Monday, April 19, 2010

Random Thoughts from the First Round

This post-season I’m watching more hockey compared to the past few years. I’m watching pretty much every series, at least some of every game. When the Leafs are in the playoffs I really only watch their games and in the post-lockout I’ve only really followed players in my pool. Maybe this year is different because I’ve made predictions, so I actually have something at stake in every series.

I’m glad I’m invested in each series because they’re all fantastic. The most lopsided game was a 4-1 Nashville victory in game 1 over Chicago. This score is misleading because two of the goals were on an empty net. Every game is close and we’ve had the good fortune of watching a few overtimes as well. There hasn’t been any marathon overtime sessions yet, but I’m sure a three overtime game is on its way.

Here are some random observations from the first week of the playoffs.

- One of the best things about playoff hockey is seeing everyone take the body and block shots (everyone who truly wants to win). In game 1 of the Chicago-Nashville series, Marian Hossa went down to block a Shea Weber slap-shot. Shea Weber is the man whose shot is so hard it went through the net during the Olympics. Granted, Hossa didn’t actually block the shot, but he certainly tried. That’s what the playoffs are all about.

- What’s also great is the hate that develops between teams at this time of the year. At no other time will you ever see Scott Gomez fight. It wasn’t like he went after a heavyweight, but he more than held his own with Tom Poti and I gained some respect for him (SOME).

- The Sharks may have outshot the Avalanche 55-22 in game 2, but they were 30 seconds away from going down 2-0 and all but losing the series. The Regular Season Sharks may be capable of winning four out of five from the Avalanche, but there’s no way the Playoff Sharks are. Leaving home down 2-0 would have psychologically killed the Sharks, who vastly outplayed the Avalanche, but were let down by awful goaltending (Nabokov had a .772%). Shark fans can thank Joe Pavelski and Devon Setoguchi for saving the season.

- San Jose coach, Todd McLellan, doesn’t really look like a coach. He looks like the type of guy who sits at home all day in his sweat pants, watching Jenny Jones and eating cheesies.

- Anyone who still hates Crosby isn’t watching the Sens-Pens series. It’s clear just how badly Sidney wants to win. His drive and determination are unparalleled. On game 2's winning goal Crosby absolutely dominated Jason Spezza down-low before setting up Kris Letang for a bullet shot. You may laugh at Jason Spezza’s defensive capabilities, but on this play he did everything right and it still wasn’t enough. At one point he seemed intent on hooking Crosby and taking a penalty, except Crosby just bats away his stick and keeps skating.

- Remember that this was only a winning goal because Crosby dove and swatted away a trickling puck headed over the goal line behind Marc-Andre Fleury a few minutes earlier. That would have made the game 2-1 Ottawa, putting them in line for a 2-0 series lead. Now the series is 2-1 Pittsburgh, thanks in large part to Crosby’s 7 points over the first three games.

- It’s nice to see that the game’s best players are also the hardest working. The two prime examples are Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise.

- I also hate how CBC is pretending they support the Senators. You bought the rights to this series for Crosby. Don’t lie to me.

- It’s funny how many people are upset that CBC isn’t carrying the Montreal games. But the rationale behind the move is correct. They rather obtain the rights to all Canuck games since they are expected to go further than the Canadiens. Better to bank on the Canadian team expected to go far than carry one measly series with Montreal. (Or am I wrong and do television networks have to buy the rights round by round?)

- After the first two games it doesn’t look like Washington has learned anything about the playoffs. They are making the same sloppy plays that plagued them last year. It almost cost them game two, but because they were against Montreal they were able to come back from multiple deficits. Not sure if they will be able to play the same way against better teams and come away with victories.

- Anyone really surprised Theodore lost the starting gig for the Capitals? He lasted longer than I thought.

- All the series have been great so far, but Vancouver-LA is the best. I hope they go seven games and they all go to OT.

- I didn’t know how tough the Vancouver defence could play without Willie Mitchell, but they’ve played terrific. Alex Edler was a beast in game 1. He was laying out huge hits all night, which I had no idea was part of his game. The biggest hit occurred late in the game when Drew Doughty cut to the net and was absolutely flattened by Edler.

- What was also noteworthy about that hit was that no fight followed it. In the regular season any big hit on a star player, clean or not, would be followed by someone jumping in to fight the offending player. That’s needs to go. It’s embarrassing. Drew Doughty got up right after the hit and was fine. He knew he put himself in a bad position with his head down and he paid the price. Take the lesson and if Edler skates in the zone with the same ocular deprivation return the favour.

- As far as non-playoff news goes, the Rangers signed Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, a Norwegian born player who led the Swedish Elite League with 64 points in 55 games. Reportedly, the Leafs were heavily pursuing him as well, but I’m glad they didn’t sign him. Why? First, bad name. I don’t support these dual names. Too hard to say quickly. Second, he’s only 5’7 and plays with a stick better suited for Zdeno Chara. Seriously. He looks ridiculous. Just watching him during the Olympics bothered me, so I’m glad I won’t be forced to see him play 82 games with the Leafs.


Ted Rigby said...

I'm really upset that a few of your predictions are looking good so far. Mainly Philly over Jersey. I wanna smack that rat stache off Daniel Carcillo's stupid face.

And the Caps have looked very suspect, but you've got to admit that's been a pretty entertaining series, both those overtime games were insanely fast, and Washington coming back from 4-1 was not altogether surprising in game 2, but I was on the edge of my seat. Also, Ovi's comments about Halak's arm shaking as he was drinking water seems to have gotten to the Habs, who are starting Carey Price in game 4, yikes.

Ted Rigby said...

Also, speaking of big hits without fights, Johnny Boychuk legitimately wrecked Matt Ellis. Shout out to Versus network for replaying the hit at least 12 times.

Matt Horner said...

Oh, I am loving the Washington-Montreal series. As someone who has no connection to the Capitals I can say that I truly enjoy the way they play. No leads are safe for other teams, nor are they really safe for the Caps. If I was a fan of their team I would be scared shitless of a their wild and reckless play.

One of the reasons I picked Philly, asides from hating Kovalchuk, is that Brodeur is 15-21 in the playoffs since the lockout and only 4-11 over the past 3 years. Plus, I think the Flyers are superior at every position aside from goal.

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