Isn’t it funny how fate works? San Jose spends the entire season at the top of the standings, the Stanley Cup favorite; Detroit, the hands-down pre-season favorite, is dogged by goaltending questions and finishes third, the West’s second seed.
But then San Jose draws a talented, tough, Cup-tested Anaheim squad in the first round, while Detroit draws a playoff-neophyte in Columbus.
“I have the most playoff wins in (Red Wings) history,” an obviously annoyed Chris Osgood reminded naysayers Friday. “Not because I’m a bad goalie.”
The borderline Hall of Famer is right. And Detroit’s series against Columbus has shown why; Osgood does everything asked of him, it’s just that isn’t always too much.
You know why there’s been so little in the way of after-the-whistle shenanigans and bad blood through two games? Because when you get beat to the extent the Blue Jackets have in this series, it’s obvious who the better team is and it’s hard to believe your intensity level and intimidation tactics even matter.
The questions entering Saturday evening’s game in Detroit surrounded the Blue Jackets; their ability to generate consistent scoring chances and whether goaltender Steve Mason could steal a game. Neither happened.
Mason did all he could, but Detroit is just too good. Any of the Wings’ top-nine forwards could play on the Jackets’ top line and there may not be a Blue Jacket blueliner who could make the Red Wings. It’s that simple.
The Wings came at their opponents in waves, physically and otherwise. When they weren’t locking-down the Blue Jackets defensively, Detroit’s top players were filling the score sheet. Three power play goals and an Osgood shutout later, Detroit had a 4-0 victory and, if not a stranglehold, a full nelson on the series.
Nationwide Arena will be rocking for Tuesday’s Game 3, the first post-season home game in Columbus history. But the Blue Jackets will need more than that and a mea culpa appearance by THN’s Adam Proteau to topple the Wings; they’ll need a Mason miracle and a dog of a game by Osgood.
Meanwhile in Boston, unlike in Detroit, the Bruins-Canadiens series is all about shenanigans and bad blood. And even just blood.
Sometime during Thursday’s Game 1, Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick sustained a ruptured spleen, then received an end-of-game-melee eye gouge from Montreal’s Mike Komisarek for good measure. Hunwick’s season is over after an emergency splenectomy Saturday morning. And after the game Saturday night, Montreal’s season is in much the same shape.
Heading into Game 2, Bob Gainey was looking for his team to compete more and inserted three new players into the lineup with that in mind. The Habs looked intense to begin the game, but were undisciplined, and it cost them.
While Montreal’s Alex Kovalev was the most dangerous player on the ice, Boston’s superior talent at every position was obvious. And the special teams contest was, simply, no contest at all.
With precision puck movement and faceoff win after faceoff win, Boston’s power play went 3-for-5 through two periods en route to a 5-1 lead. The game was over with 20 minutes still to play. Ten Bruins had points, including Marc Savard with four – the first Bruin to do that in a playoff game in 13 years.
Carey Price was on the bench to start the third period and the Habs were lifeless, the only sign of any lingering fight coming during a fight; one that ended, fittingly, with Josh Gorges on the wrong end of Patrice Bergeron’s fists.
As for bad blood, it was fostered by Milan Lucic with less than five minutes remaining with a suspension-worthy crosscheck to Maxim Lapierre’s face. The series continues Monday in Montreal at the Bell Centre. Canadiens fans are hoping the Ghosts of Champions Past pay their team a visit and bestow some of their secrets. If not, much like Hunwick’s season is over, so will be the Habs’.
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John Grigg is a copy editor and writer with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his Tuesday blog and the Wednesday Top 10.
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