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.
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.
Heading into the third game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Philadelphia Flyers have momentum on their side. Despite trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins by two goals or more in the first two games, the resilient group battled back in both and have taken a 2-0 series lead.
On Sunday, the two teams will meet for Game 3. The Flyers have already established their dominance over the Penguins, and have done so in dramatic fashion. They will be looking to make it three wins in a row, while the Penguins will hope to find their footing and earn their first victory of the series.
The Flyers had a 2-1 record against the Penguins at home and a 22-13-6 record overall in the Wells Fargo Center during the regular season, while Pittsburgh had a 22-15-4 road record.
Pittsburgh was the 2nd highest-scoring team on the road this season with 127 goals, while the Flyers were the 3rd highest-scoring home team with 139.
It has been a wild start to the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. After two games, the series is heading to Philadelphia, with the Flyers up 2-0.
The Flyers’ offense has undoubtedly been a huge factor in the first two games of the series. Another big factor, one that has been overlooked, is the play of netminder Ilya Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov has given up eight goals in just two games, but those numbers don’t speak to his full performance and contributions.
He gave up three goals in the first period of Game 1, but shut the Penguins down for the next two periods. In Game 2, Bryzgalov gave up three goals in the first period, but held the Penguins to just two more during the rest of the game.
( 4 ) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs. ( 5 ) PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Bloodbath. That's the word that Flyers forward Scott Hartnell used to describe the mindset of these two teams heading into this series. Some of us here at The Checking Line may be proponents of pacifism and the reduction of violence in hockey, but even we get a kick about what's probably going to happen between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in this first round match-up. The two teams set up their series in a game in the final week of the season, and if that was any indication, this one shouldn't disappoint. Expect a lot of violence, lots of scoring, contr...
The stage has been set, and the opponents have been decided: the Philadelphia Flyers (47-29-9) will be facing the Pittsburgh Penguins (50-29-6) in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Based on games played by both teams on Thursday night, Pittsburgh will end the season in 4th place and the Flyers in 5th in the Eastern Conference.
The New York Rangers clinched the East with a win over the Flyers on Tuesday night.
On Saturday, the Flyers and Penguins will meet in Pittsburgh for the last game of the regular season. It will be a preview of the playoff series to come, and will likely be an interesting game, based on the last matchup between the teams.
After a season full of some defensive woes and a couple of weeks’ worth of trade discussions, the Philadelphia Flyers (32-18-7) made a move to improve on the blue line and acquired defenseman Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars.
Grossman will make his Flyers debut on Saturday afternoon when the team faces off against the Pittsburgh Penguins (32-20-5) for the third time this season.
Based on Friday’s practice, Grossman will probably be paired with Andrej Meszaros on defense.
All eyes will be on him and on the Flyers’ defensive core as a whole, as their struggles have been greatly publicized so far this season.
We should probably preface all of this by declaring that, outside of Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens probably didn't deserve to win tonight (Jeez, haven't heard THAT before, eh?).
The Habs played a sloppy and inconsistent game against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre tonight, and the end result was a 4-3 overtime loss against what was obviously a better team.
That's what should have been the game story following tonight's game. Instead, we're left to sift through the wreckage of the hockey equivalent of a nuclear missile. No, the story of tonight's game wasn't Carey Price's amaz...
59 seconds of icetime was all it took before the hockey world knew that “Sid the Kid” was not merely healthy – he was officially back.
Taking a pass from Pascal Dupuis at centre ice at the start of his second shift, Pittsburgh Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby flew into the offensive zone like a man possessed once the puck arrived on his blade. After blowing the doors off of helpless defenceman Andrew MacDonald, he fired a backhander with a level of speed and accuracy that outweighed many players’ best shots on their forehand, making no mistake in rifling the puck into the upper portion of rookie Anders Nilsson’s net.
When the puck drops for Monday night’s matchup, the New York Islanders will officially become a part of the biggest milestone in Sidney Crosby’s comeback.
The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Sunday evening that Crosby will be playing in his first game since suffering a concussion on January 5th, which was the second of that week for him. This comes after months of speculation and rumors ranging from being ready on opening night to contemplating retirement.
The Islanders have really fallen on hard times as of late, and it seems to have come to a head after their embarrassing home effort on Saturday night, where they dropped a 6-0 decision to the Boston Bruins. If t...