NHL Week in Review (January 11-17)

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It’s that time of year again in the NHL as the All-Star break is here after two years without the game. There have only been two games in the last five years as the NHL tries to get back to normal for the first time in a long time. In 2010 it was the Olympics that cancelled the game while 2013 saw the game become a casualty to the lockout and 2014 saw another Olympics eliminate the break. For many that is absolutely fine as the All-Star game is one of the more polarizing events in the NHL. It marks a game that many do not care about with hockey that is not the best. For a game that is supposed to pit the best against the best in a show of the greatest players in the game the hockey being played is sub-par. There is plenty of offence with little defence and more often than not it becomes a showing of easy goals against players that aren’t trying to win. That may be because there is nothing on the line and the players truly have little motivation other than contract bonuses and being named an all-star. Then again those things have already come for the players as they have already become all-stars and performing well at the game means nothing. It is a problem that leagues have had at every level as all-star games in every major league never work out to be the showcase of the league’s best. The Pro Bowl in the NFL is often a forgettable event that is overshadowed by the Super Bowl. The NBA All-Star Game is nothing compared to the Slam Dunk Competition that comes a day before. The MLB All-Star Game is all about the Home Run Derby the night before rather than the game. The NHL All-Star game has fallen under much of the same issues as many people prefer to watch the players in the skill competition the night before rather than the game. It is not that the NHL hasn’t attempted to change the way they do things in order to make it more exciting. They have made a number of changes to the game including removing the East vs. West format. In that move three years ago the NHL created a fantasy draft where two captains would draft their teams. It created another event for All-Star weekend where players went through a draft for the second time and fans got to see who their favourite players considered to be the best in the NHL. It was an entertaining event in the first year as Phil Kessel was the last pick and received plenty of flak while players got to have fun with their teammates in picking them for their team. The new format did create some buzz around the game three years ago but the fact was that the NHL All-Star game was still not as popular as a regular game. This year the NHL continues with the draft and continues to build some excitement. The game will likely not be the main attraction for the all-star break as the skills competition and the draft will take focus. The NHL has done something this year that might be the future of the all-star game. They will introduce individual stats in this year’s all-star game that will update in real-time with chips installed into player’s jerseys. It is an interesting addition to the game and a new innovation for the NHL to test out. What is more interesting for the NHL is the fact that they are willing to test out something new in the all-star game. That might be the smartest thing that the NHL has done in a long time in terms of the game. It could be a great aspect in the future of all-star games. They may be able to use this game to test out new aspects of the game, including rules, and give the fans a taste in a game that really doesn’t matter. Attempting to add rules like the 3-on-3 overtime to the all-star game might be a good way to introduce these rules and see how they work in a game. It can also provide fans with a glimpse into the potential future of the game and get their input as well. The all-star game is not a popular game on the schedule and adding these types of new rules or innovations could bring more interest to the game and solve the problem that so many leagues have. It is something to think about as the latest version of the NHL all-star game approaches with the league travelling to Columbus for the all-star break this week.

(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Marchand suspended
Considered one of the dirtiest players in the game the super pest, Brad Marchand, was caught this week after he slew-footed Derick Brassard on Thursday keeping one of the top pests in the game off of the ice for two games

Rinne out for All-Star Weekend
Pekka Rinne was once again added to the NHL all-star roster after a two year absence of the game but he will not be able to return to the game as a knee sprain will keep him out for three to five weeks

Richards on the Move?
Reports have linked Brad Richards to a number of teams as the Los Angeles Kings seem to be shopping him around with plenty of interest from teams looking to get an extra scoring push before they begin the playoff race


Key Scores:
Los Angeles Kings 2 – 0 Toronto Maple Leafs
– In a matchup between two coasts and traditional along with non-traditional markets the Leafs couldn’t get back in the win column falling to the Kings as their coaching change has not yielded the help they had hoped

New York Islanders 3 – 0 New York Rangers
– The Islanders continue to impress this year as they stand on top of the Metropolitan division and they proved that they were the best team when they took on cross-ton rivals in the Rangers who could not chip away at the division lead

Ottawa Senators 4 – 1 Montreal Canadiens
– The Sens have not had the season they were hoping for this year but they did get a small boost as they were able to beat the Canadiens who are leading the Atlantic Division and took a loss to their long-time rivals

Anaheim Ducks 3 – 2 Los Angeles Kings (SO)
– The Kings were looking to move their way back to the top of the division against the top team in the division but they couldn’t get there as the Ducks took the win in a shootout and remained at the top of the Pacific

Next Week:
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Sunday January 18th; 12:30 pm ET)
– Both the Rangers and the Penguins are trying to catch up to the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division as they face off with the Penguins sitting in second place looking to close the gap and the Rangers sitting out of a playoff spot

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Monday January 19th; 7:30 pm ET)
– The Maple Leafs are in a tough spot right now as they continue to try and pull out of their terrible first half of the season and with a new coach this has to be a statement game to show that they can beat one of the worst teams in the league

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Tuesday January 20th; 7:30 pm ET)
– The Battle of Pennsylvania has always been a tough rivalry but this year the roles are slightly further apart as the Pens sit near the top of the division with the Flyers just trying to stay in the playoff hunt

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators (Wednesday January 21st; 7:00 pm ET)
– It is another big one for the Leafs as they take on their provincial rivals before the all-star break in hopes that they can get some momentum heading into the final part of the season after the all-star game

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