Boston vs Toronto Game 7 Preview

The TD Garden crowd better be loud tonight. If they’re not and certain players for the Bruins remain invisible; the Bruins faithful won’t have a chance to be loud again until next fall.

It’s hard to believe the Boston Bruins would be going into a game seven against the Toronto Maple leafs tonight. Many in the hockey world saw this being an easy series for the Bruins. It started off that way, as they cruised to a 3-1 series lead. However, unlike the Bruins star offensive weapons, the Maple Leafs would not go away.

Following back to back scores of 2-1 and stellar play by the James Reimer it all comes down to tonight. Reimer has been incredible in his last two games stopping
 72 out of 74 shots. Phil Kessel has tilled three goals to this point, and none bigger than last nights game winner.

The Leafs forcing of a game seven can’t be attributed to their newfound better player. Some of the onus falls onto the Boston Bruins themselves who have seen star players disappear for a better part of this series.

Last game Brad Marchand tallied his first shot since game four. The little ball of hate has been the little ball of nothing this series. He was been unable to get under the Leafs skin, or to create scoring chances for the Bruins. Marchand isn’t the only problem. Tyler Seguin has zero points this series. While he has had numerous chances his lack of finishing is cost the Bruins dearly.

This game seven cannot be won by the Bruins if they rely on the same three man show of Zdeno Chara, David Krecji, and Tuukka Rask. These have been the only players who have shown up game in and game out.

Bruins fans want to believe that game seven on home ice will be their saving grace. Yet, numbers don’t lie. Outside of the Stanley Cup run, game number seven at the Garden has been less that fruitful for the team.

In a battle of Jekyll and Hyde teams, which personality for which team will show up tonight? That is the biggest question.
-Brandon Hebert-

Capitals Rangers Game 7 Preview

Monday night we enter a huge day for 2 NHL Eastern Conference teams. The 6th seeded New York Rangers head to Washington to play the 3rd seeded Capitals at the Verizon Center for Game 7 of round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Early in the series we saw the Caps push to a 2 games to nothing lead, only to see the Rangers come back and win the next 2 games and tie the series. Game 5 took overtime, as Mike Ribeiro proved to be the hero, scoring a loose puck goal in front of the net to put his Capitals back on top the series.Sunday in Game 6 was a defensive battle won by the Rangers 1-0, behind a 27 save shutout by Rangers goalie, Henrik Lundquist. The series currently stands tied at 3-3 and whoever gets it done tonight in Game 7 will grant themselves a 2nd round playoff berth.

Both teams have been very inconsistent thus far in the series, losing two games back to back, then winning two games in a row, losing another, and then winning the next, either way, the outcome for tonight’s game is nearly unpredictable at this point.

 For the Rangers to get it done, they will need another stellar performance from goaltender, Henrik Lundquist. If he can keep the Caps offensive production to a minimum, it will give his Rangers a chance to battle their way to another game most likely decided by a difference of only one goal. With the exception of Game 1, each game has had a one goal differential between either team, and two games have gone to overtime.

For the Caps to find success in Game 7, they will need to see their captain, Alex Ovechkin, take over and dominate the game in all aspects. Ovechkin has not scored since Game 1, and will need to again if he wants to see his team in the second round. The story all year for the Caps has been their successful powerplay. In Game 6, the Caps saw 0 powerplays, and scored 0 goals. In return, they also spent 10 minutes killing penalties. It’s no secret that staying out of the box against the Capitals will decline your goals against tally. On the other hand, if the Caps can capitalize during even strength with as many opportunities as they have the ability to create, New York will have many other problems to worry about, and won’t be able to keep up with the same amount of offensive production that the Capitals can.

A huge factor in tonight’s game will be home ice advantage. The home team has won each game thus far in the series, and Game 7 will be in Washington. In any case home ice is an advantage, and tonight's game is a prime example, based on the history of the first 6 games. There is no doubt tonight will be battle, and both teams will come out very beaten up physically, but one team will move on none the less. Expect a low scoring game decided by one goal, excusing an empty net if the opportunity arises, and maybe even overtime.
-JM Piotrowski--


Chicago's Chances Moving Forward.

As the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, more and more upsets are brewing each night. The Western Conference’s Northwest Division Champion, Vancouver Canucks, saw their season end quite abruptly, when they were swept, in 4 games, by the 6th seeded San Jose Sharks after losing a 4-3 decision in overtime Tuesday night.

For Chicago Blackhawks fans, this is music to their ears. The Vancouver/Chicago rivalry has become quite a battle since Chicago’s Stanley Cup run in the ’09-’10 season, where the Blackhawks defeated the Canucks in the Western Conference Semi-Finals winning 4 games to 2. In the following year, the two teams met in round 1 of the playoffs. Vancouver went up early in the series 3 games to none, only to see their opponent come soaring back to even it at 3 games each. Game 7 took overtime for a final decision, as Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows scored on slap shot to end Chicago’s comeback, and move his Canucks on to the next round.

At this point in the season, every game a team plays will be a battle for at least 60 minutes, as we have already seen many games head to overtime. The Chicago Blackhawks currently hold a 3 games to 1 lead over the Minnesota Wild, which will continue back in Chicago for Game 5 on Thursday night. The top seeded Blackhawks have not yet lost at home this post-season, and carried an 18-3-3 record at home during the regular season. Minnesota fans, you could be in trouble…

Behind a shutout victory from Blackhawks goaltender, Corey Crawford, on Tuesday night, the Hawks depth only increases. For example, Blackhawks 4th liners Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger both logged over 11 minutes on Tuesday nights 3-0 win over the Wild. Of course, fan favorites Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa continue to produce, as they have provided a combined 13 points over the past 4 games. The defense continues to shine as the Blackhawks have only allowed 6 goals thus far in the series, and hope to continue along that path as they head home for a potential series clinching game Thursday night.

For their success to continue, look for the captain, and 2010 Stanley Cup Finals MVP, Jonathan Toews, to pick up his scoring. Toews is without a point through 4 games in this year’s playoffs. Luckily, the Blackhawks have not been affected too much by Toew’s slow start, as they have found offense from centerman, and recently acquired veteran, Michal Handzus, who assisted the game winning goal Tuesday night. Handzus is also a great competitor in the face-off circle, winning more than 65% of his draws each night.

The Chicago Blackhawks are an early favorite here in the 2013 shortened season, and have seemed to be virtually unstoppable at certain points this year. They are the league’s President’s Trophy winner, and will have home ice through the rest of the playoffs, which will be a huge key to their success as they arrive to play each night. It takes 16 wins to be crowned a Stanley Cup Champion, and with one more, the Chicago Blackhawks will be ¼ of the way there, to repeat what they did in 2010.

-JM Piotrowski


Will The Stadium Series Kill NHL Outdoor Games?

When the 2014 Winter Classic once again became official between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings NHL fans were once again happy. This is the type of Winter Classic we have all waited for. Two original six franchises facing off in one of the most historic venues in United States sports history. What more could we ask for?

Turns out what the NHL thought what we could ask for is five more outdoor games. Of those five, two are certain head scratchers. The biggest of the group is the one that will take place at Dodger Stadium between The Anaheim Ducks and The Los Angeles Kings. This just screams of Gary Bettman's NHL. Two non traditional hockey markets in southern California get to return to their roots and play and outdoor game in 70 degree weather. Wait, that doesn't sound right.

It can be argued that California is becoming a hockey hotbed. This game showcases the two  teams from the state that have won Lord Stanley's Cup. Yet, the hockey purist in most people can't bear to think of this game. You think of the Winter classic what comes to mind is the ice cold breath of skaters lined up for the face off. One invisions coaches behind the bench adorning a fedora and a vintage leather jacket. Majestic images of Sidney Crosby celebrating a shootout goal through falling snow comes to mind. All of this is impossible with an outdoor game in sunny California.

However, it isn't just that thought alone that brings down the lore of the outdoor game it's now the sheer volume of them. It was a once a year spectacle, it was the must see regular season game of the year. Expect now it's just another date on the calendar. Sure Rangers fans will be happy as they get to see their team play two games in three nights at Yankee stadium, but what about the rest of the fans?

These fans that will now have seen Sidney Crosby in three outdoor games. The fans that will have witnessed the Chicago Blackhawks in two outdoor games that have both taken place in Chicago. What vintage jersey can these teams come up with now? What rivalry takes place in this game? Questions that cannot be answered are the worst type. Because those questions are what makes the once a year Winter Classic so great.

Seeing the Red Wings and Maple Leafs outfitted in sweaters that remind the old fans of the days of yore. The sweaters that instill a vintage feel for the young fans of the present; just adds to the magic of the game. Where is the magic in seeing regular jerseys, regular teams, on multiple nights? It just disappears.

Gary Bettman and the NHL want to market their cash cow, but by doing it this way the market will dry up sooner than they think.


Senators Vs Canadiens Game 3 (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

It's hard to believe the Montreal Canadiens team that showed up tonight was the same from game two. Listless, heartless, classless are some words that come to mind to describe this what happened tonight. The Canadiens were beaten and beaten up losing 6-1 but that isn't the story of the game.

The Good
Jean-Gabriel Pageau- Players like to make a statement in the playoffs especially rookie players. Tonight he made one. Pageau was a plus three, and scored his first career playoff hattrick. The only thing missing from him tonight was a tooth. His speed his shot his smarts everything was on point for him tonight.

Craig Anderson- It's going to be hard for Montreal to win this series when he plays as well as he did this evening. He makes the stops that he has to. The same cannot be said for his counterpart Carey Price. Montreal peppered him for 34 shots and was only bested once. This is the performance you need from a number one goaltender. It appears that Montreal's four goal output in game two was just a minor deviation from the norm, and won't happen again.

Paul MacLean- He was the epitome of what you want from an NHL head coach. He had the right players on the ice when Montreal looked to get overly physical. He protected his players at the end of the game. Above all else he made the Canadiens look like fools in his post game interview just by using their own actions against them. He could be up for the Jack Adams trophy this season, this game showed that.

The Bad
The Montreal Canadiens- This team was doomed from the start. When PK Subban berated Max Pacioretty for a "F***king suicide pass" you knew down was the only direction this team could go. David Desharnais was along for the ride tonight, other than his 19:01 time on ice stat you would have had no idea he was playing.
Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty you earned respect points for playing though injury but it's time to swallow your pride and sit. The hockey world appreciates grit and toughness, but your fan and team don't when you're a hinderance to the outcome.

The Ugly
The Line Brawl- Fighting always was and always will be a part of the game. There are people in the world that have a problem with it. This blogger is not one of them. What I do have a problem with is a team instigating one when they have no right to. The series was building to it. Countless scrums, off ice comments, and then a blow out score you knew it was coming. When it came, everyone already knew the result. The Canadiens toughness has been a problem for awhile now. When the gloves were off and the gauntlet was thrown down there was no player that could respond. Players on other teams that fill this role are better than the ones Montreal has. It was a gongshow for Montreal tonight, they should be ashamed.

The Canadiens future in this series- This is the type of game that can destroy a team. When you get beaten in every facet of the game it's hard to recover. From letting in six goals to posting a goose egg in the fighting win department it's hard to find a positive. Michel Therrien did a masterful job regrouping his team for game two. Tuesday night we'll see if he can work his magic again.


Safety Through Danger. (Why Banning Fighting Isn't the Answer)

In the last 10 years the number of concussions have increased significantly. The NHL has seen some of its biggest stars sidelined due to it. Another increasing trend in the NHL is fighting. In just this season alone there has been a 20 percent increase. There are people in the hockey world who want attribute these two facts to one another. However, those people would be wrong.

When delving further into situation at hand one must take into account what is happening in the league itself. In the old days, concussions were simply “getting your bell rung.” A player would shake it off and return to the game no more than five shifts later. Todays NHL however doesn’t have the same old school mantra. Players must sit out 15 minutes players must pass a concussion test before returning to the game.
This ability to better diagnose concussions is the reason for the increase in league concussions, and that is a good thing for the NHL. What wouldn’t be a good thing is associating this fact with fighting and removing it from the game.

A study by Dr. David Milzman and his colleagues viewed 710 NHL fights; out of those there were only 17 injuries. That equals players getting hurt in less than two percent of fights.  A different study showed that players most susceptible are centermen, not wingers, defenseman or enforcers.

Yet people who clamor for the banning of fighting in hockey want it believed that those enforcers are most at risk. To feed their rhetoric they used the unfortunate deaths of Rick Rypien, Wade Belak, and Derek Boogaard as fuel for their fire. Time proved that the three were coincidental tragedies , and in no way related to the job they held while playing professional hockey.

It is that job in hockey that keeps not only the number of concussions down, but also the number of total injuries down as well. Yet in the 1993 season enforcers found it incredibly hard for them to do their job. The NHL issued the instigator rule.

This rule led to the rise of the rats. Players Like Matt Cooke, Raffi Torres, and Patrick Kaleta, have injured numerous players and one ended Marc Savard’s career. How they play is on the edge of the rules, fighting makes these players accountable. However, with the instigator rule these players don’t have to fight, and can flourish in their roles.

The fact that those players are allowed to play at the top of their game with little consequences feeds the NHL’s injury epidemic. Suspensions can only last for so long, especially when the NHLPA fights for the players right to fair suspensions.

It’s not just instigator rule that adds to the rise of players getting injured, it’s the game itself. Players are now bigger and faster, and the rules in place are designed from them to be even faster.

No redline, no hooking and holding, the game is sped up to a pace that was never seen before. Players are getting hurt just cutting across the ice, and not even on hits just plain incidental contact.

These rules were put in place to make the game more exciting, yet they made the game more dangerous. Fundamentally changing the game, and taking out fighting will have the same effect.

Hockey is a dangerous game, played by grown men at close quarters with extreme physicality. This physicality leads to big hits, high emotions, and cheap shots. All players know the risk they take when the lace up their skates. They know a hit can end a career faster than a fight. Just ask Marc Savard. Fighting keeps the players honest, and the game clean.