A very Merry Christmas to all you hockey fans out there!
As we have hit the Christmas break of the 2013-14 NHL season, let's take a quick gander at to what we have seen thus far.
In my opinion, the Anaheim Ducks are the best team in the league at the moment. The Ducks have also approached the midseason break with a nine game winning streak as a result of such strong play by stellar players Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Dustin Penner and break out role players such as Nick Bonino, Mathieu Perreault and Kyle Palmieri.
The defense has also been sturdy led by the veteran Francois Beauchemin (+21), rookie blue liner Hampus Lindholm (leads the team with a +22 rating) and scored the game winner the other night in Washington, Cam Fowler with 21 points and former Penguin defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
The goaltending has also been quite sharp between Jonas Hiller and the rookie Frederik Andersen. Not to mention the Ducks' top goalie prospect Josh Gibson still waiting in the wings.
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are also Stanley Cup frontrunners, and perhaps are better picks to hoist the Cup in 2014, but fans must give props to the Ducks for the time being. Whether they can continue their near dominant play and if Hiller can lead the Ducks deep into the postseason remains to be seen, but the talent, skill and depth is definitely there.
Half Season Awards for both Conferences...
Western Hart Trophy: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Eastern Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Western Vezina Trophy: Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
Eastern Vezina Trophy: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Western Calder Memorial: Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks and Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks
Eastern Calder Memorial: Chris Kreider, NY Rangers and Eric Gelinas, NJ Devils
Western Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings and Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Eastern Norris Trophy: P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens and Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
Western Jack Adams Award: Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
Eastern Jack Adams Award: John Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
Biggest Surprise in the West: Colorado Avalanche; Patrick Roy demands accountability and a strong team effort each and every night and it has paid off thus far. Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon are becoming the next power three forwards in the league.
Biggest Surprise in the East: Tampa Bay Lightning; Still playing well without their best overall player Steven Stamkos. They have a great leader and veteran presence in Martin St. Louis among all the youth and also strong goaltending from Ben Bishop after being given up on by the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators.
Biggest Disappointment in the West: Phoenix Coyotes; Mike Smith has been up and down for a team that prides itself on solid defensive play, but has not led to as many scoring opportunities as they'd like. In a strong Pacific division, it may be a dogfight for them to qualify for a playoff spot. Still, there just isn't enough scoring depth in the desert, same goes for the fan support to help get this team over the hump. Looking forward to seeing this franchise move to Seattle hopefully.
Biggest Disappointment in the East: I could say the Toronto Maple Leafs, but I am going to nominate the Ottawa Senators. Last season, the team had a strong showing playing much of the short 2013 season without the likes of Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza. This season, those guys are both healthy and the additions of Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur and how well they have played have not translated into wins for some reason. This team should definitely be better and a threat not only in the regular season but in the playoffs as well. Perhaps the goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner has not been strong enough. Until Lehner is able to take control of the #1 job, then the Senators will likely continue to struggle. Anderson, in my point of view is a second string goaltender at best.
True Standings and Game Integrity Being Compromised by the Shootouts...
Once again, I have had just about enough of the shootouts. Are they enjoyable, sure. Do the players enjoy them, yes. Does it make an average night at the arena more fun? Sure! I admit it myself. But these shootouts are definitely ruining the integrity of the game itself and giving teams who cannot win games in regulation and overtime more of an opportunity to beat out teams who have actually done better in regulation and overtime for those final playoff spots. For those teams who are already doing very well as expected and find themselves above all that, this side of the argument doesn't really matter to them, but I would think the league would wish for stronger teams to beat in regulation to be part of the playoff mix rather than a team who relies on the shootout to earn its points.
You may take a quick look at the current standings, and them compare them to mine, which I try to maintain and keep updating each night myself. In my standings, winning games in regulation and in the five minute overtime are counted as actual wins. Losses are games lost in the sixty minutes or lost in the five minute overtime. Similar to the NBA, NFL and MLB, games lost in extra time or innings still count as a loss and with the existence of the shootout, there is no reason to award a point for losing in overtime. Only losing in the shootout should a point be awarded.
So here are my real standings at the Christmas break...You may compare them to the current NHL standings and you will see what I mean.
Wins= games won in regulation or overtime period (2 pts)
Losses= games lost in regulation or overtime period (0 pts)
Ties= all games that remain tied after overtime period (1 pt)
OTL= games lost in the overtime period (1 pt)
Team Name (Wins-Losses-Ties)-(Real Overtime Losses) (Points)
#Boston Bruins (24-10-3)-(0) 51 pts
*Montreal Canadiens (20-13-5)-(0) 45 pts
*Tampa Bay Lightning (18-13-6)-(2) 42 pts
*Detroit Red Wings (16-16-7)-(3) 39 pts
Toronto Maple Leafs (13-17-9)-(1) 35 pts
Ottawa Senators (14-19-6)-(2) 34 pts
Florida Panthers (10-20-8)-(1) 28 pts
Buffalo Sabres (6-27-4)-(3) 16 pts
#Pittsburgh Penguins (24-12-3)-(1) 51 pts
*Philadelphia Flyers (16-17-4)-(1) 36
*NY Rangers (16-19-3)-(1) 35 pts
*New Jersey Devils (15-18-5)-(2) 35 pts
Washington Capitals (11-15-11)-(1) 33 pts
Columbus Blue Jackets (15-20-2)-(3) 32 pts
Carolina Hurricanes (13-20-4)-(5) 30 pts
NY Islanders (7-24-7)-(4) 21 pts
#Chicago Blackhawks (22-9-8)-(2) 52 pts
*St. Louis Blues (21-10-5)-(3) 47 pts
*Colorado Avalanche (21-10-5)-(0) 47 pts
*Minnesota Wild (15-15-9)-(1) 39 pts
Dallas Stars (15-14-7)-(2) 37 pts
Nashville Predators (16-18-3)-(1) 35 pts
Winnipeg Jets (11-19-9)-(1) 31 pts
#Anaheim Ducks (25-8-6)-(1) 56 pts
*Vancouver Canucks (20-13-6)-(2) 46 pts
*LA Kings (19-11-8)-(2) 46 pts
*San Jose Sharks (18-9-10)-(1) 46 pts
Phoenix Coyotes (15-14-7)-(4) 37 pts
Calgary Flames (11-21-5)-(4) 27 pts
Edmonton Oilers (10-26-3)-(2) 23 pts
...so as you can see, some changes in the bottom teams of playoff qualifiers. In the East, the Leafs and the Capitals would be on the outside looking in as they should be since neither team can tally many real wins lately. The bottom line is that too many teams are relying on the shootout to get points, and I disagree with that mindset. The fact that 21 of the 30 total teams have 2 or less overtime losses almost makes the five minute overtime worthless and not even entertaining enough, especially with the better teams just toying around getting to the shootout. Those teams should be good enough not to rely on the shootouts. If this continues, the NHL might as well do away with the five minute overtime altogether since games are not being settled much by the extra time of the real game anyway.
Teams that would qualify for the playoffs with my setting and not the current NHL setting:
New York Rangers (16 wins)...should definitely be a playoff club even now.
New Jersey Devils (15 wins)...up and down, but stronger than TOR and WSH.
Minnesota Wild (15 wins)...A tough, defensive Western team playing better than PHX.
Teams that currently qualify for the playoffs in the NHL setting but not good enough in my setting:
Phoenix Coyotes (15 wins)...need to pick things up in the Pacific.
Toronto Maple Leafs (13 wins)...easy team to play against at the moment, weak defensively.
Washington Capitals (11 wins)...another weak defensive team, solely offensive minded.
I guess there is not much of a difference, but I think it is time for the NHL to award teams for actually winning more games during the actual given game time or the overtime period. If shootouts continue, then I would suggest only awarding a point for those teams who make it through the overtime period, not just getting through regulation. Still, the positioning of seeding teams could be slightly different based on my settings.
Back on Friday for more NHL action!
Enjoy the rest of the Holiday break!