NHL Week in Review (December 21-27)

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The NHL took a much-needed break this week as teams took some time off after a long start to the year. With the approach of the halfway point for most teams and a brand new year the Christmas break is a chance for players to clear their heads. They get to spend some time with family and stay away from the road while their bumps and bruises heal up. The next time these players get a break like this it will be for the all-star break when not all players get the chance to get away from hockey for a brief time. Then again not all players are getting away from hockey right now as the NHL may be shut down for the holidays but a handful of NHL players along with many AHL and major junior players are far from off. These young stars are all in Montreal and Toronto for the World Juniors where the top young players in the world face-off for bragging rights of the best junior system in the world. The World Juniors are an international tournament organized by the IIHF but they still effect the NHL. For some teams it is the loss of some of their top young talent. For NHL teams it is a decision to be made as they must find out if their top young talent would be better served staying in the NHL or playing in the World Juniors. For them it means the loss of top talent playing among the best players in the world but it can also be a great experience to play in the international tournament. Many NHL teams have different ideas about this decision and so there is a mix of teams both loaning players and keeping players. As the tournament approached a few NHL teams had that decision to make and while most NHL teams decided to keep their best young talent a few did decide to let their players into the tournament. Three of these teams were the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, and Boston Bruins who all loaned players to their national teams. For the rangers it was Anthony Duclair who will play on Canada’s top line throughout the tournament. Duclair has not had a great rookie year but he has put up 7 points in 18 games with the Rangers and looks to take on a bigger role for Team Canada. The Senators have also provided a player to the Canadians in one of the latest decisions for the tournament. The Sens waited until the last day to decide if Curtis Lazar was going to be a part of Team Canada and in the end they let him go to his national team. In 27 games he has 7 points and seemed to be gaining ground for the Sens before they let him go to the Junior team. The Bruins also made a decision that could have a much bigger effect on the tournament as they allowed David Pastrnak to join the Czech Republic. In five games Pastrnak has 1 point but for the Czechs he is a leader and will be needed if they hope to medal this year. As these teams looked at the options they believed that a couple of weeks in the World Juniors would help them more than playing a few games in the NHL. Other teams did not think that it was the way to go and kept their players to the chagrin of the national teams. Teams will also take the opportunity that the tournament provides to take a look at the players that they have already drafted and see how well they can play against the best in the world. Although they will be taking a look at their own players most eyes of the NHL scouts will be trailed on two players. Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid are considered the can’t-miss prospects in 2015 and are expected to go 1 and 2 in next year’s draft. The scouts will be watching closely two these two along with other draft eligible players as they tournament progresses. With the Christmas break over the NHL players get back to work while the scouts are already hard at work in Montreal and Toronto looking at the future of the NHL with the present still going on.

Overtime
(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Another coach down
Not too long after Dallas Eakins lost his job in Edmonton the New Jersey Devils have made their own move firing Peter DeBoer who had brought the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2012 but was never able to return to the playoffs

Mumps Continues through NHL
The Mumps outbreak is far from over in the NHL as more players are being taken away from their teams with teams trying to end the outbreak and avoid more players from missing time due to this sickness

Late Start
Rob Zepp has a familiar story for so many that attempted to make the NHL after being stuck in the AHL and never finding their way to the top league and at 33 it seemed like Zepp’s time was up but he will get a taste of the NHL starting in his first game after the break for the Flyers

standings_w11.fw

Key Scores:
Colorado Avalanche 2 – 1 Detroit Red Wings (SO)
– The old rivalry between these two teams is not what it once was now that the Red Wings are in the East but there is still some hate leftover and both teams showed it in this one with a close game that came down to a shootout that the Avs took

Anaheim Ducks 3 – 2 San Jose Sharks
– The Ducks and Sharks have been fighting for the Pacific division and will continue to do so down the stretch as the Ducks took one win in the season series that might come down to these games at the end of the year

Colorado Avalanche 5 – 0 St. Louis Blues
– The Avalanche continue to climb out of the basement as it seems they have finally found their groove after easily getting past the second place Blues with a 27-save shutout by Semyon Varlamov

New York Rangers 3 – 1 New Jersey Devils
– The Hudson River Rivalry continued on this year as the Devils attempted to climb out of the basement of their division while the Rangers were able to stay on top of the division with a win on Saturday night

Next Week:
Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins (Monday December 29th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Wings had a slow start to the year but are now where they are used to being, near the top of the division, while the Bruins are trying to get there as they take on the Wings trying to climb the division

Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames (Wednesday December 31st; 9:30 pm ET)
– The Battle of Alberta continues as these two teams are now in different spots with the Flames beginning to turn things around after years of disappointment and the Oilers continuing their bad years

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Washington Capitals (Thursday January 1st; 1:00 pm ET)
– The NHL New Year’s Day Tradition continues as the Capitals host the Blackhawks in the NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park with Chicago trying to stay on top of their division and Washington tries to climb up their division standings

Buffalo Sabres vs. New York Rangers (Saturday January 3rd; 7:00 pm ET)
– The battle of big New York and small New York as the Rangers host their in-state rivals from the north as they try to stay among the top teams in their division and the Sabres try to get out of the basement of theirs

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