Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wake Me When The Pens-Hawks Final Starts

Pittsburgh Vokouns vs. Ottawa Craigers
As other Hasek-edly as Craig Anderson has played in the net for the Sens in round one (.946 save percentage), it's not the first time. He was terrific for the Colorado Avalanche with a .933 save percentage facing a '13 Leaf-like 39.1 shots per game in their 2010 first round loss in six games to the #1 seed San Jose Sharks. With his .941 save percentage during the regular season, let's just say the Sens (and Team USA with Jonathan Quick as well in the mix) are set in goal.

Having said that, don't dismiss Tomas Vokoun as a glorified backup. In that same 2009/10 season, the Czech netminder was arguably the best goalie in the NHL with a .925 save percentage facing a league high 33.8 shots a game. I'd love to say his playoff performance was as good that season but he was playing for the offensively challenged Florida Panthers who finished in 28th place in the overall standings.

Needless to say, Vokoun a year later left as a free agent for Washington. Was Holtby-ed out in the Caps' 2012 playoffs and didn't see any playoff action. Anyway, despite being 36 years old (or maybe because he's 36?) his time is now. He has been a very good netminder in the playoffs. It's just he hasn't actually been IN the playoffs all that much.
His NHL playoff totals to date are:
14 GP
.931 save percentage
32.2 shots against per game

I'll also add The Craiger has not been so hot vs. the firepower of the Pens. His record the last three seasons:
2 W 5L
.898 save percentage

Boston Comebacks vs. New York Lundqvists

Not to harp on goaltending (and shot blocking) but this series could set new levels of dullness not matched since the 2012 Caps-Rangers series. Although the Rangers since the trade deadline were scoring at a league-leading pace, their shutdown game given the Game 6 & 7 shutouts of the Capitals in the last round doesn't bode too well for Boston.

After all Boston had a field day averaging close to 40 shots a game vs. the hideously porous Leaf D who stayed alive until Game 7 mainly thanks to James Reimer.

That's not happening vs. the Rangers. One can only hope in all these games that the B's score first so we can see these teams go toe to toe.

Honestly, enough about goaltending. Let's talk about Derick Brassard being so good that Brad Richards was centering the fourth line by series end and the Rangers potted five in a Game 7. Maybe being in Columbus, Brassard got lost in the mediocrity but this is a former number six overall pick. Pro-rating his QMJHL stats over an 82-game season and he was a 118-point man in junior (218 points in 151 GP). His playoff stats in the Q were 39 points in 36 GP (and that's counting the zero he got in seven games his first season there).

Face facts, the guy was a steal even if Marian Gaborik went the other way. Brassard's 25. Gaborik's 31. Brassard makes his teammates better--end of story.

Chicago Are-We-There-Yets vs. Detroit Not-Dead-Yet Things

An old Snorris Division battle that most likely will see the most exciting hockey in round two even though it could be quick. After all, no matter how much you like the Wings, this is a very special Hawks team. Hopefully, they get what they deserve (a dinner with Al Secord?) for the season they've had.

Detroit beating a very good Ducks team in round one could be a last hurrah of the post-Lidstrom missed-out-on-Suter era. After all, when was the last time the Red Wings were the lower seed and won in the second round. Try never (as, well, usually they are the higher seed). Even in 2011 when the team came back from 0-3 down vs. the San Jose Sharks, they still lost Game 7 in one of the best series in recent Wings history.

Here's hoping we see a hammer-and-tong war of hits galore like the St. Louis-LA series with as many shots-a-go-go as the Boston-Toronto series.

San Jose Next Gen vs. LA Still Kings

Fans of the Sharks are probably saying finally all the pieces are coming together. the oldsters (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle) are scoring as well as the youngsters (Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture). Their goaltending is reliable with Antti "I have a Cup!" Niemi. Brent Burns is finally playing the right position--power forward. (Since he played that in junior, why did that anti-hockey Jacques Lemaire have to mess that up after Burns got drafted by the Minnesota Wild? Where was the Byfuglien logic?).

Of course, all these pieces seem to be falling into place and the Sharks end up having to play the defending Darryl Sutters in round two with Jonathan Quick in Stanley Cup 2012 form.

San Jose just cannot win both literally and ironically.

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