It’s still early in round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs and there’s still a lot of hockey left to play before round 2 can begin. But let’s take a quick look at some important lessons from this 2011 round 1.
Don’t Mess With:
1- Ryan Miller. This is one goaltender whom you should never question. First, because he really is that good. Second, because as he clearly articulated to the press recently, he doesn’t have to listen to anyone’s BS. The minute that speculation started on Miller’s performance, he followed up that criticism with a shut out against the Flyers in a 1-0 victory for Buffalo last night. Enough said.
2-New York City. Bruce Boudreau’s smack down to the city of New York resulted in the loudest Madison Square Garden event in recent history with the fans actually chanting directly to Boudreau, asking “Can you hear us?” In a press conference, he admitted that maybe this was a mistake and that we should all move on. If he thinks that New York is going to forgive and forget, he’s got another think coming.
3-Detroit Red Wings. Say what you want about this team ageing, it’s showing no signs of it. A full sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes in 4 games with more magic from Datsyuk and this is one team that can be counted on to find ways to win in the post-season.
4-Teemu Selanne. Age really is nothing but a number to this star for the Anaheim Ducks. He’s tearing it up in the post-season and a is a key part of this roster moving ahead.
1-Montreal. They’re one of the smallest teams in the NHL, they just squeaked into the 7 spot for the playoffs to face the number 2 Boston Bruins, but they’ve had success with the Bs and it shows. Taking a surprising 2 game jump on the much bigger Bruins, with Carey Price showing his good side, they could be a spoiler in this playoffs- provided that everyone keeps their cool, number one between the pipes included. Tim Thomas still has the potential to stand up on his head and big Z’s big shot could still take out a Volkswagon- so Montreal will have to be careful moving ahead.
2-the LA Kings. Once Drew Doughty recovered his senses, the team started to look more like the dark horse that everyone predicted at the beginning of the season. They can play a pretty tight game with some good offensive breakouts and Doughty has been a real difference maker in this series, finding spaces on the ice and playing responsible defense. If they keep it up, they could oust the San Jose Sharks.
3-Chicago. It’s true that this team is a shadow of the Stanley Cup winning team from last year, with many players being sold off as spare parts at the end of the season because of cap salary considerations. But when Johnathon Toews arrogantly called the Vancouver Canucks a B team and claimed that they haven’t had the chance to expose them for what they truly are, it seemed at first, like it was just sour grapes talking. But Toews and his team made good on their promise to expose the Canucks for an embarrassing loss in a must-win game 4 that would have seen them eliminated. It’s clear that Chicago still has their A game- why it took them so long to bring it out is a mystery. Nevertheless, we can’t count them out.
Don’t bet the farm on:
The San Jose Sharks. The ghosts of past post-seasons are still hanging around and you can tell that this team is underperforming once again in the playoffs, with very little offense from their top players. Thornton, Marleau and Heatley just aren’t bringing it like they do in the regular season. It’s getting to be an old story: the Sharks can be counted on in the regular season to dominate over their rivals, and while it’s a given that they will make the post-season, they’re not likely to make it past round 1, President’s trophy or no. The belief that the San Jose Sharks are not clutch players is becoming ingrained in their fanbase, the league and pretty soon, the team itself.
Be on the lookout for:
Questionable hits. Last year it was too many men, this year, it’s questionable hits and calls for suspension. It’s been the year of the head hit debate, but the debate still rages as to what a legal hit is, what it should be, and how it should be dealt with. This topic isn’t going away anytime soon and it looks like there will be more calls for discipline as the playoffs rage on.
Players you wished you had in your hockey pool:
These players have surprised us all with their post season performance. Asham for the Pittsburgh Penguins has more goals in the post-season than in the regular season; Dave Bolland was questionable to return because of his concussion and then stormed back for a 4 point game on his first night back; Johansen for Washington has scored some key goals; Erhoff for Vancouver has come up with some goals and Mike Fisher has taken off since he joined Nashville and his country star sweetheart.
Who will join Detroit in the second round of the playoffs? Washington, Pittsburgh and Vancouver are all up 3 games in their series. Any of them could be next, but their opponents are putting up a good fight and leading to some exciting overtime periods. It’s best not to hedge any bets, stock up the beer fridge and cancel plans over the next week- this round one is far from over.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.