Monday, October 22, 2012

2012-2013 NHL Season: What We're All Missing, Part 2

By Pete Dombrosky (@Pete_Dombrosky)

What We're All Missing is an NHL Lockout driven series that focuses on what each NHL team brings to the table when in-seasonEnjoy!

St. Louis Blues
2011-2012 Record: (49-22-11) 109 points
Playoffs: Lost Conference Semi-Finals (4-0) versus Los Angeles Kings, Won Conference Quarter-Finals (4-1) versus San Jose Sharks

Blues fans are luckier than a lot of other NHL supporters in that the odds are good they’re also fans of the Cardinals. This storied baseball franchise is in the midst of yet another improbable World Series run and are one of the most exciting teams in baseball to watch.

But if the Cards can’t claim their second title in as many years, St. Louis fans might be left rooting for only the lowly Rams. They don’t deserve that, especially because their hockey team was one of the best in the league last season. Toward playoff time, many pundits were picking the Blues as their favorites to win the Cup. Why not? They had TWO of the best goalies in the league in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott (who finished No. 5 and No. 1 in GAA and No. 6 and No. 1 in SV%, respectively).

The Blues were also the best defensive team in the league, averaging 1.89 goals against per game. That stat was thanks to their outstanding goaltending, as well as all-star blueliner Alex Pietrangelo and the rest of the Blues’ back end. Additionally, captain and forward David Backes added to the team’s defensive prowess and was a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward.

As the old adage goes, defense wins championships, and even though that might not be true in every instance, it certainly helps to keep the puck out of the net better than anyone else in the league. St. Louis fans are certainly missing seeing their team stonewall opponents night after night and it’d be a shame to see the Blues’ return to power stifled by a locked out season.

Boston Bruins
2011-2012 Record: (49-29-4) 102 points
Playoffs: Lost Conference Quarter-Finals (4-3) versus Washington Capitals

The Bruins are one of the most balanced teams in the NHL. Last season, they led the league with a +61, scoring the second-most goals and allowing the fifth-least. They have an unusual combination of skill and grit so that they can finesse the puck into your net or knock you out and score at will.

Although Boston didn’t have any 30-goal scorers last season, they did have five forwards who scored 22 or more. That group was led by second-year phenom Tyler Seguin. He finished the season with 29 goals, 38 assists and a +34. The Bruins believe he will be the future of the franchise and many fans agree. He already has one ring so Seguin knows how good it feels. If this season happens, he’ll be willing to run through walls to get another chance to raise the Cup again.

Defensively, the Bruins are not a fun team to compete against. They play a bruising, physical brand of hockey and if you’re brave enough to stand up to them, they have the muscle to go toe-to-toe as effectively as anyone in the league, as evidenced by winger Shawn Thornton who led the NHL in major penalties last year. And if you have a method for beating the 6'9," 260-pound captain Zdeno Chara, there are 29 teams that would like to speak with you. Getting hit by Chara is like being shot out of a cannon, while simultaneously being shot by a cannon. Just ask Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty.

BOW or get CRUSHED in the presence of Zdeno!

Bruins fans know their team is a contender right now and watching them beat up everybody else is an added bonus. When/if the lockout ends, the bruises begin in Boston.

Montreal Canadiens
2011-2012 Record: (31-35-16) 78 points
Playoffs: Did not qualify

Ask any hockey beat writer in the nation where the best atmosphere in the NHL is and they will all give you the same answer: Bell Centre (or Centre Bell as it’s known in French-Canada).

Noise levels inside the arena are rumored to reach 135 dB when the Canadiens score. According to the Temple University Department of Civil/Environmental Engineering, 120 dB is painful and 130 dB is equivalent to a military jet aircraft take-off from an aircraft carrier with afterburner at 50 feet.

Pretty crazy right? Well that atmosphere is why Habs fans deserve the lockout to end. Not to mention that the team has given its loyal followers plenty to root for in recent history. Although the Canadiens didn’t reach the postseason in 2012, they’ve been in the playoffs seven of the last 10 years, four of those teams winning at least a series.

Montreal also has some talented personnel on its roster. Eric Cole (35 goals in 2011-12) and Max Pacioretty (33 goals in 2011-12) both come to mind, but the Canadiens best is probably netminder Carey Price. At the tender age of 25, Price has already won 124 games, recorded 16 shutouts and played in 26 postseason contests. The Montreal organization had such confidence in Price that at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, they traded away their previous goalie Jaroslav Halak, who had led the Habs to the Eastern Conference Finals less than a month prior.

Fully focused, man.

Canadiens fans are probably pacing back and forth in their homes right now, just waiting to blowout some eardrums by rooting for their team whenever it starts playing again.

Vancouver Canucks
2011-2012 Record: (51-22-9) 111 points
Playoffs: Lost Conference Quarter-Finals (4-1) versus Los Angeles Kings

There wasn’t a more surprising or disappointing end to a season than what happened to the Vancouver Canucks last April. They entered the postseason as the Western Conference regular season champions and Presidents Trophy winners with 111 points. It was the second most successful regular season campaign in the history of the franchise. Then after only five games, they were ousted by the Los Angeles Kings, which barely squeaked into the playoffs as an eight seed.

It’s clear the Canucks have no problem dominating in the regular season. Two years ago, they finished with a franchise-high 117 points. But even though they made it to the Stanley Cup Final, they lost in seven games to Boston. And their fans were a little upset.

This year’s team has the same capabilities as those from the last two, in part because they’re the most balanced and productive in the NHL. They have plenty of offensive prowess with the Sedin twins, Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler. They’re also stout defensively with talented blue liners Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison.

And you can’t forget about the goaltending tandem of Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo. Luongo has been surpassed as the starter (and is patiently awaiting a possible trade), but says he will take any role the team asks of him. If he remains with the Canucks, they’ll have two No. 1 goalies and will remain as one of the favorites to hoist Lord Stanley’s hardware. That’s what Canucks fans are missing.

2012-2013 NHL Season: What We're All Missing, Part 1

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