Quick Hits on Round 1

Posted: 04/25/2012 by bc in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Following the lockout we got a new NHL. The league determined to get more offense it would impose strict guidelines on interference and at least try to eliminate the pick. The Ref still has to see it. They took out the two-line pass making the stretch pass or what old school guys like myself mock as cherry picking. All in an attempt to open up the game and promote offense. Haha, eh.

As we’ve witnessed throughout sport, defenses adapt and choke off offense. Crash and bash old school hockey is back.

In Washington it’s now called Dale Hunter hockey as even Ovechkin and Backstrom have bought into the grind game. In virtually every series, the exception being Flyers/Pens tilt that proves the rule, the story line remains the same. Goaltending, coaching (read defensive schemes) won out against offensive powerhouses that failed to score enough goals to win.

In Boston they said a healthy Nathan Horton might have been the difference. In Vancouver it was the injury to Daniel Sedin and the failure of other guys like Kesler and Booth to step up. In Phoenix and Nashville it’s all about the coaching and the system of outnumbering the opposition at the puck. Ken Hitchcock’s Blues let Jumbo Joe play with the puck while they shut down Patrick Marleau and the supporting cast.

The rule proved?  Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships.

The corporate apologists in mainstream media will soon start explaining that offensive or defensive dominance is cyclical. That’s true up to a point. The sale  works because even knowledgeable fans get bored waiting for the mistake that leads to the winning goal. File this, playoff hockey is a game of survivor.

One look at the stars of each series indicates it was goaltending and the grinders that carried the day. Here’s a stunner, Vancouver’s Cory Schneider was a stunningly 1.31 GAA and a .960 SP. Yet that was only good enough to win one of the three games he played. Pekka Rinne’s 1.81 GAA and .944 SP is only 3rd best among series winning goaltenders.
And the other stars? Mike Knuble, Joel Ward, Dustin Brown, Claude Giroux, David Legwand, Antoine Vermette are in the spot light. Not exactly the usual suspects.

To every guy who has taken stitches without a local or other analgesic and  every gal who consistently finds new ways to make do, these playoffs are for us. It may not be pretty enough for some but it is as real as it gets.

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Comments
  1. yougetoutwhatyouputin says:

    Crazy playoffs…Boston, Pens, and Vancouver all out in the first round…perhaps the most surprising series outcome was Washington/Boston…they got it done! Hard fought series with little room for errors…goalkeeping and defense were solid.

    Any predictions for the cup final? Nashville vs Washington

    BC/Brad nice to talk about hockey teams that have the drive to succeed.

    • I’m much better postdicting than predicting 😉 Rather than going to straight to the final, will the Western Conference champ have anything left? The eventual winner is looking at two brutal series that could well go the distance.
      The odds makers have set Blues 8/5; Preds 2/1; Kings 7/2 and the ‘Yotes 4/1. Keep in mind that betting lines tend to favor major market teams. The Kings seem over priced at 3.5 to 1.
      Looking at a possible Blues v. Predators WCF, I’m partial to the Blues. Preds have arguably the best player in the world right now in Shea Weber. You can have ’em all from Crosby to Stamkos, if I’m picking a team right now it builds out from Weber. Two things differentiate these teams is the skill of AnyMac and Alex Pietrangelo and the under-rated Patrik Berglund. In Coach Hitchcock, AndyMac, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner Blues have four been there, done that guys.
      Should Nashville find a way to get it done wouldn’t amount to an eyebrow raiser. More like, “Oh” without the “Wow.”
      East? The best five still standing are flawed but the East could win the Cup if the Western champ goes limping and hobbling into the final as appears more likely than not. Washington is a good bet but really anybody could come out on top. Rags at 2/1 are still favored followed by the Flyers 3/1; Devils 6/1; Caps 10/1 & Panthers at 20/1. Actually, Caps like a good value bet.

  2. czhokej says:

    I would predict the final the Blues vs. the Flyers. I was really impressed with Philly’s offense. Scoring 5 G/G against the Pens, that’s unbelievable. Yes, we may argue that the Flyers have poor defense, and that Bryzgalov does not perform up to expectations. They will be playing more defense in the next round.

  3. bbdux93 says:

    The scoring in the Pens/Flyers games had, IMO, most to do with the poor goal tending. If Bryz doesn’t do better in the next round I don’t think the Flyers will advance.

    Can’t say who I think will be playing in the final round. In the West – the Kings scare me – Quick has been very good. I would hate to see them go past the 2nd round – but would not be surprised.

  4. bbdux93 says:

    I wish I could even base this on a gut feeling – don’t have one

    In the West; Round 2. St Louis over LA – And – Nashville over Phoenix
    Conference = St Louis

    In the East; Round 2. Rangers over the Capitals – And – Philly over New Jersey
    Conference = Rangers

    The Cup = St Louis

  5. czhokej says:

    The Flyers had some problems to get going during the first period, but after that they outplayed and out-hustled the Devils, but it was a close game, and New Jersey was better than I expected. Both goalies made some mistakes, but Brodeur was better than Bryzgalov. I still think you have to admire the Flyers for the type of hockey they play. Over the past 5 seasons, they were usually among the top scoring teams in the league. Since 2008 they lost 5 of their top quality scorers: 2011 Richards and Carter, 2010 Simon Gagne, and 2009 Lupul and Knuble. But they still found a way how to score a lot. Defense without Pronger had some weaknesses, and Bryzgalov was up and down. Defensively, St. Louis was the best team in the league, and I know that goalies and defense win the Cup. However, the Blues will have a hard time to eliminate the Kings.

    • What impresses me most about the Flyers is how GM Paul Holmgren didn’t shy away from changing out the core of that team. Kind of surprising he isn’t a finalist for executive of the year. Did anybody outside of Holmgren’s office think that Claude Giroux would be a Conn Smythe candidate in these playoffs?
      Holmgren has the nerve of a guy playing poker with the rent money.
      Breezy looks to have drifted away from the fundamentals. I noticed too that his lapses coincide with Philly bottling up the Devils in their own end. Sykora’s goal is a great example. When he’s not getting peppered Breezy’s mind starts to wander. I can’t imagine what he’s about. It’s not like he can text with those gloves on.
      Last week we were certain that the Blues & Preds would meet in the WCF. Who let the dogs out?

  6. czhokej says:

    Round 2: The Coyotes were full of passion, energy and sacrifice in the second game against the Preds. They stormed the net. They didn’t require their goalie to steal the game. They out-shot and outworked the opposition. They did everything their coach asked, and then some.
    Never underestimate Dave Tippett, He was available in 2009, but back then our GM was still in awe of RC.

    • Worse, Henry & Susan Samueli are still in awe of Barstool Bob.
      I’m okay with Gabby. He’s changed the culture or buzz or vibe or dynamic in the room. We’re no longer “defense-first” or a “strong fore-checking team.” Gabby’s focus is on playing a complete game of read and react and puck support.

  7. bbdux93 says:

    The Coyotes/Preds was a good game. I was suprised by how both played – Phoenix was better than I expected and Nashville was not as good. If the next game is like this one the Preds could be out in 4 – Major surprise.

  8. bbdux93 says:

    What in the heck happened to the Blues. This was a team that impressed me all year and the Kings have made them look . . . not so good.

    • The Kings look like a team that has caught lightning in a bottle. From net on out, Kings are giving the Blues a real pasting. The Kings are winning the physical battles. Nobody thought going into the playoffs that these Kings were tough enough. Matt Greene, Nolan & King have answered that one. For the Blues, Crombeen has shown he’s game but he’s also over matched.
      You counter not by playing into the Kings strength, the small ice of the corners, along the boards or in the slots. You increase the tempo such that the Kings can’t isolate a target physically. Imagine Greene missing his check and pasting himself on the glass, lol. Blues are showing the willingness to take a hit to make a play. The Kings are making the Blues pay a premium for their courage. The Blues still have horses though. They’re deep at all positions. Even without Pietrangelo and Langenbrunner Blues have go to guys who can also catch lightning in a bottle. Would the worm in this series turn the moment Blues start collecting chiclets? Kings put a dental chair on the bench?
      The other side of this is that the Kings are playing way over their heads. Even if you think they’re as good as their record of late, our Ducks suddenly lost it after going on a 17-3-3 run. We Ducks fans moan Getzlaf’s 32 game goal-less run but Kopi’s gone 34 and longer. Quick looks like he’s been sprinkled with pixie dust but he’s also known to fade from fatigue. It’s a long season. It’s always hard to predict the moment or the instant the worm turns, eh. What happens when the hockey gods light up the play of the Blues? What happens when it all isn’t going the Kings way? There’s still 300 minutes of hockey available to the Blues.

      • zseller says:

        Think 2003 with the Kings team with Giguere leading the way.
        I can see the Kings making the Finals, having to wait to see who they have to play and then realizing where they are.
        Happended to the Ducks and I can see it happening to the Kings.
        If they can stay on a roll they could actually bring the Cup to LA.
        Quick is the difference right now and Karma seems to be on their side.

      • Yer funny z. I’ll put up another 50 bucks to the TRF on the Kings won’t win the Cup. What say you 😉

      • zseller says:

        I am not that set on them that I would be willing to go $50, I would be willing to go $25 that they make it to the Finals. My pick out of the west from the start has been Nashville. Out of the East I thought that Boston had a strong chance to get back for the op to repeat but they could not close the deal against the politicians.
        I am thinking that the winner of the Philly/NJ series might be the east candidate. As long as it is not the Caps I am good.
        With this type of tournament if you get a hot goalie you can ride him for a long haul if you are opportunistic.
        I am wondering if the Shark series was a bad thing for St Louis in that they had too easy of a time and thought they could do the same with the Kings.
        Since the Kings are a customer even though I am a Ducks fan I am rooting for the Kings to at the minimum eliminate the Blues.
        Dustin Brown is having an awesome playoffs so far, something that I have not seen from him ever, maybe Getzy can learn something.
        The other Dustin is playing like he wants another fat contract.
        Keep up with the blog as I really enjoy your input and it is nice to know that there are some other puckheads out here that can not seem to get enough of hockey.
        Give us the scopp on what you know about Schultz, are the Ducks shafted or will they just have to pay big bucks to him to get him out here?

      • WCF or SCF? I’ll go 25 against the Kings making the SCF.

        The Blues players all pretty much agree with ya, z. They’ve about fessed up that they weren’t ready to compete and push back against the Kings in either game. In the playoffs anything less than 20 guys gong full bore for 60 minutes is the minimum standard.
        SlashSkater tweeted, Blues are just too good of a hockey team to get rolled 3 straight. I need to see how they win tonight before commenting on whether or not they can take this series. Blues could show something that the Kings can’t meet and beat. Gotta see what that is before opining though.

  9. czhokej says:

    I also believe that Boudreau is a good coach. He corrected so many things in Ducks’ game, which were eyesore. But he could change the make-up and anatomy of the team. And quite a few injuries were another hindrance.

  10. czhokej says:

    I meant to say that Boudreau could not change the make-up …

  11. zseller says:

    I will take the wager with you on the Kings going to the SCF for $25.
    If they get the Desert Dogs I feel really confident, if the get the awful yellow jerseys of Nashville and the Russians who like to party then the odds are probably less than 50-50.
    A big thanks to you for your donation to the TRF, it really is a great organization. I was hoping that on my recent trip east I would get to dine with Travis again, but our schedules did not mesh.
    Let me know who I need to pay should the rolling Kings not make it to the finals.

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