Friday, April 13, 2007

Nothing compares to the NHL playoffs

Well, it's been hectic these last couple weeks with all the final projects and tests due before the semester comes to a close. I'll use that as my excuse for not posting over the past couple weeks, throughout the NCAA college hockey championships and the close of the NHL regular season.

I definately thought Boston College was going to return home with a title this year. I don't understand how all that momentum, built up over a 13-game stretch against some of the country's top teams, was stopped in just one period of play against an offensively-sluggish team like Michigan State.

Then again, could we really have expected BC to come out on top? It hasn't worked out three of the last four years, and I guess that third period collapse wasn't so surprising after all.

I chose to go out instead of staying home with my NHL package on Wednesday night. It was a good night in town but an even better night on TV. Four overtimes in one game, two in another. Maybe I'm glad I wasn't around for the Canucks/Stars marathon because knowing me, that might have been too much fun.

Only two upsets so far. The Rangers over Atlanta and San Jose over Nashville, if you even want to call those upsets. The way things went down the stretch for Nashville in addition to their rash of injuries, it would be no surprise to see them one and done after San Jose. It's a shame one of those teams is only going to be around for one round because both squads are Stanley Cup material at full health. Maybe with Cheechoo down and out tonight, the playing field will be leveled and the Preds will even things up. The Preds need a win tonight anyhow to have a good chance at taking this series. Thornton had two assists, both primary, in Game 1. Could this be Joe's breakout playoff season?

The only game I caught any of so far was the Pens/Sens game on Wednesday night. Ottawa's intensity over the first half of the game was unbelievable. I'm not sure if Pittsburgh also looked a little lost out there with all the young guys, but I was definately surprised to see the Sens dominate like they did. I still don't understand why every season after the Sens are bumped from the playoffs, everyone looks at captain Daniel Alfredsson for answers. He had 87 regular season points and more impressively was a plus-42, second in the league only to Thomas Vanek (+47). And he's no Joe Thornton in the playoffs either. He leads by example in the postseason, I would say, having played in all 80 games over 15 playoff series while amassing team leading numbers in goals (29), assists (30) and points (59). And he looked damn good in Game 1. Still, I'm not counting out Crosby to overshadow his fellow centerman by the time this series is over.

I watched the highlights of the Tampa Bay/New Jersey game and I can say with confidence that Johan Holmqvist lost that game for Tampa. The first two goals were completely garbage, long-range warm up type shots. The Lightning were able to do what they did in 2004 because of great offense and solid goaltending in that guy now nonexistant on the Blackhawks. Right now, it looks like the Bolts might be wishing that guy was still in town. Still, if Holmqvist can bounce back and be solid the rest of the way, Tampa should be able to get this series to a Game 6 and maybe even a 7.

Buffalo and Detroit won handily - no surprises there. Still, I think Calgary has a chance to bounce Detroit if they coudl get back on the right track. The Flames are a very physical team with great goaltending and defense. I realize they weren't playing well down the stretch but if they could turn things around, and quick, the Wings at the least may be prevented from steamrolling over them and into the second round.

There was one statistic from the Detroit game I couldn't believe. Going into the game, Pavel Datsyuk had endured a scoreless streak of 26 games. His last goal came in Game 7 of the 2002 conference finals. I probably wouldn't have believed that Datsyuk had gone even one series without scoring a goal.

Without Datsyuk dominating the playoffs in the past, it's no wonder the Wings have seen little playoff success recently.

Datsyuk ended a 26-game scoreless streak in the playoffs, dating to Game 7 of the 2002 conference finals.

I expect Dallas to bounce back tonight in another very close game. The Wild may not be so lucky - the Ducks are a tough team to beat at home and in my opinion are the West's superior team.

And as for that one "upset" in Atlanta, well Jaromir Jagr came to play. That's going to be the difference for New York. As Jagr goes go the Rangers. No worries if I'm Atlanta though. Kari Lehtonen is a stud and Marian Hossa and Kovalchuk were kept off the scoreboard in Game 1. Brad Larsen and Pascal Dupuis were the Thrashers' high scorers with two points each. That will change, undoubtably in Game 2.


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