Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Playoffs: NHL OT, Rinne, Roloson, Thomas and JVR

These playoffs have been amazing thus far. NHL Overtime has become a daily Rite Of Spring. Counting last night's exciting Boston 3-2 OT win over Philadelphia in Game Two, there have already been 18 games that required sudden death. Four have gone to double overtime, including Nashville's stirring 2-1 win at Vancouver taking Game Two to earn a split with Game Three tonight back in Music City. More remarkable is that there's been at least one OT game 13 of the last 14 days with only the Canucks' 1-0 Game One shutout of the Predators on April 28 breaking the trend.

With two more games on the slate tonight featuring the Caps and Bolts at the top of the hour and the Canucks and Preds later, might we see more of the most exciting hockey our sport has to offer? Let's hope so.

Aside from all the classic games, goalies have stood out at the start of Round Two with brilliant performances turned in by Pekka Rinne, Dwayne Roloson and Tim Thomas. Facing the No.1 overall seed with the most lethal offense, Rinne has held Vancouver to only two goals on 63 shots. While he was less busy in Game Two finishing with 32 saves to Vezina counterpart Roberto Luongo's 44, the quality was in a different stratosphere with the athletic Finn robbing the Canucks of a commanding 2-0 series lead at least five separate times. His acrobatic denial of a certain goal was Hasek like in style, doing anything he had to to stop the puck. There also were stone jobs on Henrik Sedin and Maxim Lapierre, who had easy paths to the net. Rinne had the Canucks shaking their heads, which bares watching with a pivotal game tonight. ... A funny thing's happened in the Tampa/Washington Southeast showdown. The play of elder statesman Roloson has the Lightning in good position to pull the upset. They won both games at Verizon, including a wild 3-2 sudden death win Sunday thanks to Roli's heroics along with Vinny Lecavalier, who potted his second of the game in beating Michal Neuvirth. The play of the former Islander who has a wealth of postseason experience going to a couple of Cup Finals ('99 Sabres, '06 Oilers) has stymied the Caps, who have gotten little from top pivot Nicklas Backstrom (2 assists). If they hope to advance, that must change. They'll need to solve Roloson, who kept his team in Game Two with 35 stops to steal it. We'll see what Alex Ovechkin and Co. are made of.

... Not to be outdone, the other Vezina candidate Thomas was at his absolute pinnacle in thwarting ever dangerous James Van Riemsdyk and the Flyers, backstopping the Bruins to a 3-2 win in what else...overtime! The B's climbed out of an early two-goal hole due to JVR (8 SOG, 10 Att in 28:18), who tallied twice in the game's first 10 minutes. The kid from Jersey was a one man gang, using superior speed and size to circle past the Boston D for quality chance after quality chance only to be denied time and again by Thomas, who stopped the final 46 shots in one of the most clutch performances you'll see. Boston recovered thanks to goals from Chris Kelly and rookie sensation Brad Marchand 75 seconds apart in the first. Despite a dominant 32-12 shots edge combining the third and OT, the Flyers couldn't get another past Thomas to square the series. They also had to again relieve a starter with Brian Boucher coming out due to an injury suffered in the second while making a glove save. In came Sergei Bobrovsky, who made half a dozen stops, including a couple of big ones keeping the game tied before Boucher surprisingly returned for the third/OT. To his credit, Bouch was sharp when called upon while Thomas stopped all 22 shots, facing a barrage. That included his own Hasek impersonation with a backwards save in the final sequence of regulation, negating who else but Van Riemsdyk with Danny Briere unable to steer home the winner as the buzzer sounded. As often happens when a hot goalie stands on their head, all it takes is one mistake for the other team to win, which is exactly what happened when an errant Braydon Coburn reverse missed his partner, instead going to Nathan Horton who intercepted and sent a cross-ice feed for David Krejci's OT winner that went in and out of the net so fast that it required replay to confirm the obvious. Everyone knew it. The puck hit the back iron before exiting, allowing Thomas' super effort to hold up.

... There have been a few great games turned in by goalies with rookie Corey Crawford topping the list with some of the best goaltending you'll ever see in allowing the former champion Blackhawks to push Vancouver to the limit before Alex Burrows ended their bid to repeat Flyers HISTORY from an 0-3 deficit. Carey Price was also outstanding in a losing effort to blood rival Boston with Horton ending the Habs' season. Roloson outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury but also benefited from dynamic duo Lecavalier and deserving MVP candidate Martin St. Louis, who were too much for a shorthanded Pens' club minus Sid and Geno, blowing a 3-1 lead. It's hard to put one at the top. Between Rinne's acrobatics and Thomas' wild style, they're the two most fun to watch because you never know how they'll stop the puck. No disrespect to Luongo, who is a fine goalie. But he is not on par with either and has arguably the deepest blueline along with The Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Burrows roaming around. We still feel either Price or Henrik Lundqvist were robbed by GMs just as Guy Boucher was for the Jack Adams with writers opting to include Alain Vigneault along with certain winner Dan Bylsma and "The Czar," Barry Trotz. Everything else, we have no issue with.

Let the games begin!

1 comment:

Hasan said...

And my picks blow up again lol...but who would have thought there'd be so many no-contest series at this point after all the parity of the first round?

The Caps though, god...that can't wait any more, they have to blow it up now. If Lou's looking to hire Hitch he better snap him up before the Caps announce a vacancy.

The Puck Stops Here

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