NHL Week in Review (March 25-31)

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With only a week left in the regular season, the playoff run is getting close to being over and only a few spots remain.

It seems like every day another spot is taken away and fewer teams have the shot at things begin to get tighter around the league.

This year there have been some good battles and better stories but one always stands out among the rest of them.

The Vegas Golden Knights are easily the surprise of the year as they were supposed to be the young up and coming team.

There was little to no experience on the team as the expansion franchise was able to get a few veterans but the majority of their team were role players and young potential stars.

Nobody was expecting them to make any kind of run though as no expansion team has ever had a really great time.

They often have to struggle through the growing pains of a new team as they try to figure out how to manage a new group with new people.

It is never easy for a new team to figure things out and put together a good season but the NHL put together a plan to try to make it easier on the newest franchise.

The expansion draft was designed to give the Knights the best chance at putting together a fairly talented team.

They did well in the draft but it was still a team that nobody expected to make the playoffs, they were going to build slowly through the years.

That wasn’t in their plans though as the knights rose to the top of the league right from the start of the season.

It was a surprising start for a new team as they continued to win and surprised everyone.

That only led to more speculation though as most believed it was the energy of being a new team and the excitement of those young players.

Eventually, that would no longer be there to help them and they would sink back to the spot that they were expected to be in from the start.

That never happened though and the Knights remained one of the best teams in the league all the way to the playoffs.

They clinched their spot at the end of the season are now the best expansion franchise in the history of the league.

The Knights will not only take a playoff spot but they also rose to the top of one of the toughest divisions in the league.

This week they clinched the Pacific Division title giving them a somewhat easier path through the playoffs.

As the playoffs approach though the same conversation surrounds the Knights as many are wondering how good they can be.

The playoffs are always a different level of hockey as things are not the same when the games get so much more important.

Play gets tighter and hits get harder while the pressure increases tenfold and every goal becomes so much more important.hockey-sidebar

As great as teams can be in the regular season it takes a different mentality and attitude to be successful in the playoffs.

That is what has many wondering what the Knights can do when the second season gets going.

They are still a very inexperienced team that only has a few players that have seen the top of the heap and have gone through a full run at the playoffs.

Maybe that is enough though as those veteran leaders might be the key to all of the success of the season.

With the youthful excitement driving the team through the season those veterans could be making sure nobody gets too high or too low.

They can head into the playoffs with those few veterans who know what it is like to both lose and win in the toughest time of the year.

That is still going to be tough as more often than not it takes those failures for a team to actually be good.

Teams often struggle in their first time in the playoffs and are usually out of the playoffs pretty quickly.

The Knights have never experienced anything like this as a team and that could make it tough for their great season to continue.

Then again they have surprised everyone throughout the season with just how steady they have been and how far they have come.

The miracle season could continue but the playoffs are a different level and that could make things a lot more difficult.

Overtime

A British Star?

As teams begin preparing for the playoffs everyone else is looking to the future of their team including the draft. There will be an interesting addition to that draft as Liam Kirk has been invited to the combine. That is interesting because Kirk is looking to become the first British-born player to be drafted and play in the NHL. He has taken the first step becoming the first British player to be invited to the combine and there he looks to make sure he gets his spot in the league.

Chara’s Raise

At 41-years-old Zdeno Chara is one of the oldest players in the game but he is also a stalwart in the Boston lineup. He has long been one of the leaders for the team and a solid defensive player for the team. His value is clear and the Bruins made sure everyone knew it when they signed him to a new deal this week giving him a raise. Chara will be with the Bruins for at least another year where he will earn $5-million with bonuses that could raise the pay to close to $7-million.

Emergency Legend

Emergency goaltenders are a unique part of the NHL as every team has the number of a local player that might be needed on a moments notice. It is rare but it does happen as teams can sometimes have no available goaltender due to injuries or sickness and they get that emergency goaltender to come into the game. This week the Blackhawks called on Scott Foster, an accountant, to fill in after both of their goaltenders were hurt. Foster now becomes a legend after picking up the win and saving seven of seven shots in his one and likely only NHL chance.

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