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ST. PAUL… The National Hockey League has suspended Chicago Blackhawk’s star defensemen Duncan Keith 6 games for his slash to the face of the Minnesota Wild’s Charlie Coyle during last weeks meeting between the two Central Division foes. This means Keith will miss the Hawks final 5 regular season games and their first playoff tilt. I was originally calling for at least 8 games for this reckless act but realized that probably wasn’t going to happen. The 6 games meted out was probably the correct number but the timing of the incident and subsequent suspension were the most challenging part of handing out this justice. In the Hawks favor is that they already have a playoff spot secured. They aren’t settled into a spot yet to know who they will meet in the 1st round, but they are in.
So, has justice really been handed out? Keith is the king of cardio, you can make the argument that after last years Stanley Cup run, that he is the straw that stirs the Hawks drink. He has that kind of stamina and ability. A lot of Wild fans are unhappy because they say that this just gives the Hawks the chance to rest Keith for the playoffs and actually helps them in the long run. That he misses only one playoff game is not a situation that will probably harm the Hawks either. If the Hawks-Wild final regular season matchup had occurred closer to the end of the season I have to believe that Keith would miss out on more then one playoff game. It simply is what it is.
For his part, aside from some stitches and some guaranteed soreness to his nose (ever been hit in the face with a hockey stick?) Coyle is ok. He got medical attention and came back into the game that night. The Wild bested the Hawks in that game and in the process took the regular season series from the Hawks 5 games to nil. They haven’t won a game since, losing 3 in a row to non-playoff teams. They climbed back into the Sagarin NHL top ten last week (9th) for the 1st time in awhile, and have since dropped back to 13th spot. They now stand at 38-42 and if they do make the playoffs, and that is still an “if” even in the face of the floundering Colorado Av’s, they will go in with a sub-.500 record. This team has defied logic and expectations and not in a good way. IF they get in, can they do anything? That is then $1mil question folks….
THE FROZEN FOUR KICKS OFF
Thursday down in Tampa Bay and should be an interesting affair. The way the brackets have worked out will give you an east versus east game and a west versus west tilt. In G1 Boston College will take on overall top seeded Quinnipiac, and in G2 two NCHC clubs will meet with 3rd seed North Dakota meeting the Pioneers of Denver. Who will do what, with which, to whom? (homage to the late, great Rodger Kent) Well, that’s a great question. Quinnipiac comes in at 31-3-7 but has not had a head to head with BC this season. BC enters the F4 with a 28-7-5 record and as you know, was the team that eliminated the UMD Bulldogs in an epic regional final a mere 8 days ago. Denver and UND have met 5 time this past season with UND taking a pair back in early December and then Denver returned the favor in February and then the two met in the NCHC 3rd place game and battled to a 1-1 tie.
I am compelled to say that these are two excellent matchups here. While my brackets of 16 were shot after day one of the regionals, I have picked fairly well for the F4. This year? I am not experiencing any of the internal feelings I have had for past tournaments. This is a tough one to handicap. In G1 you will have the depth of BC against the special teams excellence of Quinnipiac. Give me BC in this one due to a slight edge in coaching with vet Jerry York behind the bench. In G2 this is about impossible to predict due to how even these clubs are. In terms of roster I would have to give UND a slight edge. Both clubs protected home ice with the lone neutral ice tilt ending in a tie. There is no home ice available here for either. UND had a very strong 3rd period to oust Michigan and advance, and Denver pretty much “handled” two low ranking clubs to get to Tampa.
I am inclined to go with UND in this game. In the title game, I believe UND finally overcomes a long time title hex and gets the gold. For a F4 political statement, is there anyone besides me that is hacked off because of the extra week’s wait for the F4 so the NCAA can babysit their cash cow Men’s Final Four in basketball? Certainly I understand that this and the faux D1 football tourney are what feeds the NCAA coffers the most, and there just might be a valid reason the pucksters are forced to sit a week longer. Perhaps the NCAA wants the D1 Men’s Hockey F4 to be in it’s own spotlight, I don’t know. I haven’t heard any previous debate or dialogue on why this is. Any answers out there?
TEAM USA WOMEN WIN GOLD
at World Championships! After taking in two NHL tilts last night in FLA-TOR and STL-ARI, the NHL Network broadcast the IIHF Women’s World Championship game between Team USA and Team CANADA. After 3 periods the game was tied 0-0 with the USA team winning in OT on an Alex Carpenter goal at 12:30 of the 1st OT frame. Carpenter is the daughter of former NHL star Bobby Carpenter. These two teams are obviously the crème de’ la crème of Women’s Ice Hockey and this contest did not disappoint. To the contrary, this may have been one of the most exciting Women’s tilts I have ever watched. For the naysayer’s of women playing puck, the pace of this game was tremendous, the skill and strategy on display were every bit as strong as many men’s games. And, getting to jump out of my recliner in the wee hours was pretty cool too. Congrats to Team USA! PEACE