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Information about 2014 NHL Playoffs tournament
“…It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Well, although it is not Xmas anymore, millions of hockey fans from all around the world have exactly that feeling as the 2013/2014 NHL season play-off is about to begin. The NHL play-off, also called the Stanley Cup play-off, concludes the season of the matchlessly best and most popular hockey league in the world. This year, the play-off will begin on the 16th April 2014 and it is expected to end in the mid of June 2014 (depending on the number of games having to be played) with the Stanley Cup being handed over to one of the lucky finalists.
The 2014 NHL playoff format
In the 2013/2014 NHL season play-off, the best 16 teams of the NHL regular season, eight from the Eastern and eight from the Western Conference, qualify to fight for the Stanley Cup. The qualification for the play-off is determined by the conference standings of the NHL participants. The first six places in each conference are reserved for the three best teams of the regular season in each division and there are also two wild cards awarded to the next two teams in the conference (based on their standings). The play-off consists of the conference quarter-finals, semi-finals, finals and Stanley Cup finals. All four play-off rounds are played on the best-of-seven series basis.
In each round of the NHL play-off, the highest remaining seed in each conference is matched against the lowest remaining seed. The higher positioned team benefits from home ice advantage. In the Stanley Cup final series, home ice is determined based on points gained in the regular season. Each best-of-seven series follows a 2–2–1–1–1 format - the higher-seeded team plays at home for games one and two (plus five and seven if needed), and the lower-seeded team is at home for games three and four (and if necessary, game six). During the first three rounds of the NHL play-off, home ice is determined by seeding number within the conference, not position on the bracket. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the team with better seeding number receives the home ice advantage. If the seeding numbers are identical, the regular season record is taken into account.
The 2013/2014 NHL season playoff participants
With over twenty games yet to be played in the regular season though, it is indeed too early to define the final standings and the play-off participants for the 2013/2014 season. Nevertheless, based on the presented game of the teams in this season as of 21st of February, the biggest favourites for the league title are indeed Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh as well as San Jose and Anaheim, but none of the teams that will make it into the Playoffs can be underestimated.
The NHL teams in the season 2013/2014
The 2013/2014 NHL season is already the 96th played NHL season. It started on October the 1st 2013 and its regular part will finish on the 13th of April 2014. In the current season, the National Hockey League consists of thirty franchised clubs, 23 being from United States and 7 from Canada.
Before the beginning of this season, the NHL has announced a change of number and names of the divisions in the two existing conferences. Since the 2013/2014 NHL season, the Eastern Conference consist of Atlantic Division and the Metropolitan Division (previously Atlantic, Southeast and Northeast Divisions), and in the Western Conference there are now the Central Division and the Pacific Division (previously Central, Northwest and Pacific Divisions).
In the 2013/2014 regular season, each team plays altogether 82 games, 41 home and 41 away. Every team meets it division rivals four or five times per season and all the teams from the other divisions in its conference three times. Moreover, each team also plays all the teams in the other conference twice per season. One exception in the Western Conference is that one team from each division plays one less game inside their Division and one more game inside Conference but outside their Division. For the 2013/2014 NHL season, this exception applies to the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks.
2014 NHL playoffs participants
After the portion of 82 matches of the regular season these 16 teams have qualified for the play off season:
Eatern conference: Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Montreal, NY Rangers, Philadephia, Columbus, Detroit,
Western conference: Anaheim, Colorado, St. Louis, San Jose, Chicago, Los Angelles, Minnesota, Dallas.
The NHL trophies and awards
The trophy for the winner of the NHL play-off is called the Stanley Cup and it is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, a former Governor General of Canada and a great ice hockey supporter and fan. It is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America. Its origins go back to 1892, when Lord Stanley awarded this cup to the Canada’s top-ranking amateur ice hockey club. First team who actually won the cup was Montreal HC in 1893. Technically speaking, there are three Stanley Cups - the first original cup is called the “Dominion Hockey Challenge”, the second one is the “Presentation Cup” which is currently handed over to the NHL playoff winner and the third one is the “Replica Cup” stored at the Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada, which is a copy of the Presentation Cup (with few differences though). The original cup was made only of silver and it is 18,5 centimetres high. The current Stanley Cup, which has a copy of the original cup (bowl) attached to its top, is made of a silver and nickel alloy. This one is 89,54 centimetres high and weighs 15,5 kilograms. Every year after the end of the NHL playoff, names of players, coaches, management and club staff of the winning team are engraved on the cup. To make sure the cup doesn’t grow and changes its current format, after the bottom band (the current design of the cup consists of five bands) of the cup is full, the oldest band is removed (and stored at the Hall of Fame) and a new one is added at the bottom.
After winning the Cup, players traditionally skate around the hall holding the trophy above their heads. Henri "The Pocket Rocket" Richard of the Montreal Canadiens, who lifted up the trophy above his head 11 times, keeps the NHL record. The team who wins the NHL playoff actually doesn’t win the cup, only the right to keep it until the new NHL playoff winner is crowned, but the members of the winning team are also awarded a championship ring, which they can retain.
Besides the Stanley Cup, the NHL awards a number of other trophies:
- The Presidents’ Trophy awarded to the team with the highest number of points gained in the regular season
- The Art Ross Trophy for the player with highest number of points (goals and assists) in the regular season
- The Maurice Richard trophy for the goal-scoring leader
- The William M. Jennings Trophy for the goalkeeper of the team with the lowest number of received goals
There are also other trophies which are based upon voting of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association or the team general managers:
- The Hart Memorial Trophy for the regular season’s most valuable player
- The Vezina Trophy for the best goalkeeper
- The James Norris Memorial Trophy for the best league’s defenseman
- The Calder Memorial Trophy for the best league’s rookie
- The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for the player combining the best skills and sportsmanship
- The Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player of the playoff
- The Jack Adams Award for the top coach (chosen by the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association)
Brief history of the NHL
The foundation of the National Hockey League is dated on the 26th of November 1917 in Montreal, Quebec when it replaced its predecessor - the National Hockey Association (NHA) after disputes among the NHA clubs. The initial phase, also called “The Foundation Era“ of NHL, was formed by four Canadian teams - the former four NHA members the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and the Quebec Bulldogs. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs were not able to play in the first NHL season, therefore a newly formed team joined the league – the Toronto Arenas. It was not very successful era, as in January 1918, the league almost abolished when the Montreal Arena burned, causing the Wanderers to end up their functioning and the Canadiens to quickly find a new arena. That season therefore ended up with only three teams competing, until the Quebec Bulldogs returned in 1919.
Between 1917 and 1926 the NHL teams were playing for the Stanley Cup against teams from a rival league – the Pacific Coast Hockey Association that merged with Western Canada Hockey League in 1924 and adopted also its name. In 1926, however, the WCHL ceased it operation. The 1920s were marked with a great expansion of the NHL (also into the USA) and the number of teams in the league was increasing rapidly (to 12 teams in 1931). However, the Great Depression, World War I and the beginning of the World War II caused that the league was eventually decreased to six teams in the 1942/43 NHL season - the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The era followed by this season is called “The original six” and this league structure and the six teams remained unchanged for unbelievable 25 years.
In 1967, when six new clubs were added to the league, a period of the NHL called “The Expansion Era” started. This year was also the first year when the league was divided into two divisions – the East Division with participation of “The Original Six” and the West Division where the new six clubs were playing. Until the 1974, another six clubs joined the league and an important milestone was also the absorption of the World Hockey Association (WHA – a competing league founded in 1972) by the NHL in 1979, when further three clubs became a part of the NHL at the time, bringing the total number of the participants to 21. This number of the NHL teams was stable until the 1991, afterwards increased to 28 teams by the year 2000. The latest NHL expansion occurred before the season 2000/2001, when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets joined the league and brought the number of the NHL teams to current 30.
The by far most successful team in the NHL history are The Montreal Canadians, who have won the championship incredible 24 times. The Toronto Maple Leafs managed to win the title 13 times, the Detroit Red Wings 11 times. The Boston Bruins succeeded six times, the Chicago Blackhawks five times, The NY Rangers and the NY Islanders four times, the New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins three times. Two teams succeeded two times and six other teams just once. The recent winners of the NHL play-off Stanley Cup include Pittsburgh Penguins in seasons 2008/2009, Chicago Blackhawks in season 2009/2010, Boston Bruins in season 2010/2011, followed by New Jersey Devils in seasons 2011/2012 and current holder of the cup Chicago Blackhawks.
Source of illustration picture: © RA Studio - Fotolia.com