Hello everybody, and welcome to the first edition of Five Pucks. This is going to be my “Look around the NHL” piece that I will try to have up weekly or bi-weekly at the very least. I’ll discuss 5 topics, hence the 5 pucks (genius, out of the box thinking on my part….). Please feel free to comment, debate, or shoot me topics you’d like to see featured. So without further delay…
Five Pucks- 6/4/2012
~Puck One- Nicklas Lidstrom Retires
On May 31st Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement from the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings, thus ending a wonderful 20 year career. Very few athletes have ever been more respected amongst their sport than Nicklas Lidstrom was throughout the hockey community. Even fewer athletes get to go out on their own terms, while they are still healthy and in demand. Lidstrom is leaving the game with 4 Stanley Cup rings, and legendary status in Detroit and the NHL. With all that said, I personally found it very odd that he chose to do it the day after game one of the Stanley Cup Final. This is a guy that is called “The Perfect Human” and is quite possibly the most gracious and mild mannered athlete I’ve ever seen, and it just seems really strange to me that he announced his retirement right in the middle of the pinnacle of the NHL season. Patrick Roy did this exact same thing when he retired and was significantly criticized for it (granted Patrick Roy had a much publicized attitude problem, and was nowhere near the spectrum of liked that Lidstrom is). With all that said, Congratulations to Nicklas Lidstrom on an amazing career. Like everyone else, I wish you nothing but the best in your retirement.
~Puck Two- The Road Warrior Kings are up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final
The Kings are taking home ice tonight for game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993, and they already have a 2-0 lead in the series. Realistically, given the way they have played on the road throughout the playoffs, all the Kings have to do is win one of these home games and the series will end in New Jersey in game 5. That’s obviously not written in stone, but I am not going to be against the Kings on the road. There are a lot of factors at work here going into game 3. The Devils outplayed the Kings in the last half of game 2, and were beaten by Jonathan Quick in overtime. If the Devils can keep the momentum going into game 3, the Kings are going to have to step their game up. Speaking of the Devils, this is the first time they have been out of the Eastern Time Zone during these playoffs, and the first time they have been on a plane since game 7 of the first round in Sunrise FL, against the Panthers. This series felt like it really got going during game 2, and it will be interesting to see if the momentum continues as the series moves to Los Angeles.
~Puck Three- Washington Capitals trade Tomas Vokun to the Pittsburgh Penguins for 7th round pick; Vokun signs with Pens for 2 years.
Earlier this morning, the Caps traded the rights to soon to be UFA Goaltender Tomas Vokun to the Penguins for a 7th round pick in the upcoming draft. The Penguins then came to terms on a 2 year 4 million dollar contract with Vokun shortly after. This looks to me to be a solid deal for both clubs. Braden Holtby became a star in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and is all but announced as the starting goalie in Washington next year, and Michal Neuvirth is more than a capable backup. Vokun was not the piece to put the Caps over the hump, and they were not resigning him. The Penguins can really use a solid back up to Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury was terrible in the 1st round against the Flyers. If he was tired and worn down, Vokun will be able to take some of the work load and get Fleury some rest. If he was rested and played poorly, Vokun is a guy who can step in and light a fire under Fleury, and provide some competition to keep Fleury in shape. This is a great move for both teams, which are always nice to see.
~Puck Four- The NHL Draft Combine
The NHL Draft is happening in Pittsburgh starts June 22. The NHL Draft Combine happened this past week in Toronto. If you are unfamiliar, it is kind of like the NFL draft. The draftees are put through a number of athletic and callisthenic exercises and tests to help show their endurance and shape. The most impressive and intimidating test seemed to be the bike test. This whole process is very underwhelming from the fan perspective. It’s cool to see what Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray can do in some of these tests, but it would be the pinnacle of the Draft process if these guys did skill tests on the ice. If we got to see shot speeds, passing skills and other things of that nature it would be an incredible process the league would really be able to market, and a great way to get people excited for the Draft. Just a thought as I was looking at the combine coverage.
~Puck Five- The Stanley Cup Final has lowest ratings in 5 years
This was sad to see, but understandable to a point. The NHL has been blessed in the last few Stanley Cup Final matchups:
Boston vs. Vancouver- Two polarizing franchises/cities/fan bases that people either love or love to hate.
Philadelphia vs. Chicago- Two of the NHL’s most storied franchises that were just full of young stars.
Pittsburgh vs. Detroit- This was Sid’s first cup, and the revenge for last season.
Pittsburgh vs. Detroit- Two big fan bases, Sid’s first shot at the cup.
Not to knock the Kings or the Devils, but there just isn’t a ton of animosity or story lines between these teams or fan bases. The Devils still have a wrap as being a trap team, which is completely false- this team has a ton of offensive talent and plays the game in a way that utilizes it. The Kings are largely unproven and mostly unknown. The series’ first game didn’t help matters, as it wasn’t the most exciting hockey game, but it is picking up steam and hopefully the ratings increase.
Thanks to everyone for reading, I hope everyone enjoyed it.
Have a good week, enjoy the Cup Final!
On Twitter @Wild_Halo