Between the Pipes – Stanley Cup Conference Finals Preview and 2nd Round Recap
If you just want to read the Conference Championship previews then scroll about halfway down the first part is going to be a little bit of a 2nd round recap.
Montreal Canadiens vs Pittsburgh Penguins Game 7 Recap
The biggest story is of course the Canadiens ousted another superstar laden team in the Penguins. After they ousted the Capitals you probably shouldn’t have been so surprised but this was the defending Stanley Cup champions we’re talking about. A young, yet playoff experienced team with back to back Stanley Cup Final appearances under their belt. So what went wrong? Well for starters Sidney Crosby took a penalty in the first 10 seconds of the game which really set the tone. The Canadiens took advantage of it and scored first and early. Most of the games they won against Pittsburgh the Habs scored in the first two minutes of the game. It’s hard mentally for a team to be down that early in a game. It’s almost like you start with a handicap. Also Fleury seems like a goalie who once he makes an early mistake lets that mistake overwhelm and take control of him mentally for the rest of the game. This leads to him playing poorly. Consequentially he wasn’t able to recover and he was pulled for Johnson. Game 5 was a game I thought the Penguins would win and they did. It was an important game because the series was now tied at two and the winner of Game 5 usually controls the series. I thought because the Penguins were the more experienced team and were at home, they would win. I thought the same thing would happen in Game 7 because the Penguins had the same things going for them in this game, wrong. It just didn’t seem like they showed up or really wanted to win the game. Maybe they were just tired because they have played the most hockey out of anyone the past three seasons. Whatever it was, the defense was just awful and once you get behind by a couple of goals against Halak you can pretty much kiss the game goodbye.
Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers Game 7 Recap
The Bruins vs. Flyers series was just interesting on so many levels. First you have the Bruins going up 3-0 in the series and naturally you wouldn’t think it would be hard to win just one of the next four games. Of course since it’s the Bruins, you’d be wrong. Then in the decisive final Game 7 you have the Bruins going up 3-0 in the game, hard to lose that lead right? Wrong again, the Flyers rally back to win the game 4-3 and the series 4-3. Game 7 was essentially a microcosm of the whole series right down to the Bruins goal scoring problems. The Bruins scored the least amount of goals of all the playoff teams. Yet against the Flyers they had no problems scoring in the first three games they won and even game four which they lost. Then in the next two games they only scored one goal. In Game 7 they produced three goals in the 1st period, so perhaps all was well again. Unfortunately they didn’t score again after that period which was a problem because they Flyers did. The Bruins has more shots in the 1st period then they did in the 2nd and 3rd periods combined. You can’t win games like that and they didn’t.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks Wrap-up
The Canucks must be feeling some Deja Vu right about now. For the 2ndstraight year the Canucks were eliminated in the 2ndround by the Blackhawks. I guess some progress was made as instead of giving up seven goals Luongo only gave up five. However the Canucks were only able to muster up one goal as opposed to last years five. Either way the Canucks have some major problems. Despite backstopping team Canada to a goal medal, Luongo still has a monkey on his back. He has yet to win anything important in the NHL. Each year his playoff GAA average has gone up and his SV% has gone down. Next year, assuming the Canucks make the postseason again, is really a make or break season for Luongo. If he fails again, I think the Canucks should look for a new goalie. Of course the Canucks signed Luongo to a hefty 12 year deal with a no trade clause until the 7thyear, so they pretty much screwed themselves over. Good job.
7 Philadelphia Flyers vs. 8 Montreal Canadiens
Some important things to note about this match-up. Neither of these teams would have made the playoffs in the West. They both would have been tied for 12th. Furthermore is how the Rangers play into all of this. The Flyers didn’t make the playoffs until the last day of the season and if the Rangers had beaten them they wouldn’t even have gotten in. The Canadiens wouldn’t have made the playoffs if the NHL used the Olympic scoring system. If the NHL did the Rangers would have gotten the last spot over the Canadiens. It just illustrates how crazy the East has been this year.
Season Series: split 2-2
Playoff History: 3-2 Canadiens. Most recent in 2008 when the Flyers defeated the Canadiens in the 2nd round.
Star to Watch: Well we all know how awesome Michael Cammalleri is, he will need to continue to be for the Canadiens Stanley Cup hopes, but I’m going with Tomas Plekanec. Despite having a three game assist streak currently I feel he has been rather quite. He also has scored a goal in the last eight games. He will need to step it up. For the Flyers I am going with mister dynamic Danny Briere. Briere had many key and pretty goals in the Bruins series. He started off slow against the Devils with no points in the first three games but he has come on as of late. He is a nice second fiddle to Mike Richards.
X-Factor: P.K. Subban who is essentially not even a rookie since he only has two regular season games under his belt. Despite the lack of experience and only being 21, Subban is leading all Canadiens in ice time for the playoffs. He is also one of the main penalty killers and currently has a +3.
Goalie Problem: Jaroslav Halak has simply been sensational. On the other side Brian Boucher had been pretty awesome in his own right, that is until he got injured. So the Flyers turned to Michael Leighton who was originally their 3rd string goalie. I wonder if there’s ever been another time where all three goalies on a team have been injured at some point in the season. Anyway Leighton has performed well so far posting a .943 SV% and a 1.54 GAA. Neither Halak or Leighton have prior playoff experience so it will be interesting to see how they handle the increasing pressure. But then again Patrick Roy was a rookie and he did alright for himself.
Fun Fact: The 7th and 8th seeds have never played each other in a conference final.
Prediction: Well I picked against the Canadiens twice and was wrong both times. So this time I am going to pick them in I’ll say six games. Halak is the better goalie and I like the style of defense the Canadiens play. I think the Flyers will take to many dumb penalties and the Canadiens will capitalize on this. In reality there’s no way you could have predicted anything that has happened in the East, I mean really there’s no way.
1 San Jose Sharks vs. 2 Chicago Blackhawks
Season Series: 3-1 Blackhawks, two wins were in overtime for the Hawks
Playoff History: Zippo
Star to Watch: Joe Pavelski who has been on fire for the Sharks had a six game point streak going. His last two games though, he posted no points and a -1. He will need to get it going again against the Blackhawks for the Sharks to have a chance. For the Blackhawks keep an eye on red hot Jonathan Toews who has a nine game point streak currently going. He is also a +7 during that streak which is a huge comeback from his first three games of 1 point and a -3.
X-Factor: The Sharks haven’t played in eight days. The good thing is they well be well rested the bad thing is they may be rusty. It wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t win Game 1.
Goalie Problem: Evgeni Nabokov still hasn’t impressed me all that much. Of the four starting goalies left Nabokov has the best winning percentage but he also has the worst SV% at .907. Niemi’s SV% isn’t much better at .909 but he’s had moments where he has really played well. He is also the playoff league leader in shutouts with two. Experience edge definitely goes to Nabokov having played 76 playoff games to Niemi’s 12.
Fun Fact: The last time the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup was in 1961. Of course the league was much different then. The last time they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals was in 1992 when they lost to the Penguins. I was hoping we would get a rematch but alas that was not to be, thanks Halak.
Prediction: As dominate as the Sharks have been so far, I think their run is up. I believe Chicago is the more dynamically skilled team and I like Niemi over Nabokov despite his inexperience. I think Dustin Byfuglien will again play a key part in the series with his net presence and his ability to get under everyone’s skin. The Sharks don’t really have anyone in particular to counter that. Blackhawks in six.
Goat of the Week
The Penguins Defense and Marc Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh Penguins
There’s obviously more than one blunder that can be written here but I think the 4th goal scored shorthanded by Travis Moen sums up the Penguins D or lack thereof for the night. After a bad turnover Moen rushes up the ice in what is essentially a 1 on 3 in favor of the Pens. So you wouldn’t think it be that hard to wrest away the puck but after assistant captain Sergei Gonchar’s lackadaisical hit on Moen and no one else really attacking him, Fleury completes the awful trifecta by letting in a weak goal. It’s a shame really because that was really the dagger in the Pens back. Had that not of happen after the Pens scored those two goals to close the 2nd, they would only have been down a goal in the third and may have had more confidence in mounting a comeback.
14 – Number of points for Sidney Crosby in the Senators series
5 – Number of points for Sidney Crosby in the Canadiens series, which was also a game longer
7 – Number of times Jaroslav Halak has had a SV% of or over .949 out of 13 games played
14 – Shots on goal by the Bruins in Game 7 in the 1st period
11 – Shots on goal by the Bruins in Game 7 in the 2nd and 3rd periods combined
-1 – +/- for Michael Cammalleri the only player in the top 16 in scoring with a minus, maybe he isn’t so awesome after all
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
May 08, 2001 Mario Lemieux tied the game with 1:18 left in regulation and Martin Straka scored the winning goal at 11:29 of OT (and added two assists) in the Penguins 3-2 win against the visiting Buffalo Sabres, in Game 6 of the East. Conference Semi-Finals.
May 09, 1994 Rookie Martin Brodeur recorded his first career playoff shutout and Bob Carpenter scored a goal and added an assist in the Devils 2-0 win over the visiting Boston Bruins, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
May 10, 1984 Grant Fuhr recorded his first career playoff shutout to lead the Oilers to a 1-0 win over the Islanders, at Long Island in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Fuhr became the first goaltender to get a shutout in Oilers’ playoff history.
May 11, 1996 Colorado’s Patrick Roy became the NHL’s all time leader in playoff minutes by a goaltender, during a 4-1 Avalanche win over Chicago, in the Western Conf. Semi-Finals. Roy passed Billy Smith, who had played 7,645 career playoff minutes.
May 12, 1993 Steve Thomas scored twice and added two assists to lead the Islanders to a 7-5 playoff win over the Penguins in New York, forcing a 7th game in the Patrick Division Finals. Kevin Stevens scored two goals and an assist for Pittsburgh.
May 13, 2000 Patrick Roy recorded his 14th career playoff shutout as the Avalanche ended the Stars’ 8-game home winning streak in the playoffs with a 2-0 victory at Dallas, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
May 14, 1995 Quebec Nordiques beat the visiting New York Rangers 4-2, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. It was the final NHL game played in Quebec City.
May 15, 1967 In one of hockey’s biggest trades, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield were traded from Chicago to Boston in exchange for Gilles Marotte, Pit Martin and Jack Norris.