Tag Archives: dominik hasek

It’s off to Round 3: The Red Wings are one round closer to their destiny

In our previous two fearless prognostications, we made a pair of fatal errors. We overestimated the Montreal Canadiens and underestimated the Dallas Stars.

 

It’s true, as one of our faithful readers suggested, that Carey Price wasn’t quite up to the task in the Eastern semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers, but then again, neither was the Montreal offence.

 

To their credit, the Flyers did what they did so well back in the mid-1970s when the Broad Street Bullies won a couple of Cups. They banged, crashed and harassed the Habs and made life so difficult around the puck that Montreal had little appetite for the corners or the front of the net.

 

In the end, Philly won most, if not all, the individual battles and to our embarrassment, we were shocked that the Canadiens were tougher.

 

Meanwhile, out West, the Stars played five, almost perfect, hockey games to dispose of the San Jose Sharks. When we selected the Sharks to win in seven, we expected the series to be close and hard-fought. We didn’t expect Marty Turco to be a better goaltender than Evgeni Nabokov and we didn’t expect the Stars offence to hold up the way it did, especially in close games.

 

We were wrong about Dallas and Montreal and as a result, it’s the Stars who are in, the Habs who are out and after watching the second round quite intently, we aren’t disappointed.

 

The only team worthy of a date with Detroit is Dallas and the only team that can punish the high-scoring Penguins is Philadelphia.

 

It was a terrific opening month. The first two rounds were fun and the next two weeks could be the most interesting two weeks of the entire Stanley Cup tournament. Let’s take a closer look…

 

THE EAST

 

No. 2 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (Eliminated Ottawa in four straight games, eliminated NY Rangers in five games.) vs. No. 6 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (Eliminated Washington in seven games, eliminated Montreal in five games.)

 

Here’s an amazing statistic: the Pittsburgh Penguins have trailed an NHL-low 62 minutes and 43 seconds of the 547:10 they’ve played in their nine playoff games. The fact they’ve only played nine playoff games in the first two rounds says an awful lot in itself.

The key to this series for the Penguins will, no doubt, be Hart Trophy candidate, Evgeni Malkin. the big Russian star had six goals and nine assists in eight games against the Flyers this season and he’ll certainly be asked to produce once again.

Interestingly, Pittsburgh used three different goalies against Philadelphia this season, but Marc-Andre Fleury was the star. He earned two of the Penguins three victories against Philly and recorded a solid 2.00 goals-against average. He is now 8-1 in the playoffs with a 1.76 goals against average and has stopped 240 of 256 postseason shots. 

Here’s another telling stat: Pittsburgh is 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

The Flyers will look to the likes of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Joffrey Lupul, R.J Umberger (who was born in Pittsburgh) and Daniel Briere to carry them against Montreal. Not only did Briere have six goals and 11 points in the opening round series against Washington, but he anchors the No. 2 power play in the league.

And then there is Vinny Prospal, who came from Tampa with a Stanley Cup ring and has made the Flyers playoff ready. The Flyers will also hope that goalie Martin Biron is just as good in Round 3 as he was in Round 1 against the Caps and Round 2 against Montreal.

Here’s another telling statistic: The Flyers haven’t played outside the Eastern time zone since facing the Avalanche in Denver on Dec. 7. The Penguins last did it the following day in Vancouver. It’s something that will probably make a difference if Dallas beats Detroit.

Pittsburgh in seven games. 

Penguins vs Rangers Round 2 Highlights below.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErVTI8btxyM]

 

 

THE WEST

 

No. 1 DETROIT RED WINGS (Eliminated Nashville in six games, eliminated Colorado in four games) vs.  No. 5 DALLAS STARS (Eliminated Anaheim in six games, eliminated San Jose in six games.)

 

Pretty hard not to like Detroit in this series. The Wings are big, fast, skilled and strong with plenty of experience. And now that Chris Osgood is the starter, they have legitimate playoff goaltending, too.

 

Osgood is 6-0 since taking over for Dominik Hasek during Game 4 of the opening-round series against Nashville. He has a 1.52 goals-against average, allowing only 10 goals on 159 shots. Osgood is just three playoff wins shy of tying Terry Sawchuk’s team mark of 47 career postseason victories. He should pass Sawchuk in this series.

There is little question that Detroit’s Johan (the Mule) Franzen, has been the biggest story of the playoffs. He already has an NHL-high — and Detroit-record — 11 goals in the playoffs. He also broke Gordie Howe’s single-series club record by scoring nine times against Colorado.

On the other side, Stars netminder Marty Turco has never played better, but I still think the Red Wings will win this series — easy — and will win the Cup. Sure, Turco has four shutouts in his past 19 playoff starts, dating to last year’s playoffs, including one this year, but this series won’t come down to goaltending.

Granted, in his three most recent series, Turco has a 1.56 GAA and a .938 save percentage and finished off San Jose with a 61-save effort on Sunday night in Dallas’ 2-1 victory in the fourth overtime of Game 6. He’s been great, but that Detroit offence with Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk leading the way is just too much.

I love Brad Richards, Mike Modano, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, but I think the Red Wings are just too good.

Two telling stats: (1) Marty Turco is 0-7-2 in his last nine games at Joe Louis Arena. (2) The Red Wings clinched their seventh straight Central Division title with 5-3 win against, you guessed it, Dallas on March 13.

We could be underestimating the Stars again, but this time, I don’t think so.

 

Detroit in four games.

 

Red Wings vs Avalanche Round 2 Highlights below.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnjevppGT-o]

 



Habs and Wings win shaky. Game 1: Montreal 4, Philadelphia 3 (OT); Detroit 4, Colorado 3.

Is there anything better than watching two playoff hockey games at once?

 

That’s what we did Thursday night and not only did we have two TVs going at once, but we watched two terrifically close games and two losing teams that deserved better.  

 

Montreal won because the officials (and they again will go unnamed), called a pretty marginal penalty against Mike Richards in the final minute.

 

Montreal scored on the power-play (with their net empty) with 29 seconds left in regulation and then won it at the 48 second mark of overtime  when Tom Kostopoulas cashed in his own rebound.

 

For most of the night, Philly was the better team, but a lousy break and a defensive breakdown cost them a road win they probably should have stolen. 

 

Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Wings took a 4-1 lead on a pair of goals by Johan Franzen, but then, as Detroit often does, they got complacent and nearly fell asleep long enough for Colorado to catch up. 

 

The Avs even had a chance to score in the dying seconds, but Chris Osgood did what Dominik Hasek forgot how to do — make a big, important save. 

 

Detroit outshot Colorado 36-21 and probably should have won by a bunch, considering Peter Forsberg and Wojtek Wolski didn’t play and Jose Theodore played despite the flu (he was pulled after giving up four goals and went back to the hotel). Still, the Avs sucked it up and made a game of it.

 

For openers, they were both fun to watch (although the Montreal fan who doused Richards with beer in the penalty box was rather bush). We even got a penalty shot in the Montreal-Philly game, plus a couple of goal reviews and a huge dive and a big shot from Kovalev. Remember the Gordie Howe hat trick? A goal, an assist and a fight? I guess an Alexei Kovalev hat trick is two goals and a dive.  

 

Friday night, we get the Rangers at Pittsburgh at 6 on CBC while Dallas plays at San Jose at 9 on TSN. In June I’ll get a life.

 

If you missed the Top-10 highlights from Round 1, you can see them in the video below.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6qBXXL-REE]

 



Red Wings win easily, but it’s a good thing Hasek was so bad he HAD to be replaced.

Let us not pull any punches. The Detroit Red Wings were a significantly better hockey team than the Nashville Predators. And, frankly, while the Pope is in the United States he should fly to Nashville and give Barry Trotz sainthood.

 

The Nashville Predators are a lousy hockey team. And they’re lousy for a reason. Gone in an off-season housecleaning that made the books look good and the product look dreadful, were No. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun, No. 1 defenceman Kimmo Timonen, leading scorer Paul Kariya and gifted rent-a-player Peter Forsberg. Two of the team’s most reliable forwards, Scott Hartnell and Scottie Upshall had moved on and No. 2 scorer Steve Sullivan was hurt. And he’s been gone all season. 

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk5nlr9b6YM]

 

As we told our National Post readers, when they went to training camp in September, Trotz’s best player was 33-year-old Jason Arnott, a guy who hadn‘t been a top line centre since his days in New Jersey a decade ago. J.P. Dumont, a talented underachiever wasn’t bad and Alexander Radulov, a gifted 21-year-old Russian who has been a victim of unrealized potential, was about due. Dan Ellis, Martin Erat, David Legwand, Vernon Fiddler, Dan Hamhuis and Jordin Tootoo were all good players, but they were no-names who could have been up-and-coming country singers for all anybody knew.

 

“Yeah, like who is Dan Ellis?” asked Vancouver Canucks forward Jason Jaffray on 92-CITI-FM one morning. “I’d never heard of him before and I looked in the paper and he had some of the best goalie stats in the league. I had no idea who he was.”

 

Dan Ellis is a 27-year-old from Saskatoon who played at Nebraska-Omaha and was with AHL Iowa last year, but yeah, who knew?

 

The anonymous Preds started the season as if they were going to be so bad, they’d be sold to an owner who wanted to re-locate them to Minsk. Or Winnipeg.

 

And yet, the Preds made the playoffs and went 3-3-2 against the President’s Trophy-winning Red Wings this season. So it was no surprise that after losing the first two games of this opening round series, Nashville caught the Wings at 2-2.

 

For that alone, Trotz should be coach of the year.

 

Reality began to set in on Saturday night, however. In Game 5, Detroit dominated Nashville and Ellis, almost by himself, got his mates to overtime before the Wings scored the winner. Detroit outshot Nashville 54-21 and owned the game. And still, they were fortunate to win.

 

Then, on Sunday, Detroit did it again. They absolutely dominated Nashville and they did it with what’s becoming known as "big European hockey." They’re fast and skilled and better suited for the rough going of the playoffs than many experts imagined. And even though Nashville did everything they could to bang the Wings, Detroit was simply too big — and had too many tough players of their own (McCarty, Draper, Cleary). No matter what Nashville tried to do, it wasn’t going to work.

 

Fact is, the only reason the Preds lasted six games was because Dominik Hasek was so horrible, he personally kept an outclassed Nashville club in the series.

 

Finally, Wings coach Mike Babcock had seen enough. Chris Osgood took over midway through Game 4 and Detroit was suddenly a winner. 

 

Sunday, Nashville’s dream died. The first period was pretty physical and one could argue that Nashville got the best of the hard-ass play, but by the second period, the Preds had nothing left. Detroit outshot the Preds 21-4 in the second period and it was obvious, when Nicklas Lidstrom scored on a lucky bounce, that this one was Detroit’s to lose.

 

Fortunately, for the Wings, there was no Dominator to be found. No sieve to destroy the good karma. With Osgood in net, Detroit was clearly the better team. They outshot Nashville 43-20 and Osgood really didn’t have to make too many difficult saves.

 

It could be said that Dan Ellis was a Conn Smythe candidate based on just six games. In the final two games of the series, he stopped 90 of 94 shots (the final goal on Sunday was scored into an empty net). It was a brilliant performance that kept a bad team in the series.

But ultimately, Detroit was simply better. Period. The President’s Trophy winners deserved to move on and move on they did. With the demise of Dominik Hasek came the rise of the Red Wings.

With goaltending, the Detroit Red Wings are Stanley Cup worthy. Dispatching Nashville, a team that believed it could pull off the upset of the decade, was a great first step. Their next opponents had better be wary.