If somebody would have prophesied that the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals would go collectively 0 and 12 in the second round of the playoffs, the hockey world would have thought they were mad. However, hockey fans are on the brink of this astonishment in the midst of this roller coaster 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Theyʼre uncanny when they want to get a goal. Itʼs like they just snap their ﬁngers or hit a button. They just dial it up… you can see itʼs like theyʼre ﬂipping a switch”. Thoughts from Mike Knuble on the Tampa Bay Lightningʼs skillful squad is a good way to describe the second round of the playoffs for the Capitals.
The other way to illustrate the Capitals misfortune is looking at their power play. With he offensive ability this team has with the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin,one would expect them to be stronger than 2 for 19 in this round and 5 for 35 in the 2011 playoffs. Their inability to convert on the PP exposed their vulnerability and inevitably allowed the Lightning to capitalize and control the play of all four games.
The Capitals throughout the playoffs this year played perfectly in winning games in which they scored the ﬁrst goal. They managed to control the momentum of games and pour on the pressure, wearing down the New York Rangers. The ability for them to win while trailing ﬁrst was daunting. They converted throughout the playoffs at a .286% clip when coming from behind. Needless to say, the Caps did not score ﬁrst in one game in the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For more about this series, Dan Berlin summed it up quite nice in his article ʻStruck by Lightning: Boudreauʼs future in doubt after latest Caps collapseʼ.
Absenteeism; Kris Versteeg, Chris Pronger, Jeff Carter, Brian Boucher, Sergi Bobrovski and the rest of the team has simply been outmuscled, out hustled and basically non-existent in 2 of the 3 games. Will the real Mike Richards please stand up? Last night this team lacked the intensity and grit that the franchise thrives upon and instead represented a leaderless and emotionless hockey club.
The goaltending story in Philly has been the hot topic in the playoffs and the front ofﬁces inability to get a true number one last off-season is haunting them now in the playoffs. Sure, the Leighton/Boucher combo took them all the way to the Cup ﬁnals last year, but it appears luck may have run out.
Game 1: Boucher was 18 for 23 and Bobrovsky was 8 for 10
Game 2: Boucher was 32 – 35 and due to a hand cramp Bobrovsky was brought in and went 6 for 6.
Game 3: Boucher and his team gave up 2 quick ones and he let in 4 goals on 20 shots. Bobrovsky let up 1 goal on 8 shots after that.
Game 4: One could only assume that Peter Laviolette will go back and rely on the 22 year old Bobrovsky to spark some much need magic.
Kimmo Timonen still believes that some of last years heroics are still in store “You know what? Thereʼs still hope as long as thereʼs games”.
Detroit Red Wings
The goal scoring threat for the Red Wings of past has been evenly distributed and every line presented a threat. This year, or even more speciﬁcally this series, the scoring threat from the Red Wings revolves around Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.
Game 1: Lidstrom from Datsyuk
Game 2: Zetterberg from Datsyuk and Holmstrom on the Power Play
Game 3: Lidstrom from Zetterberg and Homstrom on the PP, Eaves from Helm and Draper, Datsyuk from Zetterberg and Lidstrom.
This isnʼt quite a one trick pony yet, but it is obvious that the workload is not evenly distributed in Detroit. Meanwhile, San Jose’s goal scorers are Niclas Wallin, Ian White, Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, Dan Boyle and Benn Ferriero. That is pretty evenly balanced especially when there is still Joe Thornton, Pat Marleau and Dany Heatley hovering around.
Mike Babcock needs Thursday off to work with his team concentrating on the second and third lines. “We have to take tomorrow, regroup and we have to win the next game”. In order to do that, it is imperative to get the second line of Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Cleary working; these guys need to produce to compete with the deeper San Jose Sharks on Friday night.
The “Slanted Series” of the second round could be over in 3 of the 4 match-ups on Friday night. Philly hopes that “history will be made” 2 years in a row and the Red Wings are just too good to count out yet. Desperation hockey normally produces the type of game play that we yearn for all year and Friday should not disappoint. If it does, the hockey world will have one man to rely on for true sports entertainment and man-drama for the rest of the second round. I hope you can handle the pressure Pekka Rinne.