Last Wednesday was an excellent evening for Hockey fans like myself who like to watch two TVs at once. The Toronto Maple Leafs played the Calgary Flames in what turned out to be a great game and a goaltenders duel. The Leafs lost, but I can still enjoy a game when my team loses. I wish I’d spent fewer decades honing that skill, but you’re basically never allowed to switch allegiances. We have words for people like that – TRAITORS. Calgary seems to have reclaimed the magic that made them the top regular season team in the Western Conference. One point separates Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Las Vegas and Arizona for first place in the Pacific Division. It warmed my heart to see all the Pac Division spots taken up by Canadian teams. Winnipeg needs to pull up their socks and get that last Wild Card from Arizona, who I hate on general principle. I could live with the Canucks missing the playoffs too. The other game I watched was the CHL Top Prospects game! IT’s always a great game, it’s like an AllStar game for teenagers. Unlike the pros however, knowing every scout worth their salt is in attendance the kids are going in with the mindset of a playoff game. There used to be a lot of fights, but as the game has turned away from fighting there’s less of it now. Still, I got a classic spirited tilt out of it, complete with a respectful bro hug at the end.
A friend of mine brought up a very good point though, it seems they made it a point to ignore Don Cherry’s involvement in the tournament over the years. That’s not cool man. I was not a Don Cherry fan, and wasn’t upset by his firing. I’m a Mississauga resident from an immigrant family and was indeed offended by his comments. That said, I wouldn’t have fired him. “Cancel Culture” sucks, and this was an example of that problem. He was always very involved in the top prospects game and to pretend he was never involved is pretty insulting. I do have a counterpoint though – should we be honoring Alan Eagleson for creating the World Junior Championship? The notorious fraudster’s legacy is mostly of cheating players out of their money, but if we’re gonna take the good with the bad it was his idea.
Calgary was mentioned before as a team who started the season underachieving, but is now rounding into form. There’s a few other teams who are similar – the Dallas Stars and the Florida Panthers were both supposed to be more competitive based on some major offseason acquisitions. The Panthers have won 6 in a row and are solidifying their playoff position. Ironically, their offseason benefit was supposed to be at the expense of the Columbus Blue Jackets after poaching their star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets actually have better goaltending statistics than Florida, and improved on last year. The Tampa Bay Lightning are also back on form and need to be considered a serious threat.
The one threat that everyone is ignoring? The reigning champion St. Louis Blues. First in their conference and only a few points behind Washington for first in the NHL. That’s all well and good but let’s consider – Vladimir Tarasenko has only played 10 games this year. Tarasenko is arguably the Blues best player, though I would listen to arguments for Alex Pietrangelo or Jordan Binnington. The Blues will get him back for a boost just before the playoffs. A repeat would not surprise me at all!