Another One Bites The Dust
Did you pick the Tampa Bay Lightning to sweep the Washington Capitals in the second round?
Yeah, me neither. Imagine my surprise then on Wednesday night when I watched with my own two bespectacled eyes as the boys from Tampa skated to a 5-3 game four win, putting the brooms to the Eastern Conference’s best team. It’s impressive enough for the Bolts to win that series, but to do it in four games is quite the feat!
How did they manage it?
The Lightning are playing like champions right now – Dwayne Roloson is standing on his head between the pipes and the star players are putting up big numbers, but most importantly, the rest of the team is also clicking at the moment. When a guy like Sean Bergenheim is leading the team in goals and everyone seems to be getting involved offensively, you’re going to have success!
It definitely helps too that through 11 games they have the league’s best penalty kill (an amazing 94.4%), which is complimented by the top power play (26.7%) in the NHL at the moment. With those numbers in mind, here’s something interesting to consider: there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be playing the Boston Bruins in the East final, a team with a horrid power play (3.1%!!!!!) and an average PK (79%).
Despite their woeful special teams play, the Bruins are just one win away from a sweep of the Flyers, while the San Jose Sharks could also pull off a second round sweep of the Red Wings after an OT win on Wednesday.
That’s right – after a first round that saw four of eight series go to seven games, we could potentially see only one go past four games in the second round!
Seriously though, did anyone actually pick Sean Bergenheim in their playoff pool?
While the Nashville Predators were busy on Wednesday preparing for an all-important game four tilt with the Vancouver Canucks tonight, their head coach was doing his best Mike Gillis impression.
Prior to a game seven win over the Blackhawks in round one, the Canucks GM complained to the media that the calls weren’t going his team’s way, saying that he was simply “stating the facts.” Well, game seven came, hardly any penalties were called and Vancouver ended up moving on to the second round.
Barry Trotz took a slightly different approach though this week, defending the referees and calling out the Canucks for trying to trick them into giving bad penalties!
Here’s what Trotz had to say (via ESPN):
“That’s gamesmanship and I understand that. It’s also a little bit putting the referee in a tough spot. We have the best referees. If you’re going to make them look bad, I don’t think that’s needed in the game.”
Well played Mr. Trotz – they were bad calls but I blame Vancouver, not you Mr. Referee!
The Preds bench boss is referring to two calls in particular: a Jerred Smithson high stick on Roberto Luongo (that may have been embellished and ended up setting up Vancouver’s first goal) and a Shea Weber hook on Ryan Kesler in overtime (which set up the game-winning goal).
The Smithson penalty was a bit soft and Trotz probably has a point there, but the Weber one brings us to a key issue.
Should penalties like hooking be called the exact same way regardless of the stage of the game they happen at? Should something that’s a bit of a soft penalty in the first minute of the first period still be a penalty in the final minute of the third, or in overtime?
I think what makes some people mad (myself included) is that a defenseman can absolutely abuse a forward in front of the net and there is no call, but if a player’s stick is parallel to the ice and he gives his opponent a little tug, it’s two minutes in the box.
Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what type of game we get here tonight after those comments from Trotz!
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