PLAYOFF Fever is catching, are you ready?

PLAYOFF  FEVER has hit! Has it taken over your life or the life someone you know? Prepare yourselves as tonight is only the beginning of a fantastic hockey tradition!

The 2013 QUEST for the Stanley Cup begins for 16 teams TODAY. In June ONE team will win this lengthly battle. The madness is only just beginning!!

The 2013 QUEST for the Stanley Cup begins for 16 teams TODAY. In June ONE team will win this lengthly battle. The madness is only just beginning!!

Round ONE of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin today!! Are you ready?!

The WESTERN Conference Quarterfinal Match-ups are set as follows:

1. The Chicago Blackhawks [36-7-5] vs. 8.The Minnesota Wild [26-19-3]. Game 1 April 30th 5:00:PM

As much as I hate to admit it, the Chicago Blackhawks have been dominant ALL season long from the start of this shortened season losing just an incredible 7 times in regulation. Their first half was particularly incredible as they posted a sparkling 21-0-3 record…24 straight games where they recorded atleast ONE point setting a new NHL record [meaning that in the second half they posted a 15-7-2 record…which is still very respectable but not nearly as dominant as their first half]. The year began with a question mark in regards to their goal-tending which was soundly dealt with in the form of their goalie tandem of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. It also doesn’t hurt that Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane seemed to find a new level of compete that carried throughout the season. With their early dominance, it was never a question of whether they would make the playoffs. Simply put, the Chicago Blackhawks were the best regular season team this year.  Even with their dominance they cannot take an 8th seeded team too lightly as everyone learned the hard way last year.

The Minnesota Wild started the year with A LOT of hype following the TWO biggest signings of the off-season of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They did not get off to the successful start that everyone expected from them. They showed sparks but they were very inconsistent throughout their season. Their playoff contention was in question until the final buzzer of the final game of the season. Had they lost that final game, it would be Columbus in their place, but they did what they had to in that last game. They snuck into the 8th seed of the playoffs and will have a massive challenge in having to face-off against the tough Chicago Blackhawks.

Prediction: Chicago in 6 games.

2. The Anaheim Ducks [30-12-6] vs. 7.The Detroit Red Wings [24-16-8]. Game 1: April 30th 7:30PM

No Anaheim did not set any NHL records, BUT they did play some incredible hockey this season. Did anyone actually doubt the talents of Teemu Selanne? This year we also saw Corey Perry lose his temper…A LOT and their goalie tandem of Hiller and Fasth was a pleasant surprise and helped this team post a very impressive record. Anaheim also has the added boost of Scott Neidermeyer as an assistant coach should they ever need a reminder of what it means to have playoff success.

The Detroit Red Wings began their year without former Captain Niklas Lidstrom and it was very evident from the get go that they were missing his skill set. Their game seemed to be missing something at times and then in other games they played to their strengths. The Red Wings have qualified for the playoffs 22 straight seasons and this year that impressive streak was nearly stopped but as is the Detroit way, they found a way to get it done. They will need Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Howard to play at the tops of their games if they want to go beyond the first round. This team has a history of being an extremely dangerous team in the playoffs and this year could see them activate that veteran beast mode. Look out Anaheim!

Prediction: Detroit in 7 games.

3. The Vancouver Canucks [26-15-7] vs. 6.The San Jose Sharks [25-16-7]. Game 1: May1st 7:30PM

The Canucks like most teams had ups and downs throughout the year. There were moments when they played their best games and their worst games. The goalie tandem of Schneider and Luongo proved to be a part of the team’s success. Ryan Kesler came back to the line-up only to be forced out with a broken foot BUT when he came back the second time he came back with a fire in his eyes and looks like he’s ready to activate that thing we call beast mode. The Canucks will need a 100% healthy Kesler to alleviate the pressure that is sure to surround the Sedins as it always does during the playoffs. Jason Garrison will be making his HOMETOWN playoff debut in Game 1. For the 2013 playoffs, the Canucks have recalled the following players from Chicago: Jordan Schroeder, Nicklas Jensen, Darren Archibald, Kellan Lain, Alexandre Mallet, Jim Vandermeer, Peter Andersson and Eddie Lack.

The San Jose Sharks like the Canucks, had both good and bad streaks throughout the season. Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Antti Niemi will be looking to lead the Sharks past the first round. Marleau was unstoppable in the first few weeks of the season but his goal production slowed and the rest of the team had to find ways to score when he struggled. The Sharks will be hoping that their regular season record against the Canucks will help them succeed in the post-season, but they have to remember those games do not necessarily affect the post-season games at all. This will be a re-match [albeit in the first round] for these two teams who met in the Conference Finals two years ago. The Sharks will be looking for revenge and the Canucks will looking to take advantage of their home ice. It will be a very interesting series as these two teams renew their rivalry!

Prediction: Vancouver in 6 games.

4. The St.Louis Blues [29-17-2] vs. 5.The LA Kings [27-16-5]. Game 1: April 30th 5:00PM

Last year, no one properly anticipated the talent that LA possessed until they saw for themselves as LA dominated everyone in the playoffs. Last year LA swept the heavily favoured St.Louis Blues who definitely will want to change their fate this season. The newly acquired Jay Bouwmeester will be making his LONG anticipated playoff debut with his new St.Louis team. St.Louis strengthened their blue line and have been getting some solid goal-tending from Brian Elliot down the stretch. They will need use their defensive strengths and also score goals. They will be hoping to have forward T.J. Oshie back for game 1. LA will be looking to remind St.Louis that the road to the Stanley Cup goes through them and they are not looking to let it be taken from them easily.

Prediction: St.Louis in 7 games.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal match-ups also look to have some interesting storylines and I thought I’d make a few more predictions. Predictions for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:

1.Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8. New York Islanders. Pittsburgh will hoping to get the boost of their Captain Sidney Crosby to help them get past the first round for the first time since the 2010 playoffs. The Islanders while not the obvious choice should not be taken lightly as they make their first trip to the post-season since 2007 and oh yeah, they have this guy name John Tavares who has been very clutch for the Islanders this season! Prediction: Pittsburgh in 6 games.

2.Montreal Canadiens vs. 7.Ottawa Senators. An all-Canadian match-up. Can it get any better for fans back East? The Canadiens have greatly benefited from a coaching change and a new team identity this season. Anyone seen that guy they call P.K. on the point? Look out for his shot! The Senators have played a very decent season despite a very depleted line-up and they got a huge boost at the end of the season when Erik Karlsson returned.  Prediction: Montreal in 7 games.

3.Washington Capitals vs. 6. New York Rangers. At the beginning of the year everyone thought New York would finish at the top in the East, and while that did not happen they did show what they are capable of with the talent in their line-up. Lunqvist may have struggled at times during the season but he got scary good down the stretch. The Rangers made some big splashes in the summer and at tht deadline acquiring Nash, Brassard, Clowe, and a few others. Washington was a major question mark in the first half leaving many people to wonder where oh where did Ovechkin go? That question was answered in the second half when the Captials were lead by #8 from the bottom of the East to the top 3. Ovechkin found his scoring touch and looks dangerous heading into the post-season. This will be a re-match of last year’s semi-final. The Capitals will be looking for a different finish. Prediction: Washington in 7 games.

4.Boston Bruins vs. 5.Toronto Maple Leafs. Prediction: Boston in 6 games. Two original 6 teams meeting in the post-season and two teams with very rabid fan bases. It will be interesting to see how the Maple Leafs handle the Bruins style of post-season hockey in their first trip back to the playoffs in nine years. It will be a series to keep an eye on.

*Some of these predictions may differ from yours or be similar, but they are just meant to be that. You may or may not agree with my predictions but that’s okay, you do not have to agree with me. As we all know, predictions made during the playoffs do not always work out the way we expect or want them to but it’s part of the tradition that is playoff hockey! [Feel free to share your own predictions in the comments!]

In a year when everyone told me that there would be no NHL season, I will simply enjoy getting to enjoy my spring tradition of 2 months of great hockey! Enjoy whatever these next two months bring, the madness is sett to begin TONIGHT!

PLAYOFFS ARE HERE! Are you ready? Where will you be watching Game 1 from? I will be watching my Canucks LIVE at Rogers Arena tomorrow and in case you missed it, I am beyond excited! It feels like Christmas Eve as tomorrow is GAME DAY for my Canucks and their playoff journey begins. Mind you it is only round one, but getting that elusive 16th victory in the finals begins with success in round one. 16 teams are fighting the same battle this week and in two weeks only 8 teams will remain in the quest for the Stanley Cup. Like I said, the madness is just beginning and no one knows what will happen.

The playoffs are when players and teams alike surprise you and sometimes it is a player or team that you did not anticipate, but that is what makes this time of year so exciting!!  I love playoff hockey, there is nothing quite like it! #GoCanucksGo!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

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Western Conference Quarter Season Facts

The 2012-2013 NHL season was shortened [due to Bettman’s 3rd lockout] to 48 games.  12 games in marks the quarter mark of the season [All teams have played 11-14 games].

Here’s an overview of the Western Conference thus far into the 2013 season[with a slightly more extensive look at my #Canucks]:

1. Chicago Blackhawks [10-0-3 –23 points] As much as it pains me to say this….they are playing some incredible hockey so far. They remain the only team to be undefeated in regulation this year. Their offense is firing on all cylinders and Corey Crawford has been lights out in the net. It pains me even more to type this next sentence….the Chicago Blackhawks are being led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane & company towards a possibly lengthly playoff run. It’s not easy to play so many early games on the road, but the Blackhawks are finding the answers, picking up points in every single game they have played in. They are playing some unbelievable hockey.

2. Anaheim Ducks [9-2-1 –19 points] The Ducks ruined the Canucks home opener and the Canucks ruined their home opener. While Jonas Hiller has struggled in the net, his team has helped with offense to help win games. It doesn’t hurt that his backup Victor Fasth is undefeated in his NHL experience! Has anyone mentioned the age of Teemu Selanne affecting his play? No they have not because this guy is still putting up points and making ridiculously awesome plays despite his age.

3. Vancouver Canucks [8-2-2 –18 points] After 12 games the Canucks who are perennially slow starters are off to a 8-2-2 start. The Canucks were without Ryan Kesler and David Booth to start the season, but have found a way to win games. Zack Kassian has been a pleasant surprise to Canuck fans this season finding an offensive spark, even earning playing time with the twins. Mason Raymond looks like he has finally found his speedy stride again posting 8 points[4 goals, 4 assists] in 12 games. The Canucks are getting secondary scoring from their defense, 2nd, and 3rd lines which is extremely important in a shortened season and building towards a playoff run. A closer look at the defense reveals the Canuck defense has contributed 27 points [9 goals, 18 assists] through 12 games, that is comparable to the triplets [the Sedins & Burrows] posting 24 points[6 goals, 18 assists]. Did I mention Alex Edler is leading the rear guard with 9 points? Henrik Sedin may not have a goal [yet, its coming, SOON!] but he is just ONE point behind Markus Naslund on the all-time points leader of the franchise{fun fact:Daniel is just 27 points behind Hank and looks to be passing Nazzy soon as well}.The Canucks are currently on a six-game WIN streak. Rumors are swirling that Ryan Kesler and David Booth are nearing their return to the lineup within the next games. The question remains with both presumably back sooner rather than later what will become of rookie Jordan Schroeder? The kid has been incredibly solid and scored his 1st two NHL goals in one game in front of a crazed home crowd….not too mention a shootout winner against Chicago!!! Speaking of rumors…can we let the goalie controversy crap end please? Relax. In a shortened season such as the current one have TWO incredibly goalies is an incredible gift and fans should appreciate this luxury. It’s funny that all those fans who said they wanted Luongo gone are suddenly singing his praises. The guy never stopped being a #1…he simply has stepped his game up to a new level….and his numbers have him sitting #2 behind Ottawa’s Anderson. Luongo has posted a 1.45 GAA and 0.943 save percentage. Luongo is undefeated in regulation yet thus far….his current run is reminding me of a 16-0-5 run he helped lead the team on back in the 2010-2011 season. Cory Schneider has been solid in his recent games…bringing his numbers to a respectable 2.36 GAA and 0.921 save %. With so many teams having lost their #1 goalies to injuries, the Canucks are extremely lucky to have not just one #1 but two goalies capable of giving the team a chance to win every game. Every game and every point matters in a shortened season.

4. San Jose Sharks [7-3-3 –17 points] The San Jose Sharks were off to an incredible start this season…a franchise best even going 7-0-0. January was incredible for their big name players, particularly for Patrick Marleau. February has been a much different story as they have yet to register one win, the Sharks are 0-3-3 in 6 games. They will to need to go back to finding the offense[hello Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Couture…where did you go?] that won them all their January games before they find themselves in an irreversible rut.

5. Detroit Red Wings [7-4-2 –16 points] Following a disappointing 6-0 opening loss to the St.Louis Blues, the Red Wing have been extremely solid. Henrik Zetterberg was name captain following the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom and is off to a great start…including a hat trick! The Red Wings have been a cornerstone of the West for the last two decades, and all signs point to them continuing their dominance as they find their stride. Detroit has a great history of developing amazing players through their organization and this year is not different with the emergence of rookie Damien Brunner.

6. Nashville Predators [6-3-4 –16 points] The Predators lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild in the off-season to the tune of a $98 million contract and followed up that loss by locking Shea Weber into their own ridiculous long-term deal. Weber has yet to register a goal, however the Predators have been able to rely on the consistent play of goalie Pekka Rinne to keep them in reach of the division lead.

7. St.Louis Blues [7-5-1 –15 points] The St.Louis Blue opened the season by beating the Detroit 6-0, picking up right where they left off last season. Since that game however, they have not been able to find that same consistency. Brian Elliot is still searching for his form from last year while his goalie partner Jaroslav Halak is out injured. Last year the Blues led the league with fewest allowed goals. The brightest spot on the Blues this season is their rookie Tarasenko who has made a name for himself in St.Louis just 13 games into his career.

8. Dallas Stars [7-6-1 –15 points] The Dallas Stars have been up and down. Jaromir Jagr has found his offensive spark once more despite his age. Offense has been good despite the delay in the re-signing of Jamie Benn who has helped lift this team over .500 level hockey and start a 5 game win streak that came to a halt in Calgary.

9. Phoenix Coyotes [6-5-2- 14 points] Shane Doan played coy during the off-season until re-signing with the team he has ever played for. They have had some good moments giving fans a glimpse of the team that went to the conference finals last season. The Coyotes have considerably well despite the continued issue of uncertainty regarding their ownership.

10. Minnesota Wild [6-6-1 –13 points] This is the team that spent nearly $200 million signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the off-season. Those two signings were supposed to catapult the Wild into a high scoring team, but it just has not happened yet. Parise has found some offense, the same cannot be said of Ryan Suter who has yet find the back of the net. The Wild are barely above 0.500 and are beginning to look the way they did the in second half of last season when everything fell apart for them. They need to find their balance offensively and play the way they did at the beginning of last season….and get their two newest Wild members to play the way they have been known to in the past. Rumor has it that the head coach Mike Yeo is on the chopping block.

11. Edmonton Oilers [5-5-3 –13 points] The Edmonton Oilers won the Justin Schultz lottery and he has been a major asset to them on the blue line 13 games in. The Oilers are stacked with young talent, but have faced the trouble of inconsistent play and injuries costing them important points. If they tighten up defensively and add some consistency to their game, they will turn it around. Their young core definitely has a bright future.

12. Calgary Flames [4-4-3 –11points] The Calgary Flames have picked up right where they left off the last few seasons…in a disappointing fashion. They have yet to find their scoring niche. They say as Iginla goes so do the Flames….and he is not yet at the top of his game. Iginla and the Flames are typically slow starters but in a short season the entire team needs to pick up their game with more efforts like the game against the Stars.

13. LA Kings [4-5-2 –10 points] The LA Kings have hardly looked like the dominant team that won last year’s championship. They are without Mitchell and Greene to help solidify their defensive play. Jonathan Quick has also not played to his full capacity just yet, but he definitely is more than qualified. The Kings still have most of their championship core in place, but they need to find that drive that catapulted them to the Stanley Cup last season if they are looking to repeat.

14. Columbus Blue Jackets [4-7-2 –10 points] The Columbus Blue Jackets were faced with beginning the year without the former face of the franchise Rick Nash[he is now a New York Ranger]. They have begun slowly losing some important games while showing some great moments in their few wins. They need to find secondary scoring as they can no longer depend on Rick Nash scoring their goals. In the latest news the Blue Jackets fired GM Howson following their 13th game.

15. Colorado Avalanche [4-6-1 –9 points] The Colorado Avalanche are just in a string of bad luck…with injuries to everyone from their Captain Gabriel Ladeskog and Eric Jonhson and losing games they need to win. Not too mention all the drama with last year’s scoring leader Ryan O’Reilly still unsigned. Initially the Avs said they were working to re-sign the forward…and than talks broke off and rumors have begun to swirl that he will either be traded or sit out for the entire season before being signed. The Avs could really use a player like O’Reilly to help them get back their scoring touch. Head Coach Joe Sacco will have to find a new approach to snap Colorado out of their skid.

The post lockout issue between the NHL and NHLPA is the ‘Re-Alignment’. Have you heard about the re-alignment? Do you even care? The details at this point are limited as it is still in the discussion process. Here are the basics: The NHL wants to realign the league to 4 conferences [instead of the current two conference and 6 division split]. The league was looking to pass the realignment last season but it fell flat when the NHLPA voted against the notion in December 2011. The two sides are in renewed talks about this proposal and the owners are expected to vote on it, if approved by them, the vote would then go to the players. If this newest proposal gets approved by all parties the realignment would go into effect next season. One of the issues with this 4 conference format was the fact that there were no clear lines regarding playoff qualification as the West would have had two 8 team conferences whereas the East would have had two 7 team conferences. We shall see what the two sides come up with should they address all the issues.

It is only the quarter mark of the season and already so many stand out moments have occurred [From Chicago’s ridiculous point streak, teams winning/losing streaks, to goalie controversies and media speculated rumors]. Streaks good and bad have begun and will continue to occur throughout the remainder of the season. Players will be injured forcing teams to respond and others will return from injury giving teams a boost. We will have to wait and see what both the conference and the league look like at the halfway mark.

As always until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

From panic to cheer & Henrik nears record

Remember how I told you all to relax after all that ridiculous early panic after the first games? The Canucks went 2-2-2- in their first games and have now improved to 7-2-2 in 11 games following a 5 game win streak! Solid goal-tending was responsible for the first three wins of that streak and finally balanced offense won the most recent two games. In the last five games the Canucks have out scored their opponents 20-5! Both Luongo and Schneider have been incredibly solid in the last 5 games. Not too mention the rest of the team has finally found their offensive stride.

Games 9,10 and 11 were all about finding balance. Game nine saw the Canucks begin a road trip last week facing Edmonton’s young guns. The game began with Edmonton all over the Canucks for the first half of the game. The Oilers had gained a 2-0 lead with a powerplay goal and a shorthanded goal! It looked like Edmonton had the game under control…[much like the Canucks when they had the 2-0 lead back in the game January 20th]. The Canucks found their legs midway through the second period with a goal by Jannik Hansen. It looked like Edmonton had control of the game and that they would be skating away with the two points. The game was winding down with less than three minutes on the clock before a Kevin Bieksa goal beat Devan Dubnyk. We had a tied game with time winding down. Cue overtime.  Chances go back and forth. Taylor Hall on a breakaway was taken down by Daniel Sedin[yes Daniel Sedin] leading the refs to call reward Hall with a penalty shot….which if it went in, meant the game would be over. Taylor Hall went in all alone and was stopped by LUONGO with just under two minutes to go into the overtime period. Time on the clock was winding down….inching closer and closer towards what would have been their 5th shootout in 9 games. Ridiculous. Cue some #sedinery no look passes followed by a perfect tape to tape pass to Chris Tanev who made no mistake in scoring his first NHL goal. Did I mention that there was only 20 sconds left? Needless to say he will not soon be forgetting that goal. Has it really been nearly 70 games since he made his debut? It may have been his first NHL goal [finally!] but the guy has been extremely solid defensively in all his games before this one. Canucks did not have the start that they wanted but they did get the two points that they came for.

Game 10 saw the Canucks face off against the Minnesota Wild. The Canucks were up against the newly acquired Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Expectations were risen to a whole new level in Minnesota with their big contract players arrival. Both teams have high expectations from their fans this year. Landing the free agency sweepstakes and having so-called goal-tending controversy will do that to you. Needless to say there were endless headlines heading into this game. Parise and Suter were suited up and Cory Schneider was between the pipes. The Canucks were much better prepared for this game. They wasted no time in getting on the scored board, by the end of the second period they had a 4-0 lead! The Wild would eventually get one goal, but that is where their offense ended. The Canucks went on to win this one 4-1 and the Wild were left wondering where their offense went as they dropped yet another game. Rumor has that the Minnesota Wild could be looking to replace their head coach following a disappointing finish last year and start to this season.

Game 11 would bring the Canucks back home to face another division rival, the Calgary Flames. Like any other Canuck fan, I love watching the team in blue beat the Flames[and yes I know its the reverse for fans of the Flames]. Calgary was looking to build on their 2 game win streak. Cory Schneider was again given the nod[see! I told you that he would get some starts..relax….we have 2 great goalies…let’s enjoy it while it lasts!]. The first period was pretty even and many times it looked like the Canucks would get on the scoreboard early, but they did not. It was the Flames who got a buzzer beater to take a 1-0 lead into the second period. Not exactly what the Canucks were looking to do. If the Canucks wanted to turn the tide, they would need some serious #sedinery and that is exactly what happened. The #triplets[Sedins & Burrows] got the game all squared at 1 and just 27 seconds later on the powerplay, rookie Jordan Schroeder scored his 1st NHL goal to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead. The offense did not end there…the Canucks would add 3 more goals including Jordan Schroeder’s second NHL goal!! The Canucks were sloppy in the opening 20 minutes of this game but came out all cylinders on fire in the final 40 minutes to skate away with a 5-1 victory. It was their 5th WIN in a row which improves the Canucks to 7-2-2 over 11 games.

Have you heard? Ryan Kesler and David Booth have officially returned to practiced. Kesler even traveled with the team on their mini road trip to Edmonton and Minnesota. Next up is a home game the Minnesota Wild tomorrow at 7PM where the Canucks look to extend their win streak to 6 games. Luongo won the coin toss and will start in tomorrow’s game. [Has anyone seen this coin of Vigneault’s?] The Canucks will have to be prepared as Minnesota will not make it easy on them to take the two points as both are fighting for playoff positioning.

Rumor has it that #17 could be back in the line up as soon as this weekend. What better game for him to return to than in his home state of Michigan when the Canucks take on the Detroit Red Wings? He always plays some of his best hockey at the Joe.  #fingerscrossed

In other news headlines, Canucks Captain Henrik Sedin is on the brink of setting franchise history. Henrik sits just one point behind former Captain Markus Naslund with 755 points[Nazzy scored 756 points in his 12 years as a Canuck] . Tomorrow night he will have a chance to tie and to surpass the record. The question is not if he can tie the record, it is merely when will he tie and surpass the record? Henrik will tie the record and possibly surpass it tomorrow becoming to the franchise leader in points scored for the Canucks. From #Sedinery to #recordbreaker #GoodLuckHank

We shall see what tomorrow brings at puck drop. As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.