Sunday April 19th, 2009

My three stars from Day 4 of the playoffs:

1. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks: Youth hasn't been a hindrance for the Blackhawks; it's leading the charge behind Toews and defenseman Cam Barker, both with three points this postseason. The 20-year-old center scored his first two playoff goals, the first to get the Blackhawks in it and the second to win it. They call Toews Captain Serious because of his intensity, and he's seriously on his way to leading Chicago further than it has been since 1996.

2. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers: A master of doing exactly what needs to get done, the goalie needed to blank the third-ranked offense in the league. He did just that, turning aside 35 shots -- he's made 70 saves in two unexpected wins for the Rangers -- and registered his third career playoff shutout Saturday against the Washington Capitals.

3. Marc Savard, Bruins: Despite a thin playoff resume, the 12-year veteran is making it look easy with his two goals and two assists on the night. With both goals coming with the man advantage, the Bruins' regular-season leading scorer is a big reason the Boston power play has been so lethal -- 44.4 percent success rate in two games.

1. Speaking of utter domination. Let us demonstrate just how deep and effective the Detroit Red Wings really are. Eleven different players earned a point in Saturday's 4-0 win against the Blue Jackets, who have proven to be outmatched at every level. Even the Red Wings' supposed Achilles' Heel, goalie Chris Osgood, has been outplaying Columbus's rookie sensation, Steve Mason. The 15-year veteran has made all but one save in his first two games of the postseason, and Saturday he earned his 14th playoff shutout. Osgood said after Game 1 that the playoffs are his favorite time of year, and that perhaps his inconsistency this season was in part due to his anticipation for the postseason to begin. He's proven it so far, raising his middling .887 regular season save percentage to an otherworldly .978 after two games.

2. No captain, no problem? The New Jersey Devils will be without captain Jamie Langenbrunner for at least two games, after the right winger left in the second period of Game 2 with an undisclosed "lower body injury." He didn't make the trip to Raleigh with the team, and now, head coach Brent Sutter has an important decision to make regarding his lineup. Although he replaced Langenbrunner with Patrik Elias for the second half of Friday night's game, it's unlikely he'll want to split Elias from regular linemates Brian Gionta and Dainius Zubrus for good. Look for Brian Rolston, or perhaps Brendan Shanahan to slip onto the first line tonight, and Bobby Holik, a healthy scratch for the first two games, to return to the lineup.

How will Langenbrunner's absence affect the Devils? Well, the team played 50 games without Martin Brodeur and managed to survive. "All year we bragged about the depth of our team," Brodeur told reporters Saturday. "Now we'll be tested." Having Langenbrunner out of commission had an effect in Game 2, as it forced the Devils to move to a primarily three-line system -- David Clarkson and Mike Rupp were each limited to four shifts apiece (and about five minutes on the ice combined) after Langenbrunner left the game. Carolina head coach Paul Maurice said after Friday's game he thought the shift may have evened things up since the Hurricanes prefer to employ a primarily three-line system.

3. Hey Joe, gotta show. Let's face it. The only way Thornton is going to shed the No Show Joe moniker is to play it off. Surely that's easier said than done given Chris Pronger's watchful eye. All eyes will be on Thornton (and captain Patrick Marleau, too) to see if he can better his one-shot performance from Thursday night and will remain on him until he gets something done. Goalie Jonas Hiller won't make it easy for any of the Sharks; the rookie earned a shutout in his first NHL playoff game, making 35 saves, including 11 on the power play.

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