley Cup Finals with the group they have. They would not even get a chance to try though as they were rarely seen as a playoff team during the season as the window may be closing faster than most thought. Meanwhile the Washington Capitals window also seems to be closing as the once Stanley Cup favorite now sits outside of the playoffs for the first time in a long time. The Caps were once the team that everyone wanted to see face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Eastern Conference but now are an afterthought in the playoffs as they ended just outside of the postseason but never made enough noise throughout the season. All three of these teams would take their ousting seriously and wasted almost no time in changing things. The Capitals would be the only exception yet still the controversy over Alexander Ovechkin has led many to believe that he may skip out on the NHL to play in the KHL where he would get a lot more money. Meanwhile in Toronto the Maple Leafs would hire Brendan Shanahan as team president and in Vancouver they would fire Mike Gillis and replace him with Trevor Linden. These teams wasted no time in doing so as they were eliminated this week and made their changes. They are two markets that take their hockey seriously and despite the jokes about “loyalty” in some markets change was needed to keep fans at bay for the time being although if either team has a repeat performance in 2014-15 there may very well be bigger changes coming for both teams.

 

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

Shani’s New Role
Brendan Shanahan was named as the Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor this week with his role not entirely certain by many with Dave Nonis still in the GM seat although Shanahan is sure to have his say on the hockey operations of the team next year

Change in Vancouver
The Vancouver Canucks were not very happy with their declining results and so the first job was lost with Mike Gillis being fired as the GM and Trevor Linden was named President of Hockey Operations as there are sure to be more changes to come

Captain Canada’s End
Ryan Smyth has been a staple in the NHL for 19 years and became a fan favorite of Canadian Hockey fans even earning the nickname Captain Canada but his time in the league will come to an end this year as the Edmonton hero will step away from the game when the season ends

More Time in Court
The NHL is facing a major lawsuit regarding player safety and concussions that has been likened to the NFL lawsuit earlier in the year and now the NHL faces a second lawsuit regarding the same issues as legal issues could start to become a major focus of the NHL in the near future

 

NHL Playoff Outlook

Eastern Conference
Division Leaders:
1. pt-Boston Bruins (117)
2. d-Pittsburgh Penguins (108)
3. p-Montreal Canadiens (100)
4. p-Tampa Bay Lightning (99)
5. p-New York Rangers (96)
6. p-Philadelphia Flyers (93)
Wild Card:
7. p-Columbus Blue Jackets (93)
8. p-Detroit Red Wings (91)
Out of the Running:
9. Washington Capitals (89)
10. New Jersey Devils (86)
11. Ottawa Senators (86)
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (84)
13. Carolina Hurricanes (81)
14. New York Islanders (77)
15. Florida Panthers (66)
16. Buffalo Sabres (51)

Western Conference
Division Leaders:
1. c-Anaheim Ducks (114)
2. p-Colorado Avalanche (111)
3. p-St. Louis Blues (111)
4. p-San Jose Sharks (111)
5. p-Chicago Blackhawks (107)
6. p-Los Angeles Kings (100)
Wild Card:
7. p-Minnesota Wild (98)
8. p-Dallas Stars (91)
Out of the Running:
9. Phoenix Coyotes (87)
10. Nashville Predators (86)
11. Winnipeg Jets (84)
12. Vancouver Canucks (81)
13. Calgary Flames (77)
14. Edmonton Oilers (65)

pt-Clinched President’s Trophy
c-Clinched Conference
d-Clinched Division
p-Clinched Playoff Berth

 

Key Scores:
Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 2 St. Louis Blues
– The Blackhawks have not had the season they wanted but they still remain in the top three of the Central Division and would take the lead away from their division rivals beating the Blues and pushing them into second place after a Colorado Avalanche win

Tampa Bay Lightning 3 – 0 Toronto Maple Leafs
– The Maple Leafs are beginning to make it a habit of collapsing at the worst times and their latest collapse would come at the end of the season and would end with their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning where they were officially eliminated from the playoffs

Anaheim Ducks 3 – 0 Vancouver Canucks
– The Ducks continued to try to fight for the President’s Trophy as they would beat the Canucks who would officially be eliminated from the playoffs and would fire GM Mike Gillis a day after the loss

Boston Bruins 4 – 1 Buffalo Sabres
– The Bruins have plenty of history but they have surprisingly not been the best team in the NHL often and that would change this year when they beat the Sabres and clinched only the second time in team history

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