Friday, 18 April 2008

Dan Ellis: United Steelworker

As much as I have to commend the Nashville Predators for their fabulous work on home ice in tying the series, I have a feeling that a few labour unions will want to talk to ownership. Why would a union want to talk to the Predators? Goaltender Dan Ellis has seen more rubber than a Goodyear factory so far, and there will still be at least one more game. The United Steelworkers represent Goodyear employees in their union, so maybe Dan Ellis would be better served by them than the NHLPA?

All jokes aside, the Detroit Red Wings have outshot the Nashville Predators 198-123 through five games, giving Detroit an average of 40 shots per game compared to 24 shots per game for Nashville. Ellis has only allowed 14 goals on those 199 shots, and he has clearly been the difference in keeping this series closer than it looked on paper.

When the experts say that "in the playoffs, you need your goaltender to be your best player", Dan Ellis has certainly gone above and beyond in this series thus far. However, after falling 2-1 to the Red Wings tonight in overtime, the Predators will have to win on Sunday at home to keep the series going.

Ironically, in 2004, Red Wings' coach Dave Lewis pulled Manny Legace after Game Four and replaced him with Curtis Joseph. Joseph backstopped the Wings to two straight victories to eliminate the Predators in six games. Of course, Hasek was sent to the bench tonight, and Osgood picked up the win. Is this history repeating itself?

The real test, if the Predators can win in Nashville, will be Game Seven in Detroit. Nashville has never won a road game in the playoffs, going 0-10 in their franchise's history. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

New York, New York: The Rangers finished off the New Jersey Devils tonight by a score of 5-3. Continuing their domination of the Devils from the regular season, the New York Rangers advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with their win tonight. The Devils, on the other hand, head home after being eliminated in the first round for the fifth time over their 11 consecutive playoff appearances.

Not only did the Rangers absolutely dominate the Devils during this entire series, but they did something no other team has ever done to the Devils: defeated them on home ice in three games. Home-ice advantage? Not in this series.

The major difference, going back to the Goodyear theme, was the fact that Martin Brodeur simply didn't play like the Martin Brodeur we've come to know at playoff time. Routine saves were anything but routine at times, and he couldn't steal a game when his team needed it most.

However, he's not only to blame. The offence struggled mightily against the Rangers, and could not solve Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist was clearly the best player in this series, and his team rallied around him. Again, the motto holds true.

Oh, and for some added drama, Sean Avery and Martin Brodeur did not shake hands during the ceremonious handshake at the end of the series. I feel this "rivalry" is far from dead.

Duck Hunting:There is a significant problem in Anaheim, and, if you haven't been watching, it exists at both ends of the ice. Dallas has skated circles around the faster Ducks. The Stars have won more battles to loose pucks than the grittier Ducks. Dallas has dominated Anaheim on the special teams. Worst of all? The Ducks have had no answer for Dallas' defensive strategy, and haven't been able to solve Marty Turco on a regular basis. In fact, if it hadn't been for about 20 minutes in Game Three, I'd have already made a few jokes about serving duck for dinner.

"Dallas is outplaying us," Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said to "We just haven't played at the level we need to be successful."

Great soundbyte right there. Giguere might be the most overlooked quote machine in the NHL. Excuse my sarcasm.

Thursday night's game was the first time that Anaheim had outshot the Stars in the series, and they still lost 3-1. Turco was 7.6 seconds away from a shutout, but Mathieu Schneider broke the goose egg.

Let me just go ahead and say it: Anaheim has been simply brutal in their Stanley Cup defence, and I am betting that they're done after tonight. The Stars look to advance to the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2003.

However, if they respond to the hunting sign the way the Bruins did, this series could change dramatically.

Toronto's GM Woes: I have yet to see one person give a reason why Cliff Fletcher hasn't contacted newly-unemployed Dave Nonis to take over as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. If I were Fletcher, I'd be on the phone right now.

Why, you ask?

Markus Naslund is a free agent. Pairing him with Sundin and Blake gives the Maple Leafs an explosive first line. Nonis and Naslund seemingly have a good relationship, and the less-physical Eastern Conference would be a good fit for Naslund.

Secondly, the Leafs already have a pretty good goaltender in Vesa Toskala. Yes, it took some time for Toskala to round into form as a bonafide starter, but he was clutch down the stretch as the Maple Leafs pushed for a playoff spot. Nonis won't have to trade away scoring assets to acquire a quality goaltender like he did in Vancouver (although, it is debatable since he fleeced Florida in the Luongo trade).

Thirdly, he is a young GM with a pile of experience. He was trained by Brian Burke, and has shown that he can run a draft table fairly well. His record with the Canucks brought them such players as Alex Edler, Mason Raymond, Cory Schneider, and Luc Bourdon. He increased the scouting department in Vancouver, something the Leafs sorely need more than anything.

I can't understand why Fletcher has interviewed this guy yet. Perhaps he's on that short list that Fletcher has made up, but no one has even mentioned Nonis as the next guy in The Big Smoke. And that has me shocked.

Ok, I'm going back to the TV to watch Dallas dismantle the defending Stanley Cup champions. Anaheim currently leads 1-0, but it's still early.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Sage Confucius said...

The Preds looked bad tonight. I don't know if the absence of Legwand and Arnott had anything to do with it or not, but they never seemed to get things together. The Red Wings came out and played like they should have been playing the entire series.

Dan Ellis should be given a huge bonus this off-season. He faced more than 50 shots tonight and only let two get by. Maybe if the horrible idea of placing ads on goalies goes through Ellis can get Goodyear to be his sponsor.

Anaheim beat Dallas in a big way. That is unfortunate. I'm not a Stars fan but I will not pull for ANY team that has Chris Pronger. May he rot in Hell.