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Archive for April, 2011

Apr
27

The 2011 nominees for the NHL’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy have each overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, which makes each a remarkable story of facing adversity. This season, Anaheim Ducks goalie Ray Emery, Calgary Flames forward Daymond Langkow, and Philadelphia Flyers forward Ian Laperriere were each nominated for the award for “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

Goaltender Ray Emery’s 2009-2010 season with the Philadelphia Flyers started off well, but he was sidelined by a torn abdominal muscle and was then diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a condition wherein the ball joint of the hip is deprived of blood flow and the bone dies. He had successful surgery last April to graft bone to the area, went through extensive rehab, and was signed late this season by the Anaheim Ducks who were in dire need of a veteran netminder after No. 1 goalie Jonas Hiller was hit with a bout of vertigo. Emery not only shined in the net but got the Ducks into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If he wins, Emery would be the second Anaheim Ducks player to win the Masterton Trophy. The only other Duck to win the trophy is Teemu Selanne. Although Ducks forwards Saku Koivu and Jason Blake have also won the Masterton, they did so with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively.

Last March, Flames forward Daymond Langkow suffered a fractured vertebra when he was hit by a slap shot from a teammate. He was cleared to return to the lineup just over a year after his injury and played in the Flames’ last four games of the season scoring 1 assist.

Equally as compelling is the story of Philadelphia Flyers forward Ian Laperriere who suffered a brain contusion and several facial injuries when blocking a shot during a first-round playoff game last April. ¬†Laperriere hasn’t played this season but remains involved with the Flyers franchise by running drills with injured and extra players at the team’s training facility.

Although it’s always an honor to receive an award, the Masterton isn’t one to which most players aspire. The trophy is awarded to players who overcome great adversity and beat the odds with courage and dedication to the sport of hockey. On June 22, the Masterton Memorial Trophy will be awarded and regardless of which of the three players wins, it will go to a truly deserving and admirable athlete.

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Apr
26

History was made this season when all three California NHL teams qualified for the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks have each qualified before with the Ducks being the only team of the three to win the Cup, which they hoisted in 2007. While the Ducks and Sharks have faced off in past seasons, it’s the first time that the Ducks and the Kings secured a spot in the same season. This year, in the first round the fourth seed Ducks played the fifth seed Nashville Predators while the seventh seed Kings were paired with the second seed San Jose Sharks.

Unfortunately, although this season made history with the three California teams, that history was short-lived. The contest between the Ducks and Predators was physical with many marginal and missed calls by the officials which handcuffed the Ducks. Receiving very few power plays, the Ducks played most of the series on the penalty kill as the Predators enjoyed three or four times as many man advantage situations. The officials ignored blatant infractions, icings, and too many men calls by the Predators, yet Ducks forwards Bobby Ryan and Jarkko Ruutu were suspended for stepping on an opponent’s foot and a late hit, respectively. The teams played Game 6 Sunday night, but the Ducks were unable to overcome the unbalanced officiating and the Predators advanced despite having dramatically less talent on their roster. Also on the bubble in a Game 6, must-win situation, the Kings were eliminated by the Sharks the following night in overtime.

With two of the three California teams eliminated early from the playoffs, the stage in the Western Conference is set for the remaining California team, the Sharks, to face the third seed Detroit Red Wings in the semi finals which will begin in a few days. This year, Detroit was the only team to sweep the quarter finals by defeating the sixth seed Phoenix Coyotes in four games. Although the Red Wings, Predators and Sharks had already advanced, it took overtime in Game 7 tonight to decide who would advance between the first seed, President’s Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks and the defending Stanley Cup Champs, the eighth seed Chicago Blackhawks. Now the match-ups are in place for the Western Conference semi finals with the Canucks facing off against Predators and the Sharks meeting the Red Wings in what will be gritty, physical challenges.

In contrast to the Western Conference, the playoff picture for the quarter final round in the Eastern Conference is still much more up in the air. The first seed Washington Capitals handily defeated the eighth seed New York Rangers in five games while tonight the second seed Philadelphia Flyers beat the seventh seed Buffalo Sabres. However, now the Capitals and the Flyers will await the outcome of the other two series in the East as the third seed Boston Bruins and the sixth seed Montreal Canadiens face off in Game 7 tomorrow night and the fourth seed Pittsburgh Penguins go head-to-head the fifth seed Tampa Bay Lightning.

By Wednesday night, all the match-ups for the semi finals will be set and the playoffs will move into the second round. One thing is for sure: the road to the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup will get even tougher from here on.

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