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The GIST's Guide to Hockey

As Canada’s national pastime, this is arguably the most important sport to get #thegist of.

The GIST

The point of the good ol’ hockey game is to have the most goals after 3, 20 minute, periods of play. 5 players plus 1 goalie on the ice at one time. But, what happens if there’s a tie? *hmm emoji*

How is it organized?

The world’s most popular hockey league is the National Hockey League, aka the NHL or “chel” if you’re a true “hockey beauty” *rolls eyes*. Teams are divided into Eastern and Western Conferences, and are then further divided by divisions. There are 31 teams (Vegas got a team last season, so be sure to add a game into the next bachelorette party itinerary) and 82 regular season games.

At the end of the regular season, the top three teams in each division and then the remaining top two teams in the conference, regardless of the division, (this playoff format is HELLA controversial because sometimes one division is stronger than the other, meaning that two of the best or strongest teams in the conference may have to play each other in the first round) will move on to the playoffs. This means each division will have a minimum of three and a max of five teams in the playoffs. The playoffs consist of four rounds with a chance to win the coveted Stanley Cup aka “Lord Stanley” in the end.

The Best of the Best

The 2018 Stanley Cup Champions are the Washington Capitals! It was a BFD that the Caps won this year because it was the first time in their 43-year franchise history that the Caps won Lord Stanley! And you thought your dry spell was bad. *wink wink*. The Capitals are led by Alexander Ovechkin, often known simply as “Ovi” who is debatably the best Russian player to ever grace the ice. The other top ‘chel players include Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Taylor Hall (NJ Devils) and young buck Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers).

All my ladies, let me hear y’all!!

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) is a professional women’s hockey league based in North America and China. Yes, for a league with Canada in its name, China might seem random AF; however, we are all for expanding this beautiful game across the world. As one of the first of its kind, the CWHL hopes to level the playing field and and grow women’s hockey across borders, while attracting a domestic fanbase. Sounds like something you could get behind? We thought so.

The league currently consists of six teams: The Toronto Furies, Worcester Blades, Markham Thunder, The Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays (this team is located in China), Les Canadiennes De Montréal, and The Calgary Inferno. Notable players and alumni include Hayley Wickenheiser (TBH, our all-time fave), Hilary Knight, and Julie Chu.

The CWHL is all about equality and the need to grow the sport in both numbers and popularity.  Still, the CWHL players get paid next to nothing compared to their male counterparts. Most of the league’s players juggle full-time work and pro-hockey as the league was just able to start paying their players a base salary of $2k with a team’s total salary cap at $100k. To put this in perspective, the lowest amount an NHL team can pay their team is $52.8M. Can you say #wagegap?

The good news is that some teams, like the Toronto Furies and the Calgary Inferno have established team-based partnerships with their city’s respective NHL teams to provide funding for basic teams needs including travel and equipment. And in 2017, the league established a Chinese partnership to help pay the players in order to grow the game leading up to the Beijing 2020 Olympics. You can find all other info about how to support these bad @$$ athletes (including buying tickets to watch games) here.

Fun (Useless) Facts

Channel your inner Don Cherry while truly impressing the hockey broskis by knowing these incredibly useless hockey facts:

  • The Buffalo Sabres are the only team to have killed a live animal during a hockey game. In 1974, the team killed a bat during the game. UHHH?????

  • Out of over 2,200 names on the Stanley Cup (FYI, each team has their names engraved after winning), only 12 women have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup, either as owners or team executives. WOMEN, LET’S INCREASE THIS TALLY!!

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Glossary

Period:

A hockey game consists of 3, 20 minute periods.

Overtime:

If there’s a tie at the end of the game, it goes into overtime, also known as OT. During the regular season, the OT is 5 minutes long and is 3 v 3 players as opposed to the regular 5 v 5. It’s SUPER fun to watch b/c there’s so much on the line and there’s lots of room for the players to speed around. If it’s still tied at the end of OT, the game goes to a shootout. In the playoffs, OT is played  5 v 5 and is in 20 minute periods until one team wins. No shootouts in playoffs, it’s worth too much!!

Shut out:

When the goalie doesn’t let in a single shot the entire game. Super impressive.

Shootout:

Very easily mistaken with the above “shut out”, a shootout is used as a tiebreaker. It happens at the end of a tie game to figure out who’s gonna win. The team chooses its top 3 shooters and each go head to head with the other team’s goalie. If it’s still tied after each team take their 3 shots, things get really heated and more shooters come out. The shoot out then goes into sudden death (i.e. next goal wins).

Hat Trick:

3 goals in one game by the same player. When a player gets 3 goals, it’s tradition for the fans to throw their hats on the ice. *PRO TIP* do NOT wear an expensive and/or cute hat to a game!!

Natural Hat-Trick:

One player scoring three successive goals. Like no one from your team or the other team scores in between. Talk about overachiever.

Gordie Howe Hat-Trick:

Named after the infamous Gordie Howe. It’s when you get goal, assist and a fight all in one game. Gotta love this one.

Slap Shot:

When you see the shooter wind up and bring their stick up above their waist and just LET ‘ER RIP. NHL players can sometimes get their pucks moving as fast as 160km/hour. Imagine trying to stop that!

Wrister:

Opposite of a slap shot where you just smack the puck as hard as you can, the wrist shot is taken by quite literally using your wrist and forearm muscles. It’s normally not as hard, but is generally more accurate and you’re able to get a quick release.

One-timer:

When someone nails the puck directly off a pass without stopping the puck to control it. No funny business (or puck play) here.

Rocket Richard:

AKA Maurice Richard, a Canadian (holla) and the first player ever to score 50 goals in one season. He was also the first to reach 500 career goals. There’s a trophy in his name that’s awarded annually to leading goal scorer in the NHL.

Calder Trophy:

Rookie of the year!! Rookie means that they’re the best noob (first year) on the ice.

Hart Memorial Trophy:

This award is given to the MVP (most valuable player) of the ENTIRE NHL. Outside of winning the Stanley Cup, this an amazing feat.

Vezina Trophy:

Each year, this is an award that’s given to the goaltender that’s judged to the best in the best in the entire league.

Conn Smythe Trophy:

This trophy is a beauty. It’s awarded annually to the player that is the MVP during the Stanley Cup (see below!) playoffs.

Stanley Cup:

AKA Lord Stanley! “Baby this is what you came for” The name of the game is to the win the Stanley Cup at the end of the season and playoffs. Once you win it, your name is engraved on the cup foreva (kind of).

Conference Finals:

In playoffs, this is basically the semi finals. BUT it is called conference finals because the 2 best teams in the East square off, and the 2 best teams in the west square off to see who will represent their conference in the Stanley Cup finals.

Penalty:

When a player does something that’s against the rules. When this happens, the player is sent off for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes or a whole game (if it’s rly bad). For the 2 and 5 minute penalties, your team plays down a player that whole time and you make your way to the penalty box (AKA hockey jail) until you’re allowed out.

Short-handed:

Short-handed means your team is playing a player down because that bozo managed to find their way into the penalty box. If you score while you’re down a player, it’s called a short-handed goal.

Penalty Kill:

You get a penalty and are down a skater. You do what you got to do to make sure the other team doesn’t score. Can involve specific plays, lineups, tactics - DO WHAT YOU GOT TO DO. You’re allowed to “ice” the puck on a penalty kill.

Icing:

This means that you hit the puck from your team’s side of the red line (middle of the ice) all the way down to the other team’s side of the ice past the goal line (where the goalie is). The puck can’t touch anyone on it’s way there. If this happens, it’s called “icing” and the other team gets to a face off in back in your team’s zone. It’s a good thing this isn’t kosher because it would mean a lot of dump and chase.

Face off:

To start any play you first need to have a face off. The five players on each team assemble in their designated positions. The ref drops the puck into the middle of the two centre forwards and they battle each other to gain possession of the puck first.

Power Play:

The other team has a player in the penalty box and now you’ve got one extra player on the ice (5 vs. 4) for the duration of the penalty. Time to score. Just like the penalty kill above, there are detailed lineups and plays to capitalize.

SOGs:

shots on goal

GAA:

Goals against average. This is calculated by (goals let in x game length) / minutes played. #math

TOI:

Time on Ice. V simple.

Breakaway:

You’ve got the puck, look up and there is no one between you and the goalie. OH BABY!

Offside:

Okay so. To avoid someone just hanging out by the net all the time and waiting to score (aka cherry picking), there’s a rule that a player can’t pass the blue line and enter the attack area (see position map**) before the puck does.

Let’s say you and your fellow forward are on a breakaway to the goal. She’s got the puck and is skating for her life towards the net. She looks up as if to pass to you and you are so ready to receive. BUT WAIT. Do not even think about crossing that blue line before she and the puck do or else your breakaway goal dreams are over (whistle blows and it’s a face off OUTSIDE the blue line).

Let’s switch gears and say you are playing defence. Your whole team is in attack mode and you are hanging out by the blue line. While you’re obvi doing your best to position yourself for that scoring opportunity if the puck gets out to you (and so not chillin and trying to catch your breath), you also have to make sure you don’t let that puck slip out outside the blue line (seriously just don’t let it come even close to the line). If it does, everyone’s got to file themselves out of the attack area and the scoring opportunity is donezo.

Assist:

Player who passes the puck or the last person to touch the puck before the player who scores. Normally, two assists are given for each goal, representing the last two players to touch the puck before the shooter blasted it into the net.

SV:

Save percentage for a goalie. AKA amount of goals stopped vs. total amount of shots taken.

Challenge:

When a call is made on the ice and the coach is like “nu uh, that’s not right” (for a wide array of reasons) and challenges the goal. In hockey a team can only challenge when:

  1. There’s a goal scored and the team doesn’t agree with the offside call or,

  2. Believes there was goaltender interference.

Team can only use their challenge IF they have a timeout left AND if the challenge is unsuccessful they will lose the timeout. It’s a v risky move so you’ve got to really make sure the right decision is being made. AND if a team challenges an offside and it turns out that the play was ok, the team that made the challenge is penalized and must send a player to the penalty box for two minutes… so be sure you’re right!!

Goaltender Interference:

The goaltenders zone is called the “crease”. It’s that blue half circle at the front of the net. A player is NOT allowed to make contact with the goalie in the crease or the goal can get called back. These are pretty hard and controversial calls for a ref to make.

The Show:

What hockey bros call the NHL. You’re talking to this guy from work and he’s like “I’m a huge hockey fan. I played in high school, would’ve made it to the show if I hadn’t injured _________ (ankle / shoulder / ACL etc. etc.)!” Try not to roll your eyes too far back into your head when listening to this one.

Lockout:

Is essentially a strike for hockey players, but in this case the team owners “lock out” the players until they can reach an agreement on their union contract. Surprisingly, there are lots of labour disputes in the hockey world - there’s been four lockouts in NHL history! The NHL PA (Players Association) and the NHL bigwigs (owners) negotiate terms to play. Generally one side thinks the other side is getting paid too much $$$$.

Rookie Camp:

Don’t be fooled by the happy go-lucky “camp name”. Rookie camp occurs before the seasons starts. Each team invites their newest prospects who have never played in the ‘chel before, to see if they’ve got the chutzpah to make the squad.

Don Cherry:

Along with Ron McLean hosts Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). HNIC is hosted every week between the first and second periods, and at the end of the game. Ron and Don famously break down the game, with Don (Aka Grapes) constantly interrupting and frustrating Ron. Ya gotta watch it.

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FAQs

Why do hockey players only wear half a face visor? Don’t they get hit?

Oh gosh. The helmet controversy. TBH, this is a tough one. Back in the day and we mean wayyyy back in the day, hockey players didn’t even wear helmets. Crazy right? Then, FINALLY, somebody gave their head a good shake and said “I think this would be a good idea”. In certain leagues, and up to a certain age, players are required to wear full-cage helmets. In most intramural leagues (aka beer leagues) no matter what age, they tend to ask players to wear a mask. In the pros, however, you have to be at least 18 to wear a visor only. The reason why they wear a half visor vs a full visor is first so they can breathe (lol) and second, many say that they can’t see as well wearing a cage vs. a visor. Many people didn’t even wear visors at all, and it’s not a rule that they have to; although, some teams have made it a rule to wear visors, and some teams have made it a rule to wear helmets during warm ups after a few too many accidents. 

Why is hockey so popular in Canada vs The States? Why do we have so many teams versus in basketball and baseball?

Because hockey is our sport! We started hockey, are obsessed with hockey and we have the climate for it! We’re born with the ~ice~ in our veins. Also, hockey started wayyyy back in the early 1900s, whereas basketball and baseball came into the mix a little bit later in terms of playing the sport professionally. 

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The GIST’s Guide to Fantasy Hockey

Have you ever heard someone mention fantasy hockey and pictured some combination of Sidney Crosby, flowing hockey hair and mythical creatures? Well, two out of three ain’t bad and we’re here to help fill in the rest of the blanks.

Just Google the word “fantasy” and it’ll land you right in the thick of podcasts, YouTube videos, articles and draft predictions for the four major sports leagues (that’s the NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL). This fantasy stuff is a BFD! In fact, we also have a guide to fantasy football you can check out..

But back to hockey because #Canada so this fantasy hockey guide might just be the most important. We promise you don’t have to be able to name the entire Toronto Maple Leafs roster like that hockey bro three seats down from your desk in order to be at the top of your fantasy league. Okay, let’s get into it!

WTF is Fantasy Hockey?

Fantasy hockey is one part real, one part fake and ten parts a whole lotta fun. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pick a team of players that is better than any other team in your fantasy league. The players are real, the points they score are real, but the combination of players together is what makes it fantasy. You have the opportunity to create a dream team (or the dreamiest looking team, depending on your draft strategy *swoon*) made up of your favourite players and, ideally, the players you think will do the best this season.

Okay I’m in. How do I play?

To play, you’ll need to join a league. A lot of workplaces will get groups together to do this. Or you can join a league for free online. We’d recommend taking a look at these websites:

Then it’s time to do a little prep work (this is a lot more fun than homework or that powerpoint presentation your boss keeps hounding you for). You’ll want to make up a list of players that you have the most interest in and want to try and get on your team. Most often, teams are made up of nine forwards, six defensemen, one utility player (forward or defenseman, your choice), two goalies and five to seven bench spots (these are the extra guys you’ll need when someone gets hurt, goes on a cold streak or doesn’t play for a few days).

Each day, as an owner, you get to set your lineup and pick which players get to hit the ice, and which players will ride the pine. Then sit back and relax as your fantasy site calculates scores for you live, so that you can watch your guys play in real life and watch your fantasy team rocket to the top of the standings at the same time.

Got it. But how do I be good?

You could pick your team based on best hockey flow.. (may we suggest William Nylander ) perhaps? Or maybe last year’s rookie sensation, Brock Boeser  (pronounced Bess-er)?  But maybe go with something a little more practical if you want to compete with the best fantasy owners in your league. ESPN and Dobber Hockey  have some top player lists that can help you with this.

If your league is hosted on Yahoo (which it likely is), the site will also give you a list of players the experts think will have the best season. Don’t get overwhelmed by these sites. They’re showing you way more information than you’re probably ever going to need to know.

This sounds fun. What else do I need to know?

Well, thanks for asking! Here’s a list of things that will definitely come up so you’re ready for the big leagues.


Draft Day - This is undoubtedly the most important day of your fantasy year because this is the day that you get to build your fantasy team. The most common type of draft is a snake. Each team will have a predetermined draft number (if your league has ten teams, you’ll get to draft somewhere between first and tenth). In a snake format, the tenth team to draft also gets to pick the 11th player because the order switches directions. This means that, as awesome as it is to draft first, you’ll have to wait around until the 20th player to get to choose again.

Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Team 5 Team 6 Team 7 Team 8 Team 9 Team 10
Draft # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Your goal is to draft the best player that no one else has drafted yet. And don’t worry, Yahoo will give you suggested picks so you don’t have to frantically flip through your research if the guy you really wanted went one draft pick ahead of yours.

ADP (Average Draft Position) - Each fantasy site will show the average draft position of players. This is the average spot that that player was taken across all of the drafts run on that website. The higher the ADP, the more in demand that player is.

Trades – Just like the real NHL, your league will give you the option to trade. This can be great news if the #1 player you really wanted on your team went to someone else, though you’ll likely have to give up something big in return. Trades are a great way to shake things up and get access to players you might have thought were gone forever.

Waiver Wire - This is where you’ll be able to get players that weren’t chosen in the draft. Sometimes players get hurt, or they underperform, and you’re going to want to give them the snips. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell them *wink*.) You can replace them with players from the waiver wire. As long as no one else owns a player, they are fair game for you to add to your squad.

Sleeper Pick – These guys are not actually asleep (hopefully). A sleeper pick is a player that has the possibility of being a big breakout star, kind of like an underdog. It’s not a guarantee, but if you get lucky he could be one of the best guys on your team. At one point, both Mark Scheifele and David Pastrnak were sleeper picks – now they are two of the best guys on their respective teams.

Head-to-Head - This is the most common type of fantasy league. Say your league has 12 teams, each week you’ll face off against another team. Your goal is to be better than the team you’re up against in a number of categories - goals, assists, shots on goal, blocks, hits, etc. - the categories will depend on your league. At the end of the week, you’ll get one point per category that you did better in. For example, if your team scored 35 goals and the other team scored 30, you’d get one point for that category.

Rotisserie League – Wipe the drool off your face, this has nothing to do with chicken (unfortunately). This type of league might be a little easier to understand than head-to-head. Think of rotisserie like “total points”. Every category is tallied from the beginning of the season to the very last game. To win, you must have the most points at the end of the year.

Each league will have categories that are a little bit different (some might include penalty minutes, others might not), so tweet us questions (@thegistnewsca) if you want help with your specific league!

Some Draft Tips to Get You Started

  • Get acquainted with the top ten guys in the league. It’s always going to be debatable, but here’s a list we’re comfortable getting behind. You’re going to want to draft one of these guys in the first round.

o   Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

o   Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

o   Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

o   Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

o   Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

o   Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

o   Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

o   Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

o   Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils

o   Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

  • There is no right or wrong way to draft, sometimes you have to go with your gut. But try and get a core group of players early (three forwards, two defense and a goalie) and then start to fill in the gaps where you think you might be lacking talent.

  • Don’t waste a high draft pick on a goalie – sometimes they pay off, but more often than not they aren’t worth reaching for. Goalies are notoriously unpredictable, and even the best in the league (like Carey Price) can have bad seasons. You’re better off taking a more reliable player with that draft pick.

  • OUR HOTTEST TIP (fire emoji): Still stressed after reading all of this? You can stage a mock draft online on Yahoo here. This comes with no pressure and just gets you acquainted with how the drafting process works. We cannot recommend this enough if you’ve never joined a fantasy league or drafted before. Practice makes perfect and all that stuff, ya feel?

Fun Fact to Share on Draft Day

Fantasy hockey might not be the biggest fantasy format, but it was the first! Fantasy hockey launched on the web in early 1995, and it paved the way for all other fantasy formats.

Still have questions? That’s what we’re here for! Slide into our DMs, tweet us @thegistnewsca or hit us up with an email – we want to help you be the best fantasy hockey owner you can be.

Written By: Alexis Allison
GIST Guest Writer and Hockey Guru

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The GIST’s Guide to the Stanley Cup Playoffs

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Why? Because of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, of course!

 

The GIST

Before we dive in, let us set this up. The NHL is divided into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Those conferences are further divided into two divisions: the Metro and the Atlantic and the Pacific and the Central (respectively). There are 31 teams in the league.

At the end of the regular season, the top three teams from the four divisions and four wild card teams (the remaining best teams in each conference) make it to the playoffs. The eastern conference teams and the western conference teams square off against each other for three rounds, with the best of each conference making it to the Stanley Cup Final.

How’s it organized?

The first round matchups are determined by the amount of points a team obtained during the regular season. The division leading team that accumulated the largest amount of points in the conference plays the wild card team with the least amount of points. The other division winner plays the wild card team with the highest number of points. The second place team will play the third-place team with home ice advantage.

Let’s use the Eastern Conference as an example. The East, the Tampa Bay Lightning will play the second wild card the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Washington Capitals are playing the Carolina Hurricanes and the second-seed, the Boston Bruins will play the third-seed, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The second round is the divisional title. Let’s use the Atlantic division as an example. if the Lightning and the Leafs each win their series, they’ll face go head to head in the second round.

The third round is the conference finals. The winner of each division squares off for the chance to win their conference.

This would mean the winner of the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions play each other for the Eastern conference championship and the winners from the Pacific and Central divisions play for the Western Conference title. The two teams that have won their respective conferences go head to head in the Stanley Cup finals. Let’s get fired up!

Teams To Watch

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay Lightning

Have literally had a lightning of a season, Tampa Bay was the regular season President’s Trophy winner (awarded to the team with the highest regular season points) l and are expected . Make sure you’re looking out for Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Kuch has been on fire all season, leading the league in points and finishing with a record breaking 128. Undoubtedly the best right wing forward in the league, his speed and skill are impeccable, you better have your eyes locked on Kucherov.  Vasilevskiy is undebatable as one of the best goalies in the league right now. Vasy finished the season with an impressive 39 wins and he’s an obvious key force in the Lighting’s unbreakable roster.

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins have had a pretty good regular season and are expecting to have a successful postseason but with three big series with three amazing teams ahead of them in their way to reaching the Stanley Cup finals it is unknown how far they’ll really make it . Despite the obstacles in their way, given the season that the Bruins just played it’s not impossible for them to come out the other end of the tunnel. Be sure to look out for the bruins’ all-star right-winger David Pastrnak.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs coming off quite an impressive season, despite some hiccups at the end of the season, they’re expected to do okay in the playoffs. Even though they have to go through their biggest rivals, the Boston Bruins, in the first round, the Leafs definitely have a chance. Look out for Auston Matthews and John Tavares.  Matthews (Toronto’s golden boy) finished the season with an impressive 73 points and a brand-new five-year deal with the Leafs. Meanwhile, Tavares had a career-high of 47 goals and 88 points this season. Not bad at all.

The Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have had the world’s eye on them since the trade deadline, after landing one of the most sought after targets in star centre Matt Duchene (former Ottawa Senator). The team initially struggled after the acquisition, but ended the season on a high note. Unfortunately their first round opponent is the aforementioned juggernaut Lightning, so calling this matchup David vs Goliath would be an understatement. Columbus has a star goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, as well as his fellow Russian Artemi Panarin, who is an exceptional scoring winger. Their best defence pairing is also top notch, with Zach Werenski and franchise pillar Seth Jones manning the blue line, but the Blue Jackets face a mountainous task to get out of  the first round.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets were Stanley Cup favourites last year, before bowing out in the conference finals at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Jets hold the same distinction this year, but face a tough first round opponent in the St. Louis Blues, who have been the best team in the NHL since the New Year. The Jets are a complete team, with no clear weaknesses. With a deep offence led by star pivot Mark Schiefele, one of the best D cores in the league led by Josh Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien (pronounced BUFF-LIN), and a star goalie in Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets are once again a force to be reckoned with.

Washington Capitals

Looking to defend their Stanley Cup championship from last spring, the Capitals come in as the Metropolitan division champions. They face an easier opponent in the  Carolina Hurricanes, but anyone who makes it to the dance (fancy way of saying playoffs) deserves to be respected. Led by captain, and last year’s Conn Smythe trophy winner (awarded to the playoff MVP), Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals are in a good position to repeat. Ovi is one of the best goal scorers in hockey history, his centre Niklas Backstrom is one of the best playmakers of this generation, John Carlson is a Norris trophy contending defenceman, and Braden Holtby is a Vezina winning (awarded to best goalie in the league) goalie. Look for Washington to make a deep run once again.


New York Islanders

The Islanders begin the postseason with home ice advantage against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Generally expected to be a basement team after losing their star John Tavares to the Leafs in free agency during the offseason, the Islanders shocked the league by finishing second in the Metro. The Islanders have proven to be a team that depends heavily on their only star, young centre Mat Barzal. Despite this heavy dependance the Islanders will be a formidable opponent for any foe. Coach Barry Trotz is the frontrunner for coach of the year, and will be looking for his second straight Cup after winning last year with the Capitals.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Crosby. Malkin. Kessel. Letang. The Penguins are entering the playoffs on a hot streak. This story is an all too familiar one, as it mirrors the Pens last two championship runs in 2016 and ‘17. Sidney Crosby has inarguably been one of the best player in the NHL since he entered the league, Evgeni Malkin has been a consistent top five player throughout his career, Phil Kessel is a premiere sniper, and Letang is the leader of the pack from the blueline. All eyes will be on goalie Matt Murray to see if he can repeat his stellar performance from his last two Cup runs. We already know the introduction of this story, only time will tell if the ending repeats itself.

Carolina Hurricanes

Earning the first wild card spot ended the longest playoff drought in the NHL. Unfortunately for the Canes, the Capitals are more than capable of weathering the storm. With franchise legend Rod “The Bod” Brind’Amour behind the bench, star centre Sebastian Aho, and a deep defence core led by Dougie Hamilton, the Canes have a chance to pull of the upset as long as Peter Mrazek, their goaltender, is up to snuff.

Western Conference

Nashville Predators

Last year’s President’s Trophy winners (awarded to the team with the points in the regular season), the Preds once again won the Central Division crown, earning a date with the Dallas Stars. The Preds feature a more potent attack this year, with deadline acquisitions Wayne Simmonds and Mikael Granlund adding extra punch. The Preds still have the best D core in the league, led by Roman Josi and the always entertaining P.K. Subban. Last year’s Vezina winner (again, award given to the most valuable goalie) Pekka Rinne will look to redeem himself after a pitiful performance in their second round defeat last year. Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson once again lead the offence.

St. Louis Blues

Since then, they have been the best team in the western conference, if not the league. Led by sniper Vladimir Tarasenko,, Ryan O’Reilly, and franchise defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, the Blues are more than a force to be reckoned with. Their first round tilt with the Winnipeg Jets is far and away the toughest series to predict this year, and will surely be must watch television. Rookie Goaltender Jordan Binnington has been a surprise wall in the net since his call up midway through the season, and will try to inspire the Blues to their first Cup in franchise history.

Calgary Flames

The Flames finished second overall in the league and first in the western conference, earning a first round matchup with the second wild card team, the Colorado Avalanche. The Flames boast one of the best first lines in the league, with undersized superstar Johnny Gaudreau (aka Johnny Hockey) leading the way. Norris favourite (award given to most valuable defenceman) Mark Giordano leads a strong defence, and David Rittich has been amazing in the net all season. Matthew Tkachuk (pronounced TA-CHUCK) was born for playoff hockey, and will surely get under the skin and put pucks in the net of any opponent. Look for the Flames to reach their first Finals since 2004.


San Jose Sharks

San Jose has the distinction of being the “Feel Good” team this spring. With a quickly aging core, including captain Joe Pavelski and ageless wonder Joe Thornton, the Sharks have what seems like limited time in running for the cup. After losing in the Finals three years ago to the Penguins, it seems the Sharks have been stuck.  They’re a contender every year, but never quite good enough to pull it off. Brent Burns, Martin Jones,Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl will need to play at their best to beat the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. Evander Kane will play the same role as Tkachuk will for Calgary, antagonizing with the best of ‘em. A first round matchup with Vegas is formidable, but the Sharks are more than capable of making a run.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights made history last year as the first expansion team to earn its way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately, they lost to the Capitals in the Final. The Knights are an even better team this year, with the summer additions of offensive powerhouses Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, as well as the trade deadline acquisition of Mark Stone. The defense is far from shabby as well, with Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore manning the point. And one would be remiss to doubt “The Flower”. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, and will once again attempt to inspire the Knights to a championship with his steady and entertaining aggressive play from the crease.

Dallas Stars

The Stars enter the postseason as the first wild card seed, earning a date with the Predators. Carried by their dynamic first line, Tyler Seguin working between Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov, the Stars will need their depth (players outside of the top two lines) to pick up the slack if they hope to make any sort of run this spring. John Klingberg and stud rookie Miro Heiskanen lead an average defence at best, but luckily they have goaltender Ben Bishop standing tall behind them. Bishop lead the league in both save percentage and goals against average this season, and is no stranger to stealing games for his team. If the Stars make it past the first round it will be on the shoulders of their 6’6” ‘tendy.

Colorado Avalanche

Finally, the Colorado Avalanche are the second wild card seed in the West, facing off against the top seeded Flames. The Avalanche are even more top heavy than the stars, with their first line providing the vast majority of the team’s offence. Centre Nathan Mackinnon is a top five player in the NHL, Mikko Rantanen is one of the league’s premier wingers, and captain Gabriel Landeskog is no slouch. Behind those three is a barren wasteland, unfortunately, outside of those players, the Colorado Avalanche lack depth.

The underrated Tyson Barrie leads an average defence, and goalie platoon Philip Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov are a far cry from championship goalies. The first line could carry Colorado to an upset over the Flames, but that would take a superhuman miracle.

Fun Facts To Know

Have fun with these trivia facts this post-season:

  • The Stanley Cup is not your average trophy. Each year, the players and personnel on the winning team have their names engraved on the cup. There are five bands on the Stanley Cup with room for 13 teams per band. When there’s no longer room left, they take off a band and keep it in the Hockey Hall of Fame (located in TO).

  • The cup has its own babysitter 24/7! Talk about high maintenance. The Cup has a representative from the Hockey Hall of Fame with it at all times called the “Keeper of the Cup”. Philip Pritchard is the current “Keeper” and has been keeping the cup safe since ‘91. He also keeps a Twitter account so fans can see where the cup is and what it's up to from day to day.

  • There are eight incredible women who have their names inscribed on the Cup because of their involvement on the business side of the teams.

  • The cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston who bought the cup for 10 guineas (around 50 bucks at the time) and donated it to Canada’s top amateur hockey club after he and his family became obsessed with hockey.

  • Once the cup spent a night in the Ottawa Canal… The Ottawa Hockey Club (now the Ottawa Senators) won the cup in 1905 and had a litttttttle bit too much fun celebrating. During this celebration, the team brought the cup outside and decided to try and kick the cup (then smaller) into the Rideau Canal. Once they successfully kicked the Cup into the Canal they totally forgot about it! The heck guys!?! The next day, the rest of the team realized the cup was missing and it was retrieved.

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Written by Guest Writer: Duaa Rizvi

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The GIST’s
Guide to the World Juniors

 

The holidays. A time to relax, open presents from “Santa”, and make small talk with extended family (“yes Aunt Beth, I’m still single”). One thing that’s always a highlight of the holidays is the annual World Junior Hockey Championship (often referred to as WJHC or World Juniors). 

 

The GIST

The WJHC is one of the most anticipated hockey events of the season. Think of this tournament as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show of Hockey.

The WJHC is an annual round-robin hockey tournament where the top ten hockey countries in the world compete to become the champions. The difference with this tournament is that all the players are young bucks and have to be between the ages of 16 and 20, hence the “Juniors” in the name of the tournament.

This year, the tournament is taking place from December 26th to January 5th in Vancouver and Victoria, BC. Given that the tourney starts on Boxing Day, it’s up to you to decide if you would rather face menacing crowds at the mall OR lounge in your PJs, eat leftovers, and watch some unreal hockey.

How's it Organized?

Okay. So. The ten teams are split up into two Groups: Group A, and Group B. Check out the breakdown here. In the preliminary round, each team plays a total of four games, with one game against each of the four other teams in their group. Each team gains three points for a win in regulation, one point for a tie at end of regulation and two points if you win in OT (overtime) or shootouts. Of course, no points are awarded for losing.

After this round, the top four teams in each group, meaning the teams that earned the most points, move on to the playoff round. The playoff format gets a wee bit complicated, but a simple way to think of it is that the four teams in Group A play against the four teams from Group B, with the first place teams from each group playing against the last place team from each group and the second place teams playing against the third place teams. Ultimately, the tournament awards Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, just like the Olympics.

If there is a tie in one of the medal games, the Bronze game will end with a 10-minute sudden death overtime period (just like recess, the last goal wins!), and the Gold-Silver medal game will end with a 20-minute sudden death overtime period. These overtime games are always v dramatic!

The Best of the Best

Since the tournament began back in 1977, Canada has dominated the World Juniors (is this any surprise though?) with 17 gold medals - more than any other country that participates. Our Canadian boys are also the reigning champions after they beat Sweden 3-1 in last year’s final. O Canada, indeed! You can bet they’ll be looking to win back-to-back gold medals, especially on home ice.

In terms of players this year, there are a lot of fresh faces to watch out for as only two players from last year’s Canada’s Junior team are returning to competition.

One guy to keep a very close on eye on is 19-year-old forward Max Comtois. Comtois is one of the returing players and currently plays for the Victoriaville Tigres in the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), and was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks last year. We like this homie not only because he’s a hard-working forward, but also because he has charisma and is actually pretty jokes.

Another player to watch is Cody Glass. This homeboy is also 19 and plays for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL (Western Hockey League). At 6’2” and 185 pounds, this centre is a force to be reckoned with. Apparently he’s gonna be the ‘go-to’ playmaker for the red and white this season. Let’s see you work it, Cody.   

The Best of the Past

The World Juniors is kind of like a prequel to the NHL and the vast majority of today’s NHL’s hot shots got their first true shot at stardom playing in the WJHC. For example, Montreal Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price is currently the highest paid tendy in the NHL. But, back in 2007, fresh-faced Price was in net for Canada at the WJHC. His goaltending in that tournament was simply incredible and was the major reason Canada won the gold medal. Price also snagged the MVP and Best Goaltender awards.

A few of the top past WJHC players also include Brent Burns, who played in 2004, and now plays with the San Jose Sharks (and arguably has one of the best beards in the NHL); Sid the Kid (Sidney Crosby), who played in both 2004 and 2005 earning a silver and then gold for Canada and has now won 2 Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins; and Connor McDavid (otherwise known as McJesus or the only reason the Edmonton Oilers are remotely good again), who played in 2014 and 2015, earning a gold in 2015.

Ladies Leave Your Man at Home

Unfortunately, although it’s 2018, there is still no World Juniors U20 event for women *exasperated sigh*. However, us women do have the U18 World Championships. This tournament functions the same as the WJHC except it’s for females under the age of 18 and there’s no body-checking allowed. This event will be held in Obihiro, Japan starting on January 6th and as always, Canada and the US are the faves to become the champs.

Last year, the U.S. claimed victory, Sweden (an up-and-coming nation in women’s hockey) took the silver medal and Canada took the bronze. If you’re home for the holidays, be sure to take advantage of your parents’ cable/satellite to watch these games on one of the TSN networks!

Impress your Dad

It’s a fact that basically all Canadian Dads are obsessed with the WJHC. So here’s some knowledge to impress the best:

  • The game between USA and Canada on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, was the first-ever outdoor game played in WJHC history. This game was hosted at the New Era Stadium which is normally home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

  • Buffalo was the first city to host the World Juniors for the second time, with the first occurring back in 2011. The fact that Buffalo is so close to the Canadian border was definitely a factor in this decision. And, this is also the second time Vancouver has hosted the World Juniors, but the first time Victoria has ever been a part of the equation. Can you say, #FOMO?

  • You gotta love the classic Canada vs. U.S.A. rivalry. Canada and the United States have faced each other four times for the gold medal, with the U.S. coming out ahead three of those times. But the past is the past #amiright? We’re confident our Canadian squad is gonna come away with the gold AGAIN this year.

How Can I Watch?

You can watch all games on TSN or on the TSN App. Pro tip: if a family member (or generous friend… I mean, it is the holidays) has Bell or Rogers cable, you can use their login information to watch live from the TSN website for free. You’re very welcome for this life hack. Consider that our Christmas/GISTMAS present to you.

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