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Talking Marlies, NHL playoff hockey and 10 questions

It’s hard to believe (well, not really, it happens every spring at this time), but some teams have already been knocked out of the first round of the NHL playoffs. 

The fact that the perennial-contending (but not as good as they were in their hey-day) Red Wings were the first to go caught me somewhat by surprise.  They just don’t quite have the depth they had years ago, though they remain a strong, well-balanced squad.  As good as Lidstrom is, he is aging and while his teammates love him, the reality is he is not the player he was ten years ago.  How could he be?  He remains an all-time great, but his supporting cast is missing something.

In any event, there have been eight good series- tough, grinding games pretty much every night.  I’ve long had a fondness for the Predators, in that they have really built a solid, stable, first-class organization.  Their GM, David Poile, is a quiet, low-profile but sharp talent evaluator, who built the awful Capitals back in the 1980s into a mini-powerhouse, if not ultimately a championship team.  He has slowly but surely done the same thing in Nashville, while standing by his coach when things didn’t progress as quickly as some might have hoped. I don’t recall that Nashville has had any first overall picks in the entry draft to build with since the team’s earliest days (Legwand? I’m trying to remember…).  He’s just built the franchise judiciously, wisely—despite real financial restraints and ownership challenges.

The Leafs could learn a few things from the Predators, eh?

Speaking of the Leafs (not a great transition, but I have a self-imposed deadline today…), the AHL Marlies are getting more attention than they have at any time since they moved to Toronto from St. John’s.  They’ve jumped out to a healthy early lead in their series with Rochester, and have to feel confident they can move forward from here.  It was important that they prove that their regular-season performance was well-earned, which it was. (I've included a Marlie question below…but by all means share what you find most encouraging about the early playoff success…)

In any event, I’d enjoy hearing from you on a few NHL playoff questions.  Here goes:
  1. Very simple:  should Weber have been suspended for his head smash on Zetterberg? (And has that impacted perception that “stars” yet again get treated differently?
  2. Are you shocked that thre Senators have hung in against a strong Rangers team?  (As I’ve  long acknowledged here, back in October I thought they might win 15 games this season.  Guess I was wrong, eh?)
  3. Will the Canucks come back in their series against LA?
  4. If you could only get to see one of Kovalchuk or Ovehkin in the next round, who would you rather be able to see?
  5. Raffi Torres:  25 games is just right, way too much, or too little?  (While you’re chiming in on that one, please share your views on how we take these kinds of hits so seriously, and we should, I suppose (though Scott Stevens made a living doling out many of these same types of hits), yet Todd Bertuzzi received relatively little for his gutless attack against Steve Moore not that many years ago?  Betuzzi missed the playoffs, yes, and the next season, but never really served the full season because there was no season because of the lockout.  (I just shake my head.)  On that topic, I need to hear something more than “this is the new NHL…Shanahan is taking things more seriously…”.
  6. Are the Bruins done like dinner?  (I still think, and I’m likely alone, that things have never been the same since the Thomas/ White House fiasco.  More likely, it’s just too much to expect a team to repeat in this day and age.  Especially after and long and exhausting four-series run last spring and the seven-game final…)
  7. Everybody seemed to love Sydney Crosby when he represented Canada.  What is it, in your opinion, that is making him such a lightning rod (and in some instances, so disliked, evidently…) in these playoffs?
  8. Do you want the Penguins or Flyers to advance?  Why?
  9. Does seeing the success of Elliot in St. Louis and Anderson in Ottawa rekindle your hope that James Reimer can find his game and be an answer for the Leafs?  (Did anyone really think last season that Anderson and Elliot would be this good?  If so, would they have been traded by their respective teams in the first place?)
  10. Have you been following the Marlies in the playoffs?  Who has stood out for you  so far from what you’ve seen?  (The crowds have been good, too, which is encouraging…)
There are plenty of others questions we could discuss, but for now, let’s think on these.  There’s tons of great action to come in the days ahead….


  1. Weber should have been suspended... yes there is special treatment for stars. He grabbed Zetterberg's head from behind and smashed him into the boards (just like a WWF smash into the turnbuckle) hard enough to crack his helmet. And there was a ref right there and no penalty was even called.

    For this he gets $2,500 (for a guy making how many millions a year?). Meanwhile, coach Quenneville complains about the reffing regarding the Hossa hit and gets a $10,000 fine!! C'mon! I know $2,500 is the max allowed in the player's agreement with the league but it's time to change that to a salary percentage.

    This was very early in the playoffs and had Shanny come down harder with a suspension on a "star" he could have set the tone and maybe the susbsequent thuggery wouldn't have happened. I'm really getting sick and tired of seeing all of these nasty headshots.

    Re Torres, 25 games seems good to me given his history. Some of these other hits deserved way more in terms of a suspension - that and much heavier fines is the only way to stop this nonsense.

  2. I'm with you on the Weber "smash", Gene. Still not sure why that was a fine, and other things we have seen (at least the way things are being judged in the present climate) deserved "x" number of games and his "hit" gets a fine- which we know means nothing to these guys.

  3. I was at yesterday's Marlies game, I usually go to a few each year but what a difference a packed house makes. Was sitting right behind the bench and the stands literally shook with some of the (clean) hitting going on. What a great chance to see half of this year's Leafs team in a tiny venue for a tiny price.
    Joe Colborne seems to be evolving into,if not a goal scorer, an excellent playmaker who may be the one to play with Kessel. Matt Frattin, I think, has power forward potential- the 3rd Marlies goal that he assisted on was a direct result of a big hit he threw first. Jerry D'Amigo was everywhere doing everything-he looked like Doug Gilmour out there and appears to be poised for a big breakthrough. As for Nazem Kadri - a lot of puckhandling on display, but little else.He still needs to get bigger and tougher.

  4. Good stuff, Sean. Glad to hear about D'Amigo, in particular. (I still sense Kadri is in play heading to the draft.....could be moved somewhere.) Thanks for the game observations.

  5. 1. Weber absolutely should have been suspended and there is absolutely a different standard for star players. I also think Weber getting off with a gentle slap on the wrist (his fine is the equivalent of $13 to someone making $40,000) is responsible for the chaos that has enveloped the playoffs.

    2. I'm surprised by how composed they are. They're a very young team and, other than the first game, they haven't shown any nerves. That said, Craig Anderson is a very good goaltender and the Rangers need to work extremely hard to score goals, so maybe it shouldn't have been so surprising!

    3. I certainly hope not.

    4. Kovalchuk. I think he's miles better than Ovechkin as a player.

    5. The thing with Torres is how all the talking heads immediately said "the league is sending a message." What message? If they're going to re-jig the standard and start handing out suspensions with some teeth, then sure, it's a great suspension. But I think we all know that's not going to happen. Hell, the very same day the suspension came down, Chris Neil concusses Brian Boyle with a similar hit and doesn't even get a hearing! I think Shanahan gave Torres all the games that he didn't give Weber, Neal, Backstrom, Keith and everyone else. There's no new standard here. Torres is being made a scapegoat so the NHL can pretend they're serious about player safety.

    As for Bertuzzi, well, he was a star at the time, eh? And as we all know, stars don't get suspended as long as no-name players. Torres even got more than Marty McSorley for his stick attack on Donald Brashear in 2000 (which, in turn, got a lot more than Scott Niedermayer did for a similar attack on Peter Worrell). I do think head hits are more of a priority for the league now than in 2004, but still. If Hossa got up, Torres gets what? Six games?

    6. They really look like it, don't they? I counted only three or four Bruins that were any good yesterday. That team is a mess.

    7. Crosby's issue has always been and will always be hype. TSN and The Hockey News were calling him one of the very best players in hockey before he even played an NHL game! I really think people still resent him for how quickly the NHL's hype machine got behind him. He won me over with his play in 2008 and 2009 (he should have won the Conn Smythe over Malkin, EASILY) but others clearly aren't convinced.

    8. Pittsburgh because of Crosby, but I also really like this Flyers team and wouldn't complain at all to see more of Jaromir Jagr.

    9. Not really. Anderson is an outstanding goalie who had a bad season last year and wanted a long term deal Colorado wasn't prepared to give him (though I think he was good in Ottawa, wasn't he?). Elliot is more of a shock, but St. Louis is also a better place to play goalie than Toronto is, and I do think that's a factor.

    10. Haven't been following them at all.

  6. I enjoyed your comments very much, Dave. (I particularly noted and appreciated your thoughts on question 5 re Torres/Bertuzzi. Thanks for mentioning McSorley/Brashear....)

    Will be interesting to see if the Bruins have anything left later today.

    As for Crosby, I'm amazed he draws as much negative reaction as he does.

    Great post, thanks.

  7. Just for fun:

    1) Weber should definitely have been given a suspension.
    2) I thought the Sens would be gone in 5. Loving their tough play.
    3) I hope not. There's something about that team that just tees me off. And i like what Sutter has been able to accomplish.
    4) Kovalchuk all the way. Ovie seems to have lost his joie d'hockey over the last couple of years.
    5) Well, Torres gets the heavy suspension because of his rep, I'd say. I can't see any consistency in these calls. Let's see what happens to Neal.
    6) I hope they're done. The Bruins are one of my least favorite teams. They're also not getting the cross-the-board contributions they got last year.
    7) No likes an "anointed" superstar, I guess. But there's no question, in my books, that Crosby's one of the greats. I hope he's able to triumph over his health issues next year - it would be good to see what he could do over a full season.
    8) I want the Pens to advance, because the Flyers exist side by side with the Bruins on my hate list... but as I type, the Flyers have knocked them out. It will be good to see the Flyers get taken out later in the playoffs.
    9) The problem is that Reimer seems to have lost his game due to his head injury. I don't feel that's equatable to the other guys. I have real doubts, based on his play this year, that he'll return to form for at least another year. And to be honest, we don't really know what that form is.
    10) I'm following in the press, just to see who we might have up on the big squad next year.

  8. Thanks for that Gerund O'....And I'm with you, I hope Crosby is fully healthy next season, and stays that way.

    Canuck game should be intriguing tonight!

  9. 1. Yes, Weber should've got some games (and even 2 or 4 would've been a stronger statement than Torres' 25).
    2. Surprised, not shocked. I like Murray's mgmt and he/McLean have done a great job. What IS shocking is me finding myself occasionally rooting for the bad guys from Ottawa!
    3. No. LA in 6 or 7.
    4. Kovalchuk. Ovie isn't doing anything gr8 anymore.
    5. 25 is too much for Torres. 10 or 12 would be enough. He's a decent offensive player with a screw loose. This one was too easy for Shanhan. Should've been gutsy and given Weber, Neale, Keith, something severe.
    6. You may be right with the White House thing, but if they can somehow win this series, they may get their "cup" groove back. I hope not.
    7. I like Sid the Kid and I blame Cherry and his ilk for the negativity. He holds a grudge for something he did as a 16 yr old (when he scored the hotdog goal). He was a child!! But Cherry's never gotten over it. And the hypocrisy of telling him to "just play hockey" and stay away from the physical aspect, saying he should do what Stamkos and Briere do? Those 2 guys have had their share of "dirty" moments. Crosby's an intense guy and to make his plays, he needs to go in the dirty areas and if he gets targeted, he needs to stand up for himself. Other than in Philly (or any other city he's playing in), it's fine for him to face fan animosity, but from the likes of Cherry, Milbury, Tortorella, etc., is just plain bush league. Shame on them.
    8. Philly just won, but either one would be fine. This was quite an entertaining series.
    9. There's always hope, but things in Leafland tend to have unique circumstances whereby we can't apply another team's blueprint here. It just doesn't happen.
    10. Just in the highlights. I hear Scrivens is playing well, and Gardiner and Frattin are contributing solidly.


  10. Well said Caedmon...I especially noted your assessment on questions 5 and 7. (And I tend to agree that we can almost never apply what happens elsewhere to what could happen with the Leafs...) Thanks Caedmon.

  11. Wow - so many topics!
    1) I think Weber should've gotten at least a game, maybe 2. That wasn't a play that was ever legal and was not as a result of any check, it was afterwards and was more like an intent to injure.
    2) I can't stand the Sens and was hoping for a blow out for the Rangers. That said, had no idea they could come together so well.
    3)Not likely. But I'd like to see another Van win.
    4) Neither, but Ovie if I had to choose. I don't find Kovalchuk all that interesting as a player and as Gerund above me said, Ovie is looking far too disinterested.
    5) With respect to Bertuzzi, it is too late to complain about that penalty, but starting in the playoffs seems to be a bit odd to send a message. Consistent application of penalties from the beginning of the season would have been more effective. That said, if it actually starts to make a difference, more power to Shanny. Torres is a scapegoat right now. Neil hit Boyle in a blindside and got nothing...
    6)The White House thing shouldn`t have had any impact really, but I hope the Bruins fall.
    7)The best players seem to get the most attention good or bad. I love the `Kid` but he has whined a bit much. But those who say he `sucks`when he doesn`t play on their team, need to find another chant. There isn`t a team out there that wouldn`t love to have him.
    8)Pens, but obviously they didn't. Not fond of Philly in the least - they yell/whine as much as the next team and then complain that they're persecuted because of a years old reputation.
    9)I think that Reimer still has an opportunity to show he's the real deal. A concussion never helps anyone. If the Leafs only rely on him with no d-plan, then all bets off - the kid's confidence will be shot.
    10)Have watched a few Marlies games this year and most recently the second game of the playoffs - Lots from D'Amigo, Colborne and Frattin - not enough consistently from Kadri (but I saw a lot of that in London when he was a Knight) and liking Gardiner as usual. Trying to see what the big deal is about this Ashton kid is...

  12. sportsgrl.....I nodded throughout your responses. Well said and well thought-out. All great points on Weber, Obie and Ilya, Neil and Crosby.

    I believe Remer will show us something next season. Thanks.

  13. 1. Weber should have been suspended. Unacceptable actions. League needs to start suspending on intent as well as severity of injury.
    2. I thought this would be a 5 or 6 game series at the most in the Rangers favour. Very impressed with Ottawa.
    3. I don't see LA letting up. It would be a shame to see Vancouver go so early as a Canadian team and because their regular season record was best in the league. I had LA as a Cup contending team before the season though.
    4. I would expect to see Ovechkin but their regular season blunder counter-acts that thought. NJ is a boring team but Kovalchuk is a stud. I would think having the Capitals move on would make for more exciting hockey.
    5. I think 'inconsistent' and 'double standard' are words that reflect the era of Shanahan so far. We cannot dwell on the past though, its about making right of the present and future for player safety.
    6. I think the Bruins have the best chance (looking at Vancouver and now departed Pens) of coming back. If Thomas played in Canada, the White house snub wouldn't have been an issue. It was a great distraction created by the media. If the Caps didn't have such a poor season, we would expect to see a series like this in the semis or finals so I don't see what the fuss is about.
    7. I only see the hate in the American media trying to create something out of the Pennsylvanian rivals. They cannot pick on Fluery, Bryz has been equally as bad or worse. We've all heard the Russian stereotypes. So they pick of the Captain and arguably the best player in the league.
    8. It won't matter to me. I enjoy both teams and I think the winner will be in the East finals.
    9. I have hopes Reimer will rebound next year and give us a chance to win every night. I'm sure Ottawa doesn't care, they got rid of Elliot and got Anderson. Colorado probably doesn't care that they let go of Elliot as Varlamov is a solid depend goalie and Giggy is a 1.5 cap hit that has played very well. Elliot could be a one year wonder, save for Mason, or could be just thriving under a Hitchcock system. I have my doubts on his awesome year being a annual thing.
    10. I haven't watched, I've read Frattin is lighting it up.

  14. It seems to be unanimous here, Skill2Envy, that Weber deserved something. That leads to the rest of the consistency/Shanny debate...

    Interesting point on Crosby. You may well be right, but I sense even some Canadian hockey fans seem to have a kind of anti-Crosby (if I can call it that) slant as well.

    Good stuff. Thanks.

  15. 1. No Weber is not a repeat offender. The fine was right. Secondly, if Zetterberg ( a guy who never hits) doesn't get his elbow into the back of Weber's head at the end of the game the retaliation never happens. A lot od people who admire the Red Wings becuase they never fight refuse to acknowledge that they are one of the dirtiest teams in the game. They are always giving little cross checks, little slashes little pushes in the back etc. When someone finally snaps they cry a river. Spare me.

    2.Somewhat shocked, but not overly. The Rangers usually play to win by a goal. That is a tough way to win in the playoffs. There is no room for error. Of all the teams Ottawa probably matches up the best in terms of toughness they won't be intimidated. Imagine the Leafs in this series, it would be over already.


    4.Don't care about either.

    5.Absolutley right. The guy is a 4 time repeat offender this year alone. Unlike Weber he has a history abd he has shown no inclination to change at all. 4 times in one year called before Shannahan, absolutley ridiculous.

    6.Bruins will come back. They won game 6 and Seguin and Lucic show signs of waking up. I like the Bruins and the way they play.

    7.People throw rocks at shiny things. Crosby is the best player in the game on one of the best teams in the league. A lot of it is simple jealousy. I would like to see a series between Crosby and Giroux after Crosby has played a whole year healthy.

    8.Don't really care, although Philly advanced. Kinda sorta coming around to the Blues, a team that is everything that Burke promised the Leafs would be.

    9.Never lost faith in Riemer. Think the injury played more havok than either he or the Leafs admitted. He missed the the last two weeks with a neck injury, making me wonder if the oringinal injury was misdiagnosed.

    10.Just the highlights. Sounds like D'Amigo is one of those third line guys who come up big at crucial times. Frattin seems to be playing well.

  16. We haven't chatted in a while, Willbur (not much Leaf news, eh?). Good to hear from you.

    Your take on Weber is different from others here, but I always respect your perspective on these things. I thought he deserve something, but I hear what you're saying about the Wings in terms of style of play and Torres and his penchant for these over the line hits.

    Thanks for your thoughts on Crosby. Sometimes the criticism baffles me a bit, but everyone is pointing to pretty much the same thing...

    I wonder about Reimer and the initial diagnosis as well. We seemed to hear at his year-end media interview that it was the neck all along, no?

    Thanks Willbur.

  17. 1. Yes, this is hockey, not a barroom brawl.
    2. No. The Rangers have possibly the greatest goaltender in the world, and that has helped hide some of their deficiencies until now. (That the Leafs managed to win two of four games against the Rangers -plus bringing a third to a shootout- takes away some of NY's shine in my mind, though perhaps I'm being a bit unfair here.)
    3. Going with Schneider might give the team the spark they need, though I hope Quick manages to stand his ground.
    4. Anyone but Ovechkin.
    5. 25 games was perfectly appropriate. It is disgusting that someone can be given five or six games (or a fine, or even nothing!) for the sort of brutal assault that would have landed them in prison if it had occured off ice. Yes, a certain amount of violence is part of the game, but intentional injuring someone to the point they need to be carried off the ice in a stretcher should be unacceptable.
    6. Hopefully, though one wonders if things might have turned out differently without Rask's injury...
    7. He is currently the best player in the league. Plus, he has traits that are considered "unmanly", which brings out the inner misogynist in many sports fans.
    8. My only interest in either team is seeing which goaltender will implode the most spectacularly.
    9. As much as I hate to say it, I have very little hope that Reimer will bounce back. While his injury certainly had some effect, the general consensus I get from professional scouts and goaltending experts is that outside of some Leaf fans, few others feel he has the potential to be a genuine #1 in the league, and that a lot of his earlier success was the result of the book not being out on him yet. Here's hoping they're wrong, and he turns out to be the "real deal" (both for the Leaf's sake, and because he seems like a nice young man).
    10. I haven't seen any Marlies playoff action yet, but in the most recent regular season game I went to I was impressed by the "heart" the players showed. They were down three goals early in the first period, and yet unlike the Leafs, it never felt like the team gave up. Hopefully this confidence can be carried intact by any callups to the big league next year.

  18. Great post Alexandra.

    You raise Rask....While Thomas has been really good at times, you do wonder if Rask may have seen action by now.

    Canucks are still hanging in as I write this!

    Interesting thought vis-a-vis Crosby.

    I sense we'll all be wondering about Reimer until he is back, healthy and presumably ready in September and gets to play a stretch of games. But if there's a new goalie in town, will he get that chance?

    Thanks Alexandra.

  19. Weber gets $2,500 fine for banging Zetterburg's head against the glass. Delonte West gets a $25,000 fine in the NBA for a wet willie! The NHL looks ridiculous, yet so does the NBA.

  20. Can't argue at all with you, Greg. Thanks for dropping by.

  21. mike, today i'm thanking myself for being a leafs fan and not a canucks fan... the leafs didnt' earn an opportunity to be in the playoffs, but the canucks not only earned the opportunity but were top of the league (and then subsequently eliminated in the FIRST ROUND!). shameful!

  22. I hear you, Alex C. As Leaf people, we all understand the Canucks are a much better (and better constructed) team than the Leafs. And we won't hide behind the "well, they only lasted one more week than us" dodge. But it must indeed be difficult to lose as they did, after being so close to a Cup a year ago. It's not like the Red Wings, who really deserved to be the fourth oversell seed, but because of the NHL way of doing the playoffs (Phoenix seeded higher because of winning a poor division), they had to start on the road against a tough Nashville team.

    The Canucks played the straight-up 8th seed, had home ice, and did not advance. There will be months of deep thinking out west, I'm sure....