The Philadelphia Flyers are out in five games and had to play their fifth and final game without arguably their best player, Claude Giroux. His one-game suspension for his hit on Dainius Zubrus of the New Jersey Devils in Game Four drew a one-game suspension that likely wouldn't have been the case a few weeks earlier.
The ridiculously lenient $2,500 fine to Shea Weber in the first round of the playoffs was a short-lived standard. It was almost immediately replaced when Brendan Shanahan decided that the head hunting James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins deserved a one-game suspension in the first round of the Playoffs. One of the players Neal was targeting? None other than Claude Giroux. You live by the sword, you die by the sword....I guess you live by the head hunter, you die by the head hunter.
Leaf's alumni still going strong
You may have noticed that there are lots of Toronto Maple Leaf alumni playing for other NHL teams in this year's playoffs. Not trying to rub it in, but here is one more connection. Dainius Zubrus of the New Jersey Devils was originally drafted in the first-round of the 1996 Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers acquired that pick a year earlier from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Dimitri Yushkevich.
Hard to believe how strong former Leafs John Mitchell and Anton Stralman have become with the New York Rangers. Stralman did travel to New York via a stop with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Have to wonder why barely any Leaf prospects came into their own during the almost four years with Ron Wilson at the helm.
Marc Staal's turnaround
What a great story Marc Staal has become after missing almost the first half season due to injury. His big overtime goal in Game Five against the Washington Capitals is now the highlight of a season that began as a disaster, but has been a true success. No coincidence that his older brother Eric had the same turnaround during his year with the Carolina Hurricanes. To his credit, Eric Staal never used the stress he felt from having inflicted the hit on his younger brother that caused him the concussion problems. But, seeing the obvious and graphic turnaround with his on-ice success, it is apparent that he is only human.
Great playoff drama
I took some twitter heat from Texas Ranger fans when I compared the abrupt momentum change in the Game Five New York Ranger victory to the Texas Rangers having been one pitch away on two occasions from winning the World Series and then losing it to the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, this moment wasn't for the Stanley Cup or even to win their Series, but the Washington Capitals being just seconds away from winning that fifth game and then giving up the tying goal and then moments later in overtime the game winning goal, is about as much hockey playoff drama as I have seen for awhile.
Ward shows he's a class act
Joel Ward has been one of those key playoff contributors for Washington throughout the playoffs and scored THE big goal in their first-round win over the Boston Bruins. After their devastating fifth game loss, he proved to be a class act off the ice as well as he stood up and faced the media under difficult circumstances.
Saying all that good stuff, I found it interesting that both Mike Milbury and Craig Simpson agreed with my initial thoughts when they joined me on Hockey Night in Canada Radio. Why was Joel Ward out there in that defensive situation in the dying seconds of the game?
Rookies and the off-season
The Calder Trophy nominees for the NHL regular season were announced weeks ago. No question if there was a rookie of the year award for playoff play that would go to Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals. His play has been outstanding and he has withstood the mental pressures as well. You can't face two stronger opposing goaltenders than Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist.
If Ilya Byrzgalov goes hunting this off season...what does he hunt for now that we know he is afraid of a bear in the woods?
What happened with the Predators?
I am somewhat stunned by the drastic turn of events with the Nashville Predators. Not just their two curfew delinquents in Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn. But, their play in general in their series against the Phoenix Coyotes and the new found sentiment that that this team that was astutely put together, might be on the verge of crumbling. Not only might Radulov and Kostitsyn go elsewhere (possibly to the KHL) but this "one happy family" identity is taking a hit with thoughts that both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber will look to play elsewhere next season. Weber may by the Norris Trophy winner but his second round play was substandard.
Long time coming
Exciting times for the Western Conference finalists as they travel new territory. The Los Angeles Kings have appeared in the Stanley Cup Final just once (1993) in 44 years since they joined the NHL in 1967. The Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets have never appeared in the Stanley Cup Final in 32 years since they moved to the NHL from the WHA in 1979.
Talk of a possible sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to a group led by Greg Jamison has ardent Canadian hockey fans lamenting the loss of a possible NHL team relocating in Quebec City or somewhere else north of the border. Trust me, that possibility still very much exists. The success of the Winnipeg Jets as a viable NHL hockey team and their business model has opened the eyes of many NHL owners in "soft" NHL markets.
The NHL desperately wants to remain in Phoenix as they have made promises in the past to the people of Glendale and would like to fulfill those promises. Other markets (like say Florida and maybe New Jersey for now) have an acute awareness of how much better things were once Atlanta moved to a "far better" NHL hockey market.
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