It’s the greatest time of any hockey season — the first round of the Stanley Cup tournament.
After watching at least parts of 12 playoff games — plus the Allan Cup final and the Team Canada bronze medal game at the World Under-18 championship — this weekend, I have made a list of observations.
I apologize if some are frivolous, but my eyeballs are too sore to type:
1) The Boston Bruins proved how difficult it is to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. They have also proved that by finding themselves in a 3-3 tie with the Washington Capitals, they aren’t going to go down without a fight.
Tyler Seguin’s overtime goal on Sunday afternoon in Washington sent the Eastern quarter-final to a seventh game and kept Boston’s chances alive as the Bruins try to become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships since the Detroit Red Wings pulled off the feat in 1997 and 1998.
The Seguin goal, courtesy of the NHL Network:
The two teams meet in Game 7 on Wednesday night in Boston. Should be fun.
2) The Winnipeg Jets have every right to feel good about themselves. They might not have made the playoffs, but two teams from their own division have played outstanding hockey in the playoffs.
The Capitals have taken the defending champion Bruins to the brink while Florida can oust New Jersey on Tuesday night. That’s pretty good for the “weak” Southeast Division.
By the way, if you think Washington doesn’t have a hope in Game 7 IN Boston, consider this: Road teams have won 26 of 42 playoff games so far this spring.
3) Say what you will about the inconsistent Wild West Justice of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, but Raffi Torres deserved every game of his 25-game suspension.
4) Congratulations to the Southeast Prairie Thunder.
For the first time since 2003, the Manitoba rep has won the Allan Cup. Saturday night in Lloydminster, Sask., Devon LeBlanc and Brad Purdie each a goal and an assist as the Prairie Thunder defeated the Rosetown Red Wings 4-1 to win the Canadian Senior A men’s hockey championship.
As well, congratulations to head coach Jamie Leach, originally from Berens River First Nation, for leading the Prairie Thunder to the national title. As a player, Leach won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh (his name is only on the Cup in 1992, but he was on the team in 1991), as well as a Calder Cup (1996), two Allan Cups (2003 and 2006) and two British League championships (1999 and 2000) in a 20-year hockey career that didn’t end until his Powell River Royals from British Columbia won the 2006 Canadian Senior A championship.
5) The St. Louis Blues took out the San Jose Sharks in five games. The Blues looked pretty spectacular in the process. The Blues won because they check and check and when things get tough, they check some more.
It’s amazing to think that in 2010-11, the Blues were 11th in the West and allowed 234 goals. This past season, they were second in the West and led the NHL by allowing only 165 goals.
If Ken Hitchcock wasn’t coach of the year before the playoffs (which he was), he’s certainly coach of the year now.
6) The Detroit Red Wings were taken out of the playoffs quite easily by the Nashville Predators. The Preds have a good team, but not a great one.
Make no mistake, the Wings must make serious changes this off-season. They have great players who, since 2008, have just stopped showing up for the playoffs.
It might even be time to think about moving some of the core veterans to get younger, hungrier legs. After all, Tomas Holmstrom, 39, Henrik Zetterberg, 31, Johan Franzen, 32, Danny Cleary, 33, Todd Bertuzzi, 37, Brad Stuart, 32, Nicklas Lidstrom, 41, Pavel Datsyuk, 33, and Nicklas Kronwall, 31, are all great players, but they’re getting a little long in the tooth.
7) What is going to happen to Roberto Luongo?
Obviously Cory Schneider is now the Vancouver Canucks No. 1 goaltender. Luongo is being paid $6,716,000 this season and he’ll be close to $7 million next season (he’s only in the second year of a 12-year $64 million deal) so it’s hard to imagine that any team would want him, but one gets the sense Toronto would take a chance.
Trouble is, Brian Burke won’t speak to Mike Gillis.
One thing we know: The Canucks will do everything possible to unload Luongo this coming off-season.
8) The more I listen to Dean Brown call the play-by-play on CBC, the more I enjoy his call. The more I listen to Mark Lee on CBC, the more I want to stick hot pokers in my ears.
9) Did you experience the Dustin Penner sighting on Sunday night? $4,250,000 for seven goals this season and one in the playoffs.
I know, Scott, be fair. It wasn’t Penner’s fault that the Edmonton Oilers gave him $3.5 million more than he was worth and then the L.A. Kings TRADED for him.
10) The Chicago Blackhawks have now played seven straight overtime playoff games, including the final two a year ago against the Canucks.
Here’s Jonathan Toews’ overtime winner on Saturday night:
It’s tough to be a fan of a playoff team at the best of times, but if you love the Hawks, you must be apoplectic by now.