As we get set to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminate the Carolina Hurricanes in four straight games (barring a miracle), in tonight’s Eastern Conference final there was a boatload of hockey news today.
There was also just some stuff.
1) Pat Quinn was hired as head coach by the Edmonton Oilers today. He’s 66. Personally, I like Pat Quinn, a lot. He’s a fine man, who did a wonderful job with Team Canada in Salt Lake City in 2002 and with our national junior team. I had a lot of respect for him when he was head coach of the Leafs and I must admit, he’s always been very respectful to me.
The question has to be in this case: Can a 66-year-old coach find happiness with a young team in Edmonton? Especially after the Calgary Flames just dumped 59-year-old Mike Keenan, another old coach, who gets recycled more than old truck tires.
There is a difference, however. Keenan is a guy who likes “his guys.” He likes veteran players he knows and can trust. And that’s fine. Trouble is, “his guys” don’t win anymore. Quinn, however, during his time with the national junior team, proved to everyone he can teach young players how to play the game.
And that’s exactly what the Oilers need.
Age has nothing to do with anything. It’s attitude and approach that matters. Quinn might be 66, but he has already demonstrated that he respects young, enthusiastic hockey players and can take those types of players and show them how to win.
Full disclosure: I like Pat Quinn as a person. And I also believe he will be a great head coach in Edmonton.
2) Tonight, we get to watch the likes of Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal, Evgeni Malkin and Cam Ward play an extremely important NHL playoff game.
If the Penguins win, the young stars from Pittsburgh will zoom into the Stanley Cup final for a second straight year (frankly, no matter what the Hurricanes do, Pittsburgh’s offence should put a quick nail in Carolina’s coffin).
What is most interesting, however, is that whenever the media looks for a storyline involving the Pens, it’s always Sidney Crosby vs. (insert name here). Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin. Sidney Crosby vs. Jarome Iginla. Sidney Crosby vs. oh, I don’t know, Johan Franzen?
Unfortunately, the mainstream hockey media loves a story no matter how silly it is. If anyone is looking for a consistent storyline, it should be this one: Evgeni Malkin vs. the hockey world.
This spring, Ovechkin will likely be awarded the Hart Trophy as the regular season MVP and so far in the playoffs, Crosby has the inside track to the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Meanwhile, all Malkin has done is win the league scoring championship and lead all scorers in the playoffs (12 goals and 16 assists).
There was a day before all these mouth-breathing TV bingo callers became uber-experts, a day when scoring goals and dishing out assists was an important part of the game. And today, nobody does that better than Evgeni Malkin.
I guess he’s no Sidney Crosby (he certainly doesn’t have the same group of publicists), but he could be the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL.
3) Of course, if Malkin isn’t hockey’s answer to Rodney D., it’s Detroit Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood.
Ozzie is close to winning his third Stanley Cup as a starter (he was also on a winner as the No. 2 to Mike Vernon). He’s also been to the finals one other time, been a Vezina Trophy runner-up and won the Jennings Trophy twice. He was the second goalie ever to score a goal (following Ron Hextall), was the No. 1 goalie (statistically) in the NHL in the 1995-96 season, is 10th in the NHL in career wins and the winningest goaltender in Red Wings history. He’s been an all-star, won Stanley Cups in two decades and is on the verge of going back-to-back.
And yet, you ask anybody in the mainstream media and he/she will tell you: “Detroit’s only problem is goaltending.”
I can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing our TV experts talk of Tim Thomas this or Roberto Luongo that or Cam Ward… whatever. The best goalie in the playoffs last year was Chris Osgood and clearly the best goalie this year is Chris Osgood.
At 37, he’s never been better. Right now he leads the playoffs in wins with 11, is second in goals against average at 2.14 and fourth in save percentage at .921. He’s 11-4 in the post-season, has an assist and a shutout.
He’s often hung out to dry by his always-attacking teammates and yet he’s made some magnificent saves in this year’s post-season. He’s been tremendous.
At this stage, I don’t want to argue with the experts who believe Crosby is a shoo-in to take the Conn Smythe. But there is still a lot of hockey left.
And right now, the best goalie in the playoffs has not been Jonas Hiller, Cam Ward or Tim Thomas. It’s been Chris Osgood.