For those paying attention, you will notice that I have been neglecting my duties for the past few days, especially since the Habs played their first playoff game and not a peep from the Frozen Ponderer... Suffice it to say that I had been sidelined with an upper body injury which necessitated a visit to theToronto General Hospital before it was all over. All is fine now and I'm back to give my quick 2 cents on the last 8 games played including my predictions for the next encounters as the playoff saga rolls on. This post is a rather long one as I am recapping 2 days worth of games, but going forward, it will be a day by day breakdown. Promise! Right or wrong in my predictions however, you've gotta love the hockey you've been watching !
Montreal Canadiens 4 Boston Bruins 1 (Mtl leads 1-0)
The big, bad, (and I mean really bad) Bruins. It took 34 seconds for the Canadiens to give the 21,273 euphoric fans just what they wanted and another 1:28 to actually put the game away when the Kostytsin brothers scored a goal each which basically allowed the Canadiens to coast through another Bruins Bad Beatdown. No really, it looks like the Bruins are all going to need therapy to help them overcome whatever phobias they may have regarding this Canadiens team. They wanted to score the first goal but didn't, they threatened that they would beat the Canadiens the old fashined way with hits, but were the recipients of said hits more often than not. Zdeno Chara was supposed to be more disciplined and show what he was made of and while he did stay out of the penalty box, he also stayed off the score-sheet and, oh, you knew it was Chara every time you heard a bone chilling, simultaneous "Boo" at the Bell Centre. Don't think it didn't throw Chara off his game, it did... I predicted the Habs in 5. Unless something drastic changes in the Bruins psyche, I will be wrong, it will be Montreal in 4. By the way, I can't really speak of Carey Price's brilliance other than the breakaway save he made against Marco Sturm in the third...Price only had to face 18 shots in the game. Game 2 is tonight. Need I say more?
Nashville Predators 1 Detroit Redwings 3 (Det leads 1-0)
Good teams find a way to win, you make your luck, etc, etc. Say what you want, but the Redwings won this game with a questionable goal that allowed the wings to take a 2-1 lead before scoring into an empty net. If shots on net are an indicator, then it was Detroit all the way, doubling Nashville 40-20. Nashville will have to find a way to start peppering an aging Dominik Hasek. The impressive Detroit defence squad led by Nicklas Lidstrom shut down the Preds' Jason Arnott and Alexander Radulov prompting coach Barry Trotz to quip "If you're going to be successful in the playoffs, your top players have to be your top players." If the Preds have any chance of not being swept, they will have to put their money where Barry's mouth is, and soon. They'll get their chance tonight.
San Jose Sharks 2 Calgary Flames 0 ( series tied 1-1)
For those that have read my predictions I have said form the get-go that Calgary would need to find a way to score more goals and that Mikka Kiprusoff would steal a few for Calgary but that ultimately, San Jose would take the series. well, chalk this game up as one of the games Mikka stole for the Flames, except that his teammates could do nothing to repay him for his stellar goaltending including a 2nd period 27 shot barrage. At least the Flames head home with a split, something they might not have thought possible, but beware, the Sharks have the best regular season "away" record. I'm still waiting for Thornton to have his breakthrough playoff game... Evgeni Nabokov was no slouch himself, showing voters why he is a contender for the Vezina this year, in particular, with a blind, out of position, knee jerk reaction save he made against Owen Nolan and what he thought was an empty net goal. Nolan just looked up in utter disbelief and must still be talking to himself. They get to do it all again tomorrow (Sunday) for game 3 in Calgary.
Dallas Stars 4 Anaheim Ducks 0 (Dal leads 1-0)
Chalk this win up to an undisciplined Anaheim team who should know better and a Dallas goaltender named Marty Turco who is trying to prove he is a playoff goaltender. with all the penalties Anaheim took, ( I lost count after 8) it was difficult for Anaheim to get into any groove, but give credit to the stars that looked like they were the defending champs on this night and kudos to Ribeiro and Morrow with 2 assists as all 4 Stars goals came on the power-play. Although all but one of my original questions were not yet answered as of this game (Is this the year Marty Turco can lead the Stars to the Promised Land? Will the trade deadline acquisition of Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay, finally pay dividends? Can Mike Modano lead the Stars as he once did when he won a cup for this same team?) it was still enough for the Stars to take a lead, convincingly in the series. Hey, give them credit... this games tally almost equals their goal total for last years series loss to Vancouver... (Not actual fact, just my attempt at humour...) Game 2 goes tonight with Anaheim most probably waking up from their nightmare.
Ottawa Senators 3 Pittsburgh Penguins 5 (Pit leads 2-0)
While Ottawa made a valiant effort to go toe to toe against a far more superior and unified Penguins team, it was a bad penalty taken by veteran Martin Lapointe who should have known better that sealed the Sens' fate. The game was tied 3-3 as the Sens finally found a way to beat young Marc-André Fleury and this in dramatic style as the Sens overcame a 3-0 deficit as it looked as though we were headed to another Penguin pounding. Alas, it was not meant to be, when with 1:02 left to play, Ryan Malone scored his first career playoff goal. If life wasn't sweet enough for Malone, he also scored his second into an empty net when that Sens went all out pulling Gerber before he fell from exhaustion, having faced 54, yes 54 shots on net. Did someone order a 23 man coffin? Bad news for the Sens, as if they needed any, is that the Sens have never won any of the six previous playoff rounds in which they trailed 2-0. Game 3 goes to Ottawa Monday April 14th. The fat lady isn't singing, but she's preparing her sheet music....
Philadelphia Flyers 4 Washington Capitals 5(Wash leads 1-0)
This long awaited combat left no fan wanting (unless you are a Philly's fan, obviously) but when you factor in the fact that shots were almost even (22-27 advantage Washington), penalties were even, (3-3) and the score was even till late in the game, how much more exciting could it get? Much more! The first period ended with a goal apiece and then just after Washington took the lead, it looked like the rough and tumble Flyers took the young Capitals to school with a 3 goal outburst including 2 goals Habs fans were accustomed to seeing Huet let in every now and again. But just when the Flyers were looking ahead to game two, they met their potential playoff maker and his name is Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin assisted on one goal and scored the game winning goal in "Ovechkinesque" fashion: he pressured one seemingly intimidated Flyer defenseman until he passed it off to the other equally nervous D-man and Ovechkin lifted his stick to strip him of the puck and promptly put it past a flailing, helpless Martin Biron. Enter a state of elation in the state's Capital. This game showed 2 things: 1) The Flyers can play with the Capitals but have to stay the course of hitting and intimidating the younger Capitals team. Huet will let in those bad goals, so let the pucks fly. 2) If you think the Washington Capitals are living in a dream world, don't tell them. Right now, and especially after this comeback game, the Stanley Cup is a reality. Next game is tomorrow night, just in time for everyone's blood pressure to subside.
New York Rangers 2 New Jersey Devils 1 (NYR leads 2-0)
Did you know that the Devils have lost their last 3 series where they had lost the first game? I'm sure the odds of them coming back from a 2-0 hole are much less impressive. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if the Devils don't find a way to score goals, they haven't got a snowball's chance in H-E-double hockey sticks to make a series out of it. Both Goaltenders played extremely well but in the end, the difference was that the Devils need a "Jagr" and the Rangers, well, they HAVE Jagr. I had said in my predictions that Brodeur would steal 2 games for the Devils, but I didn't think he would also have to provide the scoring too... Next game, a mere formality at this point, is tomorrow in New York.
Minnesota Wild 3 Colorado Avalanche 2 in OT ( Series tied 1-1)
Another exciting game from the least likely of sources, however this game would have kept a true hockey fan interested throughout. A Goal by Peter Forsberg scored like the good old days with a high glove side wrister that cleanly beat the Wild's Backstrom. A Wild team that never says die. A couple of goalposts that should have put it away for the Wild as well as a José Theodore who did not look his best in this night. Theodore gave up an easy one at the 18:09 mark of the 3rd that seemed at the time, to be the game winner and it had everyone thinking this was the Wild's sweet revenge game right? Not yet my friends... With 44 seconds left, the Avalanche scored to send it to OT. Unfortunately for the Avs, there are no points for the tie in the playoffs and all was for naught as it took the Wild, namely Keith Carney only 1:14 of the first overtime period to score the game winner. I predicted the Avs would win in 7...so far so good. Game 3 is on Monday in Colorado, pace yourselves, boys.
Today's line-up is Detroit/Nashville, Montreal/Boston and Dallas/Anaheim. My post will follow the last game of the night. Stay tuned.