After an incredible first round of the playoffs, there’s no rest for the weary as the second round kicks off tonight in Vancouver. Before we move along to that, we give our thoughts on how things shook out last night before we look ahead to the future.
1. If they’re not lauding Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher already in Tampa Bay, they’ll probably start building them statues soon enough. What’s most interesting about how Yzerman has handled things in Tampa is that he recognized early on in the season that his team had a major issue in goal. With Mike Smith and Dan Ellis struggling and the Lightning defense not jelling quite yet, Yzerman made the move to get Dwayne Roloson out of Long Island.
While Roloson goes through his fits of giving up lots of goals now and then, it’s never for an extended period. He shakes off bad games and plays strong in the next one. The kind of strong backstopping he’s provided Tampa has been immense and it’s paying off in a big way now. Shutting out the Penguins in Game 7 and looking calm and cool while doing it speaks volume for how he works.
2. I know the Penguins getting bounced out of the playoffs is a disappointment for fans in Pittsburgh, but they should be proud of that team for doing as well as they did. If nothing else, the worth of both GM Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma was proven and thensome in dealing without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as well as the circus sideshow of Matt Cooke. They dealt with injuries, suspensions, and the perpetual focus on Crosby no matter what he was doing to keep his team locked in and ready to win. If only Bylsma could cast a magic spell to fix his power play and make it work better against the Lightning (1-35 in the series). If nothing else, going out in such a tough way this year will only light the fire more to win it all next year.
3. For all the problems the Penguins had with their power play in losing, somehow Boston and their even worse power play (0-21 in the series) managed to soldier on and beat Montreal. While Boston was able to get past a lower ranked team with such inability, getting past Philadelphia while not taking advantage of power play time will make life a lot harder on them. For all the answers Tomas Kaberle was supposed to provide for the Bruins power play, it’s somehow gotten even worse in Boston. It’s been pointed out too often by now that Kaberle doesn’t shoot enough or at all on the power play, he’d better get his confidence up to pull the trigger now. The Bruins will need the offense.
4. Sure fans in Montreal are disappointed with losing and I understand that coach Jacques Martin is able to coach and stress defensive strength with the best of them, but one thing the Habs should do next season is learning to push the game offensively over the course of a full 60 minutes. Too many times did the Habs turn tail and dig in defensively when getting a lead and with the sort of offensive talent they’ve got there’s zero reason to sit back and do that. With guys like Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Andrei Kostitsyn there ready to break out and score, it’s a shame to not see them not utilized more for anything other than to just dump the puck into corners and go off for a change when they’ve got a lead.
That kind of strategy worked great before the lockout, now it leads to heart attack inducing closing minutes of games. In the Habs case, the final period and a half of a game would turn into a game of “dump the puck out of the zone and wait for a power play to go back on the attack.” It’s a crap style to play and while it’s hard to argue with a coach that’s made the playoffs doing things that way, playing it obscenely safe like that is death.
5. I can’t quite recall a round of the playoffs in the NHL being this exhilirating in a long time. The last hockey-related playoffs I can remember being this memorable was the 2009 NCAA Tournament that saw thrilling games, overtime games, and upsets all throughout the tournament that culminated with Boston University’s unreal comeback. There they came back from being down two goals in the final minute of the game to tie Miami University and then eventually winning the national championship in overtime.
This time around, we saw four series go to Game 7 and two of those Game 7s went to overtime. That’s just incredible drama to have right at the start of the playoffs. If you’re thinking the rest of the way will be hurting for drama, a pair of second round rematches with San Jose facing Detroit and Boston facing Philadelphia should convince you otherwise.