NHL Week in Review (December 4-10)

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The NHL is like many other leagues where contact is a big part of the game as they are trying to fight the battle against head injuries without ruining the game.

It is always a delicate balance for these leagues as concussion issues have become a massive problem.

Retired players continue to report issues after they leave the game and studies continue to show brain damage in players who played a little more of a violent game.

The tough guys and grinders who made their living fighting and hitting are being proven to have higher cases of CTE than other players.

As the league learned about it, although recent lawsuits claim that they knew about it long before, they are trying to change things and make the game safer.

It is tough for them as hitting is a part of the game and there is resistance to banning fighting altogether.

New rules and an adjustment in the game have almost eliminated fighting already with less tough guys in the game and more skill players taking roster spots.

Hitting is a different story though as the league can pass as many rules as they want but no matter what they pass the game is too fast to control everything that happens.

All it takes is one move by one player to change a hit from a typical legal hit to an illegal one that knocks someone out.

Small movements or adjustments can change things quickly in a game that moves faster than any other.

That is what makes it difficult as the league can outlaw head hits and increase the punishment on those hits but that won’t stop the hits from happening.

What the league can do and what they are trying to do is fight against an attitude that all players have even in other leagues.

Athletes that play these physical sports are brought up not to complain about the bumps and bruises they suffer.

That can sometimes increase into the serious injuries that players continue to play with all the time.

Hockey players are especially known for their toughness as players are regularly seen with stitches on their faces and take pride in the fact that they can get hit with a stick or a puck and remain in the game.

Sometimes that can be a great thing as the small injuries are not the ones that should take a player out of a game.

Other times it can be more dangerous to the player and that happens far too often with head injuries as players too often tell everyone they are fine when in fact they have a concussion.

As much as the league can do they can’t make a player help himself as they need, to be honest, and open with doctors if they want the right help.

The league is trying to change this and they are beginning to take it out of the hands of the players with their new concussion protocol.

The NHL now has officials watching every play to see if a player takes a hit that looks dangerous or begins displaying the symptoms of head trauma.

The system is meant to essentially make players go into concussion protocol when they see that something is off with a player.

That eliminates the questions to the player that they inevitably answer with “I’m fine” and it forces them to undergo concussion protocol.

This week that new system was in the spotlight as Connor McDavid was at the centre of a controversy.

Midway through Edmonton’s game against Minnesota earlier this week the NHL injury spotters pulled him from the game after he fell going around the net.

When he fell it was clear that he hit his face off of the ice and when he returned to the bench he was told that he would need to go to the back and undergo the concussion protocol.

McDavid was cleared as he didn’t suffer a concussion and on review, it was clear that the fall resulted in McDavid hitting his mouth off of the ice.

For some, it expressed the danger in this system as the Oilers lost their best player despite the fact that he wasn’t hurt.

It was all for nought as many saw that the spotters were too cautious and pulled the trigger too soon on launching the protocol.

The spotters have a tough job though as they are looking at the play in real time and to most people, McDavid’s head looked like it snapped off of the ice.

That is a usual sign of a concussion and for the spotter, it is one of the many things they look for in launching the protocol.

The new system isn’t perfect and likely won’t be as people are making the call and there will be mistakes when that happens.

Still, it is a step in trying to make head injuries far less damaging than before by taking the player’s choice out of it entirely.

Overtime
(More on this week in hockey)

Trademark Denied
The Vegas Golden Knights are the newest team in the NHL but they have already had a bit of a stumble in their team announcement and now with their team name as the US Patent Office has denied their trademark on the Golden Knights

Showing Some Emotion
Connor McDavid has always been built as one of the best in the world and that puts a target on his back which he seems to believe in as last year he suffered a broken collarbone at the hands of Brandon Manning and had a war of words with him in their first match-up this year

Olympic Debate Continues
The NHLPA denied the league’s offer to attend the 2018 Olympics but that hasn’t ended the debate as the owners have expressed their feelings against the Olympics while the players are far on the other side leaving the league a tough decision

standings-w9-fw

Key Scores:
Montreal Canadiens 5-4 Los Angeles Kings (SO)
– The Canadiens have been a bit of an up and down team this year but they were looking to show that they are still one of the best against a rising Kings team and Montreal just got by them in the shootout

Buffalo Sabres 4-3 Edmonton Oilers (OT)
– The rivalry is not quite the same as the Caps-Pens but the match-up between Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid is always interesting with Eichel finally returning and his team coming out on top

New York Rangers 1-0 Chicago Blackhawks (OT)
– Two of the best teams in the league faced off in a match-up that was to prove who is the better team and it was as tight as many thought it would be with nothing until overtime when the Rangers took the win

Montreal Canadiens 10-1 Colorado Avalanche
– For all of those asking about the offensive support for Carey Price this game proves that there are plenty of goals on the ice for the Canadiens as they easily got by the Avalanche from start to finish dominating

Next Week:
Winnipeg Jets vs. Edmonton Oilers (Sunday, December 11th; 9:30 pm ET)
– The Jets are a rising team but they will find out just how good they are against the Oilers who have been one of the top teams all year in a season that their fans have been waiting for and they hope to stay on top

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens (Monday, December 12th; 7:30 pm ET)
– It is one of the longest and most legendary rivalries in the sport and the Bruins and Canadiens get after it again with the Canadiens sit on top of the division with the Bruins trying to chip away at their lead

Los Angeles Kings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Friday, December 16th; 7:00 pm ET)
– For the Kings, this is a game that they need in order to stop their slide down the standings while the Penguins try to keep pace in the Atlantic division with a win as two of the best teams over the last decade face-off

Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues (Saturday, December 17th; 8:00 pm ET)
– These two teams don’t like each other and it is due to a long history of great battles between the two which continues this year as the two top teams in the Central Division face-off looking to get the advantage in the standings

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