The Islanders were down 5-0 to the Penguins before the end of the second period, and in the process pulled starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. The Isles should consider pulling their whole team and replacing them with the New Jersey Devils.
The Eastern Conference playoffs get underway tonight. First up is the Boston Bruins vs the Toronto Maple Leafs. This should be a great series if you like montages of first responders. Seriously, if you live in Boston, you’d better hope your house doesn’t catch fire at around 7pm EST on Wednesday night, because I expect every uniformed person in the city will be on the ice at TD Garden. Toronto meanwhile hasn’t even made the playoffs since 2004, which means that most of the players on the Leafs have spent more seasons being locked out by the owners than they have being in the playoffs. Bruins in 6.
Next up…top seeded Pittsburgh Penguins vs the New York Islanders. The Penguins acquired veterans Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow, and Douglas Murray at the trade deadline, making them one of the most potent teams of 2009. Captain Sidney Crosby, always striving to expand his game, has found a new way to be injured; his broken jaw will keep him out of game 1, but hopefully will not keep him from growing his 1930’s evil landlord playoff “beard.” As for the Islanders, their biggest personnel move was acquiring the contract of Tim “Social Network” Thomas in order to reach the floor of the salary cap. What to watch for: the Isles recently returned to their classic, 70s/80s style unis, and it’s likely they’ll not be bringing that look with them when they move to Brooklyn next year, so enjoy it while you can. Pens in 6.
Finally tonight the last Western series gets started, the Vancouver Canucks vs the San Jose Sharks. Is it possible for two teams to lose the same series? Both of these teams got bounced in the first round last year, so what a relief to their fans that they are matched up. One of them must advance! What to watch for here: these teams have the two most embarrassing power plays in the league. When Vancouver goes on the power play, dudes in green bodystockings dance behind the penalty box. In San Jose, power plays are greeted by all fans making “sharky-shark” chomp motions with their arms. Just appalling. Sharks in 7.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Philadelphia Flyers
For the Pens this year, it has been business as usual. Crosby gets hurt; Malkin steps up. The Penguins proved once again that the key to Malkin’s success is to not have Sidney Crosby play. They could save a lot of money by trading Crosby and just not telling Malkin about it.
Malkin had a career year; he is a 50-goal scorer, is likely the league MVP, and is proof that there are Supercuts in Russia.
Also having a career year is left winger James Neal, who put up an impressive 40 goals. Neal’s Wikipedia page refers to him as James “The Real Deal” Neal, which shows that in addition to scoring goals, Neal also knows how to edit Wikipedia pages.
The Flyers had a very busy offseason, turning over nearly half their roster, spending big money on goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, and, perhaps most importantly, not re-signing Dan Carcillo. The addition of Bryzgalov was meant to secure the goalie position for the foreseeable future, which is technically true, since they signed him to an untradeable contract.
Among the new Flyers are former Penguins Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr, and gritty winger Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds was welcomed by the Flyers faithful, most of whom remarked, “I didn’t know that Apollo Creed could skate.”
The Pens are stacked, and eager to make up for an early exit last playoffs. The Flyers roll 4 solid lines, and have plenty of depth to fill the void left by whichever player gets suspended for laying out Crosby.
Flyers in 7.
Ugh…Penguins playing the Devils today. Instead of Gatorade behind the benches, I suspect they have Massengill.
Continuing their “PA Turnpike” makeover, the Flyers have signed former Penguin Max Talbot. The real winners of the deal? Every Philadelphia area car dealership.
Perhaps concerned that Flyers fans don’t already have enough things to boo, the Flyers have signed Jaromir Jagr to a 1-yr deal worth $3.3M. 3.3 million! For a 39-year old player who has not played an NHL game since 2008. He has managed a respectable 1.05 PPG in the KHL, but to be fair, it is the KHL, where if a puck goes into the stands, the fan has to give it back so the game can continue.
The Flyers have taken 60% of Mike Richards’ cap hit, and given it to an old man who will do nothing. This is not a contract; it is an NEA Grant.
4 Pittsburgh Penguins v 5 Tampa Bay Lightning
The Pittsburgh Penguins will go into the playoffs without superstar Sidney Crosby, which means that other players will have to step up and whine incessantly to the refs in Crosby’s absence. Also absent is talented forward Evgeni Malkin. This Pens lineup is like the final cast of the TV show MASH; a few familiar faces, but not as good as when the real people were on. They do have the solid, hyphenated goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury, which will always make them competitive.
In the Lightning’s favor, they are a difficult team to scout because no one watches hockey in Tampa. They have a number of talented forwards en francais, including Vincent Lecavalier (pronounced “STAM-kos”), Simon Gagne (pronounced “future considerations”), and Martin St. Louis (pronounced “LAY-dee bing”), who, for the fifth time in the last six seasons, is as close as the city of St. Louis has come to the NHL playoffs. They also have a new GM in Hall-of-Famer Steve Yzerman, who is trying to instill the winning ways he learned in Detroit by bringing in a bunch of Russian players, serving octopus at team meals, and showing the team that Eminem Chrysler commercial from the Super Bowl.
These should be fast-paced, exciting games, featuring star players whom no one has ever heard of. So…kinda like soccer.
KEY MATCHUP: Sidney Crosby v Blurred vision
The Pens are a good, well-coached team, but they will miss Sid, who is still suffering from concussion. It’s probably just as well; the kid can’t grow a playoff beard anyway.
Lightning in 6.