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:
- 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?
- 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?)
- Will the Canucks come back in their series against LA?
- If you could only get to see one of Kovalchuk or Ovehkin in the next round, who would you rather be able to see?
- 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…”.
- 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…)
- 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?
- Do you want the Penguins or Flyers to advance? Why?
- 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?)
- 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….