Between the Pipes – Conference Finals Recap
How do you say disappointing? – So the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs were shaping up to be some of the best playoff action in quite some time. The 1st round was just awesome. No sweeps and all games tied at 1-1. The 2nd round was for the most part pretty decent. Then we get to the Conference Finals where the awesome playoff momentum should surely carry over. I mean if the the previous rounds were close surely the next round would be the closest and most evenly matched right?
Wrong you are good sir. In the West San Jose looked nothing like the team that dismantled Detroit, not even close. Chicago looks like it was bored half the time in the 1st two games. San Jose now has the dubious distinction of four straight 100 point seasons and no Stanley Cup hardware to show for it. The only other team that did that would be the New York Islanders. Of course after their four years of ineptitude, they rattled off four straight championships. Something tells me that won’t be happening to the Sharks though, because there are simply way to many teams now.
In the East we got a match-up we weren’t expecting at all. But I was still excited because you had one team, the Flyers, coming off an improbable 0-3 comeback and another, the Canadiens, coming off of two straight thrilling Game 7 upsets. So naturally this would make for a great series right? Wrong again. The first two games weren’t even fun to watch unless you were a Flyers fan. Game 3 wasn’t much fun to watch either, unless you were a Canadiens fan. Game 4? Well that one was fun to watch except for the fact that the Canadiens signature this postseason, their defense, ended up costing them the game with two mistakes. One was a skate malfunction and really that’s just crappy luck, not much you can do with that. The other was a bad pass that Philly also converted.
Before we get into it congratulations go out to the Edmonton Oilers for getting Taylor Hall, he will be awesome for years to come. Yes they didn’t pick him yet but if they don’t, they have lost their minds.
7 Philadelphia Flyers vs. 8 Montreal Canadiens
I wish I could write more on this series but for some reason I can’t recall much of it.
What we learned: You really can’t predict the East, so stop trying.
Things I like: I like the way the Flyers rebounded in Game 4. It was a really crucial game on the road that they weren’t really expected to win after getting shalaked in Game 3. The 2nd period was key for them as they out shot the Canadiens 13 to 1.
I find it ironic that the Flyers biggest problem the last few years (Martin Biron, Robert Esche, Ron Hextall) was finding a quality goaltender to lead them to the Finals. Yet this year they can plug in any washed up goalie and watch him play phenomenally, weird.
Things I don’t: Why does Halak have such problems playing in Game 1’s? He didn’t play in Game 1 against Washington but he was pulled in both Game 1’s in the 2nd and 3rd round. He gave up six goals each time too. I’d like to think he hasn’t played the team yet so he has to feel them out. The problem is he isn’t a rookie and he has played these teams before.
Montreal actually out shot the Flyers in every game but game 4, which is weird because they only out shot the Penguins in two of the seven games and only once in the seven games against the Capitals, but they aren’t scoring much. The main issue is they don’t have any bodies in front of Michael Leighton. As Dustin Byfuglien has shown for the Blackhawks, having a net presence is important and helps you score goals.
Montreal is a mind boggling 1 for 16 on the power play in this series, that’s just awful. You won’t win many games if you can’t convert on the man advantage. They even had a 5 on 3 which they didn’t convert. Of course a lot of this goes back to my point of establishing a net presence, the Canadiens haven’t so the power play is suffering.
Likely Winner: Flyers, of course I didn’t think Montreal would come back down 3-1 to the Capitals. I also didn’t think the Flyers would come back down 3-0 to the Bruins. So maybe I should pick the Canadiens.
1 San Jose Sharks vs. 2 Chicago Blackhawks
Normally I break down the series and give my prediction but it’s over so… let’s recap it. Congratulations to the Blackhawks for making their first Stanley Cup Final since 1992.
This series reminded me of the Stanley Cup final in 2008 when the Penguins just looked lost the 1st two games and then came out and played well in the rest of the series. The same can be said for the Sharks, who were lost in the 1st two games and found in the 2nd two games. The problem is they didn’t win either of the 2nd two games, so series over.
The Sharks never scored more than two goals in any game against the Blackhawks. Now a lot of that is because of the sterling performance put in by Antti Niemi. But regardless, you still won’t win many games if you average 1.75 goals a game. The Sharks total lack of composure in the 3rd period of Game 4 really hurt them. It was tied 2-2 but they took 3 fairly dumb penalties in the period while the Blackhawks took none. Wouldn’t you know it the game winner was scored on the power play by the Blackhawks.
I think it’s time for the Sharks to do a complete overhaul on Defense. Evgeni Nabokov while he didn’t play horribly is not the goalie who will lead you to the Stanley Cup. He is also not getting any younger. Speaking of which the Defense is not getting any younger either. Only two of the top six defenseman are under 30. Come playoff time, you really need some fresh legs back there. The secondary scoring was non existent. Joe Pavelski who was so great against the Avalanche and in the first half against the Red Wings, failed to really show up against the Blackhawks. Other than Patrick Marleau nobody really showed up against the Blackhawks offensively.
Let’s not take anything away from the Chicago Blackhawks though. This was a team rebuilt from nothing in the draft. Also let’s face it when one of your key pieces, Dustin Byfuglien, was drafted in the 8th round you have an eye for talent. The Blackhawks have a great defensive core and are three lines deep in scoring talent. The checking line can also score at times. The only thing they were missing was solid goaltending, but they have found that in Antti Niemi. Let’s not forget to mention Duncan Keith losing most of his teeth and coming back out on the ice. Now that’s a hockey player.
-11 – Joe Thornton’s plus minus rating for the Stanley Cup playoffs
9 – Number of goals for Joe Pavelski in the first 8 games
0 – Number of goals for Joe Pavelski in the second 7 games
5,625,000 – Cristobal Huet’s salary this season
826,875 – Antti Niemi’s salary this season
.953 – Halak’s SV% in games 5 through 7
.877 – Halak’s SV% in games 1 through 4
1 to 1 – The ratio of points to penalty minutes for Chris Pronger, the first time it isn’t in favor of PIM in his postseason career
3 – The number of shutouts for Michael Leighton in four games against the Canadiens.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
May 17, 1979 Ken Dryden became the first goalie in NHL history to score a point in the Stanley Cup Finals. He drew an assist on Jacques Lemaire’s goal at 17:10 of the third period, to give the Canadiens a 4-1 win over the Rangers in Game 3 of the Finals.
May 18, 1997 Wayne Gretzky extended his NHL record with his 10th playoff hat trick, and the Rangers scored three times on their first 4 shots for a 5-4 win at Philadelphia, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
May 19, 2000 Patrick Roy tied an NHL record with his 15th career playoff shutout (set by Clint Benedict in the 1920’s) and rookie Martin Skoula had 2 assists as the Avalanche won 2-0 over the visiting Dallas Stars, in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
May 20, 2000 Craig Berube scored the game-winning playoff goal (his third goal in 86 playoff games) at 12:58 of the third period as Philadelphia won 3-1 at New Jersey, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
May 21, 1979 Montreal beat NY Rangers 4-1 in Game Five of the Finals, to become the 1979 Stanley Cup Champions. The win gave Montreal its 4th straight Cup, one short of their record five (1956-60).
If the Flyers win tonight then I’ll be back relatively soon with a Stanley Cup Finals preview.
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.