(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.)
By this time tomorrow, it's entirely likely that all but two first-round series will be over (and really, does anyone think the Rangers or Hurricanes have even the slightest chance of winning?). With this in mind, I took a quick stroll through the Internet to try and figure out just why every team that lost did so.
It was quite the adventure, believe you me, so here are the most common excuses I have found.
1. That goalie you thought was going to be a superstar is really just not very good.
I know, Montreal fans. Every goalie that was ever born in Quebec was destined to become the Habs' savior that would lead Les Glorieux to the promised-land again and again and again, like all those guys that did it back in 1919 or whatever. They said that about Patrick Roy. They said that about Jose Theodore(notes). They said that about Carey Price(notes). (Ed. Note: Even though he was born in British Columbia.) And none of those losers delivered more than two Cups (and even then, just Roy, and even then, ONLY TWO?). Clearly THEY are the problem. Boo them right out of town, by all means. You deserve better.
2. You were wayyyyyy too young.
Poor St. Louis. Apart from all those guys that have playoff experience (a mere 10!), the Blues had a roster literally overflowing with guys who had no playoff experience. Can't expect them to beat a team like the Canucks. I mean, Mats freakin' Sundin plays for them. Impossible to win against all that playoff experience.
3. You ran into a buzzsaw.
How could anyone think it's possible beat a team like Detroit? I mean, look who's in net for them! It's super-hard to put more than one past Chris Osgood(notes). Can't fault anyone on the Blue Jackets. It's not like it was a no-show. No sir. Everyone tried hard.
(Coming Up: A mea culpa over the awesome power of Eric Staal(notes); why it's all Mike Keenan's fault; the Ducks complain about a game-winner; the heroics of Tom Poti(notes); another awful Vincent Lecavalier(notes) trade; and more Tortorella fallout.)
4. You were the victims of a vast league-wide conspiracy.
Gary BUTTMAN (lol) and NBC and the Bilderberg Group, in conjunction with the reverse vampires, have clearly ordained that no one but the Penguins and CINDY CRY-SBY (lmao) may represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals. Those "9/11 was an inside job!" guys oughta make a YouTube movie out of this and really get to the bottom of it.
5. Swine flu.
Whoever loses the New Jersey/Carolina series has this great news story as a perfect, ready-made excuse. All you have to do is hire someone to Photoshop Eric Staal or Patrik Elias(notes) wearing a somebrero and kissing a pig. Bulletproof plan!
6. Your coach is terrible.
What is Mike Keenan thinking? He kept pulling Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) any time he gave up three goals in eight minutes. Absurd. Clearly Iron Mike doesn't know what's going on any more. This is in no way Jarome Iginla's(notes) fault for only showing up to two of the first five games.
7. It is entirely probable that you will never win a first-round matchup again.
Without looking it up (or even caring to), it is my assumption that the San Jose Sharks never won a series in the entire history of their franchise, which predates the Montreal Canadiens by at least a week and a half. In fact, before they won Game 3 against Anaheim, they'd been swept in every series in their history. So it goes.
8. You were too distraught over the death of Bea Arthur.
How could Henrik Lundqvist(notes) be asked to make gloveside saves knowing that we're down to just two Golden Girls? How could the Rangers' offense concentrate on goal-scoring when they're terribly worried that Rue McClanahan might be the next to go? It's just a bad, bad situation for everyone. Now at least we'll have a whole summer to laugh along with Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia in reruns. Thank you for being a friend, Bea.
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 '09.)
Anaheim Ducks: Where would the Ducks be without Jonas Hiller(notes)? That game Saturday night was only 2-0 in the third period thanks pretty much to him and him alone. Anaheim had, through two periods, been outshot 29-13, and through regulation it was still 41-22. Even on the game-winning goal, he made the initial stop and accidentally kicked the puck in himself. And even then...
"The reason the puck went in the net is because their player pushed our goalie's pad," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "The puck was loose behind him and their player pushed the goalie's pad. As he pushed the goalie's pad, the back of his skate knocked the puck in the net."
Referees Dennis LaRue and Kevin Pollock huddled briefly after the goal, but there was no video review.
"I think there needs to be some clarification because my view is they're not allowed to push the goaltender and the puck into the net to cause a good goal," Carlyle said.
I mean, it's clearly a good goal. I have no love for the Ducks or Sharks and it should have counted. But I did feel bad for Hiller because, jeez, look at everything he did in the lead-up. Sucks to go to Game 6 on a play like that.
Boston Bruins: After the absolute thrashing the Bruins laid on the Habs in Round 1, the one thing they really needed to do was get better. Enter Andrew Ference(notes), who will be good to go when the Bruins start their second-round series.
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference missed the entire first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with an "undisclosed injury", but B's coach Claude Julien indicated that the veteran blueliner should be ready to start the next round of playoffs likely to start at the end of next week. Ference skated for the fourth straight day prior to team practice on Friday morning, and Julien said that he'll likely begin skating with the team at the beginning of next week. "Right now, the way things are looking there's no reason to not think he's going to start the next series," said Julien. "From our chats with our trainers, by the beginning of the week he'll be (back) with the team."
The good news for whatever team is unfortunate enough to play the Bruins: Tim Thomas(notes) had flu-like symptoms and Patrice Bergeron(notes) has a foot injury. The bad news: neither will be a problem by the time the second round starts.
Also, a note to all my Ruff Ryderz: Meet me outside.
Calgary Flames: If you, like me, had the misfortune of watching the lopsided beatdown in Chicago on Saturday, you probably had a number of questions: 1) What the [expletive deleted]? 2) Where was the Flames team that showed up in Calgary? 3) No, seriously, what the [expletive deleted]? Don't worry, though. It's all Mike Keenan's fault!
"With the way we played the first period, the criticism has to fall on myself, the coach," Keenan said. "The team wasn't prepared to play at all, for a number of reasons.
"But the bottom line is that when your team doesn't respond -- or isn't prepared --that's really the coach's responsibility. And that's exactly what the state of the club was. We weren't prepared for the push that we saw from them, and that's my job."
Or maybe it's all Jarome Iginla's fault.
"I wasn't nearly good enough," said captain Jarome Iginla. "I was terrible tonight. There's no excuse for that."
Iginla finished the game at a brutal minus-3 with no points and just one shot on goal.
"It's no secret," Iginla said. "We were feeling good, and we just let up a little bit in the beginning of the game. You can't do that. Especially on the road."
Or maybe, just maybe, it's all Miikka Kiprusoff's fault.
Kiprusoff said he can't put his finger on why he's been yanked in a quarter of the team's playoff games over the past two springs.
"No, I can't," said an obviously downtrodden netminder. "Probably I didn't play well enough."
Guys, guys. I can settle this for you. No problem. You ALL suck! How's a 9 a.m. tee time on Tuesday sound, then?
The way this team is built, the Canes aren't going to win many playoff series when Staal has two points. Now, he has five, and the Canes are headed for a Game 7 in New Jersey on Tuesday.
Saturday morning, I wrote that Staal was the one player on the Carolina roster who could do what Martin Brodeur(notes) did in Game 5: single-handedly turn the series in his team's favor. Sunday night, he did just that.
So at least I'm not the only one that has to eat my words a bit here. The good news for Devils fans is that Staal has six career points (two goals!) at New Jersey in 15 career games, including these playoffs, and is a minus-3.
And by the way, uhhhhhhh, what goes on down in Raleigh? (NSFW)
Chicago Blackhawks: That Chicago win on Saturday was more or less the result of Calgary saying, "Nah, we're all set with playing like professional hockey players, thank you." But, if you had to say one Blackhawk was the reason for the win, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a more deserving candidate for the praise than Martin Havlat(notes).
Martin Havlat, meanwhile, continues to demonstrate his importance -- when healthy, Havlat might be the Hawks' best player. He had two assists, was plus-2 for the evening and seemed to be in the middle of everything the Hawks did in Game 5. He and Ladd were especially effective keeping the puck alive in the Flames' end and creating chances.
It's particularly interesting to note that Havlat was a minus-4 in Thursday night's ugly loss in Calgary. If he can show up tonight like he did last Tuesday (when he had a goal and an assist), the Blackhawks will put Calgary out of its misery. Also, he will make a ton of money on the free agent market this summer. That too.
Detroit Red Wings: There really isn't much to say about the Red Wings' four-game curb-stomping of the Blue Jackets outside of the fact that I didn't expect it to shake out like that at all. Once again, I have to blame Ken Hitchcock. But instead of rehashing news from like four days ago, let's have a look at the Wings' injury situation, yeah?
It's still a waiting game when it comes to the status of Kris Draper(notes). The forward has missed the last six games, regular season and playoffs, with an upper-body injury. The official word is that his status will be re-evaluated and updated next week. However, I've talked with sources close to the situation, and it appears as if Draper is ready to play and is just waiting to be cleared by the team. I wouldn't be surprised to see him suit up during the second round.
Pretty much everyone else is good to go except Andreas Lilja(notes), who is likely done for the year. One other note, though, is that there's speculation that Chris Osgood played that last game injured, and that's why he gave up five goals to a team that had been entirely punchless for 180 minutes prior to that. By that logic, he must have also been injured on March 7, Nov. 11, Jan. 17, Feb. 15, Jan. 12, Dec. 4 and Oct. 29.
New Jersey Devils: Any way at all to spin that steamrolling last night as a positive? Nope.
"I guess the difference of tonight was [one] team played like there was no tomorrow and the other team played like there was," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "And when that happens, usually the team that plays like there is another game tomorrow ends up on the wrong side and we certainly did in a lot of aspects tonight."
The Devils talked for the last three days about not playing as if they had a Game 7 to fall back on, but it appeared as if they knew that if they lost they had another chance on Tuesday.
Granted, they haven't played well in Carolina all season (four losses and the OT win in Game 3 is it), but the 'Canes margin of victory last night was the same as the previous three losses combined. Terrible game.
New York Rangers: What a nerd John Tortorella is. (Yeah, the whole stick-wielding, water-squirting maniac thing again.) Remember all that talk about how a fan dumped beer on him? Not true, says stand-in coach Jim Schoenfeld.
Schoenfeld said that he knows the real story about the incident in Washington, and that it wasn't that Tortorella was doused or sprayed or anything that set him off: It was a comment about one of his players.
Which makes this all the more hilarious. A reaction of that kind MIGHT have been justified in the event of a beer-dumping. Might. However, the fact that it was over words said by a fan at a hockey game? Insanely funny. And ironic, too, given what you-know-who said you-know-what about you-know-who's girlfriend's you-know-exactly-what back when he played for the Stars. Words hurt, after all.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Enough really cannot be said about Evgeni Malkin's(notes) play in this series. He obviously brought his typical amount of skill and all that, but I think the most surprising thing was the fact that he took crap from absolutely nobody and played with unusual tenacity in all three zones.
"I learn," the 22-year-old said. "It's my third playoffs. It's a little bit different. I play in defensive zone more, try hard, play whole [ice], [mesh with all] five guys."
Wanna know just how much harder he's working? Go look at Ruslan Fedotenko's(notes) goal that opened the Pens' scoring Saturday afternoon. Malkin drives from behind the net, gets a shot at the short side, gets shoved away and, while falling backwards, takes another whack at the puck, forcing it under Martin Biron(notes). Fedotenko just poked it in after that. Malkin probably doesn't make that kind of play in the regular season.
"I thought I had a good game in Game 3 and I thought I'd build off that," he said, "but for whatever reason I just didn't have a good game, that's all."
As for his decision to bypass reporters afterward, the normally easygoing Thornton said: 'I just got out of there. I was frustrated."
Of course, you can apply any of these quotes to most of the playoff games in which Thornton has played, but what the hell? Good for him getting a goal and two assists in a must-win game. I don't know why Todd McLellan ever broke up the Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi line in the first place.
Vancouver Canucks: Okay so Vancouver completely overwhelmed St. Louis in the first round. Surprised the hell out of me. Here's another shocker: Mats Sundin(notes) might not be good to go for the next round.
"I don't know at this point. I mean, we're going day-by-day here and hopefully I can keep skating and working the way we did today and we'll make a decision as we go on here."
The injury itself is a mystery, too, with speculation settling on either the hip or groin. Sundin wouldn't, or couldn't, elaborate.
"I can't talk about that," he said. "It feels a lot better. It will be a process. It was nice being out there skating, for sure. It's important for me to keep skating and not stay off the ice for too many days. I obviously welcome the fact we don't have any games right now, and hopefully I'll keep moving in the right direction."
That's $10 million well spent. It's worth noting, by the way, that Vancouver seems very likely to play one of Chicago or Calgary (yeah right) rather than Detroit. That's a much more desirable matchup for them and they have the Sharks tanking it once again to thank for that.
Washington Capitals: Gotta feel great to be Tom Poti right now. In Game 3, Rangers fans were chanting, "Poti sucks!" at him and he scored a goal. (The Rangers, of course, are his former team.) Then yesterday afternoon, hoo boy. Not only did he score again, on a gorgeous 3-on-1 with Dave Steckel(notes) and Boyd Gordon(notes) (and a more fearsome troika you could not find in the NHL, for sure), but he also added three assists and picked up an extra 40 percent of his all-time postseason scoring. Not bad.
By the way, it turns out Tom Poti was an NHL All-Star in 2003. Would you have ever guessed that in your life?
(News and notes from some of the teams that couldn't be bothered to make or stay in the playoffs.)
Actual quote by Bob Gainey when a member of the Montreal media said even his wife was asking why Price got the go in Game 4: ""Well, he's a thoroughbred, and maybe your wife doesn't recognize that, but then again, I can't bake bread all that well. We all have different skills." Bob Gainey rules. ... Great roundup by Dominik over at Lighthouse Hockey on the choice between Hedman and Tavares. ... At least Lindy Ruff can win on the international stage, eh Sabres fans? ... Erik Christensen(notes) says the reason it sucks playing in Atlanta is ownership. ... If you were worried Craig Anderson(notes) couldn't get squeezed in down Miami way, fear not. ... By the way, if I asked you which team's prospect was most likely to murder a referee, the answer would ALWAYS be Philly, right?
Play of the Weekend
Oh jeez I don't know *what* to pick there are so many choi...