When I heard that Keith Tkachuk addressed his St. Louis Blues teammates in an effort to prepare them for the playoffs, it reminded me of an episode of The Simpsons when Bart’s Junior Ranger knife-safety manual suggests, “Don’t do what Donny Don’t does.”
What exactly qualifies Tkachuk to give playoff advice to his teammates? Well, not much. Tkachuk has been in the NHL for 17 seasons, been in the playoffs 12 times and managed to get his team out of the first round just twice.
So all the Blues have to do is look at what Tkachuk has done in the playoffs and avoid doing it. They might want to follow the lead of Paul Kariya, who would obviously be a boon to the Blues lineup if able to return for Game 1 Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. (He’s been out since November with a hip injury.)
But even with Kariya in the lineup, the Blues will face an enormous challenge in defeating the Canucks. The Canucks have been almost unbeatable at home and the Blues will have to get over their “happy-to-be-there” feeling in a hurry if they want to make a series out of it. If not, the Canucks will feast on the Blues.
Speaking of short series, am I the only one who thinks the Pittsburgh Penguins will make short work of the Philadelphia Flyers starting Wednesday? I can’t think of one area of the game where the Flyers are stronger than the Penguins, from Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin over Jeff Carter-Mike Richards to defense and in goal.
With respect to the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes, who also get going tonight, we’ll probably find out in the first 10 minutes of the first game whether or not the Devils will advance to the next round. When the playoffs arrive, Martin Brodeur tends to either be brilliant or brutal and that is usually established from the outset. Brodeur enters the series as one of the best goalies in NHL history; Ward enters it as the best goalie in the NHL at the moment.
That the Washington Capitals-New York Rangers series is being billed as Alex Ovechkin vs. Sean Avery would be laughable if it weren’t so accurate. Avery has been a playoff monster for the Rangers and has probably been their best all-round forward since the trade deadline.
He has the ability to get into people’s faces, but does anyone see Ovechkin being thrown off his game by anybody at this point? Ovechkin will get his points and he’ll have an impact, despite what Avery tries to do.
The more intriguing matchup might be in goal where Jose Theodore faces Henrik Lundqvist. There’s a good chance Lundqvist will have to steal the series for the Rangers to win, but Theodore just can’t lose it in order for the Capitals to prevail.
Show off your hockey knowledge by entering The Hockey News’ free Playoff Challenge!
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.