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NHL: Lord Stanley Delivers!

29 May 2010

It’s worth noting that NBC only covers the Finals of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs, while all subordinate series are relegated to the Versus channel.  Who ever heard of the Versus channel?  I’ve never watched anything on Versus except playoff hockey.  The NBA playoffs are on TNT, at least most people have heard of it.  NBC must be on to something though, because as good as this year’s NHL playoffs have been, game one of the Blackhawks/Flyers Stanley Cup Finals series topped it all.  Back and forth scoring provided for high drama as ten goals (roughly double the NHL average) were scored in the first two periods of Saturday’s opener in Chicago. Tomas Kopecky scored the eventual game-winner for the Blackhawks at 8:25 into the third period, and Chicago held on for twelve more action-packed minutes to secure a 6-5 game one victory.

One liner: “Chris Pronger is the best hockey player no one has ever heard of.”  In Reference to the casual hockey fan’s ignorance of Philadelphia Flyers All Star defenseman Chris Pronger, who helped lead three different teams to the Stanley Cup Finals in the last four years.

Send comments to Josh@notasportsguy.com

The Basics

NHL Play-offs: The National Hockey League has 30 teams organized into two conferences, western and eastern, with each conference having three divisions.  The NHL originated in Canada, although most teams are American.  The winner of the NHL’s play-offs is awarded the Stanley Cup, named after Lord Stanley of Canada when he donated a cup to the best Canadian hockey team.  Many people have gripes about NHL’s play-off system because over half of the teams make the play-offs (16 of 30) after an 82 game regular season.

-The Chicago Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks in four straight games to secure their spot in the NHL Finals.  The Philadelphia Flyers are Beat the Montreal Canadiens 4 games to 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Both teams represent major-market hockey fan bases, fielding traditionally successful teams.  Yet despite relative success in playoffs year-in and year out, neither team has hoisted the Stanley Cup in over 35 (Flyers) or 49 (Blackhawks) years, respectively.

Terminology:

Lord Stanley’s Mug: Another name for the Stanley Cup.  The Stanley Cup is the NHL championship trophy and one of the most recognizable trophies in professional sports. Besides the iconic World Cup trophy, the Stanley Cup is distinctive for its size and “rings” which list the teams and names of past champions.

Zamboni: A machine that resurfaces the ice rink before and during breaks in a hockey game.  It is said that many Canadians’ retirement dream is to drive the Zamboni for their local NHL team. The Zamboni will be brought out to resurface the ice in between each of the three periods.

Penalty Box: Where a player sits after he commits a penalty.  When a hockey player commits a rule infraction of any kind he will spend a designated amount of time in the penalty box, off the ice unable to join the action until the penalty time has expired.  The amount of penalty time increases with the severity of the infraction committed. 

Power Play: When a player commits a penalty and is sequestered in the penalty box he cannot be replaced by his team.  The offending team is short a player for the penalty time.  This creates a tremendous advantage for the other team.  With a numerical advantage due to a penalty, a team is said to have a “power play.”  Teams with power plays often score because with the personnel advantage they can often attempt multiple shots on goal and keep the puck in their offensive zone.

Icing: An infraction where a team strikes the puck and it crosses two red lines without anybody touching the puck.  The rule prevents an inferior team from just playing only defense and blasting the puck to the other end whenever they get a chance to hit it.

5 hole:  The 5 hole is the nickname for the space between the goaltenders legs.   To score “through the 5 hole” is to shoot the puck through the goalkeeper’s legs for a goal.  The name comes from the five positions that a goalkeeper must defend from the ready position.  They are 1 hole – glove side high, 2 hole – glove side low, 3 hole stick side high, 4 hole stick side low.

Line changes: The five players other than the goaltender are typically divided into three forwards and two defensemen.  A substitution of an entire unit at once is called a line change. Teams typically employ alternate sets of forward lines and defensive pairings when shorthanded or on a power play. Substitutions are permitted at any time during the course of the game, so at any time during play you may see players skate to and from their bench.