The 2013 NHL season is no longer an 82 game marathon, but instead is a 48 game dash to the finish line.
Will teams that had multiple players skating in Europe fair better? Will veteran squads win because they will have fresh legs all season long? Only the next few months will tell.
Here are my Eastern Conference power rankings.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins – A healthyEvgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby will lead Pittsburgh deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The addition of veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun gives Coach Dan Bylsma a solid option if Marc-Andre Fleury falters.
For one night, normalcy was restored in the hockey world.
As the "Fire Bettman" and "We want hockey" chants rained down to the Art Dorrington Ice Rink on Saturday evening at the Boardwalk Hall, people got a sense that this lockout just has to end.
For one night, Flyers, Rangers, Devils and even a few Penguins and Islanders fans were united with a select handful of other fans in Atlantic City's historic Boardwalk Hall. They were there for Operation Hat Trick, a charity game featuring 90% of the Atlantic Division's current and former star players, all still active in the NHL.
In all, 10,792 fans showed up, selling out the venue. It was the first sellout for a hockey event in Atlantic City since 1933.
So the Islanders have made it to the semi-finals. Some probably doubted the team's ability to make it this far, especially when competing with some of the biggest stars in the league. But it comes down to these next few days to see whether or not they will be competing in the final round.
That is, of course, for the cover of EA Sports' NHL 2013. John Tavares so far has eliminated Jordan Eberle in the first round and Pavel Datsyuk in the second round. Currently Tavares is facing off against Pekka Rinne, the starting goaltender for the Nashville Predators. Rinne might be tough for JT to beat, considering he received more votes than New York Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.
2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Eastern Conference FinalNew York Rangers ( 1 ) vs. New Jersey Devils ( 6 ) It's always fun when rivals meet in the playoffs. Penguins vs. Flyers. Habs vs. Bruins. Canucks vs. Blackhawks. Bad blood makes for good hockey, and more importantly, good television. Even better when it's late in the playoffs, like this year's Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. The best word to describe the feelings between these two teams is probably "bad blood", but then again that word pretty much sums up any match-up in the Atlantic Division. There's a lot at play here. Location. Histo...
As hockey fans gear up for the Western and Eastern Conference Finals, a few common themes among the remaining teams resonates: trap style play, tight checking, and a reliance on elite goaltending. Every year after the Stanley Cup is lifted, the champs are analyzed as to why they won, and other teams then spend time scouting youngsters and spend cap space on UFAs that resemble the Cup winning roster. The NHL is definitely a copy cat league. For the past five years, teams have been trying to mimic the style of play of the Red Wings, Penguins, and Blackhawks. After all, why wouldn't want you to copy what wins? But take a look at the puck possession-like teams that are eliminated: Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, Vancouver, Pittsburgh. Both Conference Finals will send shock waves through the NHL, and the Red Wings better be paying attention.
After Mike Babcock's puck possession team lost to the Oilers in '06, their style of play didn't change at the root, however; they were told me be more physical and work harder in the dirty areas. That paid off the next three years by making to the Conference Finals in '07, Winning it all in '08, and coming within 1 goal at a chance to win it all again in '09. Now, it sure seems Red Wing hockey needs to be re-evaluated. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock should be watching every game of the playoffs from here on out. The Western Finals have been settled, and it will feature the Phoenix Coyotes and the LA Kings. These two teams skate hard, trap, are defensively responsible, and heavily rely on their goaltenders to steal games. (By the way, is it not a coincidence that the year Phoenix lets Bryzgalov go they make it this far? He's never been a proven playoff goalie, and probably never will be.) The same goes in the East; The Devils (who are the definition of the trap) are waiting to face either the New York Rangers or the Washington Capitals. The Rangers have consistently been a defensively disciplined team with a couple of decent scoring lines, but overall block tons of shots and make things easy for their world class goalie Henrik Lundquist. The Capitals on the other hand, were born a puck possession team when they inherited forwards Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin. Since Dale Hunter took over as head coach, he has somehow got them to play a style of hockey whereby no all-stars are praised, but an entire team can reap rewards from teamwork. Players like Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, and Joel Ward are laying their bodies on the line for their coach, and Ovechkin is learning a valuable lesson.
2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Eastern Conference SemifinalsNew York Rangers ( 1 ) vs. Washington Capitals ( 7 ) It's not surprising that the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals got to the second round, it's how the got here. The Rangers were taken to the bring of elimination against an eighth seeded Ottawa Senators team who, let's face it, probably had no business being in the playoffs in the first place. The Capitals were not favorites in their series against the Boston Bruins, and had their own troubles on their way to a 7th place finish in the regular season, but with the talent they had, and a ridiculous hot rookie goaltender in Braden Holtby they d...
Not a lot of people expected the Ottawa Senators to be one of only two Canadian teams that managed to make the playoffs this season. In fact, in the "normal" NHL universe, the Canadiens and Sens would probably be in each others positions. The Sens started the season with people assuming they were at the beginning of a rebuild, with GM Bryan Murray half-blowing things up the prior off-season. But then something happened. The Sens top players started playing like... well... top players. Alfredsson was on his game as rumors of retirement grew bigger and bigger. Jason Spezza became a dominant center once again. And the...
This week, much to the sadness and/or delight of many Canadiens' fans, is the last of 2011-12. Last week, the Habs surrendered all three of their games, two in the shootout and one in regulation time against the Rangers.
It was a frustrating night for the Detroit Red Wings...again.
Ryan Callahan scored the OT winner with a perfect assist from Michael Del Zotto to give the Wings their sixth consecutive loss. So what went wrong?
The Wings showed a poor display of defense tonight, especially in the third period, leaving Callahan with 8 total shots on goal. The Wings also looked very slow in the third, leaving Ty Conklin virtually all by himself in the net.
But that wouldn't phase Conklin too much as he had 32 saves along with .942 save percentage in the game. Safe to say he was the Wings strongest player tonight.
The Wings were scored on in their first penalty kill attempt, but th...