Playoff Insights and Analysis

Habs on a Roll

You have to give the Montreal Canadiens credit for their
impressive playoff run. They have
already eliminated the NHL’s two biggest stars in Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney
Crosby, defeated the President’s Trophy winners and the defending Stanley Cup
champions and won two game sevens on the road. 

Montreal has won with timely scoring, team defense and of
course, the outstanding goaltending of Jaroslav Halak. The Habs are certainly capable of defeating either
Boston or Philadelphia to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993.

As for the Penguins, neither Sidney Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin
were able to contribute much offensively against Montreal. More importantly, Pens goalie Marc-Andre
Fleury had a subpar series.

Fleury had
helped the Pens win the Stanley Cup last season and reach the Finals the
previous year, so he clearly has the credentials and experience to help lead
the Penguins return to greatness. His
play was off throughout most of the series against Montreal, however.  Fleury did not take good angles in Game 7 and
gave up too many soft goals. 

Goodbye to the Igloo

The Igloo in Pittsburgh has now been closed for hockey. The building’s first NHL game was a Pens loss
to Montreal in October of 1967 and it closed with a playoff loss to the
Canadiens this week. 

With the closing of the Civic Arena, the two oldest venues
in the NHL are both in New York: Madison Square Garden (opened in 1968,
although renovated since then) and the Nassau Coliseum (1972). The Garden is set to undergo additional
renovations over the next few years while the Islanders continue to struggle to
obtain approval for the Lighthouse Project which would update the Coliseum.

There were some great hockey moments at the Igloo. Most remember the heroics of Mario Lemieux,
Jaromir Jagr and “Sid the Kid” but there were some special moments before that
as well. The Pittsburgh Hornets of the AHL won a championship in 1967 at the
Civic Arena before the Pens were even born.  Players like Jean Pronovost, Syl
Apps, Michel Briere and Les Binkley provided highlights for the early Penguins
that hard core hockey fans in the Steel City devoured in the early days of the
franchise. 

In addition, the Islanders completed only the second ever
comeback from a 3-0 series deficit with a 1-0 win in Game 7 at the Civic Arena in
1975. Ed Westfall scored the only goal
and Chico Resch notched the shutout.

Flying High

Speaking of comebacks, the Flyers are on the verge of
becoming the first team since the 1975 Islanders to pull off the ultimate
sports comeback.  The biggest factor for
the Flyers has been strong team defense. While both Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton have played well,
Philadelphia’s play in front of them has been even better. 

While the Bruins are offensively challenged, in Game 6, the
Flyers prevented Boston from getting good scoring opportunities by getting in passing
lanes, preventing rebounds and boxing out opponents in front of their own
goal. For most of the second period, the Bruins couldn’t even get near the Flyers goal. If this was a basketball game, the Bruins
spent very little time “in the paint” when it mattered most.

The momentum is now with the Flyers. If Philadelphia scores first in Game 7, they
will win the game and the series and have home ice advantage for the Conference
Finals.

Questions Remain
About Luongo

Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo was hoping this was the year he
erased the doubts that have followed him and cast a shadow over an otherwise
fine NHL career: that he cannot lead a team deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Luongo has played 10 NHL seasons in his career and has won
only three playoff series in those 10 years. It takes four playoff series victories in one year to win the Stanley
Cup. 

This year, Luongo was not on top of his game. His play against the Blackhawks was
inconsistent at best. Too often, he was
not square to opposing shooters and let in soft goals.  His statistics this year in the playoffs were
a very mediocre 3.22 GAA with a .895 save percentage. Luongo’s record was 6-6. 

Until he leads a team on a long playoff run, Luongo will
never be considered a truly elite goaltender.

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