NHL:: The coolest game on earth

Coming into the third season after a lockout, the NHL is still trying to win back fans. The league has instituted a number of different rules and minor changes to make the game faster, more exciting, and more fun to watch. During the 2006 playoffs, the average rating was a sad 1.1. That was down 21% from the pre-lockout rating of 1.4. During the 2006 Stanley Cup finals, NBC reported a mere 3.6 millions viewers. On average, 200,000 people tuned into Versus to watch regular season games during the 2006-2007 season. NBC didn’t bring in many more viewers with an average rate of 1.0. “The NHL can’t increase viewership,” senior Josiah Fitzsimmons said. “It’s the second worst sport, just ahead of baseball.” That is one of the problems plaguing the league; there is no interest to the casual fan. Only die-hard hockey fans tend to watch games on a regular basis. However, this year, there is a deep pool of talent. In the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers made key moves in the off-season to improve an already potent offense. Veterans Chris Drury and Scott Gomez were acquired from Buffalo and New Jersey, respectively. With those two added to a talented and veteran team, the Rangers are expected to go far. Last year, the Rangers lost to the Buffalo Sabres in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference championship. The Rangers will have stiff competition with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators. “I think the Penguins will win the Eastern Conference,” junior Jake Scebold said. “They have a lot of talent.” The Penguins are led by their 20 year-old captain phenom, Sidney Crosby. The Penguins should go to the playoffs, but don’t expect much after that. They are too young right now, but give them a few years and they will be in the finals. Look for the Rangers to take the Eastern conference championship. In the 2006-07 season, the West won it all. The Anaheim Ducks brought Lord Stanley’s Cup to SoCal. The Ducks have a very good chance to make it back to the finals this year. “I think Anaheim will win the west,” freshman Zach Lenhart said. “They have too much experience not to.” Instate rival San Jose should give Anaheim a run for their money, though. The Sharks have made the playoffs numerous times recently, but have not gone too far. This year they have a shot. With players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, San Jose has a legitimate shot at the Cup. The Vancouver Canucks have good chance at winning the west, also. Last year the Canucks lost to eventual champ Anaheim. With possibly the best goaltender in the NHL in Roberto Luongo, and the Sedin twins and Marcus Naslund leading the offense, this team has a great chance, and that is why I’d pick them to win the western conference. With New York and Vancouver battling it out, the Stanley Cup finals would be a very entertaining finals. New York’s high-flying offense and Vancouver’s shut down goalie would likely make a 7 game series. In the end, I think the Rangers would win the Cup because of their offense and their solid goaltending. But only time will tell.