First of all luck does play a huge part. Anyone who has watched the Hawks and Flames series, a terrific terrific tilt, can see that the Flames have really played a lot better then most expected and with a break or two the series could actually be two up in their favour. There is not a lot to choose between these clubs and yet so much of the narrative for these franchises, items that will be taken as lore in years to come, is being written right now. Of course the Flames could come back and win two quickly and put everything back to square one but if things go as they have then years from now there will be talk of how a Hawks powerhouse (if it so happens) was first built in the crucible of their first playoff matchup, this one. The Flames window will have closed and there will be talk of how Sutter rolled the dice and failed miserably. If Jokinen does not produce then his reputation will shrink further, though by my eye he has been just fine thus far. Meanwhile Jonathan Toews is already being elevated to Iginla like status.
Reputations are made and broken in the playoffs and people like Pierre Maguire propagate them loudly. Maguire was the guy who was entirely contemptuous of Hossa’s playoff record last spring before his nice run with the Penguins when in reality his performance in the postseason had been solid with gusts to excellent. Anyone listening to Maguire’s shouting early in both of these games would have thought that the Flames were taking the Hawks to the woodshed repeatedly but while the Flames’ physical play was effective, though unsustainable, the young Hawks have acquitted themselves admirably, hanging in there, taking the punishment and, in coming back in both games, have demonstrated that they are ready for the big stage.
So much for youth being unable to get it done in the playoffs (although if the Flames come back watch for this to be trotted out as the main reason for Chicago’s failure.)
Although Khabibulin’s performance has not hurt. And Kiprusoff, while good, looked bad on Barker’s goal in G1 at least. And of course all things being equal, in the end, goaltending trumps all. It is true in this series and its true in Washington where Theodore was poor in G1 and Lundqvist has been sublime. The Bruins are the better team but Carey Price’s mistakes are killing any chance that his club has. He was weak on a goal in G1 when the Habs traded punches with Boston quite well and he was iffy again Saturday night when by all appearances he may have to be perfect to give Montreal, sorely missing Markov, any chance at all.
Boston looks for real though, don’t they? Thomas is solid and they are deep up and down the lineup especially up front where Phil Kessel is a cautionary tale on the fact that young players take time to develop and Marc Savard and Chuck Kobasew prove the same and Michael Ryder shows that sometimes a guy just might have an off year.
The rest of the East really looks unimpressive except for the Pens who are handling Philadelphia pretty well. The Devils have faltered already and the loss of Langenbrunner is going to hurt them a lot, I think. And the Caps have been done in by goaltending, the Rangers and their own. But Boston might be able to hang with whoever comes out of the west.
Out west things can turn on a dime and the Sharks are already hearing whispers about playoff failures past after one loss. They were unlucky but Thornton did not have a shot until a minute left in G1 or some damn thing and one would think he might get a little more done. Another playoff failure for San Jose and it will be some of the players who get moved along this time. I figured Anaheim to be a tough out although I stopped short of predicting an upset. Probably a long tough haul for the Sharks though.
St. Louis has looked good but the Canucks have been better. Tonight will be where the tale is told, as it will be in so many of these series heading to game three. If the Blues can win, and they might, then it could go a while, but I think the Canucks are built for a long run and with Luongo playing like he can it essentially means that they can win any game that they play.
And Detroit looks like they are going to just brush aside the Jackets. We’ll see if things change when they get back to Ohio (*high in the middle and round on both ends, hyuk hyuk hyuk) but I don’t see it. Really really early to say this but if the Sharks go out then the Wings will have a nice road to the Conference finals.
So they’re about to drop the puck in Philly and in twelve hours from now half of what I have written may be out the window. That’s the playoffs though. Good stuff.