What a finish to the second round! In case you missed it (shame on you!), it
took the Dallas Stars the equivalent of 2 hockey games and 9 minutes to
eliminate the San Jose Sharks in Game 6. I was hoping we’d have a long
overtime game at some point, the fact it happened in an elimination game made it
all the more special. Both teams left nothing on the bench, the goaltending was
superb, the hitting was brutal, the skating was fast and furious – it was a real
shame somebody had to lose (and an even bigger shame the referee had to call a
penalty to decide it, but therein lies another story for another day!). The only way
the series could have ended on a more positive note is if San Jose had managed
to stretch it to 7 games. Well, technically, they did! Careful what you wish for,
because you just might get it.
event – we’re down to
four teams and we have two more epic series to determine who’s playing for the
ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. And not only should we expect to see a little
more instant hockey karma along the way (more to come), we have two more bitter
rivalries to take us into the finals.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers
times in this game
where the anticipation gets cranked up so high there’s no possibility of the
action on the ice even remotely coming close to the hype behind it – unless there’s a
good rivalry involved! From the moment the Philadelphia Flyers got by the
Montreal Canadiens, the trash talk between fans of these two Penn State rivals
went into quadruple overtime. The teams’ respective AHL teams are also battling
it out in a best of seven series for the right to move on to the Calder Cup
semifinals, but it doesn’t matter. Pittsburgh has been waiting for this rematch
ever since Keith Primeau scored in the fifth overtime period in May 2000 in a
series Philadelphia would go on to win. It still holds the distinction of being
the 3rd longest game in NHL history. Given what we just witnessed in
the second round, I have a feeling we could see more history made here. As for
the fans, they’re already calling each other’s star players cry babies and dive
artists – and this is just barely scratching the surface.
Pittsburgh should win:
I picked them to come out of the East, and so far they have not disappointed –
they’ve only lost one game the entire playoffs so far, and although they’ve yet
to face any real adversity, it doesn’t seem like anything really phases them –
they’ve played their game to perfection, capitalized on the other team’s
mistakes, scored when they’ve needed to, and just dominated in every aspect of
the game. Case in point – Sean Avery, who everyone expected to get under the
Penguins’ skin, left the last series with an alleged spleen injury right around
the time the Rangers realized they were in too deep to make a series out of it.
Was he really injured? Was it really
his spleen or was the New York Post report of cardiac arrest actually accurate?
Only he and his doctor will ever know. The only suggestion I have for the
Penguins, while Avery takes on his summer job at Vogue magazine, is stay
disciplined. They seemed to cross the line a little bit in the second round
(check You Tube for Malkin slew foot) and got away with it – they won’t with
Philly. Yet, it doesn’t seem to matter who scores for this team – Geno, Sid,
Jordan, Marian, or big Georges – they’re scoring and scoring in bunches. You score four
goals, they’ll score five. Now here's your challenge - can anybody (that
doesn't live in Pittsburgh) name two defensemen from the Penguins without
referring to the roster? Me neither, but let me tell you, players like
Sergei Gonchar and Brooks Orpik have quietly gone about their business. Those who were skeptical about Marc Andre Fleury can
worry no more (or can they?). On paper the Penguins should be in the finals,
but they will need a lot to go right for them (or wrong, depending on what
happens). So far, so good.
Philadelphia could win:
Push Pittsburgh over the edge and make them pay for the few mistakes they’ll
make – plain and simple. So far the Flyers have managed to take out a confident
team led by Alex Ovechkin and a team looking to keep their “Cup every decade”
streak alive. They need to keep giving the puck to R.J. Umberger as he’s been
on fire during this playoff run, not to mention keep letting Martin Biron see
the puck. He was always second fiddle everywhere he ever played; now he’s
finally getting a chance to show he’s not your average backup goaltender. Does
Philly finally have enough to get to the Promised Land, or will they be guests
of Donald Trump in two weeks’ time as they hold their final practice of the year
in their Atlantic City rink and chomp on cheese steaks? One thing I know for
sure– Jason Smith hasn’t forgotten the last time he was in the finals, and you
can be rest assured he wants to get back there, sooner rather than later.
calling all four series
to go seven games in round two and not getting even one series to go the
distance, one would think I wouldn’t be so bold as to expect the Conference
Finals to go as far as they can go. This one could and should go all the way,
with the winner well poised to drink champagne from the Cup. Home ice doesn’t
usually matter in the early rounds, but Pittsburgh and Philadelphia’s respective
barns will be so loud it won’t be funny. This one won’t be over until the fat
lady sings – and as far as I was aware, Game 7 will be in Pittsburgh, where Kate
Smith won’t be able to sing her vintage “God Bless America” captured on DVD for
all to see. Buckle up for what should go down as one of the most memorable
series of all time.
Penguins in 7
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
answer to the age old television trivia question “Who Shot J.R.?” after watching
Game 6 of the San Jose-Dallas series we now know the answer to “Whose shot
eliminated J.R. from the playoffs?” The answer would be Brenden Morrow. Has
there been a more noticeable leader in this post season? We’re about to see
Morrow go head to head with him.
Is it just me or has everybody forgotten about Detroit? It sure seemed like it
up until an 8-2 rout in Game 4 in Denver which ended the Avalanche’s season.
Afterwards, everyone was singing the praises of one Johan Franzen, who only
broke an NHL record for goals in a playoff series with 9. The previous record
holder? Perhaps you’ve heard of him before: Gordie Howe. He once scored 7
goals in a final series against Montreal back in the day. Franzen also
became the first player to score two hat tricks in a playoff series since Jari
Kurri did it back in 1985. Now in and of itself, this is an
accomplishment, but the Red Wings have turned on the jets and are showing no
signs of turning back. They’re getting even better goaltending from Chris
Osgood than they got in 1998. They’re getting the power play production
they’ve been so desperately looking for from both Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik
Zetterberg. And I know I said this last round, but it’s worth repeating:
Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios just keep going and going. Lidstrom has
been a great leader on and off the ice, and he’s certainly making a good case
for himself both in Conn Smythe voting, and in his quest to become the first
European captain to win the Stanley Cup. For the
Wings it just seems like we’ve seen this movie before, only now we’re watching
the multi-million dollar sequel. As my uncle in Victoria, B.C. likes to
(correctly) point out every time he sees me – Detroit has won three Stanley Cups
since 1990. Only one other team (New Jersey) has managed the same feat. This
time around, the Red Wings are well positioned for a fourth, but only if they
can keep it going, because…
Keep the magic going from what people have been ridiculously calling a Cinderella run. Get real! This team just eliminated the defending Stanley Cup Champions
in six games, and one of the teams favored to win the Stanley Cup in seven, I
mean, six games. Trust me, you didn’t hear anybody chanting
“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” during this Dallas playoff run, and I haven’t seen any
pumpkins turn into a horse and carriage! I left all those images back in
Orlando where they belong. The Stars have got to where they are right now
through hard work, timely scoring, and great goaltending. Marty Turco has
lifted the proverbial monkey off his back and has literally stood on his head.
He even has the patented Dominik Hasek snow angel down pat. I ask again: has
any captain in the playoffs been more noticeable than Brenden Morrow? He’s done
everything – score goals, hit players (and hard, just ask Milan Michalek!),
hell, he’s even got the referees on his side. Most players would have given up
and disappeared after having two goals disallowed in the same game – not
Brenden. After waving the white towel a la Roger Neilson, and getting away with
it, he went right back out and was a factor on just about every Dallas goal the
rest of the way. He has that look of fire I’ve only seen in a few players.
Mike Modano used to have it (and still does), Steve Yzerman used to have it,
Wayne Gretzky used to have it, and The Rocket used to have it. The tradition
continues. Oh, and did I mention Sergei Zubov is back on defense? If Brad
Richards can ever pot a couple, it’s officially on! They’ll need to get a lot
more balanced scoring than they’ve had so far if they want to get back to the
finals, although so far they’ve been able to compensate for a lack of scoring
explosion with their defensive play, and Morrow’s desire. Another song you
haven't heard in Dallas' dressing room: "When you wish upon a star..."
crazy, but I think we have another long series coming up. Only time will tell
if I’m right, but this will be a great series. Unless the roof caves in,
Detroit should take it, but this is why we play the games.
Red Wings in 6
had a few days to recuperate from quadruple overtime, and now it’s winner take
all – it’s what the game is all about!
next round when I’ll have my usual analysis on the Stanley Cup final, as well as
the long awaited return of Along The Boards, where as usual we’ll have a
discussion about everything and anything puck related. Summer’s almost here
folks, so enjoy the season as it winds down, yet continues to heat up, both on
and off the ice!
I'll be back...
More Puckin' Around...