Ryan Lambert

What We Learned: Which free agents increased price tag most?

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

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There's a lot to be said for being a playoff hero.

It's not necessarily that you're willfully rising to the occasion, or that you weren't capable of doing so during the regular season, but maybe you just happened to catch fire at exactly the right time.

So far this postseason there have been several players that have stood above the rest and led their teams to victory night after night, oftentimes against all odds. And it just so happens that several of them will be unrestricted free agents this summer.

It's pretty obvious at this point that The Guy in this postseason has been Jaroslav Halak(notes). Even if we here at Puck Daddy don't have him leading our Conn Smythe standings, it's tough to think of a guy that's done more with less than "the Client." At no point in these playoffs have we been able to say that the Habs have been awe-inspiring, and it doesn't seem like they're going to make his job particularly easy if they do indeed beat the Penguins twice in a row.

But still, his 2.40 GAA is good for second among still-active goaltenders (behind Boston's Tuukka Rask(notes), 2.39) and his .933 save percentage is tops by a wide margin despite facing an average of 34 shots a night.

Between his outstanding stretch run in the regular season and this, some general manager (probably Pierre Gauthier) is going to back a dump-truck full of gold up to his house.

(COMING UP: Dennis Seidenberg(notes) is Wolverine; Jonathan Toews(notes) looks like Wolverine; Jaroslav Spacek(notes) in a Hitchcock film; the delusion of Brian Boucher(notes); Pittsburgh gets physical; Germany apparently likes hockey; Gagne's big move; coaching searches for Columbus and Atlanta; and why Johan Franzen(notes) is a sore loser.)

Another "client" who's about to yank down some fat cash: Miroslav Satan(notes). Signed by the Bruins on the cheap after the Winter Classic to shore up whatever meager scoring depth they might have had, Satan was decent during the regular season but by no means great (9-5-14 in 38).

The Bruins might've felt they got just about their pro-rated $700,000's worth. But these playoffs have seen him begin to play like a player worth 10 times that. He's played 10 games and gotten 10 points, but three of his five goals have been game-winners, including the series-clincher against Buffalo in the first round and that wonderful dance of his.

He'll be almost 36 years old at the start of next season, so he's not going to rake in big cash, but for a guy that was playing pickup hockey in December, the $3 million or so someone will give him in July must seem awful nice.

Another aging player that can clearly still go is Sergei Gonchar(notes). He turned 36 about a month ago, but you can't tell from his play the last few weeks. He's third in points from the blue line this offseason behind only Brian Rafalski(notes) and Nicklas Lidstrom(notes), but unlike those two he's still playing.

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Two goals and eight assists in 11 games might not sound like a ton, but a plus-6 on a team with an even-strength goal differential of plus-4 is quite good. Like Satan, his big-money days are behind him, but someone will cut him a decent-sized check for another year or two, no problem.

San Jose is going to have a tough decision to make in the offseason. It's likely that given the salaries restricted free agents like Joe Pavelski(notes) and Devin Setoguchi(notes) will command, and the number of roster spots they need to fill, they won't be able to re-sign both Patrick Marleau(notes) and Evgeni Nabokov(notes). At least not after this postseason.

While neither has put up sparkling numbers (Marleau has just 3-4-7 from 10 and Nabokov's save percentage is .907), both have been better than those numbers show. Take out Nabokov's disastrous Game 4 start in Detroit (five goals on nine shots in 20 minutes) and his numbers are an absurd 2.03/.923.

Meanwhile, two of Marleau's three goals have been of the huge variety. Both goals in the Detroit series were game-winners, one in overtime and one to clinch the series, and no one would try to argue that he's been anything less than very good throughout these playoffs.

These postseason superstars could be coming to a team near you, for the right price. And the best part is that only some of them will probably end up being hilariously overpaid.

What We Learned

(WWL will, for the remainder of the postseason, only cover the teams still playing hockey. Any news of note involving the other teams will be dealt with below in Loserwatch 2010.)

Boston Bruins: Dennis Seidenberg thought his season was over, but because this is apparently a postseason for miraculous, Wolverine-like recoveries, he could be back if the Bruins make the Stanley Cup Finals.

"I just kind of figured, that's it for me, and I'd get healthy and rehab my wrist and get ready for next year," he said. ...

Seidenberg said he's not yet allowed to use his left hand, which is in a hard plastic splint, because any stress put on it right now would potentially stretch the tendon. He'll see the doctors again on Monday, to test the mobility of that left arm, and for that, he said he's definitely not behind schedule.

"I haven't touched a stick with my [left] hand," said Seidenberg. "I can just use my right hand. But it's looking good."

If he comes back, that'd be a huge boost for the Bruins' blue line. He played very well after coming to Boston from Florida at the deadline.

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Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews would like to astutely break down the reason the Blackhawks got their lunch handed to them Sunday night:

''We didn't control the game the way we wanted to,'' said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, who scored the Hawks' lone goal at 12:51 in the third period.

''I don't know if we were waiting for someone else to do the job. But we got to all take it upon ourselves to do something, to contribute one way, whether it's scoring a goal or killing off a big penalty.''

Another helpful way to do that would be to not give the other team six power plays in one game, but that's just a suggestion from me.

Montreal Canadiens: Well if the Habs wanted good news for their defensive depth, they got a ton of it on Sunday. Jaroslav Spacek will probably return Monday night, Hal Gill(notes) thinks he'll be able to play after picking up a cut on his leg in Game 5, and both Andrei Markov(notes) and Paul Mara(notes) skated.

"I'm pretty close to playing," the veteran said Sunday, after participating in an optional practice at the team's facility in Brossard. "The coaching staff wants me to be as close as possible to contributing, because the playoffs are a different level.

"We'll see tomorrow," Spacek added. "But if I'm not 100 percent, I would never go out to play."

Spacek has been sidelined with a mysterious virus -- some have speculated he's suffering from vertigo -- since April 19, when the Canadiens were in the midst of their opening-round playoff series against Washington.

Vertigo? Yikes.

Philadelphia Flyers: Will someone please let Brian Boucher know how precarious the Flyers' situation is? He seems to have lost his mind.

Though Boston still holds a commanding 3-1 chokehold on the series, some Flyers think the pressure shifts to the Bruins on home ice. Closeout games are the hardest to secure in a series.

"It shows a lot about our character," said goalie Brian Boucher. "We're back in this thing. We feel good about ourselves and now the pressure is on them. They're going home and we still have nothing to lose here. We're going to give our best on the road, give a good road effort, and hope to bring it back here."

The pressure is on the Bruins to win one of the next three games, two of which are in Boston. Okay Boosh, whatever you say.

Pittsburgh Penguins: There are two reasons the Penguins won on Saturday night: Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) (obviously) and physicality.

"I thought our physicality set the tone early on," said Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik(notes), who qualifies as an expert on the subject. He leads his team in these playoffs with 47 hits. He had five more Saturday night in a game the Penguins held a 35-23 edge in hits.

"It's no fun when you're on the other side of it," Orpik said. "I can tell you that from the Ottawa series. The way they forechecked, it was tough. When you're constantly getting hit and peeling yourself off the ice, it's no fun. It takes its toll."

Chris Kunitz(notes) led the charge with seven, and even Sid Crosby got in on the act with two, one more than Hal Gill.

San Jose Sharks: This picture, posted by St. Louis Game Time, is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

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There's nothing that's not fantastic about it.

Vancouver Canucks: Know who made the critics look bad on Sunday? Roberto Luongo(notes). He made 30 saves on 31 shots and, with more than a little help from Kevin Bieksa(notes), picked up a win that almost looked easy.

The Canucks pressured the Blackhawks' top line that had struck for 20 series points in the first four series games. They made them play in their own zone and made them get frustrated. The Canucks also struck on the power play and were perfect in killing four power plays. And now Luongo is in their heads, too.

"You could tell Louie was on his game right away," said Bieksa. "The first five minutes he was sharp and we just settled in to playing man-to-man and boxing out."

I don't know if Luongo is in their heads -- Toews has four goals in his last two games against the guy -- but certainly he's kept the Canucks alive, which is all you can ask from a goalie.

Loserwatch 2010

The Atlanta Thrashers' search for a new coach has started, but three of the four candidates they like best are from organizations that were, as of Saturday, still in the playoffs. ... More coaching-search news, this time from Columbus. ... Abbottsford, Calgary's AHL affiliate, is tied 2-all in their playoff series thanks to the contributions of three forwards who were in the WHL a month ago. ... Apparently getting Steve Yzerman to be GM of the Lightning will be a great thing. I'm not sure why. ... Will Nicklas Lidstrom return for the Wings? He's only like 52, so I say yes. ... There's a bit of a dustup over the use of players at Florida's AHL affiliate. ... Here's 10 things Mile High Hockey hates about the 2009-10 Avs. ... The Oilers aren't sure whether or not they have to sign one of their prospects before June 1 or else lose him to the draft. ... Hey kids, you can design Niklas Backstrom's mask. ... Yes, they're going to have actual bridges for fans at Madison Square Garden. Perfect for throwing beer cups and soda bottles at all the players you hate.

Play of the Weekend

Simon Gagne(notes) returned to the lineup on Friday night for his first game in about 2 1/2 weeks, and made some kinda impact, scoring the overtime game-winner and ensuring his Flyers would live for at least another weekend.

Still no idea what Chara or Wideman were doing there, though.

Gold Star Award

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Well done to the fans in Germany for banging out a 77,803-seat "rink" for the first game of the World Championships. Schalke's stadium looked awesome.

Too bad America is going to crush that record next season when over 100,000 fans show up to watch Michigan and Michigan State at the Big House next year. USA! USA! USA!

Minus of the Weekend

Because it can't be a Red Wings playoff loss without someone from the team crying about something, Johan Franzen sure is sad he didn't get a five-minute power play out of a play that, yes, legitimately should have gotten one. But complaining about it makes you look like a sore loser, as is the Wings' reputation.

Signoff

She thinks I'm too critical. That's another fault of hers.

Ryan Lambert publishes some hockey content at The Two-Line Pass every once in a while. You should check it out. Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you think you're man enough.

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