If the league were determined by boxing rules, who would be the current champion? That's the question they're asking over in NBA land right now, starting with a Redditor and making its way to both Grantland and this website.
It's a cool concept, with some pretty simple rules:
- Last year's champion starts the year with the belt.
- When they lose, the team that beats them takes the belt.
- The team holding the belt at the end of the regular season is the winner.
Let's adopt it for the NHL. Who holds the NHL's Championship Belt?
The Blackhawks began the year with the Belt, of course, and they escaped opening night and their first Belt Defense with a 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals despite Mikhail Grabovski's hat trick.
But it was short lived. Chicago dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of their season on opening night, registering 39 shots to the Bolts' 16. But Tampa goalie Ben Bishop held on to get the game to the shootout, where Valterri Filppula goal brought the Belt to the Sunshine State.
Tampa takes over
The Lightning beat Buffalo -- everybody beats Buffalo -- in overtime on October 8, then two nights later cruuuuushed in-state rival Florida to protect their title for a second night. They were no match for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins on Saturday, October 12, however, when they fell 5-4 on home ice.
The Belt belonged to Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh's held the belt longer than any other team so far, but that's not saying much. They topped visiting Edmonton on October 15, then traveled across state and ran over the rival Flyers 4-1 at the Wells Fargo Center in a second Belt defense.
On Saturday the 19th, Pittsburgh squeaked by the Vancouver Canucks on an Evgeni Malkin shootout goal, but despite only allowing 14 shots on Monday the 21st against Colorado, the Avalanche brought the Belt back to Denver with a 1-0 win. Thanks, Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
The Belt goes Mile High
Colorado has yet to lose. After squeaking out the win in Pittsburgh, they returned home to Pepsi Center and picked up a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes behind two goals from Matt Duchene. The win made Colorado the best team in the NHL at 9-1-0, and it marked the best start in franchise history. And they kept the Belt!
Heading into the third period against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the Avs were down 2-1 and in danger of sending the Belt to a Canadian caretaker for the first time all year. But goals from Jan Hejda and Paul Stastny erased those fears and kept the Belt in Colorado for a full week.
Maybe the Belt isn't a good thing. The Avalanche have not had a good week off the ice with the arrest and ugly allegations against their goaltender, Seymon Varlamov, but they'll be back at it on Friday night against the Dallas Stars with another chance to defend their title.