April 30, 2009
Do you believe in playoff momentum?
Coaches will tell you that every game is its own animal; that the notion of one win sparking a series' worth of quality play is foolhardy. Looking at the way some of the longer first-round series corrected course from game to game, they might have a point.
(Then again, the Canadiens also showed that the putrid stink of defeat isn't easily washed away, either.)
What about momentum for individual players? Can one breakthrough goal inspire a John Druceian postseason roll? Can a hot line remain hot? One look at how Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan played for the Ducks in their emasculation of the Sharks would seem to indicate it can.
But in many ways, Round 2 is a reset button. New cities, new foes, new challenges. Which is really good news for a handful of players who, for one reason or another, never found their groove in the opening games.
From the final eight teams, here's a look at eight players looking for a conference semifinals rebound ...
Illness? Injury? The New York Rangers' defense? Whatever the case, Green was a non-factor for most of the Capitals' first-round series. Five points in seven games looks respectable on paper, but the fact is that Green was invisible at times offensively and was overwhelmed in his own zone at other times. As Coach Bruce Boudreau noted whenever criticism of Green arose, the Norris finalist is leading the team in ice time (25:35) and playing in all situations. But he needs to be better than competent in Round 2 -- he needs to be dynamic, like he was against the Penguins in the regular season.
The Canes defeating the New Jersey Devils in seven games was stunning enough; to do it without a single point from Cole is incredible. Credited with helping to reverse the fortunes of Carolina's season, Cole peppered Martin Brodeur with 11 shots in seven games but didn't earn a goal or assist, and was a minus-2. He started the series skating with Eric Staal; now, Staal's playing on a dominant line with Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose. Overall, Cole's gone 18 games without a goal. Yikes.
Michael Ryder lit it up against his former team, and the Bruins no doubt hope Mark Recchi can do the same. The veteran winger, historically a strong postseason performer, had one assist in the four-game sweep of the Montreal Canadiens. He's slotted to play with Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew, and needs to put some numbers in the box score. His most notable contribution in Round 1 was sending the long shot on Carey Price that caused the goalie's Patrick Roy moment.
Staal did things in the Penguins' series against the Philadelphia Flyers that helped make up for a lack of offensive output (one assist in six games), like increase his faceoff winning percentage from his regular season totals. Playing with Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke, he put 18 shots on goal; as Bob McKenzie notes in his TSN preview, some of those shots need to find the back of the net to help take the pressure off the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin lines against the Washington Capitals.
His illness (or the death of his goldfish) affected his play, so a bounce-back in Round 2 is expected. Kane had four points in five games and heated up in Game 6 with a goal and an assist on the power play. So he may be turning the corner at the right time ... but he needs to be more of a dangerous player in the Canucks series.
Another star player whose ailments in the first round derailed him. Sundin was limited to two games against the St. Louis Blues, scoring a goal on four shots. There are two primary reasons he needs to stay in the lineup and be effective in Round 2. First, he had the highest average time on the power play in Round 1 (3:47), and the Canucks were wildly inconsistent with the man advantage against the Blues. At even strength, he's essential for getting players like Pavol Demitra and Ryan Kesler going in order to take some pressure off the Sedins' line. So get crackin' and stay healthy, baldy.
Since Chris Osgood had to go and play extraordinarily well in three games, we're limited to pointing at a guy who didn't see any action in Round 1: Draper, the Wings' veteran checking center. He should know more about his status for Game 1 against the Ducks later today. Obviously, Detroit has several options when it comes to containing the Getzlaf/Perry/Ryan line; but Draper has been a shutdown guy in the past. He also led all Detroit forwards in shorthanded ice time in the regular season, so his services against the Ducks' still-torrid power play would be welcomed.
Like Kane, he showed signs of life in the team's final first-round game, scoring a huge power-play goal against the San Jose Sharks. He's a streaky scorer, so that could carry over to the next round. But Selanne needs to shoot more, having been limited to one recorded shot in four of the six games against the Sharks. And unless the Wings suddenly forget to play defense or Jonas Hiller doesn't give up a goal for the entire series, Anaheim might need some secondary scoring help.