Saturday, May 17, 2014
A team of destiny Montreal Canadiens are one round from the Stanley Cup Final. Really, hockey gods? This is how you treat me after a life devoted to hockey? I am a broken man, please do not add to my sorrow.
Sorry, loudly questioning my faith in humanity over here. So, what did we learn from the second round?
It's kind of hard to believe that Teemu Selanne has played his last NHL game. He's been a treat to watch since his first broke into the league and it's going to be weird seeing the Ducks start next season without him. I'm pretty sure I'd be okay with him playing another 10 years. Thankfully, another aging wonder—Jaromir Jagr—probably will play for another decade.
Dean Lombardi knows how to swing a deadline deal
Two years ago Lombardi swiped Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a relatively small sum and this year he went back to the scene of the crime to pluck Marian Gaborik out of Ohio. Over the last seven seasons only three players have been able to drive on-ice shooting percentage better than Gaborik (two of them are Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos, the other is Alex Tanguay, surprisingly), so it shouldn't be too shocking that a team that can outshoot its opponents with ease is finally converting so many more of those shots into goals with Gaborik on the ice. Like Carter before him, Gaborik has strengthened the top-6 and bumped some guys down in the lineup into roles they are better suited for.
Amazingly, Bryan Bickell is worth the money
Not really, because that contract is Bad with a capital B. But Bickell is having another productive playoffs, just like the one he had last year that made him rich. He's fifth on the team in playoff scoring with six goals and nine points in 12 games. Four of those goals came in the last round against Minnesota and his play poses a very interesting question: if a guy is a dud in the regular season but brings it in the playoffs, is a bad contract worth it? It's much easier for a perennial contender like the Hawks to live with the bad deal during the regular season because they are so deep they can afford to waste $4 million on an anchor, so long as that anchor turns it on come April.
The Wild are a team on the rise
One of the main reasons Zach Parise and Ryan Suter decided to sign in Minnesota was because an influx of young talent was just about to make the club. That takes a lot of pressure off the two high-priced vets to carry the team, and it has become evident this post-season that a lot of the Wild's youth have emerged. Adding Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Nino Niederreiter to Parise and Suter make the Wild much more dangerous than they have been in years. The Wild weren't anything special over the regular season, but hanging with the defending champs (and even dominating them at times) show the team is ready to take a great leap forward.
Even if you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin you still can't punt the rest of the roster
It always amazes me when people criticise the best players on a team for not doing more when the rest of the roster can't do anything. When Crosby or Malkin fail to rescue the Penguins and carry the team on their shoulders it is somehow an indictment against the two, rather than an example of how woefully thin the team is behind them. Maybe the days of assuming Crosby can turn the Lee Stempniaks of the world into first liners should be over. It's not like it takes much money to fill out the bottom of a roster either; the Leafs snagged Mason Raymond for $1 million and the Panthers did likewise with Brad Boyes. Surely, those two are more capable than someone like Craig Adams or Tanner Glass.
Alain Vigneault is making Mike Gillis look very stupid
The difference between Vigneault and his replacement, John Tortorella, couldn't have been more pronounced in their first seasons in their new locales. Vigneault has the Rangers on the cusp of the Stanley Cup Final, while Tortorella was a nightmare in Vancouver, getting himself fired after one miserable season and essentially breaking Roberto Luongo and getting him traded in the process. Oh, and he also wanted to buyout Alex Burrows, who by the way has scored 135 (*Sedin-created) goals since 2008-09, the 36th highest amount in that time.
Maybe trading under-25 superstars isn't a smart thing
Guys who can score 30 goals aren't easy to come by, so when you trade one who is barely older than 20 you better be right or else it can haunt you for a long time. At this point the Bruins have traded two, and they seemed to manage fine without Phil Kessel, but I'm not sure the same will be said about Seguin. He's already a beast and it was clear against Montreal that the Bruins needed more speed and scoring in the lineup. Hey, but he partied too much, right. No other Bruins player has been known to do that...
PK Subban is awesome
If you don't think so you take hockey way too seriously.