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Stanley Cup Playoffs Update

The third round hasn’t yet started but already that round has already taken shape in the East. Meanwhile in the West, four teams are still duking it out to determine who will go on to play in the conference finals.

Last week ended with the Ottawa Senators being beaten out of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins. While it wasn’t a sweep the Pens beat out the Sens in just five games, and their last two were dominating wins. The following night, the Boston Bruins kicked the New York Rangers out, also in five games, leaving the Eastern conference down to just the Bruins and the Penguins. This will certainly be one hard-fought round, and one that will most likely go seven games, as both teams had phenomenal regular seasons; and they’ve also dominated in the playoffs.

In the West however, round two is still playing out. The Detroit Red Wings have taken a surprising 3-2 lead in the series; and they’ll play again on Monday to see if the Blackhawks can tie it up. Also in the western conference are the defending Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings, playing against the San Jose Sharks, and in a series that’s tied at 3-3. The seventh game will be played on Tuesday, May 28, to see who will go on to play for the conference title.

No games have yet been announced for round three, as all teams must be finished up their current rounds before anything can be determined. Is your team still in the playoffs? And who do you think will win the Cup?

Here’s the Schedule for Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

How the Western Conference would shape up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs was decided a few days ago; but it took right up until almost the last minute for things to be settled in the East. Perhaps it’s because they got there first that the first games of the playoffs will be held in the West.

On Tuesday the Chicago Blackhawks will host the Minnesota Wild; the Anaheim Ducks will host the Detroit Red Wings; and St. Louis will host the defending Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings. The San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks will also meet in Round One, when the Canucks host the Sharks on Wednesday, May 1.

Things weren’t as firmly decided in the East until this past Sunday, when the Boston Bruins hosted the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa was facing three potential teams in the first round, depending on how Sunday’s game with Boston went. After the Sens won in regulation, they’ll now face the Montreal Canadiens, beginning on Thursday, May 2.

Also starting their series on May 2 will be the New York Rangers, when they head to Washington to take on the Capitals. But fans in the East won’t have to wait that long to see playoff action.

The Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Islanders on May 1; while the Boston Bruins will also host the Toronto Maple Leafs on the same night.

Did your team make the playoffs this year? Who do you think will be the winners of the eight different series? And who will win the Stanley Cup?

NHL Training Camps Open to Eager Fans

NHL training camps opened yesterday, after 113 days of a lockout and another week of ratifying the CBA among the owners and players. Typically training camp is used as a chance to test players, see who will make the cut, see who will fit in where during the season, and start to gel the team together. This year, with less than a week to go before an extremely shortened regular season begins, it was a chance for the players and owners to win back the fans. And they knew it.

Many arenas, such as the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, had meet and greets with the players, owners and the fans, vying for a chance to win back fan support as everyone gears up for regular season to open on Saturday. Nearly all teams are opening up training camps practices to the fans, something that wouldn’t be seen in a typical training camp.

Several teams are also extending their thanks and wooing techniques past just training camp. The Ottawa Senators, along with other teams in the league, will be offering free tickets to games for certain fans (such as children) once regular season starts; and things such as merchandise and concession items will also be available at reduced prices. All of it is for one reasons — to offer their thanks to the fans that come back, and try to get as many as possible back through the arena doors.

It may just be enough. As excited as the NHL was to kick off training camps, fans were more excited than ever.

An event such as the opening of training camp would typically only draw in the few die-hards that lived within the city. But in cities such as Detroit, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Ottawa, just to name a few, thousands of fans rushed in to watch their teams back at it. Finally. In Philadelphia, once the players started coming out onto the ice, they were met with a standing ovation.

Many fans said they wouldn’t go back; and that’s clearly just what the NHL owners were afraid of. But now that it’s officially all over, fans seem to have adopted a new mindset. They love hockey, and they’ve been waiting too long to turn their backs on it now.

It’s been a Surprising Turn of Events in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Going into the Stanley Cup playoffs, most thought that the Vancouver Canucks would emerge as the victors of the West, while the Pittsburgh Penguins would be the victory story of the East. Now though, just three games in, both are in dire risk of being eliminated — and very, very soon.

The Vancouver Canucks have one legitimate reason for allowing the Los Angeles Kings to take the first three games of round one away from them — they’re missing their star, Daniel Sedin. They knew they would be going into round one and that they’d likely miss him for the entire first round. What they didn’t know was that they might not have much more time than that. What might be most frustrating of all for the Canucks is that other than missing their power forward in Sedin, they can’t seem to figure out where the problem lies on their bench.

Roberto Luongo has a reputation for being a ‘streak’ goaltender, meaning he’s either hot or he’s not. His performance this round though, hasn’t been anything that fans can complain about, as he’s played up to par. And when Canucks coach had no other way to make his team better, he started backup goalie Cory Schneider in place of Luongo. It didn’t matter; the Kings still took that game 1-0.

The Canucks’ biggest problem is that with the goalie at the other end of the ice — Jonathan Quick. The Canucks just can’t score on him, and without Sedin, that’s likely what’s going to end their playoff run early. The Canucks and Kings play again on Wednesday, April 18.

Unfortunately, things aren’t so simply in Pittsburgh. The Penguins haven’t been swept out of the playoffs since 1979; and now, with all their star players healthy and many claiming them the Stanley Cup champs before the playoffs even began, it looks like history is soon going to repeat itself. In a matchup between two explosively powerful offensive teams, this series has been one of the most exciting to watch in a long time. Big fits and lots of scores is what good hockey is made of, and this one has brought a little of both.

The first game was considered a high-scoring one for the playoffs, with Pittsburgh giving up four goals in answer to Philly’s three. The second game saw even more action with Philadelphia scoring a whopping eight goals to Pittsburgh’s five — still a playoff game with 13 goals in total, which is a rarity indeed. Yesterday afternoon, Philadelphia once again scored eight goals, while Pittsburgh had one less in them, scoring only four. Still, the Penguins say that they don’t need to change their game much and that they’re giving a good effort. And that’s probably what’s going to get them swept out of Round One.

While the demise of these two teams are definitely the biggest stories so far during the playoffs, here’s a look at where the other 6 series stand:

In the West
San Jose Sharks vs. St. Louis Blues: Series tied at 1-1; next game April 16.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes: Series tied at 1-1; next game April 17.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators: Predators up 2-1 in the series; next game April 17.

In the East
Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers: Series tied at 1-1; next game April 16.
Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins: Series tied at 1-1; next game April 16.
New Jersey Devils vs. Florida Panthers: Series tied at 1-1; next game April 17.

Playoff Fights have Already Begun

One of the best parts of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for any fan is being able to watch NHL greats drop the gloves and take on tough demeanors that you don’t see in the regular season — even in the NHL. This year though fans are getting a taste of the fights to come a little early, as players use the media to take shots at each other, before the first round has even begun.

Brooks Laich, forward for the Washington Capitals, probably had no idea he had just started a war when he told the Washington Post on Wednesday that he was guaranteeing his team a playoff berth. When he said, “I have a belief we’re going to be in the playoffs and that’s it. I don’t want to discuss any scenario that we’re not,” he probably just thought he was being supportive and believing in his team. But, in order for the Capitals to move into the playoffs, it would mean that the Buffalo Sabres do not; and that’s perhaps why Buffalo’s goaltender, Ryan Miller, took Laich’s remark so personally.

Shortly after Laich made his remarks, Miller had thoughts of his own to share, telling the Buffalo News, “We’re not playing against him and I don’t think he’s Mark Messier,” this of course, referring to Messier’s famous Cup-win guarantee in 1994. The difference between the two scenarios is that when Messier made the guarantee, it was for everything; and this is really pretty meaningless, and probably was just Laich showing faith in his team. Miller continued on to say, “So I think he’s searching for a spark for his team. They should be desperate right now, too, so I just think they’re looking for little things.” Miller even went on further to say that Laich’s comments could actually hurt the Caps, when “guys don’t react well to that.”

The mind games are certainly going — at least from the Sabres’ end. The other difference might be that when Messier made the guarantee, he followed through on it. Fans will have to wait to see if this one pans out the same way.

Where in the World will Rick Nash Go?

Rick Nash might be traded, and that’s big news not just for the Columbus Blue Jackets that he plays for, but the entire hockey world. It might have some reminiscing about when the Edmonton Oilers traded off their franchise with the trade of Wayne Gretzky. Rick Nash is the franchise, but Wayne Gretzky he is not. Still, it’s an intriguing move if it’s going to be made. But where will Rick Nash go?

It’s hard to say. While Rick Nash undoubtedly wants to win a Stanley Cup during his career (and will probably never get one with the Blue Jackets,) he also has a no-trade clause in his contract. However, he has given his team execs a list of teams that he’d be willing to be traded to, and it’s rumored that they are: the New York Rangers, the Vancouver Canucks, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Los Angeles Kings (interesting that this is also the team that Gretzky was traded to.) But again, Nash is not Gretzky, and it’s his value that has many of the teams he’d like to go to have a problem with.

The Rangers don’t want to give up Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Kreider, and a first round pick; things they’d most likely have to part with in order to acquire Nash. But the Canucks don’t want to give up too much either. Cory Schneider, Cody Hodgson, Keith Ballard, Sami Salo, and Mason Raymond are just a few of the Canuck names that have been talked about, and almost immediately shot down.

So where will Rick Nash go? It’s impossible to say. But the big news right now is that the Blue Jackets are entertaining the thought of trading away the face of the franchise. And that’s big news indeed.

The NHL Goes Wireless!

In a move to show that they are a modern league that always makes the most out of technological advancements, the NHL has made an unprecedented move by testing out wireless headsets and mics on their referees. These headsets would allow refs to talk to each other, even when at opposite ends of the ice. And, as was shown at the National Hockey League Research and Development Camp in Toronto last week, these wireless beauties may just be a game-changer.

But does having another ref in your ear for the entire game really help? That’s just what the test run was out to prove last week, and the biggest benefit of these wireless headsets was immediately clear — it lets the refs keep their eyes on the puck. As it stands now, the referee is often at one end of the ice, while his linesman is way down at the other. This of course, is so that there are eyes at each end. But in order to communicate what’s happening, the refs have had to rely on hand signals and making eye contact. Try doing that in the fast-paced Stanley Cup Final, and it can become more than challenging.

But the headsets take care of all that. With them, referees can speak to each other without having to look at each other at all and that allows them to keep their eyes where they should be — on the puck. The only drawback of the headsets? According to Dave Pfohl, an OHL linesman who helped test them out, there is some “over-chatter” when both refs try to talk at once, and sometimes refs just mutter things to themselves, and that can become confusing.

But, Pfohl says, going wireless on the ice definitely has more benefits than drawbacks; the biggest one of course, that it puts the focus back on the game.