Sports department for the student run radio station 90.3 WRST at UW-Oshkosh
Hello again hockey fans, and happy Saturday! It’s amazing to think that we only have fifteen more days of this season until we go into the playoffs. So let’s get this re-cap started! Friday night had solidified two important things in the season this year: The Chicago Blackhawks are now officially the Central Division champions as they beat the Detroit Red Wings in a 3-2 shootout, and that victory also solidified a playoff spot for the Anaheim Ducks of the Pacific Division.
For those of you who may not be too familiar with how the NHL Playoffs work, the eight top ranking teams of both conferences (sixteen in all) proceed to the playoffs. So now it can be safely said that four of the available playoff spots have been taken by Pittsburgh, Montreal, Chicago, and Anaheim.
The remaining six spots in the Eastern Conference are currently occupied by some well deserving teams. The Washington Capitals, having started with a terrible season and then coming back with a six game winning streak and are now two points ahead of their competing Southeast division competitors from Winnipeg. Even more impressive this season has been the 40-26-10-4 Boston Bruins, who can clinch a playoff spot tonight if they can get at least a point from the Carolina Hurricanes, who’ve currently lost seven games in a row. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators from the same Northeast division also hold a spot in the current six slots, but the real spotlight is on the battling rivals from New York.
The Islanders and the Rangers hold the 7th and 8th spots respectfully at this point, are only different by two points, and play each other tonight. Being so close to the end of the season and having a chance to get some much needed points against the team right next to you in the race cannot be over exaggerated. Having it be a lifetime rival from the same city just makes the game that much more important. The Islanders have been on a hot streak with a last ten game record of 8-1-1, but will have to finish their season with one home game and five away; one of which is against the ninth place Winnipeg Jets who are clawing for a spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have been inconsistent all year though they were predicted to take home the cup at the beginning of the 48 game season, but with powerhouses like forward Rick Nash and (King) Henrik Lundqvist in-between the pipes it’s hard to count them out. Not to mention that the Rangers have a much easier finishing schedule, and won’t have to face any of the competing playoff teams for their last six games. It’s hard to say who will come out on top, but it cannot be stressed enough how important these points are to both New York teams.
The remaining six spots in the Western Conference are still under competitive fire as well. Vancouver currently holds the next available place under Chicago and Anaheim, and are playing against the last place Colorado Avalanche, who the Canucks have beaten every time they’ve met this season. The defending Stanley Cup Champions the Los Angeles Kings are holding the 4th spot with their close rivals the San Jose Sharks down, who are down by only one point and hanging in the 5th spot. The Kings will be facing their other California neighbors from Anaheim tonight, so don’t be surprised if the Sharks move past the defending champions tonight. Of course the Sharks will have to beat the Dallas Stars first, who after trading away so many star players have actually been doing very well with a four game winning streak and holding the 9th spot just under the struggling Detroit Red Wings. The Stars are extremely close to moving into the 8th spot and hoping that the next three teams (Detroit, Minnesota, and St. Louis) start to lose. Another loss for the falling Minnesota Wild could be seen, because the Columbus Blue Jackets are their next opponent and they have been playing phenomenally with a 4-1 win against St. Louis and are only two points down from a playoff spot.
In other news, the Chicago Blackhawks have struck up a one year contract with Drew LeBlanc of St. Cloud State. For those of you unfamiliar with college hockey, St. Cloud State is always a big name in hockey and Drew LeBlanc was just awarded the Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the best college hockey player every year. This signing could show growing improvement to the dynasty being built up in the city of Chicago. St. Cloud State team captain Ben Hanowski has also just been signed into the NHL by the Calgary Flames, a result of Calgary’s controversial trade of Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh.
More college signings should begin appearing shortly and tonight will be another exciting night of NHL. With eleven games in less than twelve hours and every team fighting for a playoff spot, who can be bored tonight!? As always, for more information on the current standings of the NHL please visit www.nhl.com/ice/standings.
St. Cloud Prospects Hanowski (middle) and LeBlanc (right) are on their way to the NHL.
Henrik Lunqvist hopes to defend the net against the Islanders again tonight.
Garrett Sewell, Assistant sports director