Tidbits: Playoffs And More

It's been a while since I dusted off the old Tidbits columns, so I figured it was time for some random thoughts about the Canes and the NHL. Usually these are stat-driven, but this time around I'm going more for the Larry King/USA Today scattered random thoughts approach.

• Lindy Ruff and Barry Trotz, the NHL's two longest-tenured head coaches, both got Round 1 boots from the postseason. Nashville now has five first-round exits under Trotz — the only coach in team history — and has never even forced a Game 7. Ruff took the Sabres to the Finals in 1999 and three other Eastern Conference Finals, but Buffalo's poor showing against Marc Savard-less Boston in the first round makes you wonder if it's time for a change. A solution? Both guys deserve a head coaching gig — maybe they should swap jobs for a year, just to change it up.

• Best I can tell, no player ever drafted by the Hurricanes has won a Stanley Cup unless they were on the 2006 team in Raleigh. With Jack Johnson and the Kings ousted already, that leaves Chicago's Andrew Ladd and San Jose's Nic Wallin as the only two remaining with a chance to break this unique curse.

• I keep reading articles about all of the prospects that could see time in Carolina next season, but why is no one mentioning Nick Dodge? The 2006 sixth-rounder has been a valuable all-situations center for Jeff Daniels in Albany and his four goals are tied for the most with the Rats through seven postseason games. With Rod Brind`Amour's future in doubt, the Canes could be looking for two centers this offseason. Let's say Zac Dalpe or a free agent fills the No. 3 centerman's job: wouldn't Dodge — a standout in his own end, on faceoffs and, as Daniels told me back in February, "steady, very professional and low maintenance" — make more sense at fourth-line center than playing Patrick Dwyer out of position? It's at least worth considering, I'd say.

• The cupboards seem pretty full in net right now, with Cam Ward locked in as the No. 1, Justin Peters set as the backup or top guy in the AHL, and Mike Murphy entering his second season. Throw in upcoming RFA Justin Pogge, who was acquired as part of the deadline trade that sent Aaron Ward to Anaheim, and the net seems stocked from top to bottom. But with Peters the frontrunner as Carolina's new backup and Murphy and Pogge — if the team keeps him — locked in a battle for the top job with the Checkers in 2010-11, the Canes need to add young depth in goal. Expect Carolina to use a draft pick, even if it's a very late one, on a goaltender.

• If Alex Ovechkin and the Caps fall flat tonight and lose to Montreal, will there be major questions about whether or not the Washington captain can win big games? His last two big ones have been flops: last year's Game 7 embarrassment (6-2) to the Pens, followed by Russia bowing out of the Olympics in weak fashion, 7-3, to Canada. Yes, Mike Green and Alexander Semin have shrunk from the spotlight this postseason, but Ovechkin is the captain and face of the team, and he needs this win badly. At least chief rival Sidney Crosby won't be on the other bench like the last two.

• The worst part of this postseason so far, outside of me not having Versus during a two-night hotel stay in Ann Arbor, Mich.? Seeing Phoenix captain Shane Doan get injured and subsequently miss the final four games of the seven-game series against Detroit. Would a healthy Doan have been in the difference in at least one of the team's three losses while he was out? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing I can guarantee: Phoenix would not have been trounced 6-1 in the series finale if they had their emotional leader at 100 percent on home ice.

• After 68 games in Albany and another 10 in Carolina with just 10 total penalty minutes, defenseman Jamie McBain has amassed eight PIMs in just seven playoff games, including one in each of the first three against Hershey. No wonder everyone's wondering if the Bears are getting preferential treatment in the second-round AHL series.

• Speaking of that Game 7, does anyone still think Nicklas Lidstrom has perhaps lost a step? His series-clincher performance would be an all-time memorable one for most players, but just another feather in the cap for the best defenseman of the era.

• If I had said at the beginning of the year two American-born goalies would be leading their teams to second round, maybe some would've guessed Jimmy Howard, but I doubt anyone would've listed Brian Boucher.

• Of the four Stanley Cup-winning coaches in this year's postseason, only one (New Jersey's Jacques Lemaire) got ousted in the first round. Philly's Peter Laviolette, Pittsburgh's Dan Byssma and Detroit's Mike Babcock all moved on to Round 2.

• I know Steven Stamkos had a monster year, but I think just about any GM would look back on the 2008 draft and choose No. 2 overall pick Drew Doughty ahead of Stamkos given what they know now.

• Finally, only eight times has a No. 8 topped a No. 1 seed in the first round since the league went to a seven-game opening-round format in 1994, three of which came in a seventh game. Only San Jose (1994, over Detroit; 2000 over St. Louis — both in seven games) has done it twice, while New Jersey (1998 six-game loss to Ottawa; 1999 seven-game loss to Pittsburgh) and Detroit (2006 six-game loss to Edmonton is the other) have both been victims twice. If Montreal were to knock of the Capitals, they too would join the two-time upset club, having knocked off Boston in 2002 in six games.

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