The puck was in his glove and then it was in the net. Just like that, one team took control of the game, while the other was left shaking its heads and wondering what just happened.
Last week’s NCAA National Championship game was something else.
Gone from the playoffs are recent Stanley Cup finals stalwarts Los Angeles and Boston. Joining them for an early summer golf vacation are the San Jose Sharks, who’ve been to 10 straight postseasons (and 15 of the last 16), and fellow 2014 postseason participants Colorado, Dallas, Columbus and Philadelphia.
Taking the place of those seven teams are Washington, the New York Islanders, Ottawa, Nashville, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary.
The result of all of the chaos: A wide-open Eastern Conference playoff bracket, featuring one dominant team (the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers) and a whole slew of legitimate Cup contenders, including Montreal, Tampa Bay and Washington.
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The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is over and I’m patting myself on the back. I correctly predicted three of the four Frozen Four participants, including upstart Providence making it out of the East Regional. I’m particularly proud of that pick because I had the Friars making it to the Frozen Four back in my preseason predictions. Right now I feel like a smart fellow.
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My favorite time of the year has arrived. The college hockey postseason has been going for two weeks. Now it’s time for the main event, the NCAA Tournament. Before I get into profiling the tournament, here’s a brief look back at my first year in the Division I world.
Oh, this isn’t fair.
Your husband’s grandfather played for the 1937-38 Chicago Black Hawks, and won the Stanley Cup, and hung onto the jersey, and passed it down in the family, and it’s in great condition, and now you’re on Antiques Roadshow, and the appraiser has never seen an NHL jersey from that era before?
Sigh. I’ll give you $100 for the jersey.
Another pro-fighting gauntlet was laid today by an active NHL enforcer. I figured his argument was worth examining. Maybe he would cover some new ground in this era of Rule 48 videos and a heightened cultural sensitivity toward concussions.
The world of college hockey has changed a lot in the last couple of years. This season has been unusual, to say the least.
Some things are predictable. North Dakota and Boston University occupy the top two spots in the polls. Others that have gone according to plan are Minnesota State leading the WCHA, Bowling Green starting to become a solid program again and NCHC teams like Miami, Denver and Minnesota-Duluth having good seasons. If I had to make some predictions today, I’d say the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament will go to the Fighting Sioux (until a name is chosen, they will remain the Sioux to me), BU, MSU and Miami. Bowling Green, UMass-Lowell and Duluth could also snatch a number-1 spot.
Some other programs have been surprising. Harvard (Harvard!) is number three in the rankings, arguably the favorite heading into the Beanpot Tournament. The Crimson haven’t won the tournament since 1993 and this is their best chance to end that drought. Other surprises include Union falling from defending national champs to out of the national polls, Penn State(!) leading the Big Ten despite only being a program for three years and Wisconsin having potentially the worst season a major hockey program has ever had. The Badgers are 2-11-1 and were winless until the end of November. To watch a team go from making the NCAA Tournament last year to Big Ten cellar dweller is remarkable.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the success of Michigan Tech. The Huskies are having a fantastic year, starting 10-0. They were briefly the number-one team in the country. Tech was even featured in the New York Times, so that should tell you how big of the season this has been for the school and for the city of Houghton.
We here at AllPuck like to dignify the experience of playing hockey with complete sentences and words of praise. (Usually.) In reality, tough love and four-letter words are a more common linguistic currency in the locker room. Occasionally that tough love spills onto the practice rink. And, even more rarely, there’s a camera rolling to capture all that tough love in its crude glory.
So it was at Minnesota Wild practice today. Here’s head coach Mike Yeo:
When Cal Ripken Jr. played his 2,131st consecutive baseball game for the Baltimore Orioles in 1995, the sitting President and Vice President of the United States were on hand to watch. Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis performed the National Anthem. Drop the number “2131” in Baltimore and many Orioles fans still understand the reference.
When Doug Jarvis played his 915th consecutive hockey game for the Hartford Whalers in 1986, he received a standing ovation from the fans at the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum. There could not have been more than 15,126 fans cheering, because the building could not accommodate more than 15,126 fans. Drop the number “915” in Hartford and it might accurately reference the number of Whalers fans still living in Hartford, since the team hasn’t existed in 17 years.
Doug Jarvis? Who’s that?