Monday, April 28, 2008

Is it 1996 again? I bet Shanny wishes it was

Well, we’re several days into the second round of the NHL playoffs and there’s a lot that I feel needs to be addressed. Let’s start out West where many were hoping to turn back the clock to the late nineties when both the Red Wings and Avalanche were the cream of the crop and their rivalry was as fierce as any in all of sports. Well after two games, times have clearly changed. The physical brutality of the past is gone, replaced by the speed and finesse of Datsyuk (once a playoff no show), Zetterberg, and Johan “Mule” Franzen. I can only guess that Franzen garnered this nickname by smuggling meds from Sweden for an aging Steve Yzerman and Dom Hasek during the Swedes’ rookie year. While I was hoping to see the Lemieuxs, Roys, McCartys, and Larianovs come back to duke it out that has not been the case. The bad blood is gone and the lack of bloodshed is somewhat disappointing. While “Burnaby” Joe Sakic continues to do his thing, Forsberg, Hejduk, Smyth, and Statsny have been non-factors. The Avs should have the firepower to keep up, but as much as I hate to say it, Detroit has been a much more disciplined and responsible team. Here’s hoping Ian Laperriere does something somewhat like this.

The Dallas Stars just completed a road sweep in San Jose with Mike Modano playing like its 1999 and Mike Ribeiro actually playing hockey. I guess he isn’t going to sit on that big fat contract and act like a giant bitch. The Sharks, always a pre-season favorite look overwhelmed by the Stars who are actually a real hockey team now with Modano, Ribeiro and Brad Richards down the middle. Brett Hull must be pretty happy.

Out East the Flyers have been able to hold the swift Canadiens at bay, having lost Game 1 as the Canadiens tied the score late in third and won it in overtime after Alexei Kovalev did his best Oksana Baiul impression. In Games 2 and 3, The FLyers nearly lost third period leads but held on to win and now lead the series 2-1. Who knew Marty Biron could actually stop a puck?Apparently, they’re not as over-matched as many pundits believed. I would be much happier if both teams decided to beat each others brains in and gave up the whole hockey thing.

Lastly, we come the NHL’s biggest media darling since the Fox Trax puck vs. the NHL’s biggest media market in what is considered by many to be the ultimate match up in good vs. evil. The Penguins led by Sidney Crosby, the only NHLer most people know because the NHL can only market one player at a time, currently lead the evil New York Rangers led by Emperor Jagr and his disciple Darth Avery two games to nil. While the Rangers had Game 1 wrapped up with a three goal lead, they decided to give the game to the Pens and allowed for what turned out to be a phantom interference call against Martin Straka, drawn by none other than Sidney Christ Crosby. While the play was clearly a case of Sidney buying a call from the league officials, the game should never have gotten to that point. The Rangers should have shut the door and taken Game 1 on the road.
Game 2 was the defensive game the Rangers wanted to play, but managed to blow that one by playing tight defense but forgetting to show up on the offensive end. Only a few rushes led by Jagr led to any decent scoring chance. The line of Callahn-Drury-“Black Magic” were relentless on the forecheck but had nothing to show for it at the end of the game. Aside from that trio the Rangers lacked the speed to pressure the Pens to force the D-men on their heels. Their powerplay was atrocious with Shannahan setting up in the crease instead of the left faceoff dot to let go his lethal one-timer. As old as Shanny is he can still fire the puck, but the Rangers coaches thought Scott Gomez’s sublime passing skills was better off being wasted playing catch with Chris Drury on the half boards. As has been the case all season, the Rangers power play has been more of a power outage, which is unfortunate because of all the talent on this team. I suggested to a few people earlier today to get more speed on Gomez’s wings during even strength play, and Coach Tom Renney read my mind by switching Prucha and Shanny in practice. This would seem like a smart tactical move had Prucha played at the end of the season instead of riding the pine in favor of Colton Orr. Personally, Freddie Sjo would have been a better choice as he is a former first round pick, has some decent offensive skills, and a little less rust. Going back to MSG Tuesday should give the Rangers a huge boost, as they are 4-0 against the Penguins at the World’s Most Over-priced Arena.

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