Final night time marked the tip of the primary NHL season for the reason that strike/lockout of 2004-2005. The Stanley Cup playoffs -- arguably essent
Final night time marked the tip of the primary NHL season for the reason that strike/lockout of 2004-2005. The Stanley Cup playoffs — arguably essentially the most thrilling event in sports activities — start Friday night time, however will anyone be watching, aside from Don Cherry and Barry Melrose?
Whereas attendance was up in 75% of NHL arenas this season, the game continues to wrestle to draw new followers. The league has slipped to No. 5 in recognition for a lot of, behind the NFL, NBA, MLB and NASCAR.
The Good Previous Days
Again within the days when the NHL was on nationwide TV two or three nights every week, it was simple to get into the sport. There have been all the time nice gamers and nice groups to maintain us . The rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens within the ’70s was as intense because the Purple Sox-Yankees rivalry is now. Wayne Gretzky and the nice Edmonton groups of the ’80s had been superb to observe, and Mario Lemieux’s dominance and Mark Messier’s resurrection of the New York Rangers stored us going by way of the ’90s.
There are a bunch of younger gamers right now who needs to be garnering our accolades, however due to a scarcity of publicity and poor advertising and marketing by the league, these would-be family names are after-thoughts within the sportsbook activities world. Everyone knows Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic and Teemu Selanne, however how many people know Eric Staal (100 factors), Ilya Kovalchuk (52 targets) and Brian Gionta (46 targets)?
Some superb accomplishments had been achieved this season, together with the Detroit Purple Wings’ astounding 124 factors (fifth-best complete in league historical past), rookies Sidney Crosby of the Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Capitals each topping the 100-point mark, and Jonathan Cheechoo changing into the primary Native American (known as First Nations folks in his native Canada) to win the goal-scoring title with 56.
All the time
There’s one group of followers that’s concerned with nearly each recreation in each sport — the gamblers. Hockey historically has been a terrific sport to wager on, particularly early within the season. The oddsmakers usually have a tough time handicapping the game that they don’t seem to be that acquainted with, leaving gamblers loads of alternative for straightforward cash. With that in thoughts, right here is how the primary spherical of the NHL playoffs shapes up on this gambler’s thoughts:
Detroit and Dallas are in acquainted positions atop the Western Convention standings. The Purple Wings, who grew to become the primary workforce in 10 years to undergo a whole season with out being shutout, ought to rating early and infrequently as they dismantle the Edmonton Oilers within the first spherical. Detroit wins in a sweep.
Colorado is all the time a tricky out, however the Avalanche dropped Three straight and Four of their final 5 to finish the season. The Stars’ stingy protection would be the distinction in a low-scoring sequence. Dallas wins Four video games to 1.
Calgary with possible Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff in web shouldn’t have any downside eliminating Anaheim in 6 video games.
The opposite first-round Western Convention matchup could also be the perfect of all. Nashville completed the season profitable 6 straight, together with the season finale vs. Detroit, and posted the league’s greatest house report at 32-8-1. San Jose options Hart Trophy candidate and the league’s main scorer Joe Thornton, together with the aforementioned Cheechoo. Search for a high-scoring, entertaining sequence with the Sharks profitable a seventh recreation in Nashville.
Champs Nonetheless Alive
Over within the Jap Convention, the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning staved off late costs from Toronto and Atlanta to seize the eighth spot. The champs face multiple-time first-round loser Ottawa to start their protection of the title, and the Senators are ripe for an upset once more. Ottawa limped into the playoffs, ending 2-4-2 in its final Eight video games. The lack of Dominik Hasek hasn’t helped, both. Tampa wins Four video games to 2.
Carolina, regardless of being shutout in its final recreation and dropping to the No. 2 seed, needs to be robust to beat. Montreal’s rookie goalie Cristobal Huet got here out of nowhere to publish a powerful 2.14 GAA and a league-leading .930 save proportion. He can have a tricky process in attempting to decelerate the Hurricanes’ high-scoring offense. Carolina advances in 7.
The Rangers-Devils needs to be a enjoyable one for the New York followers. New Jersey is the most well liked workforce within the league. The Devils scored Three targets within the third interval to finish a 4-Three comeback final night time towards the Canadiens for his or her 11th straight victory. The win clinched the Atlantic Division for New Jersey, which trailed Philadelphia by 19 factors on Jan. 6. With momentum and expertise on their facet, the Devils will maintain down Jagr and get rid of New York in 5 video games.
The final first-round sequence options the upstart Buffalo Sabres vs. the Philadelphia Flyers, who should be dissatisfied that they didn’t maintain on to win the division. The important thing to this sequence would be the well being of Flyers star middle Peter Forsberg. If he could make it by way of your complete sequence, Philly has an opportunity, however Buffalo’s hard-hitting protection gained’t make it simple for him. Buffalo wins in 7.
Regardless of the consequence, I’m wanting ahead to watching some nice playoff hockey. Nothing matches the depth of sudden dying extra time or the elation and ache of a seventh recreation.