Hockey Headlines

Monday, 27 April 2009

Survivor Blog

You know, it's tough to see a Canadian team go home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As a Canadian kid, I always want to see Canadian teams go as deep as possible in the playoffs simply because I want to see the Stanley Cup come back to Canada. 1993 is a long time when you consider that Montreal was the last Canadian team to bring home the Cup to Canada. However, I'm not sad to see Calgary go. Now, I don't expect to see a lot of Calgary fans come here and agree with me, but Calgary simply was outplayed by the Chicago Blackhawks, and that's the truth.

Calgary was too slow, in this writer's mind, to keep up with the youthful Blackhawks. Speed kills in the NHL, and this was never more evident than in this series. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Kris Versteeg blew by the Flames' defencemen routinely to establish a presence in the Flames' zone. Injuries to Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, and Mark Giordano significantly reduced the defensive zone speed for the Flames, particularly in Game Six, but Cory Sarich, Jordan Leopold, and Adam Pardy should have picked up the pace.

Much like the New York Rangers in my last article, the best players on the ice for the Flames were not the highest-paid players. Eric Nystrom and David Moss were legitimately the best players night in and night out for the Flames. Yes, Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla led the way with their point totals, but they were hardly seen on most shifts.

And it's tough to win any series when your goaltender is simply average. Kiprusoff, the 32 year-old, has not won a playoff series since 2003-04 when he played in only 38 games after being traded by the San Jose Sharks. In that playoff year, Kiprusoff took the Flames to the Stanley Cup Finals. Since that time, Kipper has averaged 75 starts over four seasons. Over that same time, the Flames have been eliminated in the first-round four straight times.

Perhaps these stars are simply overworked?

Look at the ages of these stars for both teams:

  • Craig Conroy - 37
  • Jarome Iginla - 31
  • Todd Bertuzzi - 34
  • Olli Jokinen - 30
  • Daymond Langkow - 32
  • Jonathan Toews - 20
  • Patrick Kane - 20
  • Martin Havlat - 28
  • Patrick Sharp - 27
  • Kris Versteeg - 21
Is there any wonder why the Blackhawks won? There is a premium on youth in today's NHL, and every single team that has advanced so far has a bounty of young players on their teams.

Boston? A fantastic mix of youth and veterans.
Pittsburgh? Lots of young players along with some savvy veterans.
Detroit? Great young players, established veterans, a pile of Stanley Cups.
Vancouver? Solid young players with a few established, scoring veterans.

Look, I'm not saying that youth wins championships. But I am saying that on all the teams that have advanced thus far, youth has played a huge role. And in grueling series like we've seen, younger bodies heal faster and recover quicker. That has a huge impact on any series.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

JTH said...

1993 is a long time? Try 1961.

Anyway, yes, the young nucleus is definitely the engine that drives the Blackhawks, but game 6 was won by the graybeard. Nikolai Khabibulin was absolutely outstanding last night.

Now, as for the young guys, it's not just the star forwards you mentioned that are young; the role players are as well. Dustin Byfuglien had a very solid series, as did Adam Burish to a lesser extent. They're 24 and 26, respectively.

And what about the defensemen?
Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Cam Barker and Niklas Hjalmarsson all played very well: 25, 24, 23 and 21. There was even a Brian Campbell sighting. He's 29.

The Flames? As you mentioned, Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen were practically invisible, especially early in the series.

And Todd Bertuzzi was absolutely awful. You could argue that he cost Calgary game 6. Sure, he scored, but that was after the game was already out of hand. His stupid penalty in the early going got them into a hole they never dug out of.

And speaking of stupid penalties, the Flames took a terrible too many men penalty -- another converted power play. And it was no borderline call, either. That's on the coaches. So it was a total team loss, players and coaching staff.