2008 Playoffs: Round 1, Day 1
The good news? Pay your cable bill, friend, because the best hockey month of the year is upon us. ... For the Canadian male April is like Christmas without the bills and inlaws, with two meaningful games on television every night for two weeks.I love this time of year.
There's no way I'm going to be ambitious enough to do a roundup every night of the postseason, but since this was Day 1, here are a few musings on the four games.
- The best period I saw was the third of the Minnesota-Colorado tilt. The Wild don't open it up very often, but when down by two, they had to and it made for great hockey. And Joe Sakic's terrific to watch in the postseason, every year.
- Jose Theodore got shelled and looked pretty good.
- The Senators were easily the worst team on opening night. Very, very little to like about their game in this one, other than perhaps the play of Marty Gerber in goal, and it's going to be an awfully short series if Pittsburgh runs away with Game 2. Tom Benjamin's right: What on earth happened in Ottawa?
- I was glad to see the Flames win, if only to back up Matt Fenwick's optimistic (and well-reasoned) guide to why Calgary can win. He could have just written "Jarome Iginla" and not heard a word from this corner.
- Speaking of Sharks-Flames, Miikka Kiprusoff was terrific there, continuing his strong play down the stretch. His overall numbers this season are nothing to write home about, but perhaps this will be a case of him finding his game late and against his former team?
- No sooner did I say "Todd Fedoruk's on the power play?" than the big lug potted the Wild's tying goal. Jacques Lemaire knows what he's doing.
- Is there a worse player for Ottawa to lose than Anton Volchenkov? He wasn't looking well after taking a puck to the face. (Minnesota's Mark Parrish also looks like a write-off after a hard check put him head-first into the boards.)
- I saw the least of Rangers-Devils, but part of what gave New York the win was exactly why I picked them as a dark horse in the East: A lot of the Rangers' success late in the year has come as the result of some fine performances from unheralded youngsters, guys like rookie Ryan Callahan, who had the winner here on the penalty kill. Marc Staal was No. 2 in minutes on the back end and Dan Girardi was fourth (and he was plus-3 on the night). Brandon Dubinsky, who joins Scott Gomez as a native Alaskan, has also excelled down the stretch, giving New York some badly needed depth at forward. Very quietly, Tom Renney's turned this team into a defensive powerhouse. (Benching Marek Malik?)
- If Sean Avery has a postseason that looks like it did tonight, he'll be a highly coveted man on the free-agent market July 1.
- I still say the Wild have more underrated young talent than any team in the league. Brent Burns is terrific, as are Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. They'd all be household names — and first-liners — on Canadian teams. Jim Sheppard, 19, looks like a keeper, too.
- Speaking of underrated: Michal Rozsival. Heck, Kurt Sauer's having a great year, too.
- Derek Boogaard played a record nine minutes without punching a soul.
- Gary Roberts has 14 of his career 32 playoff goals against Ottawa, a team that came into the NHL in his seventh NHL season. No wonder Eugene wanted him.
- Players who were minus-3 on opening day: John Madden and Paul Martin.
- The Flames' disputed third goal, where Iginla bumped the net, was a good one, and I hope the league makes that call every time. As long as the goal doesn't leave its position before the puck's on its way in, count 'em.
- Speaking of which, that was a situation where Brian Campbell should have (but couldn't) knocked the attacker on his can. Advantage Dion Phaneuf.
- CBC's Steve Armitage liked saying 'fro-hawk' a little too much. Maybe he can work it into every postgame interview.
Day 1, ice time leaders
Calgary: Iginla 23:32
San Jose: Thornton 23:03
Minnesota: Koivu 25:50
Colorado: Stastny 26:19
N.Y. Rangers: Gomez 20:03
New Jersey: Madden 19:22
Ottawa: Heatley 26:13
Pittsburgh: Malkin 19:32
Calgary: Phaneuf 28:42
San Jose: Campbell 27:07
Minnesota: Johnsson 32:58
Colorado: Foote 25:41
N.Y. Rangers: Rozsival 25:08
New Jersey: Martin 22:31
Ottawa: Phillips 21:16
Pittsburgh: Gonchar 26:44