When it’s the dead of August and, rather than enjoying time with family and loved ones, you’re complaining about another slow hockey news day (“oh wow, a European player said something not all that tactful to the foregin press” “how much did x-player post himself dead lifting on Instagram, crazy!”); remember April 26th.
Four playoff games, all of them dramatic and rivetting, and a wholesale change of a management team? The hockey gods; they do spoil us on occasion.
Let’s start with the Capitals news – Adam Oates is fired, George McPhee will not have his contract extension.
I really enjoyed Greg Wysnski’s take on the Capitals’ “identity crisis” even if, in my view, he muddles some details on his way to nailing the big picture (stripping Ovechkin of the captaincy sounds like a good way to start divorce proceedings, and I take John Carlson and Karl Alzner over anyone on the B’s second pairing). I for one think the demise of this team as a contender has its roots in a spot of random variance (just ran into a hot goalie in Jaroslav Halak), and a really bad coaching decision (firing Bruce Boudreau who just wins); and P.Diddy nails it like a bardown slapshot.
Also good reading on the Capitals: Dimitri Filipovic’s bit over at The Sporting News on the stunning demise of what was once hockey’s version of “7 seconds or less.”
To the hockey. The Boston Bruins powered through the Detroit Red Wings in the Saturday matinee, and clinched their opening round Stanley Cup playoff series in five games. It was a special teams contest as the two clubs combined for 13 power-play opportunities in Game 5; and Boston outscored the Red Wings with the man-advantage 2-1 (and 4-2 overall).
In the recent past if the Bruins had allowed a game against Detroit to devolve into a special teams contest, they’d have been playing into their opponent’s hand. That’s not the case for Boston this year though, and it’s a major reason why this iteration of the Bruins is very probably the best we’ve seen (yes, even including 2011).
The Bruins scored five power-play goals against the Red Wings in the five game series, and generated shots with the man-advantage seemingly at will. Their power-play is extraordinarily potent, and it gives them a new wrinkle (both in terms of generating offense and from a mental warfare perspective). Now Boston can come out and play a disciplined game and punish opponents on the power-play, adding that card to the standard “we can push you around because we employ Lucic and Chara” Bruins deck is just unfair.
And an elegy for the vanquished. The Detroit Red Wings were two different teams this season. They were the old, sad, over-paid, injury-plagued team we saw at the start of the year; and then they were this fast, young, exciting, up-and-coming group in the second half. It was a pretty amazing transformation to watch Stephen Weiss, Mikael Samuelsson, Dan Cleary and Jordin Tootoo struggle (and struggle to stay into the lineup); and then watch a dynamic group led by Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar get hot and streak into the postseason to keep the storied organization’s generation-long playoff streak alive.
Overall a good season of growth for the organization, I’d think, and probably Mike Babcock’s best work as an NHL bench boss (I’d give him the Jack Adams nod, personally). Now the key is for Ken Holland to figure out how to build around that core while doing what he can to surgically remove some of the onerous cap-hits the Wings are committed to carrying next season (Johan Franznen, Weiss, and Tootoo chief among them). Would be cool if Darren Helm, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg could stay healthy next season too.
In the other Eastern Conference playoff game the Pittsburgh Penguins have taken the Columbus Blue Jackets to the brink of eliminati