Today’s five thoughts take us around the action during last night’s playoff action and we’ve got kudos to give out to a pair of teams that knotted up their series while we praise one team that’s up 2-0 in their series while we get concerned over the other one.
1. Got a funny feeling we’re in it for the long haul with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. What a response in Game 2 by the Lightning as they jumped out 3-0 on Pittsburgh after one period and didn’t let go the rest of the way en route to a 5-1 win. They got production from all lines and got a huge game out of Simon Gagne (three assists). After such an effortless Game 1, Game 2 proved to be just the tonic they needed. Now we’ll see how Pittsburgh counterpunches on the road in Games 3 and 4. Pittsburgh’s been a tremendous road team this year (24-11-6) but Tampa’s record at home is equally impressive (25-11-5).
2. Not to get all smug on you here, but I’m feeling good about picking the Caps to make the Stanley Cup final. While many were rightfully pointing out how sluggish the Rangers defense looked in last night’s 2-0 loss, let’s give credit to the Capitals defense for helping make them look bad. The Rangers outshot Washington 22-18 last night but the Capitals blocked 21 other shots. The Caps are getting in the way of anything New York tries to do offensively and it’s working perfectly so far.
3. The Canucks got the test they didn’t get in Game 1 and they responded decently. A 4-3 win that saw Chicago never really go away and made the game uncomfortable was a good test for them to see just how they could handle a pesky team that gives them fits and doesn’t back down. Each time Chicago got close, Vancouver was able to fend them off with a goal or buckling down defensively. The Canucks the last two seasons in the playoffs lose that game so it was a great win for them in that respect.
4. There’s concerns for me about this Canucks team though. Chicago, despite all their bogeyman qualities for Vancouver, is a team they should be handling with relative ease. In Game 1 they had puck luck on their side as Blackhawks shots were hitting posts and preserving the shutout. In Game 2 they bunkered down in the waning minutes of the game and Chicago took it to them without coming up with the tying goal. Good on Vancouver for winning these games, but if nothing else Chicago is providing us with a couple of red flags for the Canucks.
5. Anaheim certainly found a way to respond to Nashville after being humbled in Game 1. The Ducks top line took it to the Predators and played the way they’re more than capable of doing. They need that brand of effort each game to win though. We’ll see how they’re able to handle a potential Bobby Ryan suspension as he very stupidly attempted to stomp on Jonathon Blum’s foot in the third period. One concern for me with the Ducks though is their defense. It’s much too passive. I realize this isn’t the 2007 team that thumped everyone along the way to the Stanley Cup, but this Ducks defense has to be more physical.