NHL Week in Review (May 11-17)

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Another round is in the books for the NHL playoffs and four teams remain taking one step closer to the ultimate prize. In the east there was plenty of surprise with the Pittsburgh Penguins falling to the New York Rangers thanks in large part to Henrik Lundqvist. The surprise would not stop there though as the team many believed to be the Stanley Cup favourites in the Boston Bruins would fall to their longtime rivals. The Montreal Canadiens would take the win in the series and find themselves paired with the Rangers for the third round in a matchup of two underdogs with only one coming out on top. In the West the surprise were a little less rapid as the Chicago Blackhawks did what everyone expected them to do beating the Minnesota Wild although they did it in 6 games. The other series was a little more intense though as the top team in the conference would fall to a wild card team as Anaheim took a seat to the Los Angeles Kings who have made a habit of surprising everyone in the playoffs. The win would pair the powerhouse Blackhawks against the underdog Kings for the Western crown. As these series progressed the hate between the teams would build as it always does in any playoff series. Then the series ends and the hate subsides for another year as the respect of a hard-fought series generally takes over any ill will harboured by the teams. It can generally be seen in the time-honoured tradition of the handshake after the series that sees both teams congratulate each other on a hard-fought series. The respect is there to see as the players that have fought through an entire series shake hands and go their separate ways. Then there was Milan Lucic at the end of the Boston-Montreal series. The post game-7 handshake would not be the usual pleasantries between two teams as Lucic would go down the line looking visibly angry. As he got to Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin he would stay a bit longer to reportedly threaten both of them. It is not clear as to what Lucic said exactly but in the psot game interviews Weise claimed that Lucic threatened him after the game and said something similar to Emelin. The act was not necessarily the first time anyone has ever said something like that in the handshake but the issue most people have with it is that he made it so glaringly obvious. Nobody can blame him for being emotional in a series that pit two of the league’s fiercest rivals against each other. These teams face off regularly in the regular season and there is rarely a peaceful game. They have been doing it for years and that hate between teams has carried over through the decades to the new versions of each team. Although nobody ever wants to lose a playoff series it becomes that much worse when it is the one team you never want to lose to at any point in the season. With the style of Lucic’s play it is clear that he feeds off of emotion and when he lost he likely was still running hot. The emotion got the better of him and he took it out on the members of the other team that he had been battling all series long. The emotion is a good thing for a player like Lucic but in a game that has come under fire about its aggression and its violence what happened in the handshake line does not come off well for the NHL. It is a relatively harmless act as regardless of a threat or not Lucic and the Bruins will meet the Canadiens again next season and will likely get into another hard-fought battle with their rivals. On the outside looking in it is yet another piece of evidence that hockey is too violent. If the ultimate sign of sportsmanship in the game is not safe from aggression than what could be. The NHL may be concerned about what happened but if they are it is not because of what Lucic did and instead is because of how it looked. It is the constant battle for the league as they try to balance the aggressive nature of the game with the optics of how aggressive it can be. If it comes off as too aggressive and violent fewer people will be watching while if they take out the aggressiveness it will take away the diehard fans. Nothing is safe from this balancing act especially the playoffs when the focus on hockey is much greater.

 

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

Unexpected Shakeup in Pittsburgh
With another series lost in Pittsburgh everyone knew a shakeup was coming but when GM Ray Shero was fired it shocked most who believed that head coach Dan Bylsma would be the one to go and instead it was the GM while the coach stayed in place

Selanne’s Farewell
The series loss by the Anaheim Ducks meant something much more to the franchise and the fans as it was the last time that they would see Teemu Selanne play at home as the loss would lead to an emotional farewell for The Finnish Flash

Upsets at the Worlds
As the Stanley Cup playoffs continued on the IIHF World Championships would get underway this week with a number of upsets highlighting the preliminary round as France would beat Canada in their opening game and the USA would lose to Latvia

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