Welcome to the third week of the Cage Match Tournament! In case you missed them, here are the previous week's editions:
Week 1 – Introducing the Bracket
Week 2 – Round One: Howe Bracket
Over the past week you have voted on the four first round matchups of the Howe Bracket. These matchups provided an interesting mix of blowouts and barnburners. The matchups may not have all been as close as in Week 1, but the player names were certainly bigger.
Here are the results:
#1 Evgeni Malkin over #9 Matt Duchene – 149 votes to 5 votes
To be honest, I am a little shocked Duchene even made it to five. News flash people, he doesn't want your pity! Duchene is a proud guy and he has no reason to hang his head. I mean, it's not like he didn't win his play in game. He made it a lot farther than some would have expected and is the only #9 seed to make his way past the play-in games. Keep your head up, Duchene!
For Malkin this is just business as usual. He's been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt, and oh yeah, currently leads the league in scoring for the season. He is a #1 seed for a reason and he showed it in this here matchup.
#2 Claude Giroux over #7 Jason Spezza – 138 votes to 13 votes
It was not any prettier for Jason Spezza in his matchup with Claude Giroux. Some complained that it wasn't a fair draw for Spezza who over the past week has climbed to fourth in the NHL in scoring with 71 points, just one behind the third place Giroux. This may be true but I believe the selection committee felt once burned and therefore twice shy with Spezza. He has a history of injuries and inconsistent play that simply cannot be ignored. And ultimately you cannot ignore the results. If Spezza deserved better he would have fared better against Giroux. Clearly Spezza has more to prove and maybe next year he'll have the last laugh.
For Giroux, you have to think this was at least partially an anger win for being snubbed a top seed.
#3 Patrick Kane over #6 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – 79 votes to 73 votes
Talk about a good old fashioned barnburner!
Six votes. That is all that separates these two, making for the closest match in the Cage Match Tournament so far. Kane started this one off strong and held a solid lead for much of the week but the Nuge supporters backed a really strong push down the stretch that made this one a nail-biter, right down to the wire. In the end though, the veteran Kane (weird to say considering he is only 23) had too much experience for the rookie and will live to fight another day.
For the Nuge, it's time to regroup and gear up for next year. The good news for him, is he is the only rookie to make the field of 36 and at just 18 years old he has plenty of tournaments ahead of him to make a longer push. He is like a team starting five freshman making it to the NCAA