Hockey Time at AU

Hey folks. It’s been a while since I wrote a hockey column, but there hasn’t been much happening in the NHL–until now. Playoffs are just around the corner (literally weeks) and the game has been getting faster and harder (and dirtier). A few nasty hits have been thrown around; nasty enough to warrant suspensions from the league. That’s never a good thing, but this close to the playoffs it could be unbelievably detrimental to those teams as a whole.

First of all, there was the Kaberle – Janssen hit on March 2, and that has had tongues wagging all through the league. During a game, Kaberle was smashed in the side of the head by Janssen’s elbow–deliberately. Kaberle fell to the ice, hitting his head off the surface on the way down. He was removed from the play area by stretcher and diagnosed with a minor concussion, and is already eager to get back on the ice. According to Kaberle (1), he doesn’t expect an apology. “It doesn’t matter to me really,” he said. He’s expected to return later this week. Janssen was suspended from the league for three games and fined.

The nastiest hit so far is definitely reminiscent of the McSorley – Brashear hit of seven years ago. On March 8, New York Islanders player Chris Simon delivered a two-handed blow to Ryan Hollweg with his stick, leaving Hollweg bloody and unconscious on the ice for several minutes. Simon was immediately ejected from the game, and has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season as well as from the playoffs (2). In terms of games missed, it is the longest suspension yet in NHL history. Hollweg is recovering nicely, requiring only a few stitches, and is expected to return to the ice with the New York Rangers in their upcoming game versus Pittsburgh.

This just goes to show the extreme tension the players are under during this rush to the playoffs. The only guaranteed shoo-ins are Buffalo and New Jersey in the East, and Nashville and Anaheim in the West. All the other spots are still up for grabs, leaving players desperate to pull off the performances of their lives. The following is a list of the teams in the order they stand at the moment, most points to least, according to the NHL’s online standings (3). Remember, only the top eight teams in each division (East and West) will make the playoffs.

Eastern Conference: Buffalo, New Jersey, Atlanta, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, NY Rangers, Carolina, Toronto, Montreal, NY Islanders, Florida, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia.

Western Conference: Nashville, Anaheim, Vancouver, Detroit, San Jose, Dallas, Minnesota, Calgary, Colorado, St. Louis, Edmonton, Columbus, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix.

(1) The Sporting News. ?Kaberle expects to return on Friday.? Retrieved March 22, 2007.

(2) CBC Sports. ?Simon suspended for rest of season, playoffs.? Retrieved March 22, 2007.

(3) The National Hockey League. ?Standings.? Retrieved March 22, 2007.