NHL Week in Review (April 10-16)

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The NHL playoffs are officially underway and this year has a distinct battle that has not been seen to this scale in the NHL.

Offence and Defence have been polar opposites since sports was invented and they will continue to be enemies as long as sport is around.

No matter what sport or league it is there is always a fight where offences are trying to find ways to put up points and defences are trying to stop.

For the most part, defence has been winning the battle with sayings like “The best offence is a good defence” and “Defence wins championships.”

In hockey, the relationship is somewhat different than other sports though as it isn’t as simple as defence always winning.

Defences have still ruled the game but there were times when the league was based on offence and the output that a team could put up.

Even now the NHL is putting rules in place to help the offence and hurt the defence as they continue to shrink goalie pads and tighten up the penalty calls.

The defence is always being more restrictive largely because the offence is the side of the equation that sells tickets.

A good defensive play is, more often than not, unnoticed as good defensive play is rarely rewarded.

Even the Norris Trophy, given to the best defenceman every year, has become a reward for the best offensive defenceman rather than a defensive minded player.

Scoring goals and making amazing moves to get those goals will always be more exciting than preventing the goals and playing fundamentally sound hockey.

Yet no matter how many restrictions they put on the defence the defence will always find a way and there is no place that it becomes more important than in the playoffs when offence usually takes a back seat.

Scoring goes down and the captains of the defence, the goaltenders, become the most important players on any team.

The defence will always rule the game and in the playoffs, it only become more important for every team.

This year though there are a few teams that will look to test that theory and bring offence back to the playoffs in order to win the Stanley Cup.

Chief among these teams is the Dallas Stars who are the typical offensive minded team.

They had a great regular season where they took the league’s best offence to the top of the Central Division.hockey-sidebar

With Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin leading the way, the Stars looked like one of the best teams in the league.

These types of offences have come before the Stars and but when they entered the playoffs their true issues were exposed.

Those issues being that the offensive-minded teams generally are accompanied by the weaker defences.

When their offences can’t do anything against better defences they suddenly need to rely on the worst part of their team and that usually translates to failure.

The Stars come into the playoffs with that top-ranked offence but also with the worst defence in the playoffs.

They are the exact build of a team that can’t be successful in the playoffs when defence becomes so important.

That is the thinking behind them as many believe they may have some success but eventually will run into a team like Anaheim or Washington where great defences are supported by good offences.

The Stars will put the theory of defences winning championships to the test but they won’t be alone.

The New York Rangers and Islanders both struggle to prevent goals but have little problem putting up points.

Meanwhile, teams like the Ducks and Kings rely on their defensive ability to win games and will try to prove that defence does work in winning championships.

The playoffs continue on with every team trying to prove something while the constant battle between offence and defence continues.

Only one can win and in June, every hockey fan will figure out which one it will be.

Overtime
(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Changes in Ottawa
The Ottawa Senators were not happy with their latest season after missing the playoffs for the second time in three years and began making changes firing GM Bryan Murray and head coach Dave Cameron while announcing Pierre Dorion as their new GM and beginning their coaching search

Standing Pat in Boston
A name connected to the now open Ottawa job was Claude Julien but the rumours ended quickly when the Bruins announced that he will be returning despite the Bruins missing the playoffs as Julien is off of the coaching carousel

Replay Rules
More than any other year it seems like replay is having a bigger effect on the game as new rules regarding the coaching challenge are coming under scrutiny with the entire hockey world watching as games are determined by goals being called back

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