Tag Archives: Ovechkin

National Hockey Lockout

Award for lameness. The lockout will have reverberations in varied degrees depending on its duration. If players are bailing immediately, the fans are sure to follow. Maintaining a billion dollar industry with no provider and no customer won’t hold back a backlash.

NCAA and AHL hockey will see a profit, and those neighbordhood junior leagues will benefit from new spectators. The fans want hockey. The game of hockey is why fans pay to see the game,  not to buy a pretzel and a key chain. Going to a game, supporting your team is tradition for most recalling classic memories. If food and trinkets call you to the game, then you really are not a hockey fan.

This work stoppage has sent Evgeny Malkin and Sergei Gonchar packing for home signing deals with Mettalurg of the Kontinental Hockey League. The Pittsburgh Penguins roster got lighter as Sidney Crosby’s agent made an inquiry to the KHL so Sid the Kid won’t hit a skid this season. Yannick Weber and Mark Streit sign in Switzerland, Christian Ehrhoff heads to Germany, so who will next to send a message to the NHL?  Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin, that’s who. Patrick Berglund will play for free in Sweden and the exodus continues.

Shane Doan’s contract was wrapped up with a 4-year deal in Phoenix as the Coyotes arena deal looked positive and possible. Now, that’s all gone for those few fans who eagerly anticipated the return of their desert dogs.

The owners are the only people who really want this lockout. They lose money but hope to gain. This tactic is a way to keep the lid on grandstanding in the future with ludicrous multi-year contracts that escalate as the player deflates. Even NHL players are expendable. Perhaps this is a passive technique to rid the tough guy world of whiners and embellish-makers.

It’s a bittersweet farewell to NHL veterans Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson who will not get a grand farewell if the season isn’t salvaged.

We’ll all laugh about this went the lockout gives way by November, right? We’ll all be cautious and snagging some of those promotional tickets the NHL teams will have to fork over to win back the loyal.

The lockout is lame because it’s the same issue in any workplace- administration vs. staff. Rarely do the two sides ever see the same problem or the same solution. Negotiation must end on a win-win, and that is not happening soon at any percentage rate.

Gary Bettman and Bill Daly will forego salaries this season, and the NHL employees will go to a 4-day work week to save money. The Florida Panthers let go of their mascot and the damages to the profits continue. What was the point of all of this again?

Remember these great moments?

or this great moment for the Rangers/Devils fans?


National Hockey Lame. Positives in all of this: no Paulina Gretzky and Nickelback.

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Hockey Chutzpah and the Looney Lockout

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Gary Bettman have infringed on the end of summer and there’s no end in sight. Summer isn’t over, yet hockey fans are wondering if they should pack up the sunscreen and swimsuits just yet for skates and snow gear. Training camp is just weeks away, or is it?

Kudos for  the Russian hockey “activist” Alex Ovechkin for making efforts to save the 2012-13 season and a chance to rebound. Representing the modern hockey god, Sidney Crosby has also put his actions to save the careers of many of his colleagues. Depending on Crosby’s medical clearance, he may not see much of a season despite his efforts.

This is about money, isn’t it? Yes, yes, it is.

Fans have been raging over ticket prices for years. Average Joe attends AHL or college games. Average Joe does not enjoy sitting in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena or Madison Square Garden. Really, they don’t. The real competition is the affiliates and training/development programs that feed into the NHL that will benefit from a lockout.

Let’s not even talk about the KHL or European leagues where many snubbed NHL players are making their livelihood.

The proposal is to spread the wealth. Successful teams needs to help the fledglings so the money is created equal. Slashing salaries of the players and limits to contracts still does not resolve the high cost of being an NHL fan.

As a hockey writer, the lockout will impede the progress made under the direction of…em…Bettman in the media. Tormented and despised, his tactics grew the sport’s popularity and TV deals proving the strategy is working. Authority figures ruining everything is not a new concept, but it’s not the coaches, announcers, trainers or any of the staff who have crippled the season. Ownership and investment calls all the shots and signs the paychecks.

All this is important to hometown hockey hooligans who cannot imagine life without hockey, but they will if a deal cannot be met by Sept. 15.

Crosby debut welcoming to Eastern Conference

Four points have Sidney Crosby back in the game. His debut on Long Island stunned  everyone leaving the Islanders blank. Was he that good or were the Islanders in awe of his return? Crosby’s return to the NHL was covered in the media as the celeb he is, humbled, but the pump was no fake. Sid the Kid delivered.

Meanwhile, in Washington the Caps are having Alex problems. When Alex Semin is a healthy scratch and Ovie lacks, where is the love in D.C? Good time to trade Semin in you fantasy league. Cup predictions for the Caps are in need of some serious tweaking.

The Rangers agitator Avery is back and the Blueshirts are tallying wins like the talented team they really are. If you are following the Brad Richards-Olivia Munn hoopla, then go read Puck Daddy who felt it was newsworthy. If you are a Rangers fan then the Avery bug bit you the most, not the love bug.

Now that the Eastern Conference has their guy back, let’s give some applause to the rest of the Penguins who have maintained the top sport despite playing without their top dog. Pittsburgh is rocking knowing that the Cup could be coming to their town if things hold up.

 

Let the Octopi Fly

The Detroit Red Wings were the first to advance to  the second-round of NHL playoffs. Energized, the Wings swept the Coyotes with the depth in player skill the Wings are known for. The break means rest, which is essential for the Wings as Zetterberg and Franzen will make a return. The Red Wings do it every year and will continue to do so with the type of managment and care for their players. Red Wings fans are happy fans:Lidstrom was nominated for the Norris Trophy and Pavel Datsyuk nominated for a Selke. Jimmy Howard is holding his own and can keep the Sharks out of net to win.

San Jose has been enjoyable to watch, but the LA Kings stalled the Sharks.With Anze Kopitar out, the nimble netminder Quick is just one piece of the puzzle that fits so well in Los Angeles. This team continues to display the type of fan base and talent base to become an elite league leader. Going toe-to-toe with the Sharks was a bit unexpected. The Sharsk are tired, but pumped they made in through to the next round. Sharks defeated the Wings in three of the four games played during the regular season. The Sharks also eliminated the Wings last year in five games. Watch out for Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture as a powerful force on the Sharks.

The Sharks-Wings series will begin Friday in San Jose, with Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Vancouver looked solid and on their way to annihalate the defending champs, but the Hawks found out how to play Luongo for a chance to defedng their turf. Fighting for a first round advancement, Alex Burrows buried the winning puck in net to grab the Canucks the series win, for the second year in a row. Ryan Kesler was also nominated for a Selke for his awesome season. Just like the Sharks, the Canucks got their workout but are propelled by adrenaline.

Nashville holds on to finally seek a Round 2 in the NHL playoffs. Anaheim was a tough hump to bump this season but give credit to Pekke Rinne who look unfazed most nights. Watch Rinne play against any team and the stun gun comes out as his stance rarely flusters. Barry Trotz, one heck of a coach, will see how his team rides the next curve with hometown boy and Hobey Baker winner, Blake Geoffrion. Smashville has smashed on through. This team is building a strong house.

The Vancouver-Nashville series is expected to start Thursday with a 9 p.m. game in Vancouver.

Western Conference final prediction: Detroit vs. Vancouver

I’m taking the Red Wings, because I always do. Vancouver deserves to battle it out with the best.

Ovechkin in, Pens out

Buffalo proved that goaltending does make a difference, but couldn’t surpass the fire of the Flyers. Miller had two shutouts in the series, but the tandem of Boucher and Leighton is brotherly love in true form. This has been a great series with higher scoring numbers. The Flyers wanted it more.

Boston and Montreal had quite a battle, but Boston moves on. Tim Thomas is a stable goaltender who will give the Philly boys a challenge. Boston is a good team, but the Flyers are scrappier.

The Philadelphi Flyers will face the Boston Bruins. The series will start Saturday afternoon at 3 EST. Classic east coast matchup.

Tampa Bay wouldn’t go away. With am 8-2 victory in Game 5 of the Pens-Lightning series, Tampa refused the exodus. That game was the turning point to rid the Pittsburgh Penguins a chance for the Cup. Sidney Crosby will recoup over the summer for a hopeful return in September. Tampa Bay’s victory is good news for the Southeast division and the growing hockey fandom down south. It’s also good for new GM Steve Yzerman. Goalie Dwayne Roloson was a great catch for Yzerman’s Lightining and will square off with the Caps rookie Neuvirth in goal. Tampa didn’t get the break as the Caps did.

Washington took back their spark beating the Rangers convincingly. This season, goalie Neuvirth illustrated his skill as former Calder Cup MVP. And he did it against Lundqvist who is the backbone of the Rangers. With Ryan Callahan out, the Rangers were down a man but the toughness expected of New York sputtered after two OT losses. Washington got a rest before the new clash in the East with their divisional rivals, the Lightining. Caps won 4 of 6 games during the regular season. This is a difficult series to predict.

Tampa will head to Washington on Friday to begin the series at 7 EST.

Eastern Conference final prediction: Tampa Bay vs. Philly

I’m riding the Lightining with their solid cast of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Roloson. While Washington is good, the playoffs cause the Caps to fumble.

Let the playoffs begin…

Congratulations to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, who won the Frozen Four Saturday. It’s the first national championship in men’s hockey for the Bulldogs beating Michigan in overtime, 3-2.

Despite Michigan’s loss, Michiganders still have hope as the Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs as the third seed in the West. Let’s look at the playoff pairings in the Western Conference:

#1 Vancouver vs. #8 Chicago
The Blackhawks eked in from a Dallas loss and will face the winner of the Presidents’ Trophy. Goaltending in Vancouver will be difficult to diffuse as Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider took home the Jennings Trophy for goaltending tandem. Beyond that, the Hawks have their work cut out with Daniel Sedin securing the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer with 104 pts.  The Canucks have an opportunity to win big in the first-round edging closer to the Cup. Chicago has tough talent but has not been as steady through injuries and malaise. The Hawks could make it tough for the Canucks, but Chicago has lost their Mojo. Canucks should wrap up the series, 4-2.

#2 San Jose vs. #7 Los Angeles-
One of the best matchups in the playoffs. A must watch, especially for California viewers. Three teams from the Golden State have made it in illustrating the shift in power from the East to the West. The Sharks are at it again and seem more relaxed as they enter yet another playoff fun. The Kings are a tough crew with some awesome talent who are fun to watch. San Jose players who have upped their game include Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture who have given the Sharks some needed energy. The Sharks look poised this year. The Kings could be a spoiler, but still have some maturing to do. And without Anze Kopitar, the rest of the gang will surely fire back. Sharks could surprise the Kings with a sweep. The question is can Kings goalie Quick maintain his namesake in the series?

#3 Detroit vs. #6 Phoenix-
So many Coyotes fans are from Detroit. The Yotes have something to prove and could be a nasty pest for the Wings. Phoenix fans are pumped for the playoffs. Wings fans are confident, but without Zetterberg in the first game fans are concerned. Depth is key here- the Coyotes have played very well this year, while Detroit has had their ups and downs. Wings will take the series but Phoenix will fight and make it tight. Goaltending is a factor. Bryzgalov and Howard must play the best games of their lives to move on and both are capable. Tight race but Wings move on.

#4 Anaheim vs. #5 Nashville-
It’s the Nashville curse- they get in and lose. Anaheim has struggled but have dynamic players in Cory Perry, the winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer with his 50 goals. The Ducks are fighters and are scrappy. With home-field advantage, the Ducks could easily wipe out the Preds. Perry, Bobby Ryan, Cam Fowler and Ryan Getzlaf will score. Energetic play will keep this series one to watch. Too close to call, but Anaheim has more oomph to take control.

The Eastern Conference is looking extremely tough:

#1 Washington vs. #8 New York Rangers
A must watch for anyone. Ovechkin meets Lundqvist is a slice of heaven for any hockey fan. Washington has not done well in past Stanley Cup runs, but then New York wiped out last year against the Caps despite leading the series. This series will go down to the wire.

#2 Philadelphia vs. #7 Buffalo-
Philly rocked last year and could be heading to the Cup finals if they can hold on. Buffalo has fought to stay in the hunt. Goaltender Ryan Miller has to be top-notch to get past the Flyers. Flyers’ goaltending has been a revolving door. Great playoff history between these two teams will give this series some bite. The Flyers can win if the goaltending is stable and can beat Miller.

#3 Boston vs. #6 Montreal-
Can’t even begin to describe the fierceness of this rivalry, plus the animosity with the Chara-Pacioretty incident. A healing game on some level, but anyone’s game at this point. Price and Thomas are excellent in net, so grab a beer and pop some popcorn for this double-feature. This one will go to the end. Fighting is likely.

#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Tampa Bay-
Without Crosby and Malkin, the Pens have really shown the depth of their bench and that usually wins games. Staal, Talbot and Kennedy will continue the play that has kept them in the hunt. Tampa Bay lacks some playoff experience; however, with Martin St. Louis and Steve Yzerman as elder statesmen the Lightning will make the series tight. Yet, another good exhibition of players and punch and will come down to the wire if the Pens can keep it tight. Tampa Bay can do it if they shut down the Pens momentum.  Fleury is experienced and Roloson pulls out the stops.

Great games ahead and refreshing teams that have made it into the rotation make this year’s Stanley Cup run a must see.  Complete disappointment in Denver though. The Colorado Avalanche tanked this year after a good start. Recently, I saw Kevin Porter and Kyle Quincey on the day of Adam Foote’s retirement and they looked like someone had died. The loss of their captain in a losing year is a bummer. Better luck next year to all the teams who are heading to the golf course.

Kisses from the All-Stars

With a fantasy draft divvying up the All-Star roster, both Eric Staal and Nick Lidstrom became team captains of Team Staal and Team Lidstrom. Hometown fans and Hurricanes’ holler wasn’t enough to pull out the win for Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal’s NHL All-Star team, Team Staal, who lost by a goal to Team Lidstrom. The four-time Stanley Cup champion and six-time winner of the Norris Trophy, Nicklas Lidstrom, led his team to victory over Team Staal, 11-10.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were out with injuries, but we celebrate them all year. This game was a chance for the other players to gain their deserved recognition. And with that, here are a few highlights from the NHL portion in Raleigh, N.C.

Alex Ovechkin made the first goal of the night and the first faux pas for Team Staal. Ovechkin drew the first All-Star penalty shot when he threw his stick in front of the path of Team Lidstrom’s Matt Duchene on a breakaway. Odd play- looks like Ovechkin lost grip or made the sabotage allowing the stick to slide quite a distance on the ice right past the Avalanche forward. Duchene missed the shot against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. If I were a cartoonist, I would have a blast sketching devil horns on Ovechkin and angel wings on Duchene. Or King Henry knighting Duchene as Ovi stretches on the rack.

And now to the defending Stanley Cup Champs time on the ice- Team Staal’s victory was Patrick Sharp winning a new car and named All-Star MVP for his goal and two assists. Chicago Blackhawks teammates, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane claimed the win with Team Lidstrom. Done.

Carolina Hurricane’s forward Jeff Skinner was the youngest NHL All-Star to play in the NHL at 18 years, 259 days, beating Steve Yzerman’s previous record in 1984 by just eight days. Many of the veterans tried to set Skinner up for a goal, but not go. Glad to see Skinner cheered by an awesome group of fans. If anyone doubts that the southeast can support hockey, I beg to differ. Raleigh and Charlotte have made a commitment to hockey playing within the zone of Ovechkin, Byfuglien, and Stamkos. A zone that has not yet been capitalized, teams with low attendance like in Atlanta need to grow or do more marketing. The rumors of Atlanta possibly shifting to Quebec or Winnipeg rouse the loyal in Canada. But if Bettman chooses to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, rather than support the Atlanta Thrashers, the commish must have tee time in Scottsdale often with the NHL players who have retired there.

All-Star games are a celebration of the best talent of the year. Anze Kopitar, Danny Briere and Loui Eriksson scored two apiece for Team Lidstrom. Adding one each were Toews, Dustin Byfuglien, Duchene, Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Staal and Letang each had two goals for Team Staal while Ovechkin Paul Stastny, Patrik Elias, Claude Giroux, Sharp and Rick Nash added the others.

Speed puck champ, Zdeno Chara, had two assists for Team Staal. Chara won the puck speed skill competition with105.9, shattering his old record of 105.4 in 2009.

Meanwhile, in Hershey with dancing mascots of chocolates kisses and a plethora of other chocolate delights, the AHL honored their best-of-the-best. Bobby Butler, leading rookie-goal-scorer of the Binghamton Senators was chosen MVP with a goal, 3 assists and a plus-4 rating. Amazing to note that last year’s AHL MVP was Tyler Ennis who now plays for the Buffalo Sabres, and a few years prior, Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell took the honors.

Bruce Boudreau, Olaf Kolzig and the current AHL President Dave Andrews reminisced on their time in the AHL and the importance of their experience. All commented on the friendships made while playing in the AHL and the torture of travel, notably the 14-hour bus trips from Halifax to Portland. Most AHL players will never get to the NHL, but if you get to play hockey as your job instead of sitting in a cubicle pushing papers, you’ve done good.

NHL All-Snub Game

Hey, NHL All Star Game– are you kidding me? His name is Jimmy Howard and you forgot to send his invitation.

Every year some player, who deserves to go, gets the snub generating drama to hike ratings. Red Wings fans are clambering for some justice. Right behind the Canucks in the Western Conference standings, the under staffing seems odd, yet the Canucks are sending three. With talent on both teams, it is strange that Detroit only has Lidstrom making the trip.  The NHL is bending backwards not to make this a Red Wings show, because they’ve slipped somehow and the injuries cannot look good for Detroit’s case. There is no doubt Howard has done his job and then some (22-7-3).

King Henry deserves a trip to Raleigh to showcase his tremendous skill for the promising New York Rangers but he’s propped up the Rangers for years. Fans of the Los Angeles Kings question the dismissal of goalie Quick, who has lived up to his name but not on the roster of All-Stars. Off to a great start, Quick has softened recently and reflects in his numbers (19-12-1).

The Western Conference rolls out Sharp, Kane, Keith and Toews in the Hawks section, who have the obligatory pass. Can’t snub the Stanley Cup champs. Patrick Sharp has had an outstanding year with 44 points. Vancouver gets a big nod with the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler. The Redemption for the NHL All-Star game this year is Dustin Byfuglien gracing the roster after last year’s snub.

The Staal brothers are well represented minus Jordan. Matt Duchene and rookie Kevin Shattenkirk will be there for the Mile High club. No Stastny listed either. With the absence of Chris Stewart in the line-up, Duchene has become a stronger leader on the ice. Stewart will be there next year or this article will be about that snub.

The NHL All-Star game really isn’t a game, rather a showcase light on the PIMs. Kesler and Backes could throw down for a few and I’d enjoy seeing that. Regards to the rookies who made it including Taylor Hall (EDM), Tyler Seguin (BOS), Cam Fowler (ANA) and Carolina Hurricanes own Jeff Skinner. San Jose’s rookie Logan Couture also made the cut, as he has become quite a catch in fantasy leagues.

Despite the snubs, someone is always forgotten. Semin, Zetterberg and Tavares are the hyped snubs this year. Western teams have excelled in play and popularity. Eastern players sell more jerseys. Since the NHL is based in New York, no stun in how this has been spun. Heading down south, the NHL is placing the southeastern pack in the forefront. Look what that division holds in Ovechkin, Stamkos, and Yzerman as the Bolts GM. Right time, right place. Load up on the BBQ and grits and take a gander at the skills competition, which really is the best part.

NHL Resolutions and Hesitations

The NHL is doing great. As a corporation, the profits and media coverage sit at some of the highest levels in years. With the Winter classic tradition and the jump in viewing numbers for the Stanley Cup playoffs, hockey is doing well in the US. The Hockey News even sported a daring cover recently posing the question- is hockey dying in Canada? Could this be the beginning of an end of hockey dominance?

Sidney Crosby and the Winter Classic was the NHL’s love affair with Crosby. Then Ovechkin is the bad guy in this scenario. Pittsburgh has taken dominance in the hockey world with the likes of the Red Wings and the Rangers. The Capitals are a fantastically talented team with Ovi at the helm. Have they just begun to play with the expectation that they are destined to win the Cup? Entitlement is dangerous territory. Complacency. Ovechkin may just like the other attention he is getting. This may be the year of the Crosby-Stamkos rivalry. Future Winter Classics coming to a beach near you.

Let’s talk the Los Angeles Kings. Captain Dustin Brown has made me a believer in his skills. Then take some Jack Johnson, Anze Kopitar shake it all up and you produce. The talent doesn’t stop there. After the Gretzky project, the Kings fell from grace but have been jolted alive by talented lines at every turn. Quick wears the name well. Lots of hype in LA at the start of the season and the love shows. How about those St. Louis Blues and the Steenster?  Making the playoffs would be a real kick for all those underdog teams.

Please Lou, fix the New Jersey Devils. I can help. When I get to the Shore, I’ll give you a call.

The New York Rangers are back on Broadway as the stars. With Ryan Callahan out, the Rangers have a major player in Brandon Dubinsky- he can fight, score and just carry the swagger of the Blueshirts. Avery is sporting a new and improved image and throwing down like old times. Brandon Prust has awed with varied talent from assists to roughing. King Henry rocks as usual. It’s been a good year for the New York Rangers.

Detroit has some special young talent who are taking their role as a Red Wing seriously. Patrick Eaves is dishing out the goods with a hat-trick. Eaves knows how to win with his dad coaching up in Wisconsin and all. Justin Abdelkader is a Michigan boy, and every kid in Michigan idolized the Wings. He absorbed it all throughout his childhood. Jimmy Howard has raised the bar for goaltenders. Young but well trained, the role of the goaltender has been destabilized by the show of success between the net. One day you’re in and the other you’re out. Howard is so in and will be until a puck decides his fate. Wings are soaring again.

The Ryans have struggled this year and it is surprising after a great USA Olympic run for the Silver. The show must go on even for Ryan Kesler in Vancouver and Ryan Miller in Buffalo. Spotty and soaked at times, the inconsistency has me worried.
Let’s look to 2011 to be an outstanding year for the NHL and hockey in America.  Stanley Cup predictions aside, the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals may have reached their peak.  The Flyers and Wings could be winners in the race for the Cup.

The coast with the boast

What’s with the love affair with the Western Conference? Los Angeles seems to be a hot bed for hockey now that Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Justin Williams is the supporting cast for Anze Kopitar- the depth of the bench holds great value. The youth movement hit teams like the Kings, the Avs and the Sharks. Couture is in, and the Blues are singing happy tunes.

The lowest team in the East lags behind the wins in the West by seven. Toronto’s fall from grace was heard around the league, yet the struggling Rangers pulled their team up with their groomed talent in Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. The West takes bigger chances. The East sticks to tradition. There is more pressure in the East to win, not so in the West. Ebb and flow. Los Angeles chose to rebuild and invest in marketing and public relations with the other Heidi. Colorado got lucky with some smart picks who were willing to take a salary reduction. Numerous reasons have put the West into high gear for now. The population influx in western cities is evident, but few are relocating eastward. Old school hockey fans live in the West now and expect a higher level of play from their NHL franchise. That’s how it goes in Denver, where you will meet people from the cold northeast looking for 360 sunny days a year in the Mile High City, and a hockey team. It’s the people who influence, the demand for the product. It’s pure demographics and market research before investing in the product. If the population pressures the management, more will be spent on building.

The Western Conference used to stop in Detroit. Since Chicago stole the show and grabbed the Cup last season, the westward migration continues. Vancouver, Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix speak to the newest generation of hockey fans. Don’t get me wrong- the East is not dead by any means, but the trend shifts west for now. A generation has turned more aware of hockey, growing up with Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman as the superstars in the West. Gretzy in Edmonton, Los Angeles, and St. Louis brought more attention past the Mississippi.

Montreal, Philadelphia and New York have emerged recently to wow fans. Washington and Pittsburgh are no slouches, neither are Overchkin and Crosby, who still dictate hockey stats. Stamkos has become the new face of NHL hockey, and he’s in the East, and a beach league to boot. The expectations in the Eastern Conference are fierce and that has caused the stern look at the differences. The Western Conference has been under rated for so long, that the shock of their revival emphasizes the weakening of the East. Right now in the standings, in the West, Vancouver has 31 pts. and sits in the No. 2 slot, while Tampa Bay also has 31 pts. but sits in the No. 6 slot in the East. The consistency in the West allows an evening of the race in standings almost weekly. The hold on the top spot is tighter in the West, thus more competitive match-ups regularly. More attention to detail and fewer mistakes is a must if your team is facing stiff competitors.

The West has stayed competitive to keep up with the Red Wings over the years. Yes, I said it. Every team wants to keep up with the Wings, now and in the past. But for teams truly in the west, it seems ironic as the West touts the lone gunslinger mantra, yet the team concept translates well. Teams work well in an ambush. The East develops individual talent, so the team concept has dropped in significance, some have suggested. The Flyers seem pretty tight, as does the Rangers. Benchwarmers in the East aren’t as NHL ready as they seem to be in the West. The Tampa Bay Lightning is an eastern team benefiting from the knowledge through Steve Yzerman’s leadership. Stevie Y. learned from the best franchise team both on and off the ice.

Best bets for the Stanley Cup have pitted the Detroit Red Wings against the Washington Capitals. Another speculation could be Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. Some exciting possibilities have been created in this fluctuating season sending fantasy teams into clunkers and numerous hat-tricks. Great games are great gifts for any hockey fan, so may the season be magical!

Rewards at the NHL awards

The NHL awards were held Wednesday in Las Vegas Wednesday. No surprises really, just a typical nice guy awards show without much hoopla despite the opening by Snoop Dogg.

The Calder Memorial Trophy:  Tyler Myers

Tyler Myers was an amazing rookie. I grabbed him as a free agent on both of my fantasy teams and was praising the guy all year. He wasn’t the Sabre player I expected to be the breakout candidate but his tenacity and wandering defense make him tops on my list. He clocked the most ice time of any Sabres player

Frank J. Selke Trophy: Pavel Datsyuk

The best defensive forward, no duh. Can he do anything wrong? He was criticized for the lackluster performance for the Red Wings, but he took off and kept the playoffs in reach. Can’t deny his talents and lasting abilities for the Wings franchise.

Ted Lindsay Award- Alex Ovechkin

The more Alex speaks, the more I like his nonchalant attitude. He kept talking despite the music, the next presenter and cues to leave the stage. Alex doesn’t care and wants his time because he’s earned it.

Jack Adams Award-Dave Tippett

This was a well-deserved award to the head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, who turned this group around with the vision to create a playoff team. The Coyotes have been decent in recent years, but lacked the leadership to take it to the next level. With the ownership and attendance woes in the desert, the players played with heart and determination to make the team noticeable.

Vezina Trophy-Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller fans that believed he was the best goaltender at the winter games felt losing the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics was a blow. Miller knows he’s that good but is humble. He’s the best of the best.

Bill Masterston Memorial Trophy-Jose Theodore
With 23 straight games unbeaten, Theodore somehow flew under the radar on some fantasy teams. But not mine. Theodore has had a few bumpy years of play and personal tragedy that made this award a confirmation to his ability to maintain composure in net. Most of us would have completely checked out.

King Clancy Memorial Trophy- Shane Doan

Leadership on and off the ice, and just a nice guy landed Doan this award. I met Doan outside of Coyotes practice signing autographs with his son. Mothers love him because he is involved in the community and cares about the children and their growth. Fans love him because he cares for their community.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy -Martin St. Louis
It’s about time St. Louis won this recognition as the epitome of sportsmanship. Hard worker, solid numbers and great attitude make St. Louis a fantastic fantasy pick for you roster but get him quick.

Mark Messier Leadership award- Sidney Crosby

This is a new award and is evidence of how well Messier’s internship with the Rangers has influence the NHL. Any openings? Is Messier passing on his magic to Crosby or does Messier want some of Crosby’s magic?

Norris Trophy- Duncan Keith
Since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, I’m not surprised with this pick. Any player who sacrifices seven teeth during the Cup run should get something big!

Hart Memorial Trophy-Henrik Sedin
Tough competition here- Ovechkin and Crosby. The Swede walked away with the prize and kudos for the great year that the Vancouver Canucks had.