Chicago’s path was a bit more predictable coming in as the second seed but it was surprising to many how they blew away the San Jose Sharks in the western conference finals. Regardless of the path taken by either team we start again even-steven with a race to four to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup! So what do we need to watch for and more importantly who is going to win?
At first glance the series seems to very much favor the Blackhawks. They have a team that is equally as physical as the Flyers and they can score goals any way they need to; whether it’s using their speed to create off of the rush or just by putting big bodies in front of the net and bashing away time and time again until the red light comes on. Thus far in the playoffs the Flyers have yet to face an opponent who they couldn’t just rough up and eventually wear them down (the way they did to Boston) or flat out dominate (the way they dominated both New Jersey and Montreal) so it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to a more formidable opponent.
We can start this by saying both teams are in about the same position when it comes to their respective netminders, so these guys are likely to cancel one another out in performance. With that said, there is no doubt that the Flyers will have to somehow neutralize Chicago’s ability to score. That seems obvious of course but a lot of times a team can focus on one or two guys and sort of make role players step up to beat you. However in this case Chicago doesn’t have just one or two guys who are scoring. The Hawks have been incredibly balanced with Dustin Byfuglien leading the way with 8 goals followed by the Toews, Kane, and Sharp trio who each have 7. The easy answer to Byfuglien for the Flyers is throwing Chris Pronger at him. Using Pronger in that role is a great idea but then what about the rest of the Chicago forwards? Even if you can manage to shut down some combination of the four leading scorers that still leaves two other guys who can burn you AND the likes of a Marian Hossa who despite having only 2 goals thus far in the post-season is always a threat to put the puck in the back of the net. Just because he hasn’t been scoring doesn’t mean he necessarily continue to struggle. All the while there is a guy like Chris Versteeg to further consider because he has come up with some big goals for Chicago up to this point. It will certainly be a tall order for the Flyers. One way for the Flyers to take some of Chicago’s players out of their rhythm is to utilize guys like Daniel Carcillo to be a pest to the Hawks. In the past Carcillo has been known to cross lines and cost his team by taking stupid penalties. But in recent games he’s done a nice job of agitating players without going to the box as often as he used to. Keeping Chicago focused on dealing with a pest is a great way to frustrate their game plan while subsequently enforcing your own if you’re the Flyers. Easier said than done of course but it’s not a bad tactic to employ.
In the meantime, the Flyers have some offensive weapons of their own for Chicago to worry about. Mike Richards has had a fantastic post-season thus far and has put up the numbers the Flyers expect him to put up when it really matters. Danny Briere has posted some great numbers as well but more importantly he is staying healthy which has been a grave concern for him his whole career. There have also been a couple of pleasant surprises for the Flyers in Ville Leino (who has been red hot) and the emergence of Claude Giroux. If both guys can manage to continue their high level of play against Chicago there is no doubt that the Flyers will have as good a chance as any to push the Blackhawks to the limit and possibly even be what puts the Flyers over the top in this series. It will also be important for the Flyers role players to really step things up and raise their level of play even moreso than they have so far. Role players are important to winning any Stanley Cup of course but the Flyers will need to use their role players much more than the Blackhawks will likely have to rely on its role players.
In the end, I don’t think the series will be a walk-over for the Blackhawks the way some people seem to think it will be. The Flyers have played some smart hockey and it’s unlikely that they will start to shoot themselves in the foot now. But Chicago just has too many weapons when it comes right down to it. Barring injury of course I think the Flyers will be able to steal a game or two in this series but the Hawks will use their skill, speed, and physical presence to ultimately outclass the Philadelphia Flyers and raise their first Stanley Cup since 1961. I said it at the beginning of the year and I’m saying it now, the Chicago Blackhawks will be your 2010 Stanley Cup Champions.]]>
Also out west, despite dominating Chicago in game one, the Vancouver Canucks were ousted from the post-season for the second straight season at the hands of the Hawks. Many felt at the beginning of the playoffs (and certainly after a subpar opening round) that the Hawks would have little chance of significant playoff success. There would be no way that Antti Niemi could outduel Gold Medal winning netminder Roberto Luongo right? The hockey world could not have been more wrong as Niemi held is ground on one end while Luogno was schooled for the second straight season by a highly talented Chicago team.
This now sets up an all chalk Conference Final pitting the top-seeded Sharks against the two seed in Chicago. Only one point separated the two clubs in the regular season so does either squad have a marked advantage over the other? The simple answer to that is no. Both teams have a fair amount of playoff experience on their respective rosters as well as star power. Chicago has played one more playoff game than San Jose so neither team comes in having significantly more rest than the other. Each squad has also been solid defensively so any goaltender advantage one might expect San Jose to have essentially has gone by the wayside at this point in the post-season. There isn’t even an advantage for either team special teams as both are about as successful as the other in both power play conversion percentage and penalty killing. So for no other reason than I picked them to win the cup at the beginning of the year I’m going with the Chicago Blackhawks to represent the west in the Stanley Cup Finals.
As compared to the west, the eastern conference has been a completely different story. Montreal and Philadelphia have flipped the conference upside down pitting the two lowest seeds in the conference against one another for a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals; each team making history in its own way.
The Philadelphia Flyers did it the hard way taking the road less traveled by dropping the first three games to Boston. They then went on to win the next three games to force a game seven in which everything looked to be going against them as they spotted Boston a three spot once again but this time on the scoreboard. However, much like the rest of the series, Philadelphia never panicked but simply chipped away at Boston one goal at a time before ultimately winning game seven and the series 4-3. The Flyers became the third team in NHL history to overcome a 0-3 deficit to win the series once again allowing the NHL to live up to the promise that history will be made.
The Montreal Canadiens took a hard route themselves by overtaking the top-seeded Washington Capitals and then the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins. Not only did the eliminate two extremely talented squad but they had to stave off elimination on five different occasions between the two series. The Canadiens do not have a lot of depth on their roster but what they lack in depth they made up in playing disciplined defense, tremendous goaltending, and of course 12 goals from Michael Cammalleri doesn’t hurt. There is no doubt that Montreal would not be where they are today if not for the incredible showing by Jurosloav Halak in every big game they have had so far. Halak has been replaced twice in this post-season but has returned both times to steal games and the spotlight making him the early favorite to win the Conn-Smythe trophy.
Perhaps the one similarity between the finals in the east and the west is that both teams are about equal to one another on paper; but that’s about it. Neither Montreal nor Philadelphia is oozing with star power so both have to rely on playing disciplined hockey in order to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite their similarities the one advantage Philadelphia has over Montreal is that they are a much more physical team. A larger reason Montreal was able to outduel both Pittsburgh and Washington was that both teams were about putting the puck in the back of the net, whereas the Flyers are about putting the other team on their butts and then going to score goals. In order for Montreal to win they have to get another incredible showing by Juroslav Halak, but Philadelphia does not need Leighton to be incredible behind them for the Flyers to be successful. For those two reasons I’m picking the Philadelphia Flyers to win this battle of scrappy clubs and represent the east in the Stanley Cup Finals.]]>
Now that round one is in the books we look forward to the round two match-ups:
4. Pittsburgh vs. 8. Montreal
The Canadiens did what most thought was impossible once the series got to a 3-1 Washington advantage. It was thought that the Caps were vulnerable for an upset but not in the way that Montreal ultimately pulled off the upset…with defense. Washington couldn’t score and conventional wisdom tells you that if Montreal can shut down Washington then certainly they will be able to do the same thing to Pittsburgh… right? Not likely. First off the Canadiens relied much too heavily on Jaroslav Halak to be just about perfect. Halak may have a few more games in him like that but he cannot play that way night in and night out the rest of the way. Furthermore, the Penguins are a much more physical team than Washington and as a result can wear you down much more effectively than the Caps could. There is also the ever present intangible the Penguins have and that is their experience. Washington was unsure of whether they could win when things got bad, but Pittsburgh does not have that doubt in them because they know (after coming back from 2-0 twice last season and a 5-0 loss in game 5 to the Red Wings in the finals) they have the ability to beat anybody at any time no matter what the circumstances. While Montreal will prove to be a tough opponent for Pittsburgh it’s unlikely that Crosby and company will be ousted by a tenacious Habs squad. Pittsburgh will move on.
6. Boston vs. 7. Philadelphia
This may be the most entertaining match-up in this round on paper. Both teams play a very physical game so a lot of big hits will be traded. Aside from that however the Flyers have the advantage. While both teams relied on secondary scoring to advance to round 2 the Flyers have much better primary scoring options. It’s unlikely that Carter, Briere, and the rest will be held in check this time around. Boston showed an inability to score (nothing like the team I thought they would be when I picked them to win the east preseason) over the course of the season and that probably won’t change. For that reason I’m taking Philly.
1. San Jose vs. 5. Detroit
Congrats to San Jose for finally fighting those first round demons and advancing to round 2 for the first time in what seems like forever. Lucky for San Jose they managed to advance without much scoring from their big three (Marleau, Heatley, and Thorton). They will definitely need that to change if they want any hope of besting the Red Wings. Once again we can talk about x’s and o’s all night long but when it comes down to it I just can’t pick against Detroit. Every year it seems like they are ripe for the picking by an up and coming western conference team and Detroit always proves everyone wrong. Therefore I am picking Detroit to pick off San Jose.
2. Chicago vs. 3. Vancouver
Both teams escaped what look like would be first round upsets by third period comebacks. Lucky for us they did because last year’s battle in the same round between the two teams was must see TV and this year will likely be even better. Both teams are great up front with Kane and company for Chicago and the Sedin twins and crew for Vancouver. There will be offensive chances galore for both teams, so what do you look to in a match-up like that? Goal tending of course. To be frank, Chicago’s netminding has been awful so they are already at a disadvantage in that category; now add in the fact that they’ll be battling Roberto Luongo on the other end and it’s even more trouble for the Hawks. However, last year they were able to get to Luongo and they can certainly do that again this year. All the Hawks need out of their goaltender is to play adequately and they’ll handle the rest. I picked Chicago to win the whole thing at the beginning of the year and I won’t back down now… Chicago wins.]]>
1. Washington vs. 8. Montreal
Jaroslav Halak is the key to this series. All Halak has to do is keep Washington at bay, if he can manage to do that the Canadiens will get plenty of scoring chances against Washington’s swiss cheese defense. Two things we know for sure: Montreal cannot stop Washington from scoring and Washington cannot stop Montreal from scoring. Number one key as I mentioned is Halak but also it is vitally important for Montreal to play extremely well disciplined hockey every minute of every game. Technical mistakes will be made that’s just the nature of the game but making bad decisions (bad passes, lazy puck pursuit, etc.) and taking bad penalties will be the end of Montreal’s playoff life. Washington has enough talent to overcome the mistakes it will make and the lack of adequate defense and spotty goaltending but Montreal does not. Many people think Washington is ripe for the picking—and that may be true—but if Montreal does not keep their mistake ratio compared to Washington’s very low the Capitals will blow them away. Even when Montreal does say take a bad penalty they have to rely on the playoff experience of the guys on their roster to take someone with them to the box, every little bit matters. If Montreal can do those things they’ll win; but that said I’m taking the Capitals in five.
2. New Jersey vs. 7. Philadelphia
Philadelphia will win this series. It has little to do with the Flyers’ abilities and more to do with New Jersey’s inadequacies. The Devils rely too heavily on scoring first then using the neutral-zone trap and Marty Brodeur to stifle the other team. New Jersey will not always score first and have a lead to protect, nor do they have the capacity to come back from being down 2 or more goals should Philly get that far ahead. It is not 1995 anymore and the new NHL is not conducive to New Jersey’s system yielding a great amount of post-season success. They have also put a proverbial wall in front of their biggest scoring threat in Ilya Kovalchuk. Every game will most likely be close because of how the Devils play but it’s Philly’s series to win.
3. Buffalo vs. 6. Boston
Ryan Miller is the best goaltender in the world today and the Boston Bruins cannot CANNOT score. Enough said, Sabres take the series.
4. Pittsburgh vs. 5. Ottawa
Crosby has been hot of late but that includes two games against the New York Islanders who have a really small defense and that results in a ton of scoring chances and many goals. The Penguins have had a hard time stopping team’s from scoring while also not having the greatest scoring prowess themselves (granted Gonchar and Malkin have been hurt so that should sure itself up). It has been said that the Penguins simply needed to get to the playoffs and now that the time has come they will be more motivated to get their act together, build on the experience of the last few years, and go on to get back to at least the conference finals. However, I think the Ottawa Senators may have something to say about that. The Senators have been one of the best teams in the conference over the last month of the season and are playing incredibly well as a unit. Losing Alex Kovalev will be a setback for Ottawa but they still have Daniel Alredsson, Jason Spezza, and Mike Fisher so they will not be longing for scoring presents on the ice. Their defensemen are all pretty big so that will match-up relatively well with the Penguins’ lines from top to bottom. Scoring chances will require much more work for the Penguins against Ottawa than it was versus the Islanders. Perhaps the biggest flaw for Ottawa is Brian Elliot’s lack of playoff experience. While experience matters at all positions it is most important for goaltenders unless you’re Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy. Nevertheless, with how the Penguins have been playing (inconsistent) they are ripe for an upset and I think the Ottawa Senators will do just that.
1. San Jose vs. 8. Colorado
Being technical in analyzing how I think this match-up will go is perhaps a waste of time. San Jose has been here time and time again and Colorado is a team that has overachieved all season long. I think in time Colorado will be very good but it just is not in the cards for them this year. San Jose has more experience, are an overall better team, and will simply not lose to Colorado. San Jose takes this series.
2. Chicago vs. 7. Nashville
Having Nashville in the playoffs is always nice because whatever helps hockey grow in non-traditional markets is a good thing for the game and the league. Nashville has been here before but has not managed to get past the first round (no shame in that since they’ve played Detroit in every playoff appearance in their short history). What gives Nashville the best chance at success in this series is that they don’t rely on any one person to provide all of their offense. Steve Sullivan, Patric Hornqvist, Martin Erat, Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, and Shea Weber all had 40+ point seasons which is a very positive sign since Chicago cannot simply focus on one guy in hopes of keeping the Preds at bay. The problem for Nashville is that on the season they gave up as many goals as they scored which does not bode well when playing the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and co. in a best four-of-seven series. While I root for hockey success in Nashville for the good of the game I think Chicago will be too much for the Preds and will move past Nashville on their way to the Cup Finals as I predicted at season’s opening.
3. Vancouver vs. 6. L.A. Kings
It is great to see the L.A. Kings back in the playoffs. I have been saying since the offseason that this team was for real and they certainly did not disappoint all season and here they are in the post-season. Anze Kopitar has been phenomenal all year and Jonathan Quick has been solid in net wire-to-wire. I said before the year started that not only would the Kings make the playoffs but they would also win their first round series and I will not back down from that. Unfortunately for the Kings (and for me) they have to go up against arguably the best line in hockey all year—i.e. the Sedin twins with Alex Burrows and sometimes Ryan Kesler. Oh and that Roberto Luongo guy isn’t half bad either. A lot of people think this is the year for Vancouver to overcome what they’ve faced in the past and finally come out of the West. I will go against my head in picking this one and say that the Kings will take the series, but they better rely heavily on Rob Scuderi’s cup winning experience from a year ago because they will need it.
4. Phoenix vs. 5. Detroit
Poor Phoenix. Ownership issues stemming back to the offseason, not knowing where they were going to play this year before the season started and even where they will be next year has not been finalized. Despite all of that the players banded together and not only got themselves into the playoffs but home ice in the first round, great right!? Wrong. All of that hard work yields them the reward of playing the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, what a reward for a great season eh? We could break down match-ups until the cows come home but it would be silly for me to pick against Detroit. I hope Phoenix gives Detroit a great fight and even manages to beat them, but that is unlikely and that is why I am giving this series to the Red Wings.
Enjoy the start of the most wonderful time of the year!]]>
With their 6-3 loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday the defending Stanley Cup Champions fell to a combined 0-10 against New Jersey and Washington this season. Despite that record the Penguins have managed to put themselves in position to have home-ice in the first round of the playoffs and still have a shot at winning the Atlantic Division. But that fact aside what does an 0-10 record against two of the best teams in the East mean for the Penguins in the playoffs? The numbers themselves don’t mean a whole lot since regular season head-to-head records do not carry over into the playoffs but it’s WHY they lost so many times to these teams that is the bigger story. Washington simply did to the Penguins what they’ve done to everyone all year and that is score score and score some more. There is nothing complicated about the Capitals’ game and many experts agree their lack of defense will be rather detrimental when it comes time to try to play and beat a team in a best-of-seven series. More alarming for the Penguins is their performances against New Jersey. The Devils used their neutral-zone trap to not only beat the Penguins but they dominated Pittsburgh in each of the six games they played. The Penguins managed only 5 goals in six contests—none of which were close including two shutouts. There seems to be something about the neutral-zone trap that as really given the Penguins headaches this year seemingly more than ever before. This style has affected them so much that the Tampa Bay Lightning utilized the same system against the Penguins recently to perfection beating Pittsburgh 2-0. If the Devils and now the Lightning have created a blue print for how to dominate the Penguins then it’s likely that other good teams in the playoffs could also use the same system and actually result in the Penguins being eliminated as early as the first round. Getting shut out by the trap on three different occasions against two different teams is no fluke and that’s why that 0-6 record against New Jersey is scary for Pittsburgh.
Lastly, it’s all over but the shouting out West! Every playoff spot has been clinched and now we simply wait to see what the match-ups will be. This year’s contest includes a few different faces from last season as the L.A. Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, and Phoenix Coyotes have all qualified for the post-season play after watching from home just a season ago. It’ll be great to see some new blood in the ranks out west but we cannot forget the frequent fliers in the Detroit Red Wings being present in the playoffs for the 19th consecutive year. Can any of the new teams replace the Red Wings at the top of the Western Conference Mountain? Tune in next time when we preview the west and I give the reasons why Detroit will (or won’t) return to the Finals yet again.
April 14th is almost here!]]>
It’s possible that once the seedings are all set Boston and New Jersey could match-up against one another in the first round; God helps us all if they do. That will be one of the least entertaining playoff series of all time. It begs the question what would be more exciting, watching the Bruins and Devils square off or watching paint dry? It’s a tough decision indeed. Neither team can manage to score very often or even to create a whole lot of shots on goal. On Tuesday night in the two teams “thrilling” 1-0 overtime win for Boston it took almost a full 65 minutes for New Jersey to muster 21 shots on goal while Boston put up a more respectable 34 shots—all-in-all in made for a dreadful hockey game. Had it not been for Patrice Bergeron scoring the game-winner in over time one could have made the argument that there only be two stars given to the goaltenders and a third to the fans for actually sticking around to watch the thing. I’m all about playing defense because you certainly cannot win without it and I do not demand every game finish 5-4 but at least some sustained offensive pressure would be nice. So no matter who you cheer for pray to the hockey gods that the Devils and Bruins avoid each other in the first round—and in the rest of the playoffs completely for that matter. The sanity of hockey fans everywhere depends on it.]]>
Since stealing a point from Phoenix in an overtime loss on the 14th, Atlanta has reeled off four in a row giving them a point in each of their last five games putting them just one point out of the playoffs with ten games to play. Nik Antropov has taken his new role as team leader by the horns and essentially saying “look we’re so much better without Ilya!” The play of others like Maxim Afinogenov and Tobias Enstrom has also improved and Johan Hedberg has been fantastic in goal. I don’t know if Kovalchuk leaving was a rallying cry for this club or if they had this in them all along but the character they are showing right now is rather impressive. A lesser club would have taken the loss of their leading scorer as a sign of the beginning of the end, but instead Atlanta has banded together as a team and about everyone on the club is playing well and continuing to get better. Whether Atlanta makes the playoffs of course remains to be seen. And even if they do qualify it is unlikely that they have enough experience and depth to push past the first round. But there’s one thing we already know about the Thrashers, it’s that they all take pride in themselves and each other and show it night in and night out; proving for once that addition by subtraction actually does make sense.]]>
Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins were held in check yet AGAIN by the New Jersey Devils who have now swept the season series against the Penguins 6-0 and in a decisive manner every time. One team dominating another like this is not rare, but the difference in this case is that the Penguins have consistently been one of the best teams in the league all year and are even still fighting for the division crown with New Jersey despite having lost every game against them. It’s not very common to see a team get dominated by another team and yet still be so high in the standings. So what does this mean for the playoffs? Quite frankly as long as both teams make it (as they surely will) it doesn’t mean a whole lot should they match-up with one another until the first game is played. If Pittsburgh can manage to win the first of a best-of-seven series with New Jersey then the slate is essentially wiped clean. However, should New Jersey beat Pittsburgh and dominate them the same way they have all year then New Jersey will have affected the confidence of the Penguin team so much that the series would basically be over before it even gets started. There’s no real rhyme or reason for the Devils’ dominance over the Penguins it has simply been a matter of New Jersey playing their system soundly and the Penguins allowing too many chances and not creating enough of their own. We’ll see what happens from here but if nothing else this series of victories should give New Jersey a ton of confidence as the stretch run continues and transitions into the playoffs.
For you Western Conference fans, don’t look now but the Detroit Red Wings are in prime positions to qualify for the post-season yet again. As of right now the Red Wings have a one point advantage over 9th place Calgary with a game in hand and have defeated the Flames each of the last two times they’ve played. No matter how the regular season goes for Detroit they always seem to do away with any weaknesses they showed throughout the year and return to top form when April rolls around. Detroit is also getting healthier so the likelihood that they’ll flounder down the stretch diminishes with each player they get back. Should they make the playoffs it will likely be as the 7th or 8th seed; what a prize for the team who comes away with the conference regular season title. You work all year to put yourself in the best position possible and you’re rewarded with a first round match-up against the two time defending conference champions. There’s nothing like a date with Franzen, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, etc. and all of their Stanley Cup rings as a way of saying congratulations on claiming one of the top spots in the conference. Despite how the season has gone for Detroit, if they get in you have to peg them as one of the favorites to come out of the west.
Lastly, what were the Chicago Blackhawks thinking at the trade deadline? In large point their team is solid and needs no adjusting in order to sure up what should be a run to the Stanley Cup Finals (that is a reasonable goal at least). But one area that absolutely needed addressing was goaltending. No disrespect to Huet and Niemi but they are not ready to lead a team to the promised land. Neither has any playoff experience of note and while you can only get experience by actually playing, when the rest of the team is ready to make a strong push that is NOT the time for your netminder to get his feet wet. Kane, Keith, Sharp, Toews, Hossa, Byfuglien, Versteeg, Campbell (pre-injury), etc. are all poised to improve on last year’s run to the conference finals by taking their respective games’ to the next level and the last thing they need is goaltending to bring them down. Going after someone like Manny Legace who has some experience, or even J-S Giguere who despite falling out of favor in Anaheim has a decent track record and perhaps a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered for him. Either choice would have been worth at least trying because neither could do any worse than Niemi and Huet have been of late. In two Sundays in a row both Huet and Niemi have given up a plethora of goals in very short order causing their team to blow 2 and three goal leads respectively, blown leads Chicago was unable to rebound from both times. Sure that could happen to anybody on a given day, but twice in 7 days is unacceptable and it does not bode very well for Chicago this season if they play even close to that poorly in the playoffs.
Less than one month to go until playoff time!]]>
1. NHL players in or out of the next Olympics?
There is no reason the NHL should not send players to the 2014 Olympics. The amount of attention the tournament gets worldwide is nothing but a positive thing for the NHL. Even for teams like Germany Latvia (among others) who were unlikely to win a medal at the games it gives them exposure and a gateway to getting more people interested in the game which results in better teams as the years go on. That is also true for countries that were unable to qualify for the Olympics this time around. The more countries that participate in hockey the better the talent pool, as a result the level of play in the NHL will continue to go up making a better product to market.
Secondly, the amount of people who watched the Gold Medal game in the United States was reportedly close to 30 million. The NHL (and NBC for that matter) is always looking for ways to better market the game in the U.S. and to gain greater viewership across the country. The Olympics (the Gold Medal game in particular) provided that to the NHL as everyone on the ice is currently playing for an NHL team. Not only that but it got people who ordinarily would not care about hockey to tune in; of that group of people—let’s say 5 million don’t care about hockey generally—if even 200,000 people (that’s only 4%) grew an interest in the game that makes it completely worth it for the NHL to participate in the Olympics. That is 200,000 more people to buy tickets and merchandise or possibly compete in hockey tournaments of their own and perhaps expose the game to other people.
Granted, the U.S. team will not always make it to the Gold Medal game, nor will that game consist of all NHL players and there is also the time zone issues when the games are not held in North America. There is also the issue of the NHL gaining no money from these games directly while also having to halt their season for two weeks, sacrifice its own all-star game, and subject NHL players to injury that could cause them to miss regular season time. But in the end the exposure they get is priceless and they do not have to invest a dime to get that. Players are not being paid for their participation in the Olympics –at least not by the NHL—so there is no salary issue for NHL owners. Not to mention the fact that it is only two-weeks once every four years for something that most agree ultimately helps the NHL much more than it hurts if it hurts the league at all. Some have suggested it’s just a bargaining tool by the NHL to use when negotiating the next CBA, no matter the case the NHL players should be in the Olympics so enough nonsense already and let them go.
2. Touch Icing:
For whatever reason there has been a debate for many years about whether to institute automatic icing in the NHL like they do in international and NCAA hockey. It should be a no brainer, END TOUCH ICING. I have given my piece on this before so I won’t say a whole lot. This past week on Coach’s Corner on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada Don Cherry did a great segment on getting rid of touch icing, go to the following link to see the piece (http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Sports/CBC%27s_Hockey_Night_in_Canada) , then click on Coach’s Corner (on the left side of the screen) then watch the March 6th video, it is one of the last things Cherry talks about toward the end of the video and I could not agree with him more.
3. Shootouts, why do home teams always choose to shoot first?:
I will never understand why the home team always decides to shoot first giving the road team the last chance to score. Some say it’s because they want to put pressure on the other team by scoring first. Quite frankly that logic is garbage and inherently flawed. Ask any athlete in any sport and when it comes down to it they want to have the ball in their hands/at their feet, or the puck on their stick with the game on the line witch a chance to win. Consider baseball, the oldest game in America for years and years has always given the home team a marked ADVANTAGE by giving them the last chance to score in the game (i.e. the bottom of the ninth). If any manager went up to the umpire before a game and said “I know we’re the home team but today I’d like to bat first instead and give them the final at-bat in the ninth. Yeah this way we can put pressure on them from the get-go.” he would be fired almost immediately. The only time I can see this logic being reasonable is if your goaltender is your best player, then of course you went to give your greatest asset in the best position possible to win the game for you but 99% of the time that is not the case. I do not profess to know more about hockey than coaches or professional players generally but in this case the decision to shoot first is asinine.]]>