Ronnie Shuker is an associate editor with The Hockey News. He brought his philosophy and journalism graduate degrees to THN in 2011 and has been living the dream since. By day he mans his desk, crushing copy and weaving yarns for the magazine. By night he’s either at home or in the press box watching dump-truck loads of hockey.
With their 3-0 win over the suddenly slumping St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars are returning to the post-season, having eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes. It’ll be the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2007-08 when ‘Big D’ made it to the Western Conference final before bowing out in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
The 16 playoff teams are now set. All that’s to be decided now is positioning.
For the Stars, they could get any one of the Ducks, Avalanche or Blues in Round 1. They’re 2-1 against Anaheim, 1-3-1 versus Colorado and now 3-1-1 when facing St. Louis. Couple their success in Missouri with the Blues’ five-game losing streak, and the Stars might be hoping for first-round series against the Notes.
As the regular season winds down, so does the career of Ryan Smyth, who announced Friday that he’ll retire after his final game Saturday night in Edmonton against the Vancouver Canucks.
Smyth will leave the NHL the same way he came in: wearing an Edmonton Oilers jersey. As he should. Some in similar shoes hope to have an even better exit – like carrying Stanley out the door – while others will have to settle for less glamorous goodbyes if they leave. At 38, Smyth is the youngest on this list of greybeards who have to decide whether they should stay or go.
In the summer I whittled my possible Stanley Cup winners down to four teams for our annual Yearbook predictions: the St. Louis Blues (THN’s pick), Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. I was tempted to go with the Ducks for sentimental reasons (Teemu Selanne), but in the end I opted for sound hockey reasons, as well as some sweet symmetry, and went with the Rangers.
It’s almost perfection on a plate. For hockey players, so much of what the body needs is in a single food.
“Salmon is a great choice,” said trainer Ben Prentiss. “It’s high in protein, has DHA – which supports your brain – it serves as an anti-inflammatory, and it’s one of the best things for burning body fat. It’s pretty much the perfect food. ”
Prentiss is a strength and conditioning coach who has trained NHLers such as Martin St-Louis, Max Pacioretty, Matt Moulson and James van Riemsdyk. He’s all business when it comes to workouts for his players in the off-season and no nonsense when it comes to their nutrition programs.
“They eat whatever I tell them to eat,” Prentiss said. “As a strength coach, I’m not worried about making delicious dishes for the guys. I’m more concerned about what it’s doing for them. A perfect dish would be wild salmon with quinoa and kale or salmon with brown rice pasta.”
Of all the likely first-round matchups already shaping up for the playoffs, Chicago over Colorado looks like the easiest to call. The others – Canadiens-Lightning, Rangers-Flyers, Sharks-Kings – all appear to be pick ‘em series.
Not so with the Avalanche-Blackhawks who have been headed for a showdown in Round 1 for a while now. Even if the Avs hold onto second spot in the Central Division, few pundits will pick them to upset the Hawks.
But be not so quick to count out this plucky Colorado club, nor feel so safe to put unconditional faith in the defending Stanley Cup champions.
After a season-high seven-game scoreless streak in March, Max Pacioretty is back in a big way in April.
In the seven games since that slump, Pacioretty now has eight goals and 11 points after his hat trick and five-point game against the Ottawa Senators Friday night. It’s his third hat trick and 10th multi-goal game of the season.
The Detroit Red Wings, against all odds, are still in the mix in the Eastern Conference playoff race. And they’re doing it the wild way, as they did in their dramatic 5-4 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Daniel Alfredsson scored with 0.4 seconds left in overtime to give the Red Wings the win.
It was Alfredsson’s second goal and third point of the game.
Imagine Pittsburgh without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Chicago without Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Anaheim without Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry or Vancouver without the Sedins.
That’s the type of hand Detroit has been dealt with its top two stars, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, both out at a critical point in the season.
For the second night in a row, two of the NHL’s heavyweights collide in a crucial late-season showdown. St. Louis had a chance to bury Chicago last night, but the Blackhawks beat down the Blues 4-0 in a rather one-sided game between two of the Central Division’s big boys.
Tonight, the Pacific Division’s heavies take center stage. And the Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks fight promises to be much better.
This one has playoff-like anticipation around it. Each team has 97 points, so the winner will take over sole possession of first place in the division. And both are desperate to win it.
The old adage of just making the playoffs doesn’t apply to them. Second place in the Pacific means a dance with the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the post-season. First place will draw one of Minnesota, Phoenix or Dallas (possibly Winnipeg or Vancouver). No poison to pick among any of those teams.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, poses a post-season brick wall that neither Anaheim nor San Jose wants to run into in the first round.