The stretch run has officially begun. With every team having less than 15 games remaining, there is no denying that every game is considered a must win. This past week, the games being played have really shown the true colours of some teams. For the Columbus Blue Jackets, their winning streak against prominent opponents was too little too late, and they still remain comfortably in the basement. This was the case for the Carolina Hurricanes as well, as their climb in the Eastern Conference still puts them 7 points out of a playoff spot for another year. The true colours of the Phoenix Coyotes was also shown, whose recent struggles after a hot February has seen them fall back into the thick of things in the tight Western Conference.
However, nothing has been more interesting to follow for the past week than the race in the Eastern Conference. With 6 of the 8 seeds wrapped up, the Southeast division and the 8th spot are still undecided. However, teams such as the Maple Leafs, Jets, and Panthers have had trouble winning, opening the door for the Sabres and Lightning to join the pack. As it stands, it seems as if the surging Buffalo Sabres could squeak into the 8th spot, or even the troubled Washington Capitals. There are so few games remaining, and the two points at stake every night are vital.
The Week That Was had more than just playoff implications. Jarome Iginla was dominant, along with superstars like Ilya Kovalchuk and surprise players such as Pascal Dupuis. In goal, Ilya Bryzgalov was stellar while Jonathan Quick was not as bright. But the biggest thing of the week was the bevy of hilarious and quirky moments. Wrong names, blatant revenge, and odd chants were just some of the greatest moments of the past 7 days. Here is the Week That Was from March 4th to March 10th.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have not had a solid on-ice product, but have shown that their media relations are fantastic. After Jeff Carter was traded, their official twitter page held a Q&A, and answered the most ridiculous questions. However, when the Los Angeles Kings travelled east to play the Columbus Blue Jackets, the storyline that made this game so interesting was the fact that Columbus’ blueliner Jack Johnson was prepared to play his former team for the first time since being traded. To add to the hype, Columbus even offered to replace anybody’s Carter nameplate with a Johnson nameplate for free. With that in mind, Johnson and the Windbreakers were prepared for Jeff Carter and the Regal Royals.
In a stunning performance, the Blue Jackets got revenge on Jeff Carter for his underwhelming time in Columbus, by winning 3-1. As a whole, the entire team played very well. The goaltending stopped 29 of 30 shots, Mark Letestu potted 2, and only 2 players recorded a negative rating. Most importantly, Jack Johnson scored the game winning goal by notching his 10th past Jonathan Bernier and extracting revenge on the team that dumped him. They say that revenge is best served cold, but Johnson and the Jackets were hot, winning their 4th straight.
“Super” Injury Tuesday
To the majority of Americans, last Tuesday was Super Tuesday, one of the most important days of the Republican Primary race. After Super Tuesday, many Americans are given a better look at who the contenders are for the Republican nomination. However, last Tuesday was much more obscure to NHL fans. The day consisted of multiple injuries, most of which hindered the progress of their respective teams. While there were minor injuries to Brandon Dubinsky and Nikita Nikitin, there were two more major events that really hurt their team.
The first injury was that of Matt Duchene’s, who suffered an ankle injury after colliding awkwardly during the Colorado Avalanche’s game against the Minnesota Wild. He will be out 3-4 weeks, and will return if the Avalanche can complete their miracle playoff run. The other injury came earlier in the evening, when Joffrey Lupul was hit by David Krejci when the Leafs battled the Bruins. Lupul’s shoulder will also sideline him for 3-4 weeks, which really hurts the Buds’ unlikely playoff hopes.
Making the odd mistake on player’s last names is not a rarity in the NHL. With the wide variety of origins in the multicultural league, some names are difficult to pronounce and spell. Whether that be the common mispronunciation of Quebec names or the grammatical errors in European surnames, there’s no questioning that simple errors can be made. From time to time, players’ names even get lost in translation, such as Simeon Varlamov being called Seymon or Nikolay Zherdev being spelled Nikolai. However, it is incredibly easy to make these errors when nobody is informed on the correct way to spell a name. Perhaps a certain Philadelphia Flyer figured that out, and decided to make it public.
On Tuesday, recently acquired defenseman Nicklas Grossmann announced that his name is actually spelled with an extra “N” at the back, opposed to the way it was printed on his jersey, which was Grossman. The 27-year old was drafted in 2004 but never informed anybody about the misspelling of his name, citing his shy demeanor and non-irritable personality. Grossmann also claimed he autographed his name with the extra “N”, yet his signatures are so illegible it was impossible to distinguish the extra constonant. While this is not the biggest news story, the entire sequence was very amusing. The Flyers are sure hoping that Grossmann enjoys having his name spelled right, and that it will help the team win. So far, it has done just that, as the Flyers have won their past 2 games since the announcement. All it takes is for Ilya Bryzgalov to announce that his name is actually “Ilya Universe” and the team could be primed for a cup run.
Grabbing the Extension
After an embarrassing loss to the Washington Capitals, there was speculation that Mikhail Grabovski would never play a game as a Toronto Maple Leaf again.
With the trade deadline looming, the impending UFA was reportedly a trade target of multiple teams, all of which wiling to trade their 1st round pick. However, the deadline came and passed, and Grabovski remained in the blue and white. Days later, head coach Ron Wilson was fired and Mikhail became a favourite of new coach Randy Carlyle. On Tuesday, the Belarusian center was given a vote of confidence by the new bench boss, and became much richer.
Hours before their game against the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Mikhail Grabovski had resigned for 5 years and $27.5 million. The opinions of Leafs fans was mixed, with some believing the caphit of $5.5 million is too much, while others justify that Grabo provides intangibles to the Leafs, and is a future 60-65 point player (with an upside of 70). Regardless, Grabovski has worked relentlessly to get to where he is today, and to see him rewarded for his perseverance is incredible. Hopefully, Mikhail can live up to the contract and help the Leafs return to the playoffs once again.
Every hockey fan knows the classic chants that fill the arenas of every NHL team. While they are fun to engage in, it’s not a secret that they are hardly creative. The majority of the chants consist of either slowly yelling a goalie’s name, or claiming that a player “sucks”. Winnipeg, the league’s loudest arena, decided to change this standard. When star goaltender Ryan Miller came to town, the Jets’ faithful chanted “Silver Medal”, alluding to Miller’s 2nd place finish as a member of the U.S national team in the 2010 Olympics.
Overwhelmingly, people enjoyed the chant, claiming it was innovative and hilarious. However, I feel that playing devil’s advocate in this situation is justifiable. The issue for me is not that the mockery was classless, but rather idiotic. I understand that it’s fun to jeer at Ryan Miller, but the man is a world-class goaltender that receives a surprising amount of unnecessary hate. It’s fine to chirp all-star players, but to bring up the fact that Ryan Miller single-handedly led his team to the gold medal game and within one goal of the win as an insult is baffling. If anything, it’s a reminder of how incredible Miller really is. Regardless, what will really matter at the end is the standings. If Buffalo squeaks into the 8th spot over the Jets, Miller can claim that he didn’t win gold, but he and his silver medal will be travelling to New York instead of driving to the golf course.
Play of the Week: Claude “Datsyuk” Giroux