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. Ryan Lambert will return in two weeks; guest-authoring WWL in the meantime will be noted poet and father-of-one Greg Wyshynski.
Remember the first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs? It was the hockey equivalent of HBO's "The Wire," in which every episode had intense drama, memorable moments and unpredictable fatalities. (The Washington Capitals getting eliminated in the opening round would have been like McNulty getting popped in the third episode of Season 1.)
How incredible was the first round? We had upsets from Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia. We had Craig Anderson(notes) standing on his head and Dan Boyle(notes) scoring on his own goalie. (Yes, it was deflected; but this is the "Play It Again, Sam" of hockey playoff moments. There's no going back.) We had the Kings and the Canucks and the Coyotes and the Red Wings and Crosby's monstrous offense. It was epic.
And then ... well, less-than-epic.
To put it in crass teen comedy terms: If the NHL postseason is Nadia the exchange student, the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs are Jason Biggs on the Web cam.
(Coming Up: Over-praising Vokoun; trading Malkin; Ducks' Cup winner may be best ever; fun with the Armstrongs; Duncan Keith's(notes) a beast; Kovalchuk's future; Blue Jackets' coaching and Lightning GM finalists; Spezza and Thomas are un-tradable; bitching about TV times; Flyers do the Lord's Prayer; and Josh Gorges's(notes) wardrobe malfunction.)
I started noticing it when the Flyers became the first team in 35 years to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and it hardly registered on the casual sports fan radar. I began to wonder if the first-round drama had sucked most of the air out of the room, and if the Montreal upset of Pittsburgh vacuumed the rest of it out.
Then the Sharks eliminated the Red Wings too quickly, and the Blackhawks swept out the Sharks, and I pondered if we could somehow add a few extra games to the schedule (best of 13!) just to get out money's worth.
When's the last time you heard someone asking if these playoffs could be considered the best ever?
When's the last marathon overtime game? The last moment of flashpoint violence? The last highlight-reel goal? Or classic save that didn't involve a goalpost or a defenseman sliding in to save the day? Hell, we haven't even gotten our fill of officiating controversies.
The hockey in the latter two rounds has been terrific; especially if you're a fan that can appreciate the chess-matches and defensive dynamics inherent in the conference final series. But the drama's been absent. The edge has been absent. The addictive nature of the postseason has been absent.
I can't help but believe this is due to the fact that the first round delivered so much drama, contentious series and must-see television. The semifinals couldn't match it, and the conference finals couldn't even match the semifinals.
Hopefully, the trend is bucked in the Stanley Cup Final. Because if we see Vince Vaughn's arm candy yawning against the glass ... well, it'll probably be adorable. But also frustrating.
What We Learned
That Ducks team featured three sure-fire Hall of Famers in Chris Pronger(notes), Scott Niedermayer(notes) and Teemu Selanne(notes); an incredibly potent kid line featuring Ryan Getzlaf(notes), Corey Perry(notes) and Dustin Penner(notes); two excellent goalies in J-S Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov(notes); tons of toughness and the premier shutdown line of Sammy Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer(notes) and Travis Moen(notes).
Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas(notes) was going to be harder to move than Circuit City stock, but his surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip pretty much ensures he's back in Boston again. Which is great news for those who believe the knucklehead deserves a shot a redemption.
Buffalo Sabres: Should Craig Rivet(notes) remain captain of the Buffalo Sabres? No, say 70-percent of the fans on Die By The Blade. Which is, sadly, a lower approval rating than Congress.
"I don't know if I would be coaching right away, but I'd like to see how they run a team, learn from the ground up, how they make trades, how they draft."
If that's the case: Run away from Calgary, sir. Far, far away.
Chicago Blackhawks: One of the teeth Duncan Keith lost in Game 4 against the Sharks got lodged in the back of his throat. Just in case this dude's toughness hasn't been underscored enough in the last 24 hours.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Pierre LeBrun reports that Kevin Dineen, Scott Arniel and Claude Noel "are the three remaining candidates for the Columbus Blue Jackets' coaching job," but they're also interested in AHL coach of the year Guy Boucher.
Florida Panthers: Czech Republic coach Vladimir Ruzicka on Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun(notes), after the Czechs won the IIHF world championship -- "Vokoun is the best goalkeeper not only in this World Championship, but in the whole world." That's the kind of thing that could give a goalie a big head ... and Keith Ballard(notes) doesn't need an easier target.
Los Angeles Kings: In case you missed it, an update on the arrest of Kings assistant coach Mark Hardy that really doesn't make the incident any less disturbing. He's been charged with fourth-degree sexual abuse.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild's season-ticket renewal slogan is "You Make Our Greatest Comeback Possible." Rejected slogans included "Guarantee You'll Be There On Todd Richards' Final Night" and "What The Hell Else Are You Going To Do In Minnesota Come January?"
Montreal Canadiens: "That the Canadiens appeared so listless may have to do with the abhorrence most Canadians feel for NHL-scheduled games on treasured late spring afternoons, in this case a long weekend, merely to appease NBC, the American network." Yep, that must have been it.
Nashville Predators: From the Book of Odds, current NHL coaches only have a shelf life of 2.3 seasons -- the lowest average among the four major sports. "The odds an NHL head coach has been at his current job shorter than the league average are 1 in 1.3 (77%)." And then there's Barry Trotz.
New York Islanders: Talking with members of the Islanders' Cup dynasty about why they're not discussed in hushed tones like the Canadians and Oilers dynasties. As if inexplicably getting Clark Gillies in the Hockey Hall of Fame wasn't enough ...
New York Rangers: Biz of Hockey reports that the Rangers are going to flip their AHL affiliate from Hartford to Rochester in 2011, which means the good people of Connecticut will be deprived of Glen Sather eventually stashing a problem contract in the AHL in two years.
Philadelphia Flyers: This Flyers video manages to blaspheme the Lord's Prayer while managing to cram more attractive women into a hockey clip than previously thought possible:
Pittsburgh Penguins: Please oh please oh please don't treat Evegni Malkin as an untouchable, Pittsburgh. The rest of the League will be forever in your debt.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Seven reasons why Mikhail Grabovski should remain a Leaf. No. 6 is sort of depressing.
Vancouver Canucks: Will the Sedins still get booked as talk show guests as a duo if Henrik wins the Hart? Here they are on The Hour; Daniel's the one in the black top and the jeans. (Via Nucks Misconduct)
Washington Capitals: Looking at the future for free agents Scott Walker(notes), Eric Belanger(notes), Jose Theodore(notes), Brendan Morrison(notes), Boyd Kane(notes), Joe Corvo(notes), Shaone Morrisonn(notes) and Milan Jurcina(notes). There's a better chance the Salahis go to brunch with Barry and Michelle than Corvo coming back to D.C.
Play of the Weekend
Gold Star Award
Dustin Byfuglien(notes) now has eight playoff goals and four of them are game-winning goals. And to think, he was almost (rumored to be) flipped for Michael Nylander(notes) two years ago. Thanks, Dale Tallon!
Minus of the Weekend
We'll give it to Josh Gorges's wonky skate guard for allowing the Flyers to score first, moving the Habs to 1-7 when allowing the opening goal.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
From NHL King comes the solution for all the Red Wings' goaltending problems they don't have:
To det: Cory schnieder, rights to wille mitchelle, 1st 2010
to van: nicklas kronwall
What We Learned is typically authored by Ryan Lambert of The Two-Line Pass, who will return in two weeks.