Tuesday, April 25, 2006

8 Things We've Learned About The NHL Playoffs

With 2 games in the books for every opening round series, let's take a few minutes to review some things we've learned since the first puck dropped on Friday night.

1. Pat Quinn Will Be Coaching the Flyers Next Season.
This is just a hunch. I have a feeling that after the disaster in the making that is the Sabres series, Ken Hitchcock will be fired. The Flyers have had a notoriously short leash for their Head Coaches in recent years, and if Hitch can't at least coax a respectable performance out of a team that was built for playoff hockey, then I can't see why he'll be brought back. I'd like to see them make a series out of this, but right now, the Flyers look done.

On the other hand, maybe two game at home, a move to Olympic Silver Medalist Antero Nittymakki in Goal, and the possible return of Captain Keith Primeau will light a fire until the Flyers, and they'll come storming back.

2. The Dallas Stars Are Not As Good As We Thought.
Or I thought, at least. I only saw bits and pieces from Game 2, but from what I saw, Dallas is losing this series as much as Colorado is winning it. Sure, the franchise players for the Avs (Sakic and Blake) have stepped up, but there's no reason that the Stars shouldn't have won Game 2. Championship teams don't give up short-handed game-tying goals in the dying minutes of a game.

Also, while I would love nothing more than for Jose Theodore to step up and prove critics wrong - mostly because I defended the trade, he has not been outstanding in either game so far. While their offense has looked pretty good, I won't consider the Avs a sleeper in the West until I see a stronger performance from the team defensively.

3. Jarome Iginla Is Still A Big-Time Player
Though his Calgary Flames only earned a split of the first two games at home against Anaheim, Jarome played like a franchise player in both of them. He has 3 points in the first two games, and has been a force in the offensive zone. He may not have earned his $7 mil during the regular season, but at this rate, he'll earn his keep in the playoff round.

4. It's Not the Size of the Devil in the Fight, It's the Size of the Fight in the Devil
They may not have a key offensive player taller than 6 feet, but the Devils have plenty of guys who can put the puck in the net. Patrick Elias was in on all 6 goals in Game 1, and miniature penalty-killer extraordinaire John Madden netted a hat trick in Game 2. Add in undersized but skilled forwards Jamie Langenbrunner, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta, and these Devils have enough punch to compete with the best in the East.

5. Backup Goalies Are Not Necessarily Second Best.
Through the first two games of the Nashville-San Jose series, season-long backups Chris Mason and Vesa Toskala have acquitted themselves quite nicely. The Preds' Mason made several key saves in the Game 1 win, while the Sharks' Toskala scored a shutout in Game 2. They may not get the hype that the regular goalies do (Vokoun and Nabokov), but at this rate, they will soon.

6. The Champs Won't Go Quietly.
Ottawa's looked like the more talented team, but the Lightning took Game 2, and were poised to steal Game 1 until a 3rd Period collapse. Even if Wade Redden back in the lineup, this won't be an easy series for the Sens to take.

7. It's the Little Things That Kill.
Or for the Edmonton Oilers, the little mistakes that will haunt them if they get eliminated this round against Detroit. Of the 5 goals that they've given up through 2 games, 3 were very weak/fluky goals that they shouldn't have given up. In particular, the first Detroit goal in Game 2 occurred because Roloson was slow to block off the corner of the net with his skate, a fundamental move. He has a reputation for giving up soft goals, and while he's largely been spectacular through 2 games, that reputation isn't going away yet. If they keep giving up 1-2 soft ones a game, that could keep them from scoring the upset.

8. The Habs Aren't A Team of Destiny...Yet.
Avi may believe, but I don't. I'm holding off on passing judgment until Montreal:

• Wins a game where the opposing goalie (for the full 60 minutes) isn't 15 pounds lighter and dehydrated, due to the flu.

• Can demonstrate in back-to-back games that they can hold on to 3+ goal leads.

• Shows a little more discipline and stays out of the penalty box (though much of that was because the refs called everything in Raleigh last night.)

With that, enjoy the third games tonight.


At 6:13 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I hate the Habs. Their fans better keep praying to whatever Demon it is they pray to that things keep going their way.

At 9:56 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

The other thing that I've learned from the 2006 playoffs is that I couldn't pick a playoff pool team to save my life. I have Nylander, Rucinsky and Prucha for a total of two points so far. So much for the Devils beoing a one line team than can be shut down. Barf.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Alex said...

Hey! Look who's gushing over Pat Quinn. That was fast.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Colby Cosh said...

Do you suppose Clarke is really dumb enough to sign a coach who's balls-deep in the media like Quinn? If my teams had underperformed like Clarke's, I wouldn't want an employee around who could get me shredded in the press on any given morning with a few phone calls.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Alex said...

I think Clarke will look at Quinn's success in taking 2 teams to the Cup Finals, and in winning an Olympic Gold Medal and World Cup, and convince himself that the most decorated coach on the market will be able to squeeze something out of this club before Forsberg, Primeau, Hatcher, and Rathje either get let go or drop off significantly.

And really, could Quinn do much worse than saying an opposing coach can "go f**k himself"?

At 1:42 PM, Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

In fairness to Hitchcock, that was a legitimate point.

A Flyers team with shitty goaltending? Yeah, fire the coach.


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