By Ryan Lambert
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Watching Saturday's Capitals/Rangers game was an exercise in masochism.
Sitting through that game was a test — not unlike that delivered unto Abraham — to see just how much you actually like watching hockey. Two teams playing hockey not so much against each other but rather at each other, or, to put it another way, in defiance of every hockey fan's patience. In that game, four goals were scored on 32 shots. That was between both teams, and not just one, in case you were wondering.
Certainly, convention states that playoff hockey is more defensive by nature than the regular season. And though you'd be a fool to subscribe to the belief that defensive hockey is boring hockey, even the most stoic men would have been reduced to tears by the kind of temerity it takes to dare people to sit through 60 minutes of whatever that was on Saturday afternoon.
But one team, at least, flatly refuses to play anything like boring hockey. That would be the Philadelphia Flyers, whose efforts have thrilled all viewers not openly supporting their opponents, and enlivened what is otherwise shaping up to be a rather drab final few rounds of the playoffs.
(Coming Up: Pierre McGuire as Habs GM; trading Patrick Marleau; Jagr vs. Brodeur; Matt Greene's unlikely goal; Predators' revenue troubles; Nail for Staal?; Landeskog graded; Columbus addresses its goalie needs; Alex Ovechkin controlled by Rangers; in praise of Danny Briere; the Winnipeg Jets are dogs; and the future of Tim Thomas.)
There are eight teams left in the playoffs, and they finished first, second, third, fifth, ninth, 10th, 20th and 21st in the league in defense this season. The two outliers are Philadelphia and Washington, respectively.
But unlike the Capitals -- who, perhaps wisely, have abandoned all attempts to actually attack their opponents' nets -- the Flyers continue to play only the firewagon-est of hockey, because it's the only reasonable way ahead.
The exploits of Ilya Bryzgalov in the regular season and now the postseason have been, shall we say, adventurous and well-publicized. As a result, despite having to stick with their $10 million man (because they sure as hell can't fall back to Sergei Bobrovsky), they're not going to trust him to do anything but keep them in games, not win them. And, in allowing a 15th-in-the-playoffs 4.14 goals per game, who can blame them?
The winning, therefore, falls to the team's prodigious forward corps of deadly snipers, wizardly playmakers, and steely grinders. All of them combine to fill the nets at an alarming pace: 4.86 goals per game, more than anyone in the postseason. They do it mostly on special teams, but that's because they have to. They both draw more penalties than anyone in the Eastern Conference and commit more per game than any as well. They've scored 13 power play goals in seven games — five of which they've won, you'll note — and adding three shorties.
The game yesterday afternoon showed just how good the Flyers are at playing this style of hockey, which is uniquely theirs. They came out flatter than Blackhawks' power play in the first period and got pushed around their own rink by what had to be a fairly tired Devils team, but likely got screamed at by Peter Laviolette in the second intermission, meaning they would start actually trying to score. And score they did, with four goals in the final 45 minutes to cover for Bryzgalov, who gave up three five-hole goals in the game. The first two came midway through the second period, and just 37 seconds apart, and after that, even the most casual of observers had to feel the tentacles of this devastating were now sufficiently tightened around the game, come what may.
The breakdowns that led to the New Jersey goals, which eventually forced overtime, were perhaps inevitable for a team like this. And it's fine that they came because in the end, the Flyers seem like they'll always have enough goals in them to advance past New Jersey.
It's likely that this won't work against the winner of Washington and New York. At some point this insane run-and-gun style has to stop working because you can't score at least four a night forever, or at least, you wouldn't think so. Those teams work more of a rope-a-dope, and they'll happily let the Flyers punch themselves out shooting into shinpads and catching gloves, then hit back with a devastating counter.
But at least when — or rather if — it happens, the Flyers will go down swinging, which is more than you can say for anyone else left standing.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Hey are the Ducks ever gonna sign this Justin Schultz kid, or what? If they don't do it soon, it'll be like a Blake Wheeler-to-Boston situation after that holdout with Phoenix, insofar as they will likely get nothing for him unless they trade his rights.
Boston Bruins: Yeah, Tim Thomas is basically gone. Or is he? Tuukka Rask says he's up for one more year of backing up the 38-year-old, at which point Thomas' contract will expire and Rask will be The Guy going forward. Bad news though, Bruins fans, Greg Zanon might be back.
Buffalo Sabres: Marcus Foligno is pumped to spend all of next season with the big club, where he had 6-7-13 in 13 games at the end of the season. He also had 2-1-3 as the Rochester Americans' lost in a three-game sweep to the Marlies, though making the playoffs probably won't be something he has to worry about in Buffalo next year either.
Calgary Flames: The Flames have a pair of good prospects at the WHL Championship this year. Sven Baertschi is obviously one of them, and the other is goaltender Laurent Brossoit of the Edmonton Oil Kings. Who says the cupboard is bare? Oh right, everyone.
Carolina Hurricanes: Justin Faulk will play for the US at the upcoming World Championships, because he is a great guy. "It was an easy 'yes,' and I don't think I could ever say 'no,'" he said. "It's an honor every time to put on the jersey, and I'd do it every time they ask." Legendary attitude.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks will probably seek a little help on the blue line this summer. This site targets Dennis Wideman. To shore up the defense. Dennis Wideman. Oh excuse me, that's NHL All-Star Dennis Wideman.
Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog pulls an A grade for his rookie season, and apparently the only thing that kept him from getting the A+ he deserved was that he's "not super fast." Something to work on, then.
Columbus Blue Jackets: "We need a different look in goal," Scott Howson said. "We need better play from that position. I told Steve in our exit interviews (earlier this month) that we're going to have a different look at that position next year, but that right now, nobody can predict what form that's going to take." Smell ya later, Steve Mason.
Dallas Stars: Seven Stars are playing in the World Championships, perhaps most notably Kari Lehtonen, and Joe Nieuwendyk is trying desperately to spin it as being a kind of playoff experience.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Patrick Eaves hasn't played an NHL game since Nov. 26 when he suffered a concussion, but he skated a few times during the playoffs and is sure he'll be ready for next season. Good news for sure.
Edmonton Oilers: This is the best headline of the weekend for sure: "Should the Edmonton Oilers trade their top pick for Jordan Staal?" Hoo boy throwing Nail Yakupov in with Crosby and Malkin doesn't seem fair, does it?
Florida Panthers: Scottie Upshall getting called out on the carpet by Kevin Dineen at the Panthers' garbage bag day. Good news is he's only signed for three more seasons with a cap hit of $3.5 million per oh wait that's terrible news.
Los Angeles Kings: Things I never thought I would see -- Matt Greene scoring a shorthanded goal in the second round of the playoffs against the St. Louis Blues. In fact, that was his first ever NHL shortie. The only other time he scored a man down since he began playing junior hockey in 2000 was with the Iowa Stars in the AHL in 2005-06.
Minnesota Wild: U of Minnesota sophomore forward Erik Haula won't be signed by the Wild this summer, as they would prefer he continue to improve his game without actually paying him to do so.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs interviewed Pierre McGuire for their GM job. Please hire him. Signed, every hockey fan.
Nashville Predators: The Predators still aren't turning a profit despite selling out all the time and getting assistance from the local government, according to team officials who are, I'm sure, in no way posturing ahead of the new CBA. "Oh that's this year?" they probably said while doing a pretty good impression of incredulity.
New Jersey Devils: Marty Brodeur and Jaromir Jagr were both drafted on the same day in 1990, and this is now the sixth time their teams have met in the playoffs in the 22 or so years since. "I would appreciate the greatness if I didn't have to face him," Jagr said.
New York Islanders: More Isles-to-Brooklyn talk. Don't they know Gary Bettman already said it wouldn't happen?
New York Rangers: Alex Ovechkin's first game against the Rangers: no points, one shot on goal, two blocked, two wide, a minus-1 in 21:03. In short, good work, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh.
Ottawa Senators: The Senators are probably going to have to spend a considerable amount of money in the offseason. Among players whose contracts are expiring: Erik Karlsson, who should get a million years, and a billion dollars.
Philadelphia Flyers: As if we needed more reason to love Scott Hartnell. Guy makes the game fun.
Phoenix Coyotes: Poor Mike Smith. Good thing it ended up not mattering.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Pittsburgh is no longer the city of champions (come for the woe is us bemoaning, stay for the picture of the sad fan). Say, just spitballin' here but wouldn't that be Boston? What with all the trophies in the last decade or so.
San Jose Sharks: Should the Sharks trade Patrick Marleau? Yes. But who would take him? A team looking to get to the cap floor, maybe, given that he's pulling $6.9 million against the cap the next two seasons. And even if someone would take him, does he waive his no-movement clause?
St. Louis Blues: Alex Pietrangelo got boarded pretty good on Saturday night (no major penalty though!) and didn't practice Sunday. He's day-to-day with an upper body injury, but, says Ken Hitchcock, "Just don't be writing him off yet."
Tampa Bay Lightning: More on Tim Thomas: Might the Bolts be interested? It makes a lot more sense going forward than Luongo.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Yes, the Leafs should have given an offer sheet to Steven Stamkos. Same for every other team with the cap space and necessary picks to do so. It's dumb that they don't, but was never going to happen ever. By the way, does Stamkos actually get the Leafs into the playoffs?
Vancouver Canucks: Can't go around expecting that Roberto Luongo trade any time soon, says Mike Gillis. Yeah, because there's a trade freeze on until the end of the playoffs.
Washington Capitals: The statistics suggest that yes, Alex Ovechkin is broken, and while there's no good theory as to why that happened, the next Caps coach needs to have a plan for how to fix it. In other news, the sky is blue.
Winnipeg Jets: A no-kill animal shelter in Winnipeg had the bright idea to start naming dogs up for adoption after Jets. Blake Wheeler heard about it and said he would donate a jersey to whoever adopted the puppy named after him. The team's partnership with the shelter has significantly increased adoption rates, and that's awesome. Dogs are awesome.
Gold Star Award
This Danny Briere guy is pretty good once the playoffs roll around.
Minus of the Weekend
The Rangers' and Capitals' styles of play are both predicated on boring everyone to death, and boy did it ever work in Game 1.
Play of the Weekend
Prom season is coming up. Thinking about asking this Claude Giroux shot.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "warmplate" doesn't want just Roberto Luongo out of Vancouver, oh no.
To Tampa Bay:
Mason Raymond - RFA Rights
4th Round Pick
I like them all. I like everything.