Monday, April 15, 2013
Coming Down the Home Stretch-NHL 2013
The season began in mid-January. Since that time, neither the fans nor the players have had time to catch a breath. Because of all the crunching done to the season following the lockout, teams have had to play far more games in a shortened season than they would have normally.
For the contenders, nothing can be left on the ice. Every period, every shift is important. Gaining a playoff berth at the end of the regular season might come down to one goal in a shootout.
The Florida Panthers said goodbye to the post season about a week ago when they dropped a couple of games on a road trip. They are in a position to mess things up for several other teams, as they face contenders in these last few games. They close out the season against the Leafs, at home, on the 27th of April. At this time, General Manager Dale Tallon, Alternate Governor Bill Torrey and the rest of the brass with the Panthers are assessing the young talent that has spent much of the season in the minors.
Drew Shore, Jonathan Huberdeau, Greg Rallo, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howdon are young players getting a closer look at this point in time. Huberdeau has had a fine season as a rookie, and is in contention for honours in that regard. He has the makings of an outstanding player, and will be an important part of the future of the Panthers.
There are many Leaf fans in the Quinte area anxiously awaiting the final games of the season. The Leafs have games with contenders, with teams vying for position in the standings, and teams that are preparing for next year. They have games remaining against the Islanders, the Sens, the Lightning, the Panthers, and the Habs. They are in the driver’s seat at this time, but need a couple of wins to assure themselves of a favourable spot in the dance.
They have received good goaltending throughout the year. Reimer and Scrivens have split the season, with Reimer starting most of the games. He has won 15 games, lost 5, and entertained 5 games in extra time. His save percentage is a respectable .919, and his goals against average is 2.52.
I chatted with Nazem Kadri when he visited South Florida earlier in the season. He has 40 points at the time of writing, including 17 goals. Surrounded by a dozen scribes in the dressing room after the game, his main focus was to try to get the radio people to pronounce his name correctly. All good citizens of the Leafs Nation could help them in that regard!
Coaches often state that their best players must come to the fore in order to win the big games. That has been the case for the Leafs this season. James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, and Dion Phaneuf follow Kadri in scoring, and that is as it should be.
The Leafs could end up facing the Habs in the first round of the playoffs. It’s a good thing that there are two television sets in a lot of households in Eastern Ontario!
James Hurst April 15, 2013