Game Seven Madness! The first round is over. The Dobber Hockey Experts went 7/8. Not too shabby. Mike Amato will be compiling our picks the rest of the way so watch out for that. Let's dive in to last night's action.
It wasn't easy but the Rangers came away with a series victory over the Flyers. Now they've got a matchup against the Penguins that I really think they can win. We already watched the Penguins have trouble with a physical Blue Jackets team. I think that the Rangers could do the same. Particularly if they get a masterful series from Henrik Lundqvist. (A vintage playoff performance from Marc-Andre Fleury could help as well.)
I am definitely picking the Rangers to make the Conference Final. I just don't trust what I've seen from the Penguins. Even after Evgeni Malkin's beast-mode performance earlier this week.
The Rangers do have some serious question marks of their own, in particular the lack of scoring from Rick Nash. He didn't score a goal in the series and had just four assists. Of course, small sample sizes must be considered. Also, Nash is doing great work despite the lack of production.
New York would probably love to get a little bit more out of the Benoit Pouliot-Derrick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello line, which was their most productive group this season. They did combine for the game-winner last night but have just 10 points between the three of them.
Brassard, last year's playoff darling, is particularly absent on the scoresheet with no goals and just two-points. When you're hot, you're hot. When you're not…
Nothing to be ashamed for the Flyers. They could've just been happy to be there after the miserable start to their season but not only did they make the playoffs but they gave the Rangers all they could handle. I think they simply got stuck with a tough matchup. I'd have bet them to beat Pittsburgh without second thought.
It's not like the Flyers are without sin. I still do not believe in Steve Mason as a reliable fantasy asset and I don't think I will unless he replicates the season he just had – at which point, I'll accept him as an average fantasy goalie. Until then, I won't buy.
Worse than their goalie situation is the blueline. The Flyers are losing Kimmo Timonen this summer and that's from a group that was already rather mediocre. Make sure you pour one out for Timonen, by the way. What a great career. He was always a gamer. Only twice in his career did he miss double-digit games. Timonen also ran off 12 straight seasons of 35 points or more (I'm including last season even though he only had 29 in 45). Just a rock.
The worst situation is Vincent Lecavalier. If you are missing a fork you'll find it sticking out of his back. Done like dinner. The Flyers are on the hook for four more years of this guy. Woof.
Let's close on a positive. Jason Akeson scored the lone Flyers goal and had a pretty nice series. What do you guys make of Akeson? When I watched him in Junior I thought he would never make it in the NHL. He played far too much of a perimeter game. Didn't see a ton of that in this series however. I'm still skeptical that he has a future as a major fantasy asset but nice depth scorer? Looking very plausible.
Historic comeback by the Los Angeles Kings! We are not worthy.
Anze Kopitar flexed his muscle in Round One. Give him four goals and 10 points through seven games, including the series-clincher last night. He scored in every single game of this series.
I don't really have a point to make, I just wanted to gush about Drew Doughty's spin move. There was one point on a Sharks power play where Doughty gained a one-on-one opportunity streaking up the left side. You could just smell the spin coming. He obliged, and while nothing came of the play, I was mesmerized all the same. Second only to Duncan Keith on the spin-move hierarchy.
Tyler Toffoli, all he does is score. In a place like Edmonton or Carolina he's Jordan Eberle or Jeff Skinner and gets star treatment. In LA he's a depth guy. Unfair.
Jonathan Quick was brilliant all night making some huge saves. Looking like he's found his playoff form.
Another year, another playoff failure for the Sharks. I'm sure they have all been similarly painful but this one has to hurt. I mean, they had it. They had the series. And now they are out. How does that happen?
I linked to an article about the Blues' playoff struggles and their need for patience later on in the ramblings. You could apply the same notion here but this is 11 straight seasons of playoff runs cut short. Sure does feel like it's in their DNA.
You could definitely blame the coach. Todd McLellan rescued Game Three by moving Joe Pavelski to the third line pushing Tomas Hertl onto the top unit, giving them three solid lines, swarming the Kings with depth. We never saw that line combination again. Meanwhile, Darryl Sutter mixes it up on the other side and the Kings win four straight. Coincidence?
I also hated the decision to go with Alex Stalock in Game Six. In what universe was that the right decision? Not this one. You've got a Cup-winning goalie in net and you are benching him? Ridiculous.
Of course, lineup decisions only do so much. At a certain point the best players must perform and they can only blame themselves for failing to capitalize on any of their six power play opportunities.
The Sharks were also missing their top defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic for the last couple of games so if they want to make excuses they can use that one.
Let's toss a positive out there though. Everyone is going to be back so this will be a fantasy gold mine once again. Everyone but Dan Boyle, I suppose I should say. I have no idea if he'll be back. He looks like he's got a bit left but he's not far from joining Lecavalier and Heatley on the All Corpse roster.
If the Sharks are to remain a fantasy dreamboat, and Boyle is on the outs, who reaps the rewards on the blueline? Brent Burns could move back but I think he's more effective up front. I was intrigued by Matt Irwin but keep an eye on what the Sharks do. There's a fantasy sleeper to be had out there.
Nino Niederreiter wins it!
Niederreiter scored the first two playoff goals of his career in this one and added an assist. Now he's a legend.
Don't sleep on Dany Heatley's corpse making the breakout pass on the winner there. Zombie Heatley had a three-point night of his own. I'm astounded.
Ilya Bryzgalov got the win coming on in relief of Darcy Kuemper who ceded four goals on 21 shots. Bryzgalov had to make one save in 13 minutes of action. That he had only one save to make to close the game and then into overtime is certainly an indictment of the Avalanche and yet another victory for the fancy stats crowd. You don't win consistently getting outshot as they were all season and throughout this series including 35-22 last night.
The Avalanche will be back, however. That group of forwards is amazing.
Nathan MacKinnon was brilliant all series but was quiet in game seven. No points and minus-three. Don't sell him short though. What was their top line in this series with he along with Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny combined to go minus-seven last night.
Stastny, by the way, earned himself a fat free agent contract with that playoff series. He leaves tied for the league lead along with MacKinnon and a couple others with 10 points.
Zach Parise is another of those leaders. Don't be shocked if he doesn't build on that lead next round though.
Is now the time for the Predators to trade Shea Weber?
David Poile’s secure tenure allows him to make a deal that would pay off down the road,” said Mark Spector of broadcast outlet Sportsnet. “He could trade a nearly 29-year-old defenseman for a 24-year-old scoring winger, an up-and-coming defenseman and a first-round draft pick. Frankly, a Weber trade is exactly what that organization needs — an influx of top-end youth and skill.
I tend to lean towards no. Franchise defensemen don't grow on trees even if it may seem the contrary there in Nashville. They have an ideal replacement in Seth Jones. But why not have both? Of course, I definitely consider moving Weber if I am the Preds GM but it's taking a Godfather offer.
Sean McIndoe recommends patience for the Blues following yet another playoff collapse:
That's a tempting road to go down, but it's a dangerous one, and the Blues don't have to look far to find a case study. In 2010, the Washington Capitals found themselves in the exact same situation the Blues are in now. They were Cup favorites who'd just lost in the first round (to the Montreal Canadiens, who rode red-hot goaltending from Halak). They had one playoff round win in 11 years. And they were dealing with the nagging feeling that there was something fundamentally wrong with them.
I couldn't agree more. They've built a tremendous young core in St. Louis. I'd hate to see that group blown up when they really aren't that far from a Cup even if it doesn't feel that way right now.
McIndoe also asks if a tough First Round series hurts a Stanley Cup run.
So recent history says the number of games you play in the first round doesn't matter much in the second. Of course, the playoffs aren't just about making it out of Round 2. The real goal is to make the final and then win the Stanley Cup. Looked at that way, the news gets a little better for teams that escape the first round quickly. While no team in the salary-cap era has won the Cup after a recording a first-round sweep, two did make the final. And three teams have won the Cup after winning a first-round series in five, including the 2012 Kings and 2013 Blackhawks.
One thing is certain; losing a tough First Round series is a sure way to hurt your Cup chances.
Buffalo News discusses Cody Hodgson's move to the wing and how it created space for Zemgus Girgensons in the top six.
Hodgson served as Girgensons' left winger for the final nine games. Judging by the four goals and eight points Hodgson put up, the move was a good one.
It must be mentioned that that's a small sample size but still it's reason for optimism. Personally, I'm more intrigued by Girgensons being in the top six. He looks like he could be the next Ryan Kesler.
It looks like the Red Wings will use a compliance buyout on Jordan Tootoo but NOT on Johan Franzen.
However, Charlie Walters muses that Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold will go all out to sign Vanek this summer.
I like both destinations for Vanek. Lots of playmakers for him to play off of in either destination. The real impact could be who steps onto the David Desharnais–Max Pacioretty line if he leaves and who he skates with in Minnesota if that's where he signs. Either way, cap-leaguers better be prepared for him to become a prohibited substance.
So Teemu Selanne is considering playing in the KHL next season. The next Olympics aren't that far off. Could he give it another go?
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