The Faceoffs Begin
Now that baseball playoffs are underway, another season is just beginning. This Wednesday kicks off the regular season for the National Hockey League. While most people’s understanding of hockey doesn’t go much farther than its Canadian roots and knack for fights, there’s a whole lot more to know (and love) about the sport.
But we still do like the fights.
As the season starts, there are a few key names and teams people should be aware of. One of which is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburg Penguins. Last season he had the most points in the NHL as well as the most assists, and that happened with an injury. Another player with a huge injury last year was Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. After missing three months with a broken leg (it’s pretty nasty and probably on YouTube if you’re feeling brave) he’s back and apparently ready to go. He’s the second favorite of NHL analysts after Sidney Crosby and believed to be the key to Tampa Bay’s success.
There are a lot of experts who believe this year could be Tampa Bay’s year to win the Stanley Cup. With some of the toughest competition in the Western Conference (the Blues, Blackhawks, and Kings to name a few), it’s not out of the question that Tampa Bay could be the top team in the East. Another team that has a pretty solid chance at winning the Cup this year is the Chicago Blackhawks. They were just one goal away from making it to the finals this year and fell to the 2014 champions, the Los Angeles Kings, in overtime of game seven. The past three years have alternated between the Hawks and Kings as champions, and some believe that the Kings could repeat for back-to-back championships in 2015.
Everyone loves an underdog story, and there is none like the Detroit Red Wings. Last year, they performed the best given the injuries to their top players. With holes all over their lineup, the Wings built up a team of young players and pulled off another playoff appearance. Making it into the playoffs in the 2013-14 season marked their twenty-third consecutive appearance, the longest active streak in NHL history and just six seasons away from tying for the longest streak. Period. While they have been struggling as of late, there is still hope for this Original Six team.
Given location, I think it’s only fair to pay tribute to the Blues. The St. Louis team has always fought hard and has their fair share of playoff appearances just like the Red Wings do. In fact, they have the third longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances with 25 seasons in a row from 1980 to 2004. Since they started rebuilding in 2011, the Blues have turned the franchise around and are a team to keep your eye on. With players like Backes, Pietrangelo, and Steen, fans can expect another playoff appearance. Even the Blues goalie, Brian Elliot, has a lot to bring to the table with the second best goals against average in the league last year allowing an average of 1.96 goals per game.
The first teams to face off when the season begins on October 8 will be Montreal and Toronto, Philadelphia and Boston, Vancouver and Calgary, and San Jose and Los Angeles. Thursday marks the opening of the St. Louis Blues season with a game at home against the New York Rangers. For the rest of the schedule, check out www.nhl.com/ice/schedulebyseason.htm.