Sunday, 17 April 2011

Thoughts From The First Weekend Of Playoff Action

  • If Ovechkin really want to have an impact these playoffs, he needs to go to the net more. His attempts to shoot the puck past everyone from beyond the faceoff circles isn't working and it probably won't do him any good any time soon, especially on a goalie like King Henrik. If he is going to end up on the scoreboard, he is going to have to crash the net with more regularity like he did in Game 1 and when he deflected a goal in during Game 3. Teams have learned to get in the way of his shots, limiting his effectiveness. He needs to start scoring goals from 3-5 feet from the net or the Caps are going to underacheive again.
  • Martin St-Louis, despite his 5-foot-8 and 176 pound frame, easily one of the toughest and strongest players in the league. He's the first player this year to show why hockey players are the toughest, especially come playoff time. After taking a stick to the face from Pittsburgh's Zbynek Michalek, he underwent a double root canal and played two nights later. He didn't hold back either as he led the charge for the Lightning, ending the night with a goal and two points, both of which came on the power play. In true hockey player form, he played down his effort in the post-game interview, saying he was more motivated by being down by a game than trying to avenge his injury on which there was no penalty called. 
  • Seven inches taller and 46 pounds heavier than St-Louis, Detroit's Johan Franzen took a hit from Shane Doan in the first period of their Game 2 matchup and went headfirst into the boards and opening a cut that took 23 stitches to close. The crowd showed their appreciation when he came back with a bandage on his forehead and a bloody nose and took a brief skate just to stretch out a little. They roared again when he led a rush a few minutes later. Later, he took a facewash from Doan and didn't even flinch as he crashed the net like usual. 
  • Speaking of Doan, I really wish he played in a market where more people could watch him. I haven't seen him too often myself; I have read plenty of good things about him, but it wasn't until Game 2 that I realized just how good he is. He played a tremendous physical game and nearly single-handedly brought the Coyotes back when they were down four goals, registering two goals and three points before their comeback attempt fell short. He deserves to play somewhere more than 12,208 people can appreciate what he can do. Some place like, say, I don't know...Winnipeg.
  • After losing John Madden, Adam Burish, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager, many thought the Blackhawks would be able to overcome their sudden loss of depth. After all, they have one of the best cores in the NHL with Jonathan Toews, Patricks Kane and Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. The Canucks have been exposing the rest of the Hawks, flying all over the ice and causing last year's champs to run around, often looking lost. They 14 players signed for next season and only $8.4 million to sign the rest, so they will have the same issues next season. One place they really needs to spend money on though is a goalie not named Marty Turco. I have a hard time beleiving they won't keep Corey Crawford, but they need a reliable veteran to give him a break. He started 27 consecutive games down the stretch as they didn't trust Turco and his .897 save percentage, but now he looks tired and is not inspiring the confidence in the team Antti Niemi did last season.
  • Brent Seabrook took two hits worthy of following the NHL's new concussion protocol and spending 15 minutes in a quiet room for diagnosis. He didn't go after the first one and you could clearly see him and one of the officials talking about the hit on the ice. One of the criticisms of the rule was what would happen in the playoffs when a team's best player may have to be out at a critical moment of a game. I'm sure Canucks management were upset to see Seabrook out there but that is what happens when you have a subjective rule like that. However, it is great to see some progression and even if the rule needs some tweaks, they are certainly going in the right direction.
  • Lastly, here is a quote from Flyers coach Peter Laviolette after Game 2 against Buffalo. I believe it sums up the playoffs perfectly. "As far as that emotion and intensity you're talking about, it's called the Stanley Cup. And it's worth fighting for."

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