Now that the All-Star Break is over, the real games begin. Speaking of the All-Star game, the West won by a miniscule point spread of 12-9. The East played strongly on the offensive, making good use of all the scoring opportunities given -? although they were few and far between. The West’s defence was on fire, blocking almost every shot the East could chance. Their offensive wasn’t lacking however. In three separate breakaways, the West managed to corner the East and literally toss the puck right past them, straight into the net. It was a nail-biting game with the best players in the NHL, proving the strength of the league.
Back to the here and now, the play is heating up with the playoffs right around the corner. Teams are battling it out for the top eight positions in each conference and the race is far from over. The teams are neck and neck, with only a few expected shoo-ins. Even these may fail if they are unable to maintain their strong playing. The Buffalo Sabres, for example, should definitely slide into the playoffs in the fourth position at least, provided they don’t crack under pressure and let another team by. Detroit and Nashville are in similar positions. Don’t count the rest of the teams out yet though. This is the home stretch, when it’s nothing but surprises.
Perhaps this is why gambling experts warn those who play Pro-Line to avoid betting on games this time of year. Chances are slim anyone can predict an outcome. With play strategies changing from game to game, fans are unable to guess at the results. Coaches are not only changing strategies, but practices as well, putting less emphasis on conditioning and more on various attacks to create breakaways and scoring opportunities. This close to the playoffs, every point counts and the coaches, trainers, and players are doing everything in their power to ensure a win.
The current standings can be viewed at http://www.nhl.com. The teams are in no specific order on the chart, but the figure at the far end of the row shows their overall points. The higher points, the higher they are in the rankings, and the higher a team ranks, the better the chance they’ll make the playoffs. Only the top eight teams in each conference will progress. For newcomers to the sport, the playoffs comprise multiple rounds of games that determine the most coveted title in the NHL ? the Stanley Cup.
Over the next 6 weeks, watch the teams closely. Their strategies will change, as will their playing styles, attitudes, and even penalty minutes. Coaches are meaner, players are louder, and referees are stricter. It’s almost like a different game than the one we normally watch. Cheer on your favourite team, but don’t underestimate the opposition. And above all, avoid Pro-Line for the time being! See you next week!