Thursday, April 27, 2006

The GAME of the night
Avalanche 4, Stars 3 (OT)

Colorado leads series 3-0

It's going to be an effort that is unparalleled from what we've seen from our group. Our backs are against the wall. When teams are desperate and guys are desperate, guys seem to play well. We're going to expect to win. Nothing has been handed to them yet.
- Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco

53 wins in the regular season. 112 points. And it's all going up in smoke for the Dallas Stars.

I'm glad this isn't a Canadian team about to be swept by the Avalanche, or else the local suicide hotline would be experiencing abnormal call volumes.

The one thing Stars fans are truly lamenting is that GM Doug Armstrong locked up goaltender Marty Turco to a $22.8 -million, four-year contract extension in January. Turco had a mediocre season and has a reputation as being unable to come up big in the playoffs — something that has definitely come to fruition in this series. His performance here could put Armstrong's job in jeopardy.

(Take note that the teams I said had the best chance of being swept yesterday, do, in fact, have the best chance.)

Hurricanes 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
Montreal leads series 2-1

I understand how exciting it is. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. My ears are still ringing.
- Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward

I think he bit his tongue. But they missed the one on Saku, and that one was more obvious than Stillman. If you give it with four minutes left, give the other one, too. But four minutes for biting the tongue? I don't get it.
- Montreal Canadiens centre Mike Ribeiro

I've been saying it to people all year, and only now — finally — he's living up to it. Cam Ward's a great young goaltender.

He had a rough regular season as a rookie backup behind Martin Gerber, but Ward's pedigree — he was the runner-up to Sidney Crosby for the 2004 major-junior player of the year award — certainly points to him being an NHL starter for years to come.

That said, he did just turn 22, and if the Habs can rattle him in Game 4, the series is still all Montreal's. The only thing I know for sure is that we're not likely to see Martin Gerber again.

The big worry for Montreal is that captain Saku Koivu took a stick near the eye from Justin Williams in the second period. Koivu received stitches and was taken to hospital to see an eye specialist, but more information as to the injury's severity is as yet unavailable.

Flyers 4, Sabres 2
Buffalo leads series 2-1

Forsberg, I've always said, can win a game by himself. He's been through enough wars in the playoffs. He got a couple of lucky bounces, but he made a difference.
- Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff

Well, we've got a series (finally). And Forsberg has arrived.

The all-time playoff points-per-game leader among active players, Forsberg is where the Flyers' chances to climb out of this hole begin and end. For all of the talk about how Philadelphia is built on slow veterans, their roster is also equally stocked with slick youngsters — and it's those guys, as much as the oldies, that aren't getting it done offensively. I'm looking at you Joni Pitkanen, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Freddy Meyer and Niko Dimitrakos.

The Buffalo fans are going to tear me limb from limb if I don't acknowledge how well they've played in this series, but that's not what's been a huge surprise. What is is that their opposition barely showed up in the first two games.

Players like Tim Connolly and Max Afinogenov looked fantastic out there, and Brian 'Soupy' Campbell is quickly establishing himself as a bonafide top pairing defender. I see very good things in the Sabres future, especially if goaltender Ryan Miller has permanently busted out of the funk that consumed the latter half of his season.

Devils 3, Rangers 0
New Jersey leads series 3-0

You never know. We have nothing to lose. We're almost dead.
- New York Rangers sniper Jaromir Jagr

Exhibit A as to why Joe Thornton should win the Hart Trophy.

While we're only three games into all eight series, I feel pretty comfortable saying this: My pre-playoff predictions were terrible. That said, to the enimity of all Ranger-dom, I was almost certain this would be a short series in the Devils favour.

Before this season, a ton of pundits picked New Jersey to take a big step back this year without Scott Niedermayer, but I really believe the cast GM Lou Lamoriello picked to replace who he lost made for an improved club. (Adding underrated guys like Brad Lukowich and Ken Klee to the blueline at the deadline was also a stroke of Lamoriello-like genius by Lamoriello.)

This series was really a bad draw for New York, who would have matched up much better with Philadelphia or Buffalo had the last-day-of-the-season Atlantic Division seedings worked out differently. Still, this was a great comeback season for the Rangers, and there's a lot there to build on for next year. (Depth would be the first place I'd start.)

UPDATE Some of the comments on this post were borderline defamatory and, as such, were removed. I don't want to have the site get to a point where we can't have comments at all, so I'll have to ask that we all behave ourselves here.



At 7:14 a.m., April 27, 2006, Blogger alyosha mcbain said...

Oh, my soul hurts...but it was still a great season for the Rangers. And James--you are so right--a little depth would help, especially on defense. I can't believe how bad Sandis Ozolinsh has been for the Rangers. Counting the playoffs they are 9-14 since Ozo the Clown's arrival in NYC.

Maybe you're right about the Devils bringing home their third Cup of the Brodeur Era (I don't count strike season championships as counting in any sport). Patrik Elias is the best player to have ever played for the Devils, but Devils fans still love their departed oldtimers--such as one-time sexual assault suspect Scott Stevens and toothless recovered alcoholic Ken Daneyko--more. It's a mystery to me. Will the Devils sign Elias when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the offseason? They would be foolish not to.

At 8:45 a.m., April 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2:15 p.m., April 27, 2006, Blogger alyosha mcbain said...

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