I'm a pretty big fan of Fridays. The work week is over, the weekend is here, and there's some Hockey Night In Canada to be excited for on Saturday nights. What made tonight even better were the all-out life-or-death battles being waged on the ice in a few cities between hockey teams who are fighting for their playoff lives. The man to the left, Mike "Richie" Richards, was involved in one of those games tonight as his Philadelphia Flyers took on the New York Rangers in a home-and-home series to finish the season. With two wins, the Rangers would qualify for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Any point by Philadelphia would eliminate the Rangers.
Lots of intrigue, so I'll let Mike Richards chew on that for a few minutes while we look at some other stories.
- On this day in 1932, the Toronto Maple Leafs captured the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise history. The Maple Leafs would go on to win ten more Stanley Cups over the next 35 years, but are now stuck at 1967 as their last year of glory.
- The AHL's Manitoba Moose got some great news yesterday as Brampton Battalion centerman Cody Hodgson flew to Vancouver to be examined by the Vancouver Canucks medical staff on Thursday. Tonight, he walked into MTS Centre and will suit up for the Manitoba Moose as they embark on their quest for the Calder Cup! He wasn't in the lineup for the Moose tonight, and he's a question mark for tomorrow's game, but Hodgson will be in the lineup when the Moose and Bulldogs meet in the first-round of the AHL Playoffs, and could be wearing #18 as no Moose player is currently wearing that number!
- Congratulations go out to the AHL MVP this season, Keith Aucoin. The Hershey Bears forward is having himself a wonderful season, having scored 35 goals and adding 67 assists to lead the AHL in points. Despite some other surprising opinions on who was the AHL MVP this season, Aucoin certainly deserves the Les Cunningham Award after leading the Bears to an impressive 60-16-0-3 record this year for first-place overall in the AHL. The Bears are certainly one of the favorites to capture the Calder Cup, so it will be interesting to see how they do this spring!
- Thanks to the NHL schedule-makers, the final home-and-home series played by the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers has all sorts of intrigue. The Flyers lead the Rangers by two points with two games to play, so this weekend's games are like a mini-playoff series. And the Rangers took Game One of the home-and-home with the 4-3 victory tonight. That ties the Rangers with the Flyers for points, but the Flyers hold the tie-breaker, so they remain in 8th-place. However, a win by the Rangers on Sunday in Philadelphia would eliminate the Broad Street Bullies from the playoffs. This is why the NHL Playoffs are the best time of the year!
- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Alexei Ponikarovsky was given the final two games of the regular season off after NHL Disciplinarian Colin Campbell slapped him with a two-game suspension. Ponikarovsky was assessed a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct for his hit from behind on New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey, and that meant the play was subject to review by Campbell. Ponikarovsky will forfeit over $21,000 while he watches the last two games from the press box.
- Congratulations go out to the city of Raleigh, North Carolina and the Carolina Hurricanes franchise. The Hurricanes will play host to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, beating out 14 other teams who had applied to host the game. There have been no logos released yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing what Carolina comes up with for this All-Star Game. If you'd like to attend the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, please follow the directions on this page. Looking forward to another great NHL All-Star Weekend!
- The University of Wisconsin Badgers and the Boston College Eagles will battle on Saturday night in Detroit at Ford Field for the NCAA Championship! The Badgers advanced to the final after trouncing the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers by an 8-1 score. Boston College destroyed the Miami University RedHawks in their semi-final game by a 7-1 score. The NCAA Championship game goes tomorrow night, so find a television somewhere! This one looks like a beauty!
- Congratulations go out to Blake Geoffrion of the Wisconsin Badgers as he was named as the Hobey Baker Award winner for the 2009-10 season! The second-round pick of the Nashville Predators put up 28 goals and 22 assists this season, helping the Badgers to a #3-ranking in the country. Geoffrion's name should be pretty recognizable. His father Danny, grandfather Bernie "Boom Boom", and great-grandfather Howie Morenz all played for the Montreal Canadiens over their illustrious careers. Of course, Morenz and "Boom Boom" Geoffrion are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Blake is looking to add to his family name's legacy by earning the family's first NCAA title!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!