Sunday, April 19, 2009

NHL Playoffs - Round 1

My Red Wings tripped their way into the playoffs, sparking justified fear and dread among the faithful again. We have seen this before in years after they won the Cup or went deep into the playoffs. This particular team seems to be so talented that they only play their best when challenged. Apparently late season games with hungry division rivals like the Predators, Badjackets, and Blandhawks wasn't challenge enough. Failure of team leadership or coaching? Perhaps.

But somebody flipped a switch. The Wings stormed into the first 2 games at the Joe against the Badjackets and cleaned their clocks. Columbus wanted to get physical in game 2, and the cutesy precision puck-possession Wings morphed into a hockey gorilla and gave the Badjackets a tutorial on physical play. When the poster child for precision Pavel Datsyuk finishes his checks and lays the lumber, then races to backcheck and steal the puck with an outlet pass to start the rush the other way, you are watching hockey nirvanna.

There's a long way to go, but I like what I see so far. Kris Draper is supposed to be back for game 3. The guy has wheels and goes 100 mph every shift. Excellent penalty killer and dangerous short-handed scorer. Chris Osgood has yet to silence his critics but his play is as excellent as his demeanor unassuming. Around 50% power play success against Columbus is unheard of but is usually the determining factor in the playoffs. I am enjoying an all eastern time first round between the only 2 Western Conference eastern time teams (I think). Those 10 pm starts on the left coast are rough.

Other series of interest to me. Philly / Pittsburgh started ugly and is going to continue to be. The Flyers are up to their usual tricks but the Pens manned up and responded. Excellent overtime game the other night. Speaking of ugly, how about Boston / Montreal. I didn't have this one penciled in for a war but it's shaping up to be one. Don't miss these games either. Finally, the Sharks lost game 1 at home to the Formerly Mighty Ducks who are probably better than their 8 seed indicates, especially in the playoffs. Could be the first round shocker.

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