The Playoffs roll on without the Blackhawks. Updates on all things hockey.

Incase you happened to miss it, the last Shark's - Wing's game was maybe the best of the playoffs thus far. It was physical, it was fast, both teams brought their A-games offensively and both goalies showed up to back their teams. In a game that had so many marvelous scoring opportunities from both teams, it had to be decided in OT off the stick of the hero of the night. Devin Setoguchi scored 3 goals in the 4-3 win and none were bigger than the game winner.

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The Wings have seemed to get better with each game in the series, which might make for some magic tonight. It surely is a game not to be missed. I put little power in the way things panned out last year for these 2 teams in the playoffs. Regardless of how Detroit battled back to take game 4 last year, this game is going to be ridiculously exciting. The Wings are staying very positive and so much credit has to be given to Babcock for that. He is truly a top-notch coach. His actions and results prove that much.
I am also a huge fan of Todd Mclellan. Always level headed on the bench and a chiseled expression of concern across his face, and how about that hair? It it never moves. I like both coaches faith in their players and their system of play. Much can be learned by the Hawk's administration here. As things move into the summer, we will be watching to see just how much SB and company believe in their players and their system.
Needless to say about this series matchup, the Sharks are proving victorious in close games time and time again. They are getting production when it counts and big saves from their goaltender (38 saves last game). I am a fan of Niemi (obviously) and it might be a big part of why they are my pick this year.
That isn't the only series going on, although fans might have forgotten that a sweep is not the only way to win a series. Two series at 3-0, another over at the hands of said sweep, and low and behold a 3-1 series. This "closer" series is that between the Preds and Nucks. So far, my predictions for this round have seemed to hold true with the exception of this one. I still have faith in the system Trotz has put in place, but that faith is becoming doubt.
A few injuries have lead Trotz to make changes. The loss of Sullivan to injury (probably out for the series) and a few other players has forced a change in his system. The lines are beginning to juggle and we all know how that turns out. The Preds are putting most of their faith in Pecka Rinne (best goaltender in the league) and one can see why, but this seems like a blind-faith kind of effort. The supposed impenetrable defense of Nashville is cracking to the explosive offense of Vancouver.
The Nucks are truly a talent filled team. This is why It pisses me off that they are winning to cheap play. I know that their fans don't want to hear it, but too many non-calls and terrible calls in OT have really helped the argument. Suter might not have had any smarts to pull Kesler down by the head, but he was reacting to a missed high-stick and frustration. 
The verdict: Don't blame losses on officiating, right? The fact of the series is that Vancouver is getting the best of Nashville however thin it might be. The powerhouse of Sedin has been relatively silent (empty nets do not count), but the depth of talent has been loud, especially Kesler, in the form of points and taking dives. I still have faith in the Preds, but also fear of a Nashville - Tampa Finals, and Im sure the NHL has that same fear.
Boston and Philly: maybe my hardest pick before the series started, it sure has become quite clear. The talent of Boston is rising to the occasion in all forms of it. Between the system of play, offensive movement and skill, and the goaltending; this Boston team is turning out to be a top pick for the finals and maybe even the whole shibang.
Bye-Bye Caps. I saw them losing, but not in such fashion. According to the news, the General Manager wants Boudreau back as coach, but I question why. Was changing the system such a wise idea, me thinks not. And now questions are being brought up about possible injuries to Ovi. They are unfortunately a part of the game, but I doubt the reason for getting swept.
With the summer already started for the Hawks, and it knocking on a few other team's doors, it is almost time to start breaking down the 2010-2011 Blackhawk's roster, but I save it for after a team is crowned owner of this year. It might be useful to note that Chris Campoli went under the knife recently. A surgery to his right knee in which he is expected to make a full recovery in 2 months. He is a player that I hope to see dawning the red sweater next season. Another player is Hjammer, who seems to be getting a harsh critique lately. All I will say for now is that playing next to Campbell and blocking shots will eventually take its toll on someone, but he still was a strong defenseman during a rough season.

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  • HH, with all respect, what series are you watching? To say that the 'nucks/preds series gives a thin margin to the 'nucks sounds like something that would be said after reading the box scores. That series has been the most lopsided of the playoffs so far, sweeps and all. The Preds are pesky, there's no doubt, but they have been so outplayed territorially, and scoring chances I bet are at least 8-1 on average, Vancouver. Vancouver is very sharp overall but their finish is off. Otherwise this series is so lopsided

  • You are right, the Preds are getting outplayed which is why I put "closer" in quotes.
    I also said that "The supposed impenetrable defense of Nashville is cracking to the explosive offense of Vancouver." "Thin margin" was referring to the score more than the actual play, which I do give credit to Rinne on. I am pretty much right there with you, I just have that "blind faith" that they can still get their act together.

    Question: Who do you truly see winning in a Sharks-Nucks series?

    I am reading harsh comments on Hjammer in other places around the net, and getting some face to face conversation on the matter. Not here. I am frankly surprised about it. Maybe a breakdown on his season is in the near future, just for arguments sake.

    Detroit exploded out of the gate and things could have been much worse on the scoreboard had Niemi not made some tough saves in the 1st. However, I have to say that on Bertuzzi's goal (however amazing it was) the Wings were offsides. I also thought that there was goalie interference on Helm's goal. Either way, it was a great game and Detroit deserved the win based on their play.

    Does the Bruin's series say more about them, or about Philly? I am so shocked at the outcome.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    HH, I too have that faith in the Preds. We've just seen them do it to the 'hawks all too often. We'll find out tonight. Trotz will have his troops ready.

    Oddly enough, the only game I missed this year was the Buffalo game where Hammer got suspended. Many have said he was rather timid after that suspension, I just don't know. I think I'm with Vegas here, that the whole D corp had an off year. I really don't have any negatives to say about Hammer at all. I like him and agree he's a good fit where he is and a perfect compliment to Campbell. I do think, and have said this before, that if the 'hawks are looking to deal for another physical D man with some size, or, for the elusive 2nd line center, than Hammer's contract is the most attractive to other teams and is likely to fetch the quality return. Other than that he's in my top four.

    Well, if I throw it my disdain for all things Canuck, I think it will be a very even series. The Sharks, to me, are a much more determined team this year, and they should be. Each year they're getting closer and I think this is going to be their year. The Canucks, will make a series of it, but Niemi will outperform Luongo and win his second cup.

    The Bruins played great, but there's speculation that there was a dressing room divide for the Flyers and that Mike Richards was involved. Then there's the usual "they tuned out Laviolette" stories surfacing today. In the end, their goaltending was not cup caliber and the absence of Pronger can't be understated. That's my .02.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    ARRRRRRGH. I did't tape the game before leaving for work. Bummer to miss. Caught this interview with D Sedin on NHL http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=562228&navid=DL|NHL|home

    Honestly, if I didn't read it there, I would think it was a joke. The answer to every question included, I thought we played pretty good. BUT YOU FREAKING LOST DUDE! I dunno, I get that you want to see your team at least compete and play well when they lose, but this is the playoffs. This is not regular season bullshit where style points satisfy a fragile fan base. Guh, I hate Vancouver.

    ff, you make very good points about Hammer. His contract is moveable. What could we get in return? I dunno. A bad thing, I think, is that there were a few guys who really didn't have good years this year. On the optimistic side, many of these guys are kids and didn't seem to be ready to start the season. On the pessimistic side, we possibly saw a very talented but also very expensive core peak and wither without good supporting talent. Reality is probably somewhere between those two which makes it hard to decide who stays. I think most of these guys earned the right to come back and have a year that makes up for this one. But, if you carry those players again for a year and they don't come around, you probably set yourself back a few years on the rebuild.

    My gut feeling is that the Hawks are not going to bulk up and change their game plan. When things are going well, Keith and Biscuit work well together and so do Hammer and Campbell. With Campoli here and Leddy probably making the team (maybe or maybe not the best decision) I like what we have. If they were going to bring some grit in, I'd probably want to see some of it up front before swapping out D guys.

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    Once again, I think Rinne was the determining factor, but the Sedins combining for a plus/minus of negative 7 does not help matters. Kesler has been the dominant Nuck by far, and Ward the force behind Nashville. Last night, Ward got the better half. However, I didn't think Nashville really played their game until the 3rd period. That was maybe the first time I saw them dominate in the series, and Vancouver was still able to get a goal.

    My take on Hjammer is this (and more will come later), no one has given their body for the team like he does, and though his puck movement might still need some tweaking, his defensive position and intensity are huge factors. Very few guys play like he does on PK's. I would not make a move that involves him. It is very true that the entire D core had rough seasons. Let us wait until the next season plays out before making any rash moves, unless of course it involves trading Campbell.

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    Won Team, congrats to your boys. That was some sick stickhandling by Pavel. Vancouver and San Jose seem to have everything BUT enough killer instinct to put away teams that don't go quietly. Probably goes back to SJ for seven at this point.

    For everyone else, what do people think about skating through something to take the ice? I cringe thinking that someday McDonnough is going to create a giant headdress to make the Hawks skate through. Man would that be lame.

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    What a game. Needed a bounce to go our way and a little luck for that win. Stats may tell another story but I thought the Wings did pretty well overall mostly in terms of board battles and physical play. I would count this one as a SJ collapse. That plays well for us in game 6 prep. Its frustrating for a team to dominate a game and still come up with the loss. Hopefully the Wings reap some benefit of that come Tuesday.

    Ericsson scores? Wow! Thats when I knew the hockey God's were gonna give us this one.

    Here's to pushing a game 7! (and who doesnt like a game 7)

  • In reply to matto:

    Ps- Datsyuk's play on Marleau for the go ahead was gross. Its actually funny to watch.

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    I gotta say... as much as I'd love for our boys to still be in the hunt, I'm fully enjoying this spring without being in full bondage to the hockey schedule, or having my mood dictated by the score of the previous night's game.

    Great rally tonight from the Wings. That type of game that can swing a series. Anyone else sensing a game 7 on Thursday? Classic Holmstrom goal to win it. I wonder how many of his career goals are scored from 6 feet away or less?

    Vegas, maybe the Hawks can skate through a giant swinging tomahawk to take the ice. The players would have to avoid hitting it -- just like the windmill hole on every mini-golf course...

  • In reply to iplagitr:

    Better yet, two tomahawks joined together like patch on the shoulder. That'll make em keep their heads up!

  • In reply to iplagitr:

    Wow, I can not believe the outcome of that game. SJ was beating Detroit to a pulp and doing everything right except get the puck in the net. Howard is the only reason that game was a Detroit win. If I am any player on that team besides Howard, I would be disappointed in the performance. The Wings made their shots count late, and had a little help from lady luck and even SJ players getting in the way of Niemi. That is a hard loss for SJ to swallow. I am actually guessing that the Sharks battle back really hard with Detroit realizing how fortunate they are to still be alive. It is going to be a hell of a game.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    Howard was huge for sure but Zetterberg had a good game as well.

  • In reply to iplagitr:

    So, tonight we get the Nucks/Preds again. Ultimately, I don't think the Preds have enough to take down Vancouver, but I do think the Nucks have just enough arrogance and sense of entitlement to possibly do themselves in. The Sedin bitches are probably going to ignite at some point, and the later they peak, the better for that team. Gotta say, it's funny to watch pride going before a fall.

    On to other things, I've expressed my fear that trap crap hockey is going to be the new way of going things, especially for teams that can't or won't spend the money for skill guys. For three years now, even with talent, this Hawks team has struggled mightily with traps and or strong forechecks. At times, they have shown some success themselves when pressing a trap team with a hard forecheck, but the grueling effort that seems to require tends to fade as the game wears on the team gets tired of doing it. Getting bigger sized players may not help with this, but I'm not sure I have the answers on this one.

    If the Bolts or the Preds find success this year and the trap again becomes the norm, what do the Hawks do to counter it?

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    To counter the trap, Hawks have the mobile D but are missing the fast, heavy forecheck. Dump and chase sucks but it will work if there is consistent pressure on the opposition's defence. Nobody likes getting hit time after time.

    Two young, Bolland wannabe's would make me happy.

    Vibe in Van is the series will go seven. Faith in their teams ability to close is waning.

    In last twenty years, only team to go seven in the first round and go on to win the Cup, I believe, was the '91 Penguins. Seems to suck too much out of a team.

  • In reply to Pilotefan:

    LIke I said before, I go back and forth on the idea that you can ass kick your way through a trap team. My doubts tend to come from the thinking that if a team is committed to a trap system, the D is going to get used to getting hit and they are probably going to have more resolve to outlast it then a team is going to have keeping it up for a full game. Part of where I think the Hawks keep failing is in the willingness to play a tight choking game for sixty minutes and have the patience to wait for the trappers to make a mistake.

    Watching the game tonight where the Nucks finally put the Preds away, I came away with this outlook: Vancouver is a trap team at heart. When they have a lead, even just one goal, they are content to chip out over and over and have the patience to play choke and wait for an opportunity to strike. This is of course when they aren't being arrogant assholes who believe they should just advance to the finals because they won the President's trophy. In the last few games, I believe Vancouver scored most of their goals on the Preds mistakes. Whether it was Rinne staying square to the puck while being oblivious to drifting out of his crease of whether it was a matter of blow defensive coverage that left a guy wide open in front with tons of room to shoot, the Nucks stayed patient and were there to cash in.

    For Nashville, a good a trap team is there is, they seem to struggle when other teams turn the table and press the forecheck on them just as hard. Traps make up for skill it seems, but only if the skilled team does not want to work and play the game that is being presented to them. The Nucks, despite being total bitches, understand and can play the trap as can Detroit when they are having a night when they feel young. I might be off base on this, but I think this is one big thing, amongst several, that the Hawks need to change next year. They need to be a lot more patient when the game is a grind.

  • In reply to Pilotefan:

    How ironic that the GWG is scored on the PP for diving. Ironic because the canucks are the worst offenders yet they escaped this series unscathed and one might argue that they won two games in Nashville on penalties that should have gone the other way.

    Vegas, your points are bang on, and I have nothing to add to them. The canucks were a sure fire cure for insomnia just three years ago because of their trapping style of play, and I think Vigneault got orders from the new ownership and management team to open it up a bit, or take a flyer.

    As for the 'hawks, I still remember the four game winning streak before Christmas when Kane and Hoss were out of the line-up, how they buckled down and played good defensive hockey. I think they can do it, but it is not in the mindset of the players

  • I hope the Hawks are watching what the Nucks are doing to Rinne. He is so athletic and always keeps himself square to the puck, and actually, he does this to fault. It seems like he is so focused on staying square that he will let himself get pulled out of position to do so and leave the net pretty open for a pass. Now, threading that pass across ice for the one timer is no easy feat against the Preds, but I still think the Nucks will win by continuing to get him out of postion.

    As for Hammer. In my eyes, he took a step backward this year. I thought he started the year strong but definitely was not the same player after his suspension. But, I think the entire defensive scheme of the Hawks took a step backward this year. A year ago, the Hawks constantly got away ridiculous stretch passes and I think all the D frequently had more time to work. That said, even last year the D would get into trouble with a tough forecheck. To me, to have a mobile D like the Hawks did last year, you need to have integration with the forwards. Hammer was not a carry the puck out of the zone guy like Campbell or Keith, both of whom have very solid speed when carrying the puck.

    I gotta head to work soon, but that's my .02 for now.

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