Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Get Out The Brooms!

With three series in this second round already sitting at 3-0, this is a janitor's dream. The brooms are out in Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Detroit, and there appears to be nothing that the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, or Colorado Avalanche can do about it. You would think that in both the Pittsburgh-New York series and the Dallas-San Jose series that these series would be a little closer, especially since both series feature interdivisional matchups which means these teams have seen each other eight times in the regular season. I'm not put the blame on coaching or the players or any one individual in the series, but you'd think that Ron Wilson, Tom Renney, Patrick Marleau, Jaromir Jagr, and the rest of the Sharks and Rangers would be aware of how dangerous their opponents are, right?

Let's start with the Penguins and Rangers.

If you're the Rangers, you know that the amount of talent in the opposing team's dressing room is considerable. You know that there are two legitimate scoring lines, a very productive checking line, and a superb grind line that will eat up minutes for the superstars as they rest. If you're the Rangers, you know your opponents have a very active, offensive blueline with a couple of defensive stalwarts to balance things out. And you have to be aware of Marc-Andre Fleury in between the pipes in terms of ability and athleticism.

The Rangers have got to stop worrying about the referees, the non-calls, the drama, and all the other stuff they have been talking to the press about, and start playing hockey. They need to start laying the body on the Penguins. Guys like Marc Staal, Ryan Hollweg, Sean Avery, and Fedor Tyutin have to punish the Penguins' forwards when they can.

Offensively, the Rangers need to get Fleury moving. When he moves, he opens up. Cross-ice passes, shots with rebounds, and going to the net hard will result in good things. It happened tonight on the first Rangers' goal when Jagr went to the net hard, and Fleury gave up a rebound. The result? Straka goal. Jagr had him moving on his wrap-around, and the result was a Jagr goal. See what I mean?

Mostly, the Rangers have to start playing like Pittsburgh has in their seven games thus far: they need to show a little swagger. Madison Square Garden is not home ice for the Penguins, but they skated like they owned it tonight. The Rangers can't play for five-minute portions of the game and expect to win.

It's desperate hockey time for the New York Rangers and their fans. There is no other option now.

Speaking of needing to play desperate hockey, San Jose can complain all they want about the goal that was called off tonight, but they lost this series in Game One and Game Two by not showing up.

Honestly, they have no edge. No bite. No grit. No determination. No doggedness. No tenacity. Nothing. Have I captured their first three games in enough words yet?

What happened to the Sharks who had an amazing run to end the season? Is Nabokov tired? Are the Sharks tired? They had a 20-game regular-season streak without a regulation defeat. Nabokov has appeared in 87 games this season, including 77 regular season appearances. Nabokov has said that he thrives on playing as he can keep his rhythm, but the human body needs rest, especially for the rigorous playoff schedule.

The biggest problem seems to be a lack of offensive firepower for the Sharks. In the three games against Dallas thus far, Joe Thornton has one assist while captain Patrick Marleau, who Ron Wilson said was the best player in the series against the Flames, has one goal.

Forget talking about secondary scoring. The Sharks can't even get primary scoring at this point. Give credit to head coach Dave Tippett, the Stars, and Marty Turco for shutting down the Sharks, and for doing their interdivisional homework.

Lastly, despite their obvious troubles with the stars of the Red Wings, I'll give credit where credit is due for the Avalanche.

Andrew Brunette is worth every penny. This guy is playing at an exceptionally high level in the playoffs, and that's huge. Joe Sakic is also having himself a very nice spring session this year, and you need your leaders to come through.

I did expect, however, bigger contributions from players like Hejduk and Forsberg. I don't want to hear about how Forsberg is playing on one leg either. Everyone plays hurt in the playoffs, and if you're taking up a roster spot, you had better contribute. Losing Wolski hurts the Avs as well as he provided some good scoring talent as well.

The Avalanche simply need to be more physical with the Wings, and they have not done that. The Anaheim Ducks bullied them into submission during the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and I would have thought that teams would try that again this season. The Wings are basically the same team, but neither Nashville nor Colorado has thrown the body against the smaller forwards of the Wings.

I expect Dallas to hammer away on the Wings in the next round, much like they've done to both the Ducks and Sharks thus far. Colorado can still make Detroit pay, mind you. It just has start now.

A Jacket Forever: Some sad news out of the NHL this week as John H. McConnell, the owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets, passed away at the age of 84 on Friday.

Mr. McConnell led a group of investors in the bid to bring an NHL franchise to the city of Columbus in 1997. The bid, of course, became the Columbus Blue Jackets, and began play in 2000.

He had been diagnosed with cancer last year, and his health began to fail him as of late. "Mr. Mac", a name he was called by coaches and players, received a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute on October 9, 2000 before the Blue Jackets' first game.

Rest in peace, Mr. McConnell. You'll always be remembered by this writer.

Trophy Names: Some more names were released by the NHL as finalists for the awards at this season's end.

Hart Trophy - Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Jerome Iginla.
Lady Byng Trophy - Pavel Datsyuk, Jason Pominville, Martin St. Louis.
Frank Selke Trophy - Pavel Datsyuk, John Madden, Henrik Zetterberg.

I'm going with Ovechkin, Datsyuk, and Madden for these three awards, respectively.

As we head towards this weekend, I'll be updating the AHL, ECHL, and junior leagues as well. Tomorrow will see Philly and Montreal tangle in the early game, while Dallas tries for the sweep in the late game against San Jose.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

Andrew Brunette is one of my favorite players alive. He fit in so well in Minnesota both on and off the ice. He's a good hockey player and a great dude.