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What We Know About The NHL Through October in 2013

The Colorado Avalanche

The first month of the 2013-2014 NHL season has come to a close. After a dozen or some games, it is possible to start making judgments about the teams and players that we see on the ice. What exactly have we learned about the NHL through the month of October?

The Sabres Are Terrible

The Buffalo Sabres are assuredly going to be the worst team in the league this season. They have resorted to starting teenagers and have traded Thomas Vanek to the Islanders. Although Matt Moulson had a great first game in Buffalo, they still lost. At 2-13-1, Buffalo can at least claim to be number one in the draft if not number one in the league at the end of the year.

Philly, New Jersey And The Rangers Are Huge Disappointments

The Flyers, Rangers and Devils are battling to stay out of the basement in the Metropolitan Division. It has been a slow and steady fall from grace for teams that were going deep into the playoffs just two years ago.

Colorado, Tampa Bay And Toronto Are Surprise Leaders

Tampa Bay is 10-4 on the season and are on top of the Atlantic Division. Toronto is tied with Tampa Bay with 20 points and is averaging roughly 3.5 goals per game. Colorado has to be the most shocking team in the league last year. After finishing among the bottom five in the league last season, they have the second most points in the league at 24. Only San Jose has more with 25 for the year.

Alex Ovechkin Is Starting Hot

Alex Ovechkin has scored 10 goals in only 12 games to begin the year. At this rate, he will score almost 70 goals over the course of 82 games. For a player with so much talent, he tends to disappear at times. It is good for himself and the Washington Capitals to see him playing so well to start the year.

Good Goaltending Is Keeping Teams Afloat

Why is Colorado playing so well this year? You should look no further than their stellar goaltending. Semyon Varlamov has a save percentage of .945 and backup J.S. Giguere has a .985 save percentage in three games. In Minnesota, Josh Harding has a GAA of 1.00 to help him get off to a 5-2-1 start. Overall, the Wild are 8-4-3. It looks like Harding is going to see a lot of action this season.

The NHL season has gotten off to a strong start in 2013. For fans, this is going to be a great season because players are competing for spots on Olympic national teams as well as spots on their club rosters. Combined with a condensed schedule, the fans are going to get a lot of great action on a nightly basis until the NHL players head to Sochi in February.

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Five NHL Teams Looking To Rebound In 2013

anaheim-ducks-2013-14

The 2013-14 NHL season is set to start in about two weeks. Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks won a thrilling series against the Boston Bruins to capture the Stanley Cup. While the Blackhawks had a great season, not every team was so lucky. Which five teams are looking to bounce back in a big way this season?

1) Florida Panthers

Two years ago, the Florida Panthers were celebrating a division title and a playoff berth. It was their first playoff appearance since 1999. Last season, the Panthers looked like an expansion team. They had the fewest points in the league with 36 and only won 15 games. Goalie Jacob Markstrom needs to have a big year if Florida is going to have success. With the addition of Tim Thomas, he could find himself on the bench if he doesn’t play well.

2) Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix finally has a home in Glendale for the long-term. They also have their franchise goalie signed for the long-term as well. Mike Smith signed a deal that will keep him in Phoenix for the next six seasons. With two major distractions gone, the Coyotes can look to get back to their winning ways. Although they missed the playoffs last year, they won their first playoff series in 15 years two seasons ago.

3) Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay had a difficult season in 2013. They were outstanding at putting the puck in the net as they scored 147 goals in 48 games. However, they struggled when it came to keeping the puck out of the net. Fortunately, it looks like Tampa Bay has solved its goalie situation with Ben Bishop from Ottawa. If he doesn’t pan out, look for Anders Lindback to win the starting job. It is most likely that the two will share the job during the beginning of the season.

4) New York Rangers

In 2012-2013, the Rangers were the top seed in the east. Last season, the Rangers barely squeaked into the playoffs as the number six seed. Although they advanced to the second round, they were summarily dismissed by the Bruins in five games. In the offseason, coach John Tortorella was fired. He was largely cited by the media as the reason why the Rangers underachieved. They bring back goalie Henrik Lundqvist for what could be his final season as a Ranger. He will be a free agent after the 2013-2014 season.

5) Anaheim Ducks

If it weren’t for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Ducks would have been the runaway number one seed in the west. Despite the presence of the Blackhawks, it was thought by experts that they would still make the Stanley Cup Finals. However, they were eliminated in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings. Fortunately for the Ducks, they bring back most of their roster this season. That should make it easier for Anaheim to repeat the success that they had during the last regular season.

Each season comes with its own set of drama and storylines. While last season may have been a disappointment for the teams on this list, there is always a chance to turn things around this season. The fans of all 30 teams are hoping that this is the year that their team finally wins the Stanley Cup. For these five teams in particular, there is a sense of urgency to prove that last season was a fluke.

Resources:

  1. 2013-2014 NFL Season Wiki
  2. NHL Shop at FansEdge.com
  3. 2013-14 Schedule

Five Ways Realignment Benefits The NHL

nhl-realignment-2013-new

The NHL is finally implementing a realignment strategy this season that it has been pushing for since 2011. Now that the lockout is over and a full slate of games is on tap this year, fans will see the new alignment in action for the first time in 2013. What are some of the benefits to the NHL and to the fans?

1) Detroit Is Happy

Detroit has been promised a move out of the Western Conference since 1997. The Red Wings wanted to move east because it makes no sense for a team close to the eastern time zone to have to play as far west as Vancouver. This season, they will play against teams such as Columbus, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. When one of the premiere teams in the league is happy, the rest of the league is happy.

2) New Rivalries Can Be Created

It is hoped that increased competition between teams such as Columbus and Pittsburgh can lead to new rivalries occurring. In addition, teams such as Winnipeg will be able to renew their rivalries with teams such as Edmonton and Calgary. This will boost ticket sales in all three markets. For a team such as Winnipeg, they need all the help they can get playing in such a small market.

3) Divisional Rivalries Matter In The Postseason

The first two rounds of the playoffs will feature games between divisional rivals. This means that Boston and Buffalo will see each other more often in the postseason as well Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Tampa Bay and Florida are two other teams that could be meeting in the postseason if they both make it in the same year. This adds meaning to games in the regular season and could make playoff series even more intense than they already are.

4) Expansion Can Take PlaceĀ 

Currently, there are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference. This imbalance is assumed to be the result of expansion that is anticipated to take place in the near future. Cities such as Seattle, Washington; Hamilton, Ontario and Quebec City, Quebec are all in the running for expansion franchises. If the league does expand to 32 teams, it allows the league to go back to places where it is already popular. This creates a situation where the league can expand revenues.

5) Fans In Ohio Don’t Have To Stay Up Until 10p.m

Fans of teams such as the Columbus Blue Jackets don’t have to stay up way past their bedtime to watch their favorite team play. This is important because the Blue Jackets are a team that has struggled to catch on. Now that they are one of the league’s rising teams, it is important that fans are able to watch them on TV. With more games starting earlier in the evening, it is possible for kids to watch the games as well as adults who may have to be at work early in the morning.

Realignment brings many possibilities to the NHL. It allows the league to expand, creates new rivalries and brings teams into a better geographical structure. No longer will Detroit have to go play in Vancouver while Buffalo doesn’t have to travel any farther than Tampa Bay for a game. As the fans get used to it, they will enjoy being able to watch their teams play at a normal time against teams that are natural geographic rivals. If anything, this could push the popularity of the NHL to the next level.

The Blackhawks Beat the Bruins for Championship Number 5

blackhawks-stanley-cup-championship-2013

The Chicago Blackhawks hockey team busted out of the gates right from the season’s start and never seemed to slow down. We will certainly not soon forget their 24 game unbeaten streak followed by weeks of steady play, especially on defense. Throughout the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks were once again very steady and got to the Finals by escaping the veteran grasps of the Detroit Red Wings. With a long, grueling seven game series out of their way, they got by last year’s champions the LA Kings in five games.

The finals matchup of Original 6 teams was no cakewalk for anyone. These two teams had some really hard fought battles and gave NHL fans a treat of a finals. In the end, it was the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Championship series for the fifth time in team history and the second time in as many as four years. The ending of game 6 was nothing less than tremendous as both teams amped up their play towards the end of the game.

The 2013 saw its shares of love and hate moments and these finals were a true testament to the strength of the NHL game. Boston and Chicago delivered NHL professional hockey at its finest and surely us NHL fan can’t wait till next season.

For now, congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks on an outstanding season of play. This team showed the true heart and grit of Champions and will have the bragging rights till around the same time next year.

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Go Hawks!

Scoring Summary
1st Period CHI – BOS
7:19 Boston Bruins BOS
Chris Kelly 2 (Assists: Tyler Seguin 7, Daniel Paille 5)
0 – 1

2nd Period CHI – BOS
4:24 Chicago Blackhawks CHI
Jonathan Toews 3 (Unassisted)
1 – 1

3rd Period CHI – BOS
12:11 Boston Bruins BOS
Milan Lucic 7 (Assists: David Krejci 17)
1 – 2
18:44 Chicago Blackhawks CHI
Bryan Bickell 9 (Assists: Jonathan Toews 11, Duncan Keith 11)
2 – 2
19:01 Chicago Blackhawks CHI
Dave Bolland 3 (Assists: Michael Frolik 7, Johnny Oduya 5)
3 – 2
Chicago Chicago
Goalies SA GA SV SV% PIM TOI
Corey Crawford(notes) 25 2 23 .920 0 59:51

What To Make Of The Cheap Shots So Far In The Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Game 3: Anaheim at Detroit

The NHL playoffs are always a time when players take the intensity level up a notch. However, the biggest hits and the majority of the suspensions typically don’t take place in the first round. What can be made of all the hard hitting and unsportsmanlike play so far in the playoffs?

Toni Lydman Will Be Sore For Awhile

In Game 3 of the series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Anaheim Ducks, Ducks defenseman Toni Lymdan was the recipient of a vicious hit from Justin Adbelkader of the Red Wings. The result of that hit was a two game suspension for the winger and an uncertain future for Lydman. Although Abdelkader was trying to get his team to play with some energy in a pivotal game in the series, his antics backfired. The Ducks would score just 18 seconds into the ensuing power play and get a 4-0 victory in that game.

Why Did It Happen?

In this case, the Detroit Red Wings are struggling to stay competitive as they get older. They are a desperate team that doesn’t have a lot of depth anymore. Therefore, they need to play with intensity if they hope to compete. As the series moves forward, it will be interesting to see if it changes the complexion of the series.

Eric Gryba Levels Lars Eller With An Elbow

Although it could have been a lot worse for Eller, Eric Gryba of the Ottawa Senators was still suspended for two games for knocking Lars Eller of the Montreal Candiens out of Game 1 of their series. This is one of those plays that you see a lot of during the playoffs because everyone is playing uptight and clogging the middle of the ice. As the announcer admitted, Eller should have never received the pass that forced him to put his head down just before he got it.

Why Is It Such A Big Story?

Mostly, it is a big story because Gryba used his elbow to hit a player with his head down. Otherwise, it would have been a clean hit on a player trying to defend his ground. It looks like that hit hasn’t changed the series too much as Gryba is now finished with his suspension and eligible to play again.

The Fans Are Getting Into The Act

The rough play and extra intensity spills over to the fans as well. As most people know, the Boston Marathon was the setting for a terrorist attack that killed two people and injured dozens more. As a result, Boston Strong has become a slogan and rallying cry for the city of Boston. However, before Toronto’s first home playoff game since 2003, a Toronto fan held a sign that read Toronto Stronger on it. The reaction to the sign has been mixed.

Why Would A Fan Do That?

Although it is probably in bad taste, it is doubtful that the fan was trying to do anything more than rile up the Boston players. While people have the right to be offended, it is most likely a case of someone making a bad pun or thinking he was clever using a play on words. It certainly doesn’t represent Toronto or their fans in the least.

If this is what the first round of the playoffs have to offer, there is going to be a lot more drama as the games get more serious. Fans can expect a lot of great stories, drama and more big hits as the NHL marches closer to awarding one team with the Stanley Cup.

Stanley Cup links: 2013 Stanley Cup gear, Stanley Cup Schedule, NHL Fighting Rules