Hey folks – I'm stepping in on short notice for Dobber, who’s still recovering from whatever bug he picked up in Cuba. And unlucky me – there were no Tuesday games to supply giftwrapped content. Right about now I'm really wishing I'd saved a few of my tidbits from my last two ramblings…..
Wednesday is game two for LA/Chicago. If it was any other team but the Kings I'd say this was pretty much a must win, but let's not forget that LA made it here despite losing three in a row in both round one and round two!
One prediction I'm comfortable making is that LA's offense won't be able to explode like it did against the Sharks and Ducks, as Chicago is simply too well-oiled of a machine. Jonathan Quick will need to be the true difference maker, and I just don't think he can do enough to see LA take four of the next six.
More and more the Blackhawks are shaping up to be this decade's 1995-2005 Red Wings, right down to Corey Crawford being Chicago's version of Chris Osgood – a very good goalie who'll likely never have jaw dropping peripherals but shines in the playoffs. Osgood's career regular season GAA and SV% were 2.49 and 90.5% (744 games – Vezina finalist just once) but in the playoffs those numbers jumped to 2.09 and 91.6%. And already Crawford is following a similar pattern, with regular season numbers of 2.36 and 91.4% (zero Vezina nominations so far) versus playoff stats of 2.01 and 92.7%.
Long story short – be grateful if you have Crawford on your fantasy squad because he won't ever hurt you. But he's also unlikely to become a triple threat (i.e., Wins, GAA, SV%) like Rask or Lundqvist.
Not much to discuss about Canadiens/Rangers other than which poor substitute for Carey Price will be thrust into the net for Thursday's Game three (for the record, I'm on team Budaj).
Here's part of what I wrote before the series in USA Today's NHL Caucus feature (I've been contributing for DobberHockey) in response to the question of what will be the most exciting in-game match-ups for the conference finals?
The Rangers’ scorers (Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan) against the Canadiens’ grinders (Brandon Prust, Dale Weise, and Michael Bournival). Montreal’s checking forwards managed to hold David Krejci (who was the leading scorer in the entire playoffs last season!) to just two points in seven games, and Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla to just three points each. Meanwhile, those four Rangers forwards combined for only three goals and five assists in the entire seven game series against the Penguins.
Well, two games in and those four Rangers have already combined for eleven points (three more than in all of round two's seven games), so there you go.
What's interesting is while the injury to Price no doubt gives the Rangers a huge edge they're of course glad to have, it won't be ideal to sweep Montreal and then have to wait for Chicago or LA if that series stretches to six or seven games. After all, a long wait could quell a lot of New York's emotional momentum. Plus, as the Rangers showed by advancing past the second round despite playing an unheard of five playoff games in seven days, sometimes it's just better to keep rolling forward rather than stop to ponder the enormity of the situation.
In terms of fantasy tidbits for Montreal and LA (I covered the Rangers and Blackhawks in my Ramblings last week), the big area I'm interested in for Montreal is what happens if Andrei Markov leaves via free agency. Will someone replace his 43 points, or will it become the P.K. Subban show much like it's the Erik Karlsson extravaganza in Ottawa?
I'm guessing the latter, especially since once Subban signs his inevitably eno