The year of 2013, was an interesting year for hockey, as the year began with the ending of another NHL lockout, an American victory at the World Juniors, and the start of a shortened forty-eight game NHL season, which despite being short would still give way to some of the best hockey, beginning with the drop of the puck on January 19th and ending with the lifting of the cup on June 23rd, only to begin again later in the year with another NHL season, this time for the 2013-14 season. Now with 2013 coming to a close and 2014 about to start, its time to look back on all of the good, bad, and interesting that happened in hockey through the course of the year, whether it be Andrew Shaw’s love of shin pads to the difference that seventeen seconds make, to the dismay of Leafs fans in game seven, the year was filled with a wide variety of events and people to break, so let’s get started.
The team of the year, is the Chicago Blackhawks, which is not shocking considering the twenty-four game streak, the thirty game point streak, Ray Emery’s streak, the President’s Trophy, and finally the lifting of the Cup in June after defeating the Boston Bruins four games to two and in the span of seventeen seconds. They were a team that seamed bent on proving something from the start of the season, and in the course proved to be bigger than the game itself at times, but also proved to be one of the reasons. In non-hockey circles they drew the ire of those who were not impressed by their streak, such as Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, who was not impressed with ties, then again that ire was more of flash in the pan, than an actual argument. The team was also labeled by Sports Illustrated as being the “franchise that brought hockey back.” They were a sound team, and in the playoffs proved to be so, even in the face of tough opposition, this team was truly one of the best to have taken the ice.
Even with the play of the Blackhawks, there are two if not several honorable mentions for best team this year. Among them are the runners up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Boston Bruins, whose play came on to take greater importance in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, as they came on to be a symbol of fight for the city, especially in the playoffs and after game seven against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had the series in the bag, but left the door open for a Boston comeback. Following that, the Bruin routed the Rangers and then swept the Penguins. Despite coming up short, they were a symbol of fighting spirit and resiliency, whether it be in game seven or in the play of Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell. They were a team of fight, to put it simply
The second honorable mention is not for an NHL team, although you could make an argument for the a number of NHL teams, it is however that this team is the Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s ice hockey team, for their sixty-two game win streak, going the majority of 2013 undefeated and being the first NCAA Women’s hockey team to complete a perfect season. Their first loss came on November 17, but in the time being, they did not disappoint once during the streak, and do make an argument for being one of the best teams of the this year.
Best Player (Tie):
The best player or players of the year in 2013, is a tie between Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin, both of whom shined bright this year, was tough to make a decision between the two. For Ovechkin, 2013, marked a return if not improvement in his abilities, particularly as a goal scorer. To put it simply he thrived in 2013, with putting up 94 points in the 84 games played in total in 2013, 62 of those points came off goals scored as well. He also took home the Rocket Richard and Hart Awards as well. Kane in the same vein as Ovechkin, hit another level in 2013 as well, becoming one of if not the most consistent contributor to the Blackhawks this year, especially in the playoffs, where along with the Cup, also took home the Conn Symthe as well, after a playoffs which featured Kane with 19 points in 23 games. In all, both were massive for their teams in 2013, but also proved to be among the best of this year
Two honorable mentions have to go to Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets as his net minding skills almost brought the Jackets into the playoffs in what was a mad dash during the final weeks of the regular season. The second honorable mention, goes to John Tavares, whose 2013 has been a break out year for the now captain of the New York Islanders. In a shorten season he finished with 47 points in 48 games and a total of 28 goals. For both players they performances were special for this year and for their teams as well.
Best of the Rest and Odds and Ends of the Year:
While the year gave us the performances of Ovechkin and the play of the Blackhawks, there were a number of odds and ends to the year as well. Whether it be from the reaction of a number of Leafs fans watching game 7 against the Bruins in their living room to Jerome Iginla and Daniel Alfredsson making their first trips back to where their careers began. This was a good year to be a hockey fan, the sport seemed more captivating in a number of ways to us than before hand. Whether it was the awe and specter of a wave from Charlie Coyle to a young fan in Minnesota to the honoring of Fred Shero in Toronto, to put it simply, 2013 was a fantastic year for the sport, and signs that only 2014 will better or at least a sign of more to come. So in short, Happy New Year and here’s to a wonderful 2013.