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Life After Football: Hockey Is Just Football On Ice

A man who can't skate attempts to take you through a brief recap of this season's NHL action.

Matt K
Matt K

As I stated in my last article, I'm a basketball guy.

Always have been, likely always will be.

That means I've never been a hockey guy. You see, growing up, basketball was the same season as hockey, so I never followed it as closely as I could have, or as I should have.

I remember going to ice skating lessons with my parents and sister when I was four or five. They gave me that contraption  you hold onto to keep you upright — and I still managed to fall. Multiple times.

One of these things.

I don't blame my parents for not spending any more money on lessons after that.

The NHL, however, has always been interesting to me.

As I'm from Massachusetts, I've seen The Bruins as decent to elite since as long as I've been alive, so I always have something to follow, and the level of talent jumps off the screen to me for hockey compared to other sports.

Then, of course, there's the fighting.

What better draw to a sport than to know that at any given time, two guys can literally drop their gloves and beat the ever-living hell out of each other? As a football fan, wouldn't it be cool to see guys settle their beef mid-game, a la Andre Johnson and Courtland Sutton, but then be allowed to come back into the game afterward?

Simply put: Yes.  It would.

I'm sure real hockey fans are screaming at me right now, since there's so much more to the sport than fighting, and I know that. But c'mon! I'm just trying to get the football crowd into this! I'll shut up now and give you a rundown on what's been going on in the world of hockey this season.  

Where We Stand

Even though I just finished watching my Bruins spank the Avalanche 5-1, I can confidently admit that Colorado is the best team in the league. Can the Avalanche adopt the Cavs' "Cavalanche" moniker? Colorado, C, Avalanche, Cavalanche, right?

... Right?

Either way, Colorado, to use a hockey term, looks like an absolute wagon this season.

He's a defenseman, ladies and gentlemen.

Led by the pride of Amherst, Massachusetts, Cale Makar (more on him later), the Avalanche lead the entire hockey world with 76 points and sit atop the Western Division.

Carolina leads the Metropolitan Division at 34-11-4, the Florida Panthers (that's right, they play hockey in Florida. They even have two teams!) is at the top of the Atlantic, and the Calgary Flames are ahead in the Pacific. The tightest race right now is in the Pacific, with Vegas breathing right down Calgary's neck. Oh, and they just added one of the best players in the world to help them out in the second half of the season.

This feels all very exciting to me. And I hope you're following with me.

Vegas, Baby!

One of the biggest storylines going into this season was Jack Eichel's feud with his former team, the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres have been the butt end of the joke in the NHL for quite some time now, so it's not surprising to hear that a star player would want to put themself in a better situation.

This wasn't quite the NBA-level drama with a player openly forcing himself off a team, rather an injury debate between player and team (see: Kawhi Leonard). To make a long story short, Eichel had a herniated disc in his neck, the Sabres wanted him to undergo a neck fusion, and Eichel wanted a complete disk replacement. Fast forward to November of 2021 and Eichel is traded to Vegas and gets the disk replacement, and recently made his debut after recovering from the surgery.

Yeah, I think he'll be fine in Vegas.

Things worked out for both sides, as Eichel seems to fit right in with the contending Golden Knights, and many Sabres fans seem to be pleased with the return they got for their former star, even if they're at the bottom of the barrel record-wise.

And if you've made Sabres fans happy, you know you've done something right. I don't know if I've ever seen a fanbase more hopeless than them.

The Other Expansion Team

I think all hockey fans can agree (now that they're too angry to read on and won't beat me up) that they were spoiled with the Golden Knights' Stanley Cup run in 2017-18. After all, expansion teams haven't fared particularly well in their inaugural seasons. The newly created Seattle Kraken are living the struggles of a new expansion team's reality right now, as they sit in dead last in the Pacific Division.

Would you rather watch hockey in Seattle or in Las Vegas? Yeah, me too.

They boast a horrific 3.51 Goals Against per Game number, which isn't going to keep you competitive in a lot of games. Plus, in a win for analytics haters, the Kraken are defying all the preseason analytics. More on that here. But hey, the jerseys and branding are sweet!

The Great One(s)

A sports league is nothing without its players, and the NHL has some absolute studs this season.

Edmonton has been particularly spoiled this year, as they have the two players who are first and second in points on the season in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

This doesn't even seem fair to the rest of the league.

McDavid, a year removed from becoming the second player EVER to win a unanimous Hart Trophy (that's the MVP award for you newbies), has 45 assists and 26 goals on the season, while Draisaitl leads the entire league with 35 goals, and has 35 assists to match. Ridiculous.

Par for the course for McJesus.

Alex Ovechkin is still Alex Ovechkin, by the way. He's got 31 goals on the season, and by the way, he's 36 years old. He's creeping up towards the all-time goal record held by the great Wayne Gretzky (who says it's 'not even a question' that Ovi will catch him). It's always a good sign if you're in the same conversation as any Wayne Gretzky record.

If you have some extra time, check out some of those ridiculous records here.

The classic Ovi one-timer has shown no signs of slowing down.

I talked about Cale Makar earlier, and I'm absolutely going to do it again. I'm no scout, hell I can't even skate, but the second I saw him fly around the ice in the Mullins Center while I was a student at The Commonwealth's Flagship University, I knew he was going to be a problem in the NHL. Granted I usually had more than a few beverages in me for every UMass game I attended so everyone looked pretty good, but he looked really good on the ice.

If you know, you know.

Makar is tied for the lead in points among defensemen and is a key piece in Colorado's success this season. Don't be surprised if you hear his name called when the Norris Trophy is awarded at the end of this season.

Inside the crease, the Rangers' Igor Shesterkin is widely considered the best goalie in the league, holding a ridiculous 24-5-3 record with a league-leading .939 save percentage. He's a big reason why New York is in the playoff picture today.

Props for trying, though.

I'd be remiss to not mention Andrei Vasilevskiy among the best goalies in the league, even if he's not at the top of the statistical charts as he has been in years past. He's been a finalist for the Vezina Award for the past three seasons, which is given to hockey's best goalie, and is helping the Lightning make another playoff push.

Three-Peat?

There are plenty of constants throughout the sporting world. One of those is contract drama.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of the past two Stanley Cups, were at the center of that drama last season. At the beginning of the 2020-21 season, one of their stars, Nikita Kucherov, suffered a season-ending injury. The Lightning were granted a cap exemption, which allowed them to make some moves to stack their roster in pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

I just love Tampa boat parades.

But now that the playing field has been leveled, how do the Lightning fare to pull off the first three-peat since the Islanders did it in the early 80s? They sit at second in the Atlantic Divison with 70 points and have some absolute beauties on their roster (am I doing the lingo right guys?) The aforementioned Nikita Kucherov has been riddled with injuries this season, but elder statesman Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman have been leading the way for Tampa.

The Lightning were my go-to team in NHL 11. I was unstoppable.

While the Lightning still have an incredibly strong roster, there's so much talent around the NHL this season. With no cap loopholes to expose, three-peating won't be a walk in the park. If I were a betting man, I'd take the field. But only for entertainment purposes.

There's more than enough to follow for the rest of the NHL season. The potential of the three-peat, tight award races, and players ready to lift the coveted Stanley Cup for the first time. And if you need even more of an incentive to get in on the action, RYP has you covered with our hockey pools.

NHL

Matt K

NBA: Celtics🍀 MLB: Red Sox🅱️ NFL: Pats🇺🇸 NHL: Bruins🐻 NCAA: Ohio State🌰/UMass🚩 Can you tell I'm from Massachusetts? Social Media for RYP. Feel free to argue with me on Twitter.