Friday, May 2, 2014

Beasts Of The East

The first round is always a thrill ride and with one of the best first rounds ever (thank you, return to the divisional playoff cage match matchups), it's onto the round we all tend to fall asleep in.

Not sexy enough to be the "we're one round away" Conference Finals and  in that "we survived the first round" Conference Quarter-Finals. (And, yeah, NHL, could you just call them rounds? Enough with the mouthful Conference Whatever-Finals.)

Let's start with the Land Where Teams Never Change Time Zones

Big Bad Charas vs. 
PK Slapshots

Or to put it mildly--Men vs. Smurfs. The B's have only two roster players under 6' tall (Torey Krug and Brad Marchand) and Nose Face is Ken Linseman rat-like feisty. The Habs meanwhile have eight guys under 6' of which only Brendan Gallagher's smile can match Marchand's borderline insanity.

The Nose Knows

The only thing is any Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens series is never what it looks like on paper (or in the papers, if anyone actually still does this). At least ever since Cam Neely drifted this long one past Saint Patrick (and features some unique Tripp Tracy Caniac-like analysis), the series are not all tilted in the Habs favor.

Since that famous 1988 series win, the B's have actually got the better of the Habs seven series to four head-to-head. Now in 2014 there's no Nathan Horton to score three OT game-winners as he did in the 2011 series so...maybe Game 1 was an omen?

We'll see, but until Carey Price proves worthy of the Jaroslav Halak mantle and actually pulls an upset or two there will be no awarding of the Steve Penney Trophy until then...or he learns French.

Croskin Enigmas vs. 
King Henrik's Quest

All Fleurys aside, the amount of carping on how long Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, James Neal or Chris Kunitz go through goalless droughts seems to be an annual rite of handwringing in the media. Given these four are the top four in shots and in all the other fancy puck possession stats, it's only a matter of time as Malkin's hat trick vs. the Jackets in Game 6 showed.

It's more that pesky third and fourth line of Pittsburgh (and, yes, Son Of FreddieThe Fog must be kicking himself for tying so much money up in Marc-Andre Fleury such that they had to let Jordan Staal leave...apologies to Brandon Sutter but you're no Brent yet).

This is probably the best analysis of why the Penguins are continually underachievers come playoff time. Remember, Ray Shero, there's no third or fourth line better in the East than in Boston.

As far as the much happier under Alain Vigneault New York Rangers but are we as fans? Who didn't want another Philly vs. Pittsburgh thrillfest or crazy bad goaltending, Crosby fighting Giroux and that nutso fan base in the City of No-Crosby Love on display?

C'est la St. Louis!

These two teams at least were pretty even in their regular season matchups both winning twice with two games going to shootouts. The difference is the Pens are finally healthy and, as much as Henrik Lundqvist's good looks just plain scare down shooters, can a New York Rangers team that went from 12th in goals for under Torts to 18th in goals for under AV really have enough goals in them to outscore the Pens...OK, there is the Fleury factor.

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