NHL Week in Review (April 5-11)

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The regular season is officially over in the NHL and that means that the best time of the hockey season is here, NHL playoffs.

The playoffs are a different breed of hockey where the already physical game gets more physical and where the most talented players in the league must step up.

It is also a time where the focus goes to only sixteen teams as the spotlight gets a lot brighter and those who can handle it rise while others will crumble.

This focus only intensifies in the sport’s home country as Canadians get that much more into hockey when the cup is on the line. The teams across the country are always watched closely as they make headline news throughout the season.

The fans are some of the most loyal in the NHL and account for some of the loudest arenas in the league.

When a city’s team makes the playoffs that city changes for the entirety of their time in the postseason.

It is an amazing thing to watch and be a part of but when the city’s team doesn’t make it often Canadians will find a small amount of comfort in cheering for other Canadian teams.

Obviously no true fan will be cheering for their rivals but finding someone to cheer for in a team that has little history has become a common occurrence for some fans.

The main reason for this is that Canadians see hockey as their sport and yet no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens won in 1993.

Despite the fact that every team that wins the Stanley Cup is made up primarily of Canadian players there is still something missing among Canadian hockey fans as most want to see the cup return to the north with a Canadian team.

So every year Canadian hockey fans watch the playoff race closely to see if their team can make it and if not to see what the chances might be for a Canadian team to take home the cup.

This year that race has been very good for Canadian teams as out of the seven teams located in Canada five of them have earned their way into the playoffs.

Some had very tough fights to get into the playoffs and only just found their way there while others have been a lock for the playoffs seemingly since the start of the season.

One of those teams is the Montreal Canadiens who have been the team carrying the torch for Canadian teams over the last few years. They have consistently been the team in the top of the division and once again they found themselves at the top of the Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile the Vancouver Canucks represent the other coast and another team that regularly finds their way to the playoffs. After one year out of the postseason they have returned and have been comfortably in a playoff position for most of the last half of the year.

hockey-sidebarThe Calgary Flames have not had the same luxury as they had a good fight towards the playoffs that eventually ended this week. It was a tough battle but they always seemed like they had a good shot of making it as they remained in the top three of the Pacific division for most of the last two weeks of the season.

Then there were the Winnipeg Jets and the Ottawa Senators who fought right until the end with little promise that they were going to make it.

The Senators were not in until the last day of the season and it was largely thanks to some help from the Pittsburgh Penguins losing the night before. The Sens return to the playoffs after they seemed like they were on the way to some consistency before being eliminated quickly last year.

As all of these teams and their fans prepare for the most exciting time of the year there is one last Canadian team that may be more excited than anyone else and may have the support of the entire country.

The Winnipeg Jets found their way to the playoffs this year clinching in the last week of the season. It’s not generally all too significant for most teams but this is the fourth season of the new Winnipeg Jets and it will be the first time that the Winnipeg fans get to see playoff hockey since 1996.

For Canadian hockey fans the future of the game is largely dependent on the Jets as the Jets are proof that a smaller market can survive in the NHL as long as that small market is a Canadian city with passionate fans.

If the Jets are successful it could be the proof that a place like Quebec City or Hamilton or even Markham, just north of Toronto, needs to show the NHL that another team belongs north of the border.

That type of connection with Canadian hockey has led many fans to cheer for the Jets and hope for their success.

If the Jets could become the first Canadian NHL team to win a Stanley Cup since 1993 the nation would feel validated and Winnipeg might never stop partying.

The likelihood of that happening is not very good but that is what makes the playoffs so great, anything is possible when every team goes back to 0-0.

The Canucks and Canadiens seem to have the best shot although the Flames, Jets, and Sens have all been playing well lately but with five of the sixteen teams residing from Canada the chances are better than usual that the Cup returns to the north as the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins.

Overtime
(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Early Awards
The end of the season means some awards have already been determined as Carey Price won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the lowest save percentage, Jamie Benn won the Art Ross Trophy for the most point, and Alexander Ovechkin won the Maurice Richard Trophy for the most goals

Frozen Four in Focus
The playoffs may be ready to start but scouts are watching different playoffs including the NCAA Frozen Four where Jack Eichel led Boston University to the finals but fell just short of winning the title in a thrilling game against Providence College

Jagr keeps going
Jaromir Jagr seems to defy age consistently as he stays in the league at 43 years old and continues to add to a hall of fame resume becoming the fourth player in NHL history to reach 1,800 points for his career

CSB Final Rankings
With the playoffs set to begin the majority of teams are focused on a different date as the draft is coming fast and in anticipation he final rankings were released with Connor McDavid sitting on top and Jack Eichel right behind him

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Key Scores:
St. Louis Blue 2 – 1 Chicago Blackhawks
– The rivalry continued and this time it was the Blackhawks falling just short of beating the Blues as St. Louis took the win and clinched the division crown as they once again head to the playoffs hosting a first round series

Calgary Flames 3 – 1 Los Angeles Kings
– The Flames seemed to be a good shot of making the playoffs until they started to fall in and out in the last few weeks but that all ended when they beat the former champions as they clinched their spot and eliminated the defending champions

Ottawa Senators 3 – 1 Philadelphia Flyers
– The Sens got some help with the Penguins loss on Friday but they still had to take care of business and did just that in their last game of the season as their win against the Flyers gave them a ticket to the second season

Pittsburgh Penguins 2 – 0 Buffalo Sabres
– The Penguins held their fate in their own hands on the last night of the regular season and they did what they needed to do in getting a win that clinched their spot in the playoffs and eliminated the Boston Bruins

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