This has actually been a great series to watch, as long as you aren’t a Penguins fan or hadn’t wagered heavily on them. There’s been a high scoring game, laugher goals, big hits, player tantrums, scrums, guts on display and high paced hockey for five periods in a row. Unfortunately if you do favor the Penguins they’ve come up short with a single good effort and two bad ones.
Which Penguins team shows up? If it is the version from game two, this series will be over in all but the final details of the records by the middle of the first period. If the team that showed up for game three takes the ice, there is a solid chance the Consol Energy Center will get another home game.
Is there something wrong with Adam McQuaid? He played over five minutes less than rookie Torey Krug during the 95 minute long game three and was part of the parade down the tunnel. He and Krug have been a solid pair, and if he is out or ineffective the reshuffling of pairs might result in some weak spots in the armor of the Bruins being exposed.
Do even the hardest of the blowhards believe the meltdown this series has been is primarily Dan Bylsma’s fault? He could have made some better choices, and not shuffling the lineup after game one would have, for example, shown some poise and confidence. For that matter not putting Tyler Kennedy a proven postseason performer is highly curious, but there are about 24 or 25 other people at ice level who have been a bigger detriment to the team.
Will any Penguin’s player show up and impose more of their will on the game than Deryk Engelland? The 194th pick of the 2000 draft has thrown the body with a will, passion and precision that has likely made him the best Penguin through three games. He’s the only player to even try to consistently play physically against Lucic and Horton. As one of the lowest paid players on the Penguins roster, he’s got to be the only man on the team who can look himself in the eyes and say he’s earned his money.
Will this be Jagr’s game to score? It has to happen eventually, and being the player to put his old team away would be fitting.
Which teams stars will have the biggest impact on the game? To date Crosby and Malkin have had a very poor series. Letang’s series can probably best be described with the use of two to three of the “seven deadly words”. But the Bruins stars aren’t immune to bad games, Rask single-handedly gave the Ranger game 4, the Krejci, Horton, Lucic line have been known to make horrific line changes or turnovers. Or it could be a dazzling performance from Jarome Iginla, or Zdeno Chara, maybe Tyler Seguin or Matt Niskanen is able to seize the the game and take it over?
1: Compusure, composure, composure. If they can’t stay focused on their system of hockey they may as well forfiet. Trying to be more physical than the Bruins or get into their heads just isn’t in the Pittsburgh Penguins DNA.
2: Play together. The Penguins have looked confused and disoriented for both games. Their normal flow of passing, and quick transition has been nonexistant. There is some amazing talent on the team, but no one or two of them are going to beat a playoff tested team that returned 18 of the players who won the Cup two years ago by themselves.
3: Don’t turn over the puck. When you’re playing any team this is important, when your goaltender is not playing well and the other team is firing on all cylnders, its is absolutely crucial.
For the Bruins
1: Don’t take stupid penalties. The Penguins powerplay will not continue to look like the Rangers powerplay, don’t give it any practice.
2: Press the pace early. With two bad games in the bag the Penguins can not afford to get down early, and keeping them hemmed up in their defensive zone will be the best way of keeping Iginla, Neal, Kunitz and company off the score sheet.
3: Don’t stop pushing. If the Bruins are down 3-2 or up 5-0, they can not afford to allow the Penguins even a sliver of hope, there are a fistful of guys who can singlehandedly win games and for whom a four point night isn’t all that special.
For the Officials:
1: If it isn’t life or career threatening, or a required automatical call, forget the whistles. Both teams have shown a willingness to play physical, and go at it. Let them.
1.5: Call the dives. Please call the dives or the game and the series will get out of hand.
Matt Cooke is one of those players that make me wish the NHLPA would learn to police their own in the board room as well as on the ice. Players who continually endanger and end the careers of other union members should be removed from the players associastion and hence the league. The players need to step in and do this because the owners never will, it should be done even if it means the PA reimburses a team for the cost of players contract.
But that’s not going to happen. Matt Cooke will continue to make reckless, studpid and or vicious plays that might end another players career or life. His hit on Marc Savard wasn’t the first time he’d done something vile. It certainly wasn’t the last. Until he finally hangs his skates up, no player on an opposing team is safe. Just like Raffi Torres, Matt Cooke is a player who is bad for the business of hockey. Not just for the players currently in the leauge, but he’s the type of player who makes parens fear to let their young boys and girls play or even watch hockey.
Based on Cooke’s lengthy disciplinary history. Adam McQuaid turned 25 feet from the boards, while Cooke is facing Krug. There’s no question this was a major penalty, no question it is suspension worthy. The league really doesn’t have any choice but to hand out the same type of suspesnsion that it did to Torres for cleaning Hossa’s clock last year. Anything less than 10 games is going to be seen as the league taking a step back from suspending a player for a bigger market team. With all the theatrics Mario Lemuix has engaged in for years from the owners box, it won’t be a surprise if the suspension is less than 10 games. It wil however be a signal o the dirties players in the game, of which Cooke is near or at the head of the class, that you don’t have to worry about ending careers, or lives if you play for an owner who not only is never at fault, never has a player who is at fault either.
For this drinking game you’ll need two beverages. You mght want to pick drinks mathing your favorite team colors or just the two nearest things you can handle in volume.
Take One Sip:
Every time scoring chances are mentioned.
An opponent of from the previous round is mentioned.
Jarome Iginla and Matt Bartkowski are mentioned in the same sentence.
The cameras pan the crowd or the guy between the benches instead of a scrum.
You know what a coach/player is going to say in an interview before they say it.
Either team gets a five on three powerplay.
Don Cherry makes more sense than anyone else the camera has been aimed at in the last ten minutes.
If the trade deadline is mentioned.
If Jagr’s time in Pittsburg is mentioned.
If any mention is made of the number of Stanley Cup wins a players has.
If the Nathan Horton vs Jarome Iginla fight is shown.
A goaltending change is made.
A pending UFA is mentioned.
A full period passes where you don’t hear the name of the junior and or college team any player was drafted from.
Anyone says a team is or isn’t getting bounces.
The broadcast fails to show a faceoff but cuts in when the puck is already in motion.
Two commericals for the smae company play in one commercial break.
A period ends with more than a 10 shot difference between the teams.
Take One Sip:
If Chara’s size is mentioned.
If any of Crosby’s past injuries are mentioned.
If a backup goaltender is shown.
If either Coach is shown standing on the bench.
Someone on sicial media says the offials are biased.
Someone dangles so much they lose the puck with no one with no help from opposing players.
James Neal or Tyler Seguin miss high and hit the glass with a shot.
The broadcaster between the benches asks the guy(s) in the booth if they saw something going on in the game.
Someone mentiones “line shuffling”.
Any rookie is pointed out (Simone Despres and Beau Bennett for the Penguins, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski for the Bruins).
A general manager or owner is shown.
A fairly routine hockey play (faceoff win, goal, or saucer pass, etc) is described as “wizardy” or magic.
The Bruins powerplay scores in a game.
The Penguins get a shorthanded goal.
A too many men penalty is called.
A penalty is called that makes no sense.
Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard is mentioned.
Double Fist (1 sip of each)
If the playoff win total of a coach is mentioned.
Trades between the teams are mentioned.
The age of a player or players are mentioned in relation to how long its been since the teams last played in the playoffs.
The regular season series is mentioned.
Any player is mentiond for a past award or current nomination.
An obvious rule is explained for no reason.
Some says the refs have swallowed their whistle.
The compressed schedule in the regular season is mentioned.
Everytime there’s an obvious dive that goes uncalled.
If there is a fight where the combined salary is more than four million dollars.
Players or officials are said to be sending a message.
Skip a drink if:
You find yourself unable to scream coherently at a pinkhat.
You start explaining a simple rule like “icing” and take longer than two minutes.
You can’t remember which beverage to drink from.
Both fourth lines are on the ice.
A family member, girlfriend or spouse of a player is shown in the audience.
You can seriously injury yourself, destroy property, or even die even if your participation in this drinking game is nothing more than water. If you should happen to do something incredibly idiotic and entertaining during this drinking game that makes it to Youtube, TextsFromLastNight or other fun sites; do send a link. It won’t make your life better, but I’ll get a laugh too. No one is responsible for the stupid you commit but you.
The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins will square off in a best of seven series for the right to earn those final four wins against a western conference foe.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, Malkin, and Crosby will try and aid newcomer Neal, and grizzled veterans Iginla, and Morrow in earning there way into the history books. The offence of the Penguins is without a doubt the best left in the playoffs. The Penguins can ice three lines of players who on many teams would be the top threat. Iginla is likely a first ballot hall of fame inductee, and no one is going to name him first as the teams premiere offensive player.
The Boston Bruins are strongest at the other end of the ice. Zdeno Chara a former Norris trophy winner remains the NHL’s measuring stick for shutdown defense, and all others come up lacking. He’s aided by Seidenberg who’s journeyman career took the step up to mastery when he pulled on the spoked B. Behind them are rookie sensations Bartkowski, Krug and Hamilton, and the often overlooked Masterson Nominee Adam McQuaid, and veteran Boychuk of the booming shot and shot blocking. The likely starting defense of Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, McQuaid Bartkowski, and Krug is intimidating enough having dismantled the Rangers, behind them are Ference who one a Cup with the Bruins, and Reddem who was with Chara part of that smothering Senator’s defense a few years ago.
The point where both teams are likely to fail is in net. Neither netminder has played this deep in the playoffs. Last season, and the season before neither was a number one goaltender. Rask had a meltdown against the Flyers that will forever live in infamy. Vokouns previous most winning post season campaign had grand and sweeping total of two wins. Neither goalie has proven anything. If you are ranking each teams strengths from greatest to least the Penguins will have scoring, defense and goaltending in that order. The Bruins will list defense, offence and goaltending. Worse for each team is the unreliable nature of their backups. Khudobin has performed admirably as a backup for Rask, but the only reason Vokoun is playing at all is the goalie he normally backs up had a complete meltdown against the New York Islanders. The bottom line: don’t expect many 1-0, 2-1 games.
With the long delay between the ends of their respective second round series and when they throw down for the Eastern Conference title, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins have the opportunity to rest a lot, and do some other things the teams haven’t gotten to do much of. With the series likely to start Saturday night, the two teams will have the longest uninterrupted stretch of gameless, travel-free days since the lockout ended.
The Penguins have to be worried that Tomas Vokoun who has played some pretty strong hockey since relieving Fleury, might go cold. The 36 year hold has lost just one game since making his Penguins playoff debut. Fans have to be equally worried about James Neal, who had a six game goal scoring layoff before netting five goals in the final two games against the Senators. Given that all of his goal lighting has been done in just six of his last twenty five games, clearly his on or off status will have a big impact on the coming series.
For Boston, concern for Tyler Seguin’s goal scoring prowess has to be near the top of the list. He has exactly one goal in the playoffs, and that ended a fourteen game drought. The former #2 draft pick has just four points in his twelve playoff games. For the young defenseman filling out the Bruins blueline, the question isn’t as much rust, as having time to think and not simply play the way they have. Matt Bartkowski and ToreyKrug came straight from a long regular season in the AHL and were called up in the middle of the Providence Bruins own playoff run, since then they’ve been involved in some breathtaking and dramatic games.
For the Bruins, there are more than a couple players who haven’t made it quite to full effectiveness. Dougie Hamilton is the unlikely only Bruins defenseman who has yet to score a goal in the playoffs. Carl Soderberg has not seen a single playoff game after making his long awaited NHL debut, and might be needed down the road. Then there are the injuries to Redden and Ference. Neither the Rangers nor the Leafs have the offensive stars of the Penguins, and the shut down ability of Ference and Redden is something that could be sorely missed.
On the Penguins front, Iginla, Cooke, Morrow, Adams, Dupuis, Murray, Eaton, and Vokoun are significantly on the shady side of thirty. For them the extra rest, especially guys like Iginla, Dupuis and Murray who can play big minutes in close games, rest after a highly compacted season might be the tipping point. In particular, Iginla who’s well know for staying in Calgary long past when they had hope of winning the Cup for family reasons, for Morrow who played years in Dallas before being moved east, both an probably due with a little regenerative time with their family.
For these teams the question isn’t rust or rest, both will occur. The team that wins this series will likely be the one with the best health when the last horn sounds.
Welcome to the Second Season, unlike most years, the second season for the best teams will run nearly half the length of the regular season.
#1 vs. #8
The Pittsburgh Penguins marched determinedly through the regular season, attempting to keep pace with the western powers. Malkin, Crosby, Letang and other key players all missed games due to injury. Crosby is out least for game one, and Jarome Iginla will be playing in the post season for the first time in almost half a decade.
The Islanders haven’t seen the post season in so long you have to wonder how many members of the staff at Nassau had vaction plans this week and next. Sixteen players will be making their playoff debut, including nearly all of their key forwards, and several of their battered blueliners. From the blueline, only three gentlemen appeared in all 48 games this season; Mark Streit age 35, Andrew MacDonald, and 22 year old Travis Hamonic who’s in his third season for the Islanders.
Players to watch:
With Crosby out, the cameras may actually grace other Penguins, Neal is a human highlight reel, Brandon Sutter is finally making himself comfortable in the NHL, and Chris Kunitz quietly led the team in goals in the regular season.
For the Islanders if you aren’t already a member of the United Temple of Taveres; get familiar. The 2009 #1 overall has outpaced his class across the board, he’s got 20 more goals than the second place goal scorer from his class, and almost three times as many as 4th place. On the backend Vishnovsky and Streit are more than capable of being momemtum changers in any zone.
The Penguins should win this series. But that depends on Marc Andre Fleury turning in a useful playoff performence. In the last three years his sv% has been awful, despite reasonable regular season numbers, .834, .899, .891 are useful but only for making sure your team gets plenty of sun. The Islanders have a chance if Nabokov can out duel The Flower.
#2 vs. #7
The Montreal Canadiens had a wretched season last year, and reaped the draft rewards, American rookie Alex Galchenyuk made an instant impact, Vancouver Giants alumni Brendan Gallagher did as well. They’ve had a small downturn since Alexi Emelin injured himself, but they still held on to win the last Northeast division title.
The Ottawa Senators are probably glad they don’t have to make room on the plane for medical records. Overcoming injuries have defined this team this season. Jason Spezza is still out, Erik Karlsson is just back, and the list of who didn’t play all or most games is much longer than the list of those who did.
Players to watch:
P.K. Subban is the most electrifying player in this series, and possibly on all of the Canadian teams, Lars Eller has shown a willingness to get his nose dirty, and Michael Ryder still has one of the fastest releases in the NHL.
For the Senators, Alfredsson isn’t a player you should ever take your eyes off of, Kyle Turris led the team in goals and points, and Gonchar is still a consistent threat.
Offensively the difference between these teams is night and day, the Canadiens had the fifth best offense in the regular season, and the Senators the fourth worst. On the other hand the Senators finished second in goals against, while the Canadiens were a pedestrian 14th. Craig Anderson has better post season numbers, and should be able to snatch a game or two, but the Habs should win it.
#3 vs. #6
When it comes to winning the Southeast Division, the Washington Capitals have had that locked down for most of its existance, it seems only fitting they should finish its last season on top. Unfortunately, that’s all they seem to be able to win. Maybe this year with a rejuvinated Ovechkin, a mature Carlson and Alzner, and most miraculously a healthy Green they can turn in a good performence.
Last year the New York Rangers went to the Eastern Conference finals, and but for the skill of Adam Henrique, might have gone further. Some might consider it a problem when their 12th best paid forward leads the team in scoring, especially when that player makes roughly 10% of their highest paid forward, for the Rangers, that’s just the way things are.
Players to watch:
The Caps bost a potent offense, and a bit more grit than they are given credit for, Troy Brouwer was second in goals this season, Chimera had a big season last year, and Backstrom has finally started to round back into All Star form.
While Stepan led the Rangers in scoring, Richards, Nash and Callahan have got to be due for an offensive explosion at some point, right?
#4 vs. #5
The Boston Bruins had a heap of distractions towards the end of the season with bombings, blizzards and forever long pregame ceremonies, which might excuse their poor play if it hadn’t been a season long occurance. The positives for the Bruins are that they are pretty healthy physically. The negative is that no one knows where their collective head is.
The Maple Leafs are making their return to the playoffs. Lots of this team hasn’t played in the playoffs at all, and some who have aren’t all that good in the second season. Lupul and Van Riemsdyk have the most playoff experience, Kessel is a point per game player in the playoffs, but he’ll have to get over his ineffectiveness against Chara and Boston in a hurry to keep that going.
Players to watch:
For the Bruins, everyone is waiting on Soderberg to make his impact felt, but he may well sit, watch Bergeron per usual, and see if Ference and Lucic can keep up their snarl.
The Maple Leafs have woefully underused Grabovski this season, and he might just be the key to winning this series, Kadri and Gunnarsson should also be in your crosshairs.
The Bruins played poorly down the stretch, but the Leafs are new as a team to the playoffs, and have a bug in their heads about the Bruins. Expect a lot of physical play and for the team that wants it more to win.
With the deadline looming, and about a bakers dozen games left for many team, it is time to take a look at what we know about all the teams in the NHL.
Pittsburgh: We know Ray Shero likes to make deadline trades, we know health is sorta returning for this team. We also know that with a current cumulative cap hit higher than next years cap, and Morrow’s decline and questionable health that this is likely a one shot deal for the guys currently in uniform.
Montreal: It’s kinda hard to figure out why more people aren’t excited about his team. They are fifth in goals for, ninth in goals against, there only real bad component is their penalty kill. While we’re at it, Tomas Plekanec deserves way more attention than he gets, if he could drag the penalty kill into respectability, or even just score a shorthanded goal or two he’d be on my Selke shortlist.
Winnipeg; We know this team needs desperately to buy quality defense at the deadline. Adding offense wouldn’t hurt at all, but the backend needs to come first they are one of just two top eight teams in the east to allow triple digit goals already.
Boston: This team needs an attitude adjustment. They do not have the raw focus or hunger they did in their Cup winning year, what body they add isn’t the solution, the size of the fight in that dog is.
Ottawa; Clearly this is a team made up of undercover superheros, or at least the guys left on the ice. They might not go to far this year, but oh man this team has some good young talent and might even lead the conference if they were healthy. A cheap rental forward who can add to the scoring would be nice, but this team could easily produce an upset or two.
Toronto: The fact that no real changes have been made to this team since Brian Burke was fired, and it has just about locked up a playoff spot means he shouldn’t have too much trouble landing his next GM job, and probably trading for Kadri, Gardiner, and Grabovski or pennies on the dollar.
New Jersey: The Devils have spent all season proving last season wasn’t a fluke. How they’ve done this is anyones guess. They are winning right now even without Kovalchuk, It would not surprise me if they became sellers at the deadline, but in a very limited sense.
New York Rangers: We know this is either the Eastern Conference’s best bad team or worst good team. We know time is running out on the current off ice leadership for this team. We know in order to get this level of under-performance elsewhere in sports you’d have to threaten professional cycling with accurate testing and jail time for violators. We know that if the Islanders and Devils make the playoffs and the Rangers don’t the angst in Blue Shirt nation will be legendary
New York Islanders: We know John Tavares should be getting way more attention than he does, he is after all over a point per game, second in goals, and seventh in points. If the Islanders make the playoffs, he has to be on the Hart shortlist. We know that Brad Boyes would be a frickin’ idiot to sign anywhere else next season given that he has more points in 34 games this season, than in 65 last year.
Carolina: With several games in hand their current 10th place position is deceiving, we know however they need to win those games. We know that Cam Ward isn’t nearly as irreplaceable as the faithful would have you believe. We know that Jeff Skinner (signed to a big endorsement deal by Dewey, Slewfoot and Diver) will probably not like the attention he receives night after night from top defenses.
Washington: We know that Adam Oates deserves a boatload of capital for turning the ship around on the fly without the benefit of a training camp, stable goaltending, or a team with any confidence in itself. He’s also got Ovechkin back to a point per game by using that weird thing called logic and letting him play more minutes. We also know that this team still isn’t built right and that problem still resides at a higher level than Oates.
Tampa Bay: We know that Yzerman is just as good at constructing a defense as he was at fighting.
We know he needs to fix that if he’s going to make it to his fourth year as general manager. He’s clearly good at identifying offensive talent, so swapping some of the current stable to rebuilding or needy teams for a veteran defenseman or two shouldn’t be completely impossible.
Buffalo: We know Terry Pegula can’t be pleased with the state of his hockey team. We know that with next years realignment no one with an ounce of hockey sense would pencil this team into next years standings about sixth place without major changes. We know if they blow up the team right they could have a pretty good chance at drafty both Seth Jones and Connor Mcdavid.
Philadelphia: We know the keep defenseman healthy the same way The Real World finds the mentally unbalanced to film every season. We know that no to long ago the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals, and have regressed further and further every year. WE know this is another team that’s due for some administrative housekeeping even if the health problems make things look worse than they are.
Florida: We know that last year despite an absurd amount of injuries the team went toe to toe with the eventual Eastern Conference champions. We know that this year, another absurd amount of injuries and dramatically poorer goaltending from the guys not named Markstrom have lead not to the Southeast division title but once again to the eastern conference basement. We know they have a couple more solid prospects in the pipeline. We know there is tons and tons for Dale Tallon and company to do.