The NHL Conference finals took shape late last night after a marathon game was completed, as Dallas outlasted San Jose in a contest which went into 4 overtimes. I stayed up to watch that one and I'm glad I did as it was one of the better games that I have seen in awhile.
Both goalies kept making unbelievable saves and the skaters never seemed to slow down, even though they had to be near exhaustion. Brenden Morrow broke the tie with a powerplay goal about half way through that decisive 4rth OT period. Not only did Morrow score the game winner, he also had a record-breaking 19 hits for the game, one of which knocked young Sharks superstar Milan Michalek, right out of the game.
The Stars next opponent will be the Detroit Red Wings, a team ranked as the best in the NHL in several different categories. Marty Turco, Brenden Morrow, and company will all have to be at the top of their games in order to stop that Red Wing team.
Over here in the East we have the classic battle of Pennsylvania as the Flyers take on the Penguins. Both teams have red hot goalies and both teams have been playing extremely well. This should be an entertaining series that could go either way.
The Pens got this far by taking out a New York team which was led by Jaromir Jagr, who showed that he can still be a dynamo when he wants to be. But in my opinion the rest of the Rangers didn't look as good as they did against the Devils.
The Flyers took out the Habs, the number one seeded team in the East. While Philadelphia had outstanding goaltending, the Habs had to settle for average, in my opinion. Some folk questioned my criticism of Bob Gainey when I posted earlier about how I thought that he blew it by giving away Cristobal Huet to the Caps for just a 2nd round draft pick, but I stand by my opinion.
I still think that he blew it.
One argument in support of Gainey was that at least the Habs got something for Huet, an upcoming free agent who was obviously going to move on at the end of the year. Perhaps that is true, but that's still an extremely unusual move to make for a number one seeded team.
Perhaps someone can give me another example of how a front-runner for the playoffs traded away a current asset for a draft pick on trade deadline day? It seems to me that making your team as strong as possible for the Cup run should be job number one. Strengthening your team for the future is something that the also-rans attempt to do.
Some people said that Huet had never won a playoff series before and the chances with Price were better. My question is, how many series had Carey Price won previous to this year?
Let's take a look at some stats.
Back in 2006, Huet had a record of 2-4, but his GAA was 2.33 and his save percentage was .929. Even though he lost the series to the eventual Champion Canes, those are not bad stats.
This year Price had a GAA of 2.78 and a save percentage of .901, and that includes 2 shutouts that he posted against Boston. I'm not sure exactly what his stats were against the Flyers, but I am confident that they were not very good.
Again, I'm not saying that Huet was a better choice than Price to start out with, but I still believe that Huet would have at least been a better choice as a backup and could have made a difference. In my mind, trading him was still a mistake.
Carolina used both of their goalies during their runs in 2002 and 2006, and both had important contributions. I think it was unrealistic to assume that a 20 year old rookie would be able to shoulder the load for the entire playoffs.
I know, I know. I was 0 for 4 on my picks for the 2nd round, and I have the nerve to say that hockey genius Bob Gainey made a mistake? I'm not sure that I should even bother picking winners again for this next round, but since I must, then I pick the Wings and Pens. Wouldn't that be a dream final for NBC, the NHL, and for many fans as well?
Speaking of goalies, I am sure that more than a few Russians were celebrating after the Sharks were eliminated last night. Team Russia's starting goalie, (up to this point), was injured on Sunday so Evgeni Nabokov will be welcomed into the fold as soon as he can get to Canada.
In other World Championship news, Team Finland won in overtime yesterday on a goal scored by Tuomo Ruutu. They defeated Team Norway 3-2.
Team Sweden defeated France by a score of 9-0. Nic Wallin chipped in with a goal.
Team Canada plays Team USA in a showdown at 3:25 this afternoon.