Friday, April 27, 2012

The Odyssey Continues

They fell like bowling pins - Detroit, San Jose, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, Ottawa and Florida. Delivering the perfect strikes were Nashville, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington, New York and New Jersey.

With stunning upsets by Los Angeles and Washington, these quarter-final results resemble the opening round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. In the early stages of competition, it is always a wonder to watch an underdog slay one of the giants.

It couldn't get anymore dramatic than the Boston and Washington series. The Caps, pushing the defending Stanley Cup champions to a game seven. Then, for good measure, hanging in to extend play into overtime. The home crowd waiting for the Killer-Bs to sting their pesky opponent, and put an end to the nonsense. At 2:57 of OT, Washington's Joel Ward took out his fly-swatter and whacked the Killer-Bs right between the eyes.

For NHL teams looking in from the outside, one fact is picture clear - to advance, a first-rate goalie between the pipes is a must.

All three goalies named as Vezina Trophy finalists - Henrik Lunqvist, Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne - were key components in helping their teams take the next step.

A tale of two goalies: In Chicago, general manager Stan Bowman, commenting on goalie Corey Crawford, said he "has to get better." Although not coming right out and blaming Crawford for Chicago's elimination from the post-season, everyone got the message.

At the other end of the spectrum is Braden Holtby in Washington. After leading his teammates to victory against Boston, the young netminder is the toast-of-the-town in the American capital, with comparisons being made to Ken Dryden's playoff run in 1971.

What a difference winning makes.

On and Off the Ice

A tale of two general managers: Late in the third period of game seven between Ottawa and New York, the TV camera caught a shot of Bryan Murray, then a little later, Glen Sather. The Ottawa GMs body language was full of emotion, as were his facial expressions.

In the Rangers executive box, Sather was stoned-faced, but he did seem to be working his unlit stogie a tad more vigorously.

The lone Original Six club to bust into the next round is the New York Rangers. The squad from Broadway will only go as far as King Henrik can carry them. Look out if his suffers a back injury.

What an amazing year for both the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers. A great deal wasn't expected from either franchise, but they hung around like a dirty penny and qualified to participate in the big-dance. Once they got their feet wet, Ottawa and Florida didn't want to come out of the pool. They gave their all, extending their respective clashes to a seventh and deciding contest.

How annoying are those post-whistle scrums which seem to occur on a regular basis? One of the biggest culprits for shoving and poking at the opposition in Boston's Brad Marchand. He is like the guest who just doesn't know when to finish his drink and go home. He is always hanging around. Also, his lips seem to be going a-mile-a-minute.

On the topic of GMs popping-up on our TV screens, Dale Tallon was front and centre in game seven between his Panthers and New Jersey. His passion and frustration flowed from the screen.

The stage is set for the conference semi-finals. In the west, St. Louis takes on Los Angeles and Phoenix hooks-up with Nashville. The eastern conference will feature New York against Washington, and Philadelphia versus New Jersey.

Who will survive? The conference finalists could include Philadelphia and New York in the east, and Nashville matching-up against Los Angeles.

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