Friday, May 02, 2008

So much for Round 2
Stars, Flyers emerge as contenders

I managed to get home tonight to catch the end of the Detroit-Colorado game tonight, although it really wasn't much of a game. The Avalanche's season is going down in flames in this one, an ugly 8-2 loss to cap an ugly four-game sweep by the Red Wings.

Yes, Colorado's beat up, but the eighth seeded Predators put up a far more respectable fight than this in Round 1.

All in all, this has been the most anticlimactic playoff round in recent memory, with three series that went 3-0 to start and another at 3-1. The Sharks and Rangers managed to grab back a game and prolong the agony, but I can't see either team pulling off a 4-0 run.

Unless the Habs can beat the odds, get some good goaltending out of Carey Price on Saturday (and beyond), and come back, we're looking at Detroit-Dallas and Pittsburgh-Philadelphia in the conference finals, matchups few predicted going in.

The Wings and Penguins are hardly surprises, but the Stars and Flyers? In a prepostseason poll I ran asking who would win the Cup, out of 422 votes, four went to Dallas and three to Philadelphia. (Perhaps Brett Hull and Paul Holmgren are readers.)

By comparison, Detroit finished third with 65 and Pittsburgh fourth with 62. San Jose and Montreal were the top choices, but both are on the brink, 11 games in.

In my mind, the No. 1 reason for the "surprise" factor with respect to Dallas' and Philadelphia's success is in goal, as few were willing to bank on the Martys, Turco and Biron, going in. One had had mixed playoff success in the past; the other had none to speak of at age 30.

Both are now early Conn Smythe candidates.

The Stars and Flyers are interesting case studies in how quickly things can turn around these days. Dallas, for one, was ranked second in the league, three points back of Detroit as late as the trade deadline, and I recall thinking the acquisition of Brad Richards (and his subsequent five-point debut) bode well for their chances to make a run.

Then they fell apart down the stretch, managing just four wins in 14 games to close the year, and there wasn't hardly an expert out there taking a flyer on them to win three games, much less two rounds, in the playoffs. (All the while without their top two defencemen, no less.)

The Flyers, meanwhile, were hockey's worst team last season by a longshot, 11 points behind 29th-place Phoenix, and added a few big pieces to turn things around. They're well-coached, with great special teams, they play hard and they're built for the playoffs. And adding Vinny Prospal at the deadline looks genius at this point.

Even so, I imagine everyone's envisioning a Detroit-Pittsburgh final, Crosby and the octopus. Or am I getting ahead of myself?
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18 Comments:

At 12:53 AM, May 02, 2008, Anonymous Ryan said...

The Stars have been an underrated team all year, even when they were just a few points back of first overall. That said, anyone who thought Marty Turco would be the weak link on a team whose defence in round one was headed up by Stephane Robidas puts way too much stock in silly stats, like Turco's first round record.

 
At 1:09 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

I'm among those who wrote off Dallas to start the playoffs, but I liked their chances for most of the year. I really didn't like San Jose's chances to be honest, and thought it was weird that they were runaway favourites apparently.

I'd like to believe Montreal can come back, but even if they do (and I don't think they will), they're not going to beat Pittsburgh after playing 14 games in the first two rounds. Montreal's inability to score first is the real story of that series, dominating the play but unable to get a single lead in the series (the game they won, in OT, they never had a lead all game). They've fallen down 2-0 in every game eventually before they finally broke through on Biron. I've yelled so many curse words at my TV the past week... they've lost all meaning.

Philly won't win, I can tell you that much from watching this series.

 
At 1:32 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger Delicious said...

Then they fell apart down the stretch, managing just four wins in 14 games to close the year, and there wasn't hardly an expert out there taking a flyer on them to win three games, much less two rounds, in the playoffs.

You'd like to think that stuff like this would stop people from predicting playoff success based on the stretch run. It seems like the relationship is kind of weak -- not non-existent (Ottawa), but not strongly predictive (Washington).

 
At 2:09 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger Todd said...

Not to mention that the Stars have been one of the top teams in the 2-3 previous March's, only to bow out weakly in the first round.

 
At 2:58 AM, May 02, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any possibility that Soupy will attempt to discipline/suspend Malkin for his slewfoots before the empty net goal in game 4?

I know he hates slewfoots and I know that he did one on Paul Mara late in the 3rd(and it looked like a possible 2nd one after he did Mara on the other D-man near the blue line.)

 
At 10:16 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

At the end of the first round, I said that, if the Red Wings keep playing the way that they are playing, no one is going to beat them. I stand by that assessment. Yes, Colorado had a bunch of injuries, but they got steamrolled. Down by a goal with 4 1/2 minutes to play in Game 3, the Avs were able to get control of the puck inside the Detroit zone for less than fifteen seconds over the remainder of the game. With the extra attacker, they couldn't even get the puck out of their own end.

 
At 10:24 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger Steve Patterson said...

i really think dallas takes detroit. marty turco is by far the best goaltender left in the playoffs and detroit has had a really easy ride. if dallas can beat anaheim and san jose with ease, detroit shouldn't be much more of a problem for them.

and yeah, the second round has been terrible on the whole. everybody has said how great the hockey has been this playoffs. i'd disagree and challenge anyone to note one playoff series so far that will be remembered 5 years from now.

 
At 11:24 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger Doogie said...

I had Dallas, actually. I took one look at the Sharks, saw their playoff history and their struggles against Calgary, and thought there's no damned way. Philly, on the other hand, surprised me a little by continually finding ways to win...or should I say Montreal's surprised me a lot by continually finding ways to lose? I guess it's both, really. I continue to believe the Habs can come back, though even if they do, they're toast against the Penguins, make no mistake.

I think the first round was fantastic, actually. The second round's been a sheer bloody bomb to make up for it, though. If all three series end on the next game, that will mean exactly 19 second-round games played, which has to be a record low since the seven-game quarterfinal was introduced with the '67 expansion.

 
At 1:42 PM, May 02, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take 1991 revisited instead of 1997.

And the same outcome would be nice.

 
At 1:52 PM, May 02, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

marty turco is by far the best goaltender left in the playoffs and detroit has had a really easy ride.

I love the fact that three weeks ago, Turco was widely reviled as being a terrible playoff goalie, and nine games later, he is the best goalie left in the tournament, and a Conn Smythe candidate.

Don't get me wrong - I like rooting for Turco. That's not just because he's a Michigan alum, but also because he defines a stereotype. He is the original brain-dead goalie. Trust me when I tell you that Turco will never run into trouble because he's overthought something. At one end of the spectrum, you have Ken Dryden. Turco is at the other end.

He comes by it naturally. Do you ever find yourself trapped in a conversation with someone relentlessly stupid, and you can't find a graceful way to get out of it? That was my experience talking to Marty Turco's father in the lobby of a hotel in Milwaukee at the 1997 Frozen Four.

He is fun to watch, though. His decisions to leave the net are positively Hasek-like. They always have been. He is only the second goalie I've ever seen come out of the net and flatten a player coming in on a breakaway. Not like Hasek tripping up Marion Gaborik; a full-fledged body check. The other was Robb Stauber, who is still the best NCAA goalie I've ever seen, though he didn't make it in the pros.

I still don't think Dallas is going to beat Detroit. The only time they beat them this year was 1-0 with Jimmy Howard in goal for the Wings in the middle of that long losing streak. Total, the Wings outscored them 14-5. I'll take my chances.

 
At 2:59 PM, May 02, 2008, Blogger I Have Kasparaitis said...

@anon: Actually, I don't think it was a slew-foot, but it was pretty damn close. I'm saying no on suspension. Mark Eaton got slew-footed on December 23rd's game against Boston, tore his ACL, and no suspension was handed out.

 
At 3:40 PM, May 02, 2008, Blogger Steve Patterson said...

I love the fact that three weeks ago, Turco was widely reviled as being a terrible playoff goalie, and nine games later, he is the best goalie left in the tournament, and a Conn Smythe candidate.

i don't think that's true. anyone who watched the vancouver-dallas series last year knows he went save-for-save with luongo who was playing all-world in that series. turco got 3 shutouts for dalllas but somehow they managed to lose the series.

 
At 5:35 PM, May 02, 2008, Anonymous cupster33 said...

Half the Predators team wasn't injured james not to take anything away from the wings they destroyed the avs but come on there is only so many injuries a team can take before it starts to show on the ice (and it did) iam reading wings fans acting like they beat the 96 avs. It's my opinion the avs did a fantastic job during the season to over come injuries in key positions (just to make the playoffs (give em so credit) will ya.

 
At 7:15 PM, May 02, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Turco's biggest problem in previous years is that he was unable to score a couple each game for the sad-sacks skating in front of him. The difference this year is that the same solid goalie is playing behind a team that can put the puck in the net.

 
At 9:10 PM, May 02, 2008, Anonymous cupster33 said...

Have you even payed attention to marty turcos post season track record Anonymous? He stinks in the post season (it has nothing to do) with the players in front of him did you even watch any of those games? Marty has a shot to get that huge monkey off his back and it has nothing to do with the players in front of him (he has been making the tough saves)that he didn't in previous years question is (will he keep it up?)and if he doesn't are you going to blame (the guys in front of him?) marty has a job to do.

 
At 10:30 PM, May 02, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Have you even payed attention to marty turcos post season track record Anonymous?

I'm pretty sure that I was watching Turco in the post season several years before most of the people who read this blog. He's fine.

 
At 5:44 AM, May 03, 2008, Blogger mike said...

Is Cupster33 the poet ee cummings? The playful use (of parentheses at seemingly random intervals) creates a linguistic world free from (such constraints as) syntax, spelling, and grammar.

As a reader (I enjoy this very much and) I feel more posts would benefit from such random (use of) punctuation (!???&) and symbols. Thank you (very much) for this.

I (appreciate it).

 
At 11:29 AM, May 03, 2008, Anonymous cupster33 said...

Notice turco last night then Anonymous? and i will cut him some slack on one of those goals (typical turco) and yes i think the parentheses are a highly underused symbol mike (thanks for noticing)

 

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