First round second look

Now that 48 hours or so have passed since the conclusion of the first round, a few observations and remarks.

• There has been much pleading for cooler heads to prevail in D.C. in the wake of the Washington Capitals’ collapse against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference’s 1-8 matchup.

On the other hand, it’s possible an attempt to avoid over-reaction may result in under-reaction. Ted Leonsis was chided for his emotional post-series evisceration of the hockey club but the Caps owner may be right to fret, even if he’s giving the wrong reasons to do so.

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It’s easy to be dazzled by Washington’s offensive weaponry, just as it’s convenient to look at the Caps’ late-series shot totals and dismiss the setback as a bad luck/hot goalie phenomenon. While it’s possible the comments fall into the blind squirrel-finding-occasional-acorn category, there were doubters about the legitimacy of the Caps long before Mike Green made Norris Trophy voters beg for their ballots back. And all the head-shaking about the flow of rubber directed at Jaroslav Halak in the final three games has obscured the fact Washington was a bit fortunate to be up three games to one in the first place — consider Montreal’s blown 4-1 and 5-4 leads in Game 2 and a gaffe by Flames ex-pat Roman Hamrlik that led to a tide-turning Caps goal in Game 4.

So while Leonsis may be a tad off in his post-series analysis and while it may be foolish to blow up a team that had a remarkable edge in regular-season five-on-five play, let’s not completely dismiss the possibility the Caps may need something along the lines of a Ron Francis-Ulf Samuelsson modification in order to turn the corner.

• By the way, has anyone fully absorbed the fact Washington — which didn’t start making the playoffs until 1983 — now has more Game 7 home-ice losses than any other club in NHL history?

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• It defies logic. The Phoenix Coyotes still haven’t won a single playoff series in their history and yet you can be sure that when and if the Desert Dogs next venture into springtime hockey, the marketing folks and fans will do the “White-Out” thing again.

The tradition of course goes back to the Winnipeg Jets days but seeing as how the Jets hadn’t won a round since 1987, the franchise might have considered discarding the practice much as it left behind Ed Olczyk, Tim Cheveldae and the ginormous portrait of the Queen when the move was made from Manitoba to Arizona.

If lack of success isn’t enough to abandon the White-Out, how about originality? What was once a neat tradition employed by only a few NHL fanbases — Winnipeg and Calgary, for the most part — has now become an epidemic and everyone has their version, even if the colours vary.

• Speaking of the Coyotes, the 2010 playoffs represented Phoenix defenceman Derek Morris’ third post-season appearance in a dozen seasons. He’s played for a different team each time — his previous playoff trips were with Colorado in 2003 and with the Rangers in 2009 — and each time Morris’ club bowed out in a first-round Game 7. The ex-Flame blue-liner’s work on the goal that conked Colorado (see it here) in the 2003 playoffs may have been a real factor in Patrick Roy’s decision to call it a career.

• On the eve of the 2010 playoffs, the shy and retiring Pierre McGuire rated all 16 starting goalies for Sports Illustrated. Well, Pierre’s top two choices — Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur — are both out, as are two others in his top seven (Pekka Rinne and Ilya Bryzgalov).

The corollary to that is that three of McGuire’s bottom five — Jimmy Howard, Antti Niemi and the guy who ranked dead last, ex-Flame Brian Boucher — are still stopping pucks.

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• You probably know Michael Cammalleri of the Canadiens was the top-scoring former Flame in the first round, but can you name who finished second?

That was a tie between two guys who were in the same series — Phoenix centreman Matthew Lombardi and Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart, who each had six points. For what it’s worth, Lombardi had two goals and 10 points in 33 career playoff games as a Flame while Stuart had a single assist and a minus-3 showing in his one and only post-season series for Calgary.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils had three ex-Flames on their roster for their first-round tilt with Philadelphia and the only one of the trio who managed a point was Mike Mottau, a blue-liner who had only a few sips of coffee for Calgary. Dean McAmmond and Rob Niedermayer both went oh-fer in the series.

• While the first round was going on, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson remarked that the Capitals should make a pitch for Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr, using someone like Tomas Fleischmann or Eric Fehr as bait.

Predictably, the suggestion popped up elsewhere not long afterwards except by then it wasn’t mere idle speculation by a third-party observer, it was presented as something that was actually being considered. And you wonder how rumours get started?

It’s reminiscent of the time a few years back when veteran hockey writers in Boston and Calgary both remarked that there was a certain amount of logic to a deal that would see the offence-starved Flames get Sergei Samsonov and the defence-thin Bruins get Derek Morris. Wouldn’t you know it? Within a day or two, there were a handful of “reports” claiming a Morris-Samsonov deal was in the works.

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• Just a great, great call by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ray Ratto, a rare general sports columnist in the U.S. who both loves hockey and is able to make insightful observations.

Here’s what he wrote after that weird own-goal that did in San Jose in Game 3 of the Sharks’ first-round series against Colorado.

As Sharks fans struggle with the idea of a doom-on-doom sandwich, with Game 4 and new unimagined horrors confronting them all, there is this:

If something as catastrophic as Game 3 had to happen, the Sharks couldn’t have picked a better culprit/victim than Dan Boyle.

Boyle’s clearing attempt – the one that clipped Ryan O’Reilly’s stick and squeezed through the six-inch gap between Evgeni Nabokov’s pad and the left goal post, the one that won Game 3 for Colorado – mugged San Jose’s hopes in the series and forced the Sharks to win three of the next four games or live with the nuclear shame.

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On the other hand, Boyle is the Sharks’ toughest-minded player, as well as one who has won a Stanley Cup ring and knows how the hard times and the easy ones run so close together. He took the hit Sunday night, sat and talked about it afterward to whoever asked, and fought with it through much of Monday. That’s what the pros do.

The amateurs (and like most teams, the Sharks do have a few) don’t carry the weight like Boyle did. They hide. They shy away. They let it eat at their minds and souls, and they become useless. That’s when you know a bad play has become a bad series.

Since Ratto wrote that passage, Boyle has posted two goals and five assists, is a plus-7 and the Sharks have posted four straight victories.

  • Hemmertime

    Damn you, I googled around for McGuire retirement news as soon as I read that line, the shy part made no sense… but the other part was too good to be true, turns out it was. Damn.

  • I think there’s a chance that the “shy and retiring fellow’ might be a Calgary GM before long. Rumour has it that Ken King is going to pull the chute and run for mayor which would leave the ownership group free to fire Sutter. Brent could be kept on (McGuire has a man crush on him as big as the one he had on Phaneuf) so the cavalcade of coaches might finally come to an end.

    If McGuire ends up in Calgary I might actually feel better about Tambo in Edmonton.

  • That loss looked good on OV and I freaking hate the habs. When Montreal scored that second goal it was Washingtons series in a nutshell. Greene took himself out of the play by taking the wrong guy and OV was just clearing Montreals blue line on the back check, after another super long shift that apparently exhausted his ability to be involved in that part of the game.

    Id be a tad pissed myself if I was Ted Leonsis. At least the Semin resigning took a turn for the obvious…… Backstrom on the other hand just bought a much bigger truck.
    Luckily for Ted they play in the worst division in hockey and quite a few warts can be hidden when you play the same ankle benders 6 times each.
    Hal Gill was freaking awesome in that series, and who doesnt like Hal Gill?

    • How is taking the guy closest to the puck “taking the wrong guy”? Whoever was covering the 2nd one rushing in was doing a garbage job of it. I’m not saying Green played it perfectly, but I wouldn’t call that a massive screw-up on his part by any means.

  • Maggie the Monkey

    God how I wish Pierre McGuire actually was retiring – as in from being an analyst entirely. There aren’t any hockey personalities who annoy me more, including the usual suspects Don Cherry and Mike Milbury (who I actually like in that role).