Monday, April 25, 2011


Things keep getting more and more intense. More OT games, more surprises, more teams fighting for their playoff lives. There's been at least one OT game for 6 straight days, which is one shy of tying the NHL record set in 2001

Pittsburgh leads series 3-2
Stamkos finally scored in this series, netting 2. Gagne and Kubina also scored twice, their first goals of the series. And Lecavalier scored only his second goal of the series. The Penguins have done a good job shutting down most of Tampa Bay's top weapons. This 8 goal explosion shouldn't worry them too much. The Lightning only scored 9 in Games 1 through 4.

Washington wins series 4-1
I thought New York's goaltending would be enough to beat Washington. I was wrong. Michal Neuvirth was the star goalie of the series with a .946 save percentage, 1.38 GAA, and a shutout. But that was against a poor Rangers offense. Washington joins Detroit among the teams already in the 2nd round.

Boston leads series 3-2
Playoff series are sometimes won and lost by the slimmest of margins. The Bruins have scored 2 more goals than the Canadiens in the last 9 periods of hockey. And that's all it takes to go from 2-1 down to 3-2 up.

San Jose leads series 3-2
Jonathan Quick rebounded for LA with a 51 save effort after back-to-back 6 goals allowed outings. LA's biggest advantage over San Jose is their goaltending. With Quick on his A-Game, the Kings are a better team. Anything less than stellar, though, and San Jose looks to be superior.

Series tied 3-3
The Flyers are, without a doubt, the toughest team to eliminate. Without Jeff Carter, essentially without Chris Pronger, and using 3 goalies in a series, they're still alive. It's because they stay even-keeled when they're down. Danny Briere now has 5 goals in this series, and Brian Boucher is probably the best relief goalie in the NHL. Game 7 Tuesday night in Philly.

Nashville wins series 4-2
Teemu Selanee was basically the only Anaheim player to show up for this series. He scored his 6th goal in this game, but none of his teammates did much of anything. Nashville's goaltending, defense, and timely offense was enough to win the first playoff series in their franchise's history. Nashville is team #3 to earn a spot in the 2nd round, and does anyone in Tennessee care?

Series tied 3-3
I lost all respect for Roberto Luongo last night. After he got pulled in two games, the Canucks decided to start Cory Schneider. Luongo, like a bitch, spent most of the game in the dressing room. His teammates are out on the ice, trying to win a playoff series against the Stanley Cup champs, and he's back in the locker room playing pocket pool. Schneider tore/strained/pulled a muscle trying to save a penalty shot, and Luongo went in. He then sucked. And it was his mistake that cost the Canucks the game. And in Stanley Cup storybook fashion it was Ben Smith who scored the game-winning goal. He played 6 regular season games and scored once. Now he's played 5 playoff games and scored twice. He played with Schneider at BC.

Tonight's games:
7:00 PM - Penguins @ Lightning (Pittsburgh leads series 3-2) - Versus
10:00 PM - Sharks @ Kings (San Jose leads series 3-2) - Versus


The Sox are only one game below .500 and they owe it all to the Angels. Remember last year? The Sox owned Anaheim, going 9-1 against them. So while I'm happy the Sox are now only 3.5 behind the Yankees, and have a record that's not too shameful, beating the Angels is old news.

Lackey beating the Angels doesn't impress me. But Daisuke beating them does. Then again, Daisuke's problem has been consistency, and two great starts don't demonstrate that a consistency problem has been solved. I'm not aboard the Daisuke bandwagon yet. And won't be for some time.

One thing the Sox have thoroughly demonstrated with this 8-1 run, is that pitching wins. Even if half the lineup is slumping, even if the bullpen is shaky, good starting pitching makes winning easy. Crawford is still hitting below his weight, Lowrie's the only guy hitting over .300, and it seems like a new middle-reliever struggles in every game. But the wins keep coming so long as the starts are good.

To continue this roll, Buchholz needs to step up. He's lost his confidence, he's been obsessing with baserunners, and allowing homeruns. The offensively challenged (3rd fewest runs scored in baseball) Orioles present Buchholz with an opportunity to re-establish his place in this rotation. He's the only starter yet to register a Quality Start.

He faces 3-1 Zach Britton Tuesday night in Baltimore. And yes, Britton is a lefty.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


New Yorker's talk up their arena so much. Just because it's old, antiquated (why is it so poorly lit for hockey games?), and lots of college basketball gets played there, New Yorkers think MSG is "historical" even magical/mythical. But I guess if I were a Knicks fan, I'd brag more about my building more than my team.

The Celtics disposed of the Knicks on Sunday. And even though I'm not confident in a deep playoff run for the C's, I'm not surprised that the Knicks were so easily defeated. Maybe the games were close, and maybe the Knicks had a valiant 4th quarter effort yesterday to make things interesting, but when did they ever have control of this series? And look elsewhere. The Heat lost to the 76ers yesterday. Isn't that a bit more disappointing than only winning by a few points?

I don't think the Celtics have the depth, or the health to win it all this year. They can still go deep, simply because guys like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and KG are so ludicrously clutch. And Rondo has stepped it up, as well. So while I don't think we'll be celebrating Banner #18 in Boston, I won't turn down the opportunity to celebrate a triumph over a team from New York.

Besides, anything is possible.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Horton Hears a WOOOOO!

How's your heart? Mine's still recovering from Saturday night's shenanigans. It took 89 minutes to determine a winner, but you can't say the Bruins didn't earn it.

Tim Thomas and Carey Price had two of the best goaltending performances of the playoffs. Price is the only Canadien that I respect. He and Thomas combined for 94 saves on 97 shots, which translates to a .969 save percentage. Thomas made his biggest save in the 2nd overtime period.

The three aspects of Thomas' game that combine to make him great are his balance, vision, and quickness. This save exemplifies all three of these qualities coming together to result in magnificence. His balance allows him to cut down the angle against Moen without committing to the shot. His center of gravity remains in his mid-section, which allows him to react to Moen's pass. Thomas actually does a better job reading the play than Ference. He starts moving to play Gionta before Gionta moves his stick to play the puck. Thomas' quickness allows him to get to the spot in time to not only block the shot, but to safely steer it to the corner.

But that play might not have been the save of the game.

This might have been Michael Ryder's best defensive game in a Bruins uniform, and not just for that play.

In order to succeed in the playoffs, a team needs to improve, from game to game, and series to series. The Bruins have done that in this series. They've stopped giving the puck away in dangerous areas. They're winning battles. They're getting bodies in front of Price. Ryder's actually playing. Horton is muscling people around. Chara is fully hydrated and once again a physical force. And Brad Marchand no longer looks like a rookie.

Marchand's goal was a prime example of Boston's physicality triumphing. The B's aren't going to get more big hits than Montreal. The Habs use their speed to inflict big hits, and to avoid them. But on Marchand's goal, the Bruins repeatedly won inside position, and it ultimately resulted in a goal. That's where the Bruins' strength can defeat the Canadiens' speed.

Things aren't perfect yet. It's hard to discuss faults and flaws after thrilling back-to-back OT victories. But there's plenty of room for improvement. The power play continues to struggle, which is fine because the PK is clicking beautifully. The Bruins have stopped turning pucks over on their defensive blue-line, but they need to take better care of it between the offensive blue-line and that Stanley Cup Playoff logo.

Then there's Kaberle. His lack of strength directly lead to Montreal's 3rd period goal. The Habs had been pressuring the B's for 10 minutes, but Kaberle's inability to push a puck to a safe area allowed Montreal to score. Kelly and Peverley have contributed so much more than Kaberle has.

I was glad that Horton and the first line scored the game-winning goal. But Lucic needs to show up. He's still floating around, hoping for some good luck. I wouldn't be shocked if he's injured because he looks like he did in last year's postseason, hardly skating at all. He needs to simplify his game, stop worrying about drifting into scoring positions, and play physical. The goals will find him if he just stays true to himself.

And Krejci needs to stop dangling and deking. Just shoot the friggin' puck. You're not going to trick Carey Price.

Thankfully, Game 6 isn't until Tuesday. Both these teams need some recuperation time. The Canadiens are facing elimination and that makes them very dangerous. Under Julien, the Bruins are 2-7 when they can eliminate a team from the playoffs. They're also 0-3 in Game 7's under Julien. So despite the 3-2 series lead, I'm hardly over confident.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo