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Round 3 could be shorter than we thought
Posted By Mika Oehling On May 19 2011 @ 1:00 pm In NHL | No Comments
I would actually like to be proven wrong on this point. A long third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs would be a pleasure to watch. It’s been crappy weather with record rainfalls and the recent results of the elections in Canada definitely makes me want to stay inside with a beer and the tv on. But it looks like the Canucks may be able to make short work of the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference, while there may be more of a prolonged fight in the East between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins; depending, of course, on which Bruins decide to show up.
In the West, San Jose looked like they had a legitimate chance of turning this series into a long one when Logan Couture scored minutes in game two to start things off. But San Jose unraveled, and fast, due in large part to one major meltdown- Ben Eager. A member of last year’s Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks team, Eager showed none of the resolve or will to win that he was likely expected to bring, as he quickly became the drunken uncle that you wish you hadn’t had to invite to the wedding, acting obnoxious and aggressive and in general, behaving in a totally unacceptable way. He cost the Sharks this game, taking 4 consecutive minors, one of which should have been a major, and handing all the momentum to the Vancouver Canucks.
San Jose hasn’t seen enough of the puck to lay blame on its superstars, who have been largely absent. Probably because they had their efforts wasted last night on the penalty kill. While Vancouver played well enough, San Jose very clearly lost this game and did it to themselves. As in previous series with LA and Detroit, most of San Jose’s wounds are self-inflicted. They have sloppy turnovers and disorganized defense. And while the argument has been made that the coaches have demanded that Heatley become a more well-rounded player, he’s still a non-factor most of the game.
Speaking as an Ottawa fan, I’ve got bad news for San Jose. Heatley is never going to be a better all-around player. His bread and butter is goal scoring and he just needs someone with a decent stick pass to feed him. He’s not a strong skater, he doesn’t like to forecheck and let’s face it, he thinks he’s too good to get into the dirty areas. His work ethic is only strong when there’s glory and goals; otherwise, he’s just not interested. And it seems like a sore exercise when coaches are made to explain subpar performances by saying that their needs have changed. That’s like the girlfriend who defends her absentee boyfriend by saying that she’s too demanding.
Not to say that Vancouver isn’t earning their wins; they are a strong, fast and dynamic team with a lot of depth. But they didn’t have to be that good so far. Luongo may as well take a nap in his end for all the action that he’s been seeing. And while the Sedins have taken some heat for not getting on the board, their 5 point night showed that they got the memo. Every single line for Vancouver scored last night- scoring by committee has boosted this team’s confidence through the roof and it shows. If San Jose doesn’t have a serious locker room conference and treat Eager to a night in the press box, it may be a fast and furious series that will be over before they know it.
The East is a little harder to call, and that’s because of Boston. Which team will show up? Boston has some nights when they look like they’re playing midget hockey; other nights, it’s the mighty bears on the attack. Their last game with Tampa Bay was Twilight zone material. In a series with 2 world class goaltenders in Thomas and Roloson, nobody was expecting an 11 goal smackdown. Everyone expected these games to be tight, close, 1 goal differential affairs with the 1-3-1 system causing frustration for all. But all systems collapsed in that last game and now this series has fallen into the entirely unpredictable realm.
The Eastern match up is clearly one of teams. There is no one factor who will decide this series, despite the recent hero worship of Tyler Seguin. Yes, he’s had an incredible breakout performance. But Claude Julien has warned the media that it’s often the case with rookies that they make mistakes; they go from red hot to icy cold quickly, and he was careful to put him in the game with that idea in mind. He was smart to be so careful and Boston would also be smart to keep their expectations in check- but tell that to fanatical fans.
Tampa Bay has gotten a surprise performance out of Bergenheim, but their main weapons of Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis cannot be ignored. All of them are playing to their potential at the moment, making them a hard team to contain. Of course, that depends on which Boston shows up to play.
It will only be a matter of time, too, before Guy Boucher starts to throw out more fun statements about how great Boston is and how he would be shocked if Tim Thomas didn’t have the game of his life. You know who would also be shocked by that, Boucher? Tim Thomas.
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