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Three Periods with Dan Mount: A Look at the NHL

Hello, everyone. It’s Dan Mount with another edition of the Three Periods blog. The World Cup of Hockey is over and Canada swept Europe, two games to none, in the made-for-television event.

We take a look on if the event will be back and what I think should be done to improve it. This week I’ll also start breaking down the divisions in the second and third periods as I take a look at the Atlantic and Metropolitan Division.

I’ll wrap up with two things from the KHL for my look at internet goodness. Let’s drop the puck and get this started.

First Period

Team Canada once again proved its international supremacy in hoisting another World Cup of Hockey title. The Canadians rallied won 3-1 and 2-1 in the championship series as they beat a European All-Star team comprised of players not from Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.

The win was spearheaded by a group of Atlantic Division players, as Carey Price looked like his old self backstopping Canada to victory. He was helped by Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron of Boston, while Sidney Crosby captained this team to another victory.

The line of Crosby-Marchand-Bergeron was the best line of the tournament, and they asserted their dominance throughout the event. Marchand is known his feistiness, but showed that he can score goals. (Marchand even signed an eight-year extension during the finals.) Bergeron is a defensive ace and Crosby is Crosby.

I’ll give Europe credit as they beat the U.S., Czech Republic and Sweden en route to reaching the final with a team that not many gave much of a fighting chance to win a game, let alone make it out of the group stage. JaroslavHalak showed that he could be the goalie that the Islanders need to make a deep playoff run.

I did like the tournament, but there were a lot of empty seats for some of these games. There was criticism that the event was contrived and a cash grab. Some of the teams like the United States seemed disinterested or didn’t put their best team out there. The only positive could be that USA Hockey will want a palate-cleanser and ask to have NHL players in the 2018 Olympics.

Team North America did catch my attention as they were passionate, fun and loved being there. This could be the best collection of young talent ever assembled. Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Johnny Gaudreauwas one of the lost exciting lines in the competition.

I do hope North America is brought back for the next event, but I’d do away with Team Europe and have a mini-tournament to determine the last place. I think a lot of intense games could happen if this winner-take-all event happened.

The World Cup is a good start, but there are a few things that need work before they bring it back in a few years.

Second Period

The NHL season is just a couple of weeks before the regular season starts and I feel it’s time to preview each of the divisions. I’ll take a look at the two Eastern Conference divisions (the Atlantic and Metropolitan) and give a small preview on each team.

Here’s a look at the Atlantic Division

Boston: The Bruins played a hand in the second game of the World Cup as ZdenoChara, Bergeron and Marchand each scored in the 2-1 Canada victory. If the B’s can solve their blueline issues, they could make it back to the playoffs.

Buffalo: The Sabres are still in the middle of their rebuild, but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and RasmusRistolainen are the core of a team a year or two from making the postseason. The main question is if Robin Lehner can be a top goalie.

Detroit: The Red Wings kept their playoff streak alive and haven’t missed the postseason since the early 90s. PavelDatsyuk has gone to Russia, but there are a bunch of talented young scorers chomping at the bit. Let’s see if Peter Mrazek or Jimmy Howard becomes the starter this year.

Florida: The Panthers showed they will be a force to be reckoned with as their young team took the step to the playoffs and the division title before being upset by the Islanders. Can Roberto Luongo and JaromirJagrkeep turning back the clock?

Montreal: The Canadiens made drastic changes on defense swapping P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. Carey Price showed that he’s recovered from his injury and the Habs want back into the playoffs.

Ottawa: The Senators changed coaches again to Guy Boucher. The team flies under the radar and could steal a playoff spot.

Tampa Bay: The Lightning managed to keep Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, but have to find a taker for Ben Bishop. The Ning are looking to get back to the Final again.

Toronto: The Maple Leafs got the top pick in Auston Matthews and he already looks like a top-six forward. They are a couple of years from the playoffs, but there’s hope.

Third Period

And now I look at the Metropolitan Division.

Carolina: The Hurricanes have quietly assembled a young team that could put heat on teams for a wild card spot. Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin are the anchors of a young defense.

Columbus: Can John Tortorella bounce back from a sub-standard World Cup coaching performance? The team is better defensively, but can the Blue Jackets score enough?

New Jersey: The Devils got a top-line forward in Taylor Hall and Corey Schneider continues to improve in goal. The defense and bottom six forwards need to step up for the Devs to challenge for the postseason.

N.Y. Islanders: There were some big hits in the scoring department with the loss of Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. Andrew Ladd’s new deal might be a headache later on.

N.Y. Rangers: The Blusehirts tried to make some trades to improve their defense and get out of salary cap hell. Who will be on the way out of the Rangers can get Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg?

Philadelphia: The Flyers defense rapidly improved with Shayne Gostisbehere and can get even better if Ivan Provorov makes the team. Can Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth be the goalie to take the Broad Street Bullies back to the playoffs?

Pittsburgh: The defending champion Penguins will be without goalie Matt Murray after hurting his hand in the World Cup. However, Marc-Andre Fleury is ready to go, and could improve his trade value. Will there be a Stanley cup hangover?

Washington: The Capitals ran into a hot Pens team, and could have made the final if they didn’t have to run into them. Alex Ovecnhkin has changed under Barry Trotz, but desperately wants that Stanley Cup ring.

Internet goodness: This week the KHL provides the humor this week with two items. The first comes from the new team in China and the ceremonial puck dropper needs some work. He failed twice as he jumped the gun if the ceremonial faceoff between Kulun RS and ToyattiLada. Let’s hope there’s some work put in for future puck droppers.

The other shows a KHL ref taking a good shot to the face while trying to break up fight between EvgenyTimkin and YeviSergiyenko. The ref shows his toughness and stops the fight from really getting out of hand.

That’s it for this week. Take care and I’ll preview the Western Conference and latest news next week.

Dan Mount is a producer for Spadora on Sports. He’s also a writer for NHL on the Ice, the Nashville Predators beat reporter for The Hockey Writers and a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times in Watertown, NY. He can be found on Twitter @DanMountSports. 

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