Jay: Well, here we are chatting again and another game is going to overtime… Rangers and Caps are tied at 1 after regulation, with the series tied at 1. When we left off last week, the Rangers had yet to play their game 7 vs. Ottawa. Obviously we know how that turned out, but what are your thoughts on this series so far?
Stephen: I am still surprised as the tenacity and competence of the Caps team, who a lot of people had written off this year when they axed Boudreuax. Holtby has dispelled any doubts about him being a fluke, and the Caps have kept pace with an extremely strong NY team. Though the Rangers, not to slight them, look just as competent. This is going to be a great series.
Jay: Yes, this Capitals squad continues to defy expectations. Kudos to Dale Hunter, who has them playing tough despite limiting the ice time of offensive powerhouses like Alex Ovechkin. Although Ovie got the game-winner in game 2 despite only playing 13 minutes. Washington got a late power play tonight and put incredible pressure on the Rangers in the last few minutes of the third. This series looks like it’ll go right down to the last possible minute. Staying in the East, the Flyers and Devils (who won game 7 in OT vs. Florida last week) are tied at 1. Another tight series, although not as tight as the other East series. What’s your take?
Stephen: Flyers looked like they might run away with this series and continue the powerful play they showed in Game 6 vs. Pittsburgh. But in the last period of game 2, the levy that is Bryz broke for four goals, and Simmonds’ goony misconduct as time expired showed me a squad back to its shaky play vs. Pitt in the early high scoring games. We’ll see in Game 3 if they can settle down of if the Devils have broken through. But so far, Flyers have still outplayed NJ in 5 of their 6 periods.
Jay: The X-factor is Bryzgalov in net for Philly; he’s so unpredictable and has yet to put together two good performances in a row in the playoffs. Lucky for him, the Flyers are just stacked with offensive talent like Giroux and Briere who have come up huge, and now James Van Riemsdyk looks to be back in form. And the Devils’ biggest weapon, Ilya Kovalchuk, missed game 2 with an injury; looks like he’ll return, but the Devils’ only hope is that Bryz falls apart and Brodeur can deliver Hall of Fame goaltending. On to the West. How ’bout those LA Kings, up 2-0 on St. Louis?
Stephen: I just can’t believe it, really. Especially in Game 2, I could’ve sworn the teams had switched jerseys beforehand. Kings look defensively sound, offensively devastating, and rock-solid in net. The Blues, meanwhile, are starting to show their lack of playoff experience. That massive first period by the Kings was incredible. I have to say, though I may be geographically biased, this Kings squad is for real. I can see them in the Cup finals easily now.
Jay: It’s like the Kings were playing possum all season and now are just kicking butt. They look so confident, while the Blues are in shock. It doesn’t help that their number 1 goalie Jaro Halak is injured and now their top defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, is also hurt. But full credit to LA. Hopefully fans out there are paying attention to them. The other series has also been surprising: Phoenix with a 2-0 lead on Nashville, although right now Nashville is winning game 3 by a 2-0 score. I watched the third and the OT in game 1 and Nashville just dominated, outshooting Phoenix 20-1 before icing the puck. The Yotes win the draw and score to win the game. Unbelievable.
Stephen: Yeah, Nashville still looks like the better team overall, but the Yotes have been getting breaks and capitalizing on them. The Preds are still in it, but a 2-0 hole is a hard place to start. And Mike Smith, to his credit, continues to make me eat crow about my insistence he didn’t deserve consideration for a Vezina.
It’s interesting too that the West both sees itself with 2-0 series and clear leaders, while the East is a crap shoot.
Jay: How crazy would it be for Phoenix to win the Cup, as a team that has nearly moved umpteen times in the last few years and is now actually owned by the NHL because its previous owner couldn’t afford to keep the team there? If they win, does Bettman hand the Cup to himself? Just nuts. And what if they win and then move a year later?
Stephen: Yeah, so many questions. The entire country of Canada might well riot if Bettman’s prize team prevails. Though Bettman would just be on cloud nine. Would the locals take note if they got the Cup? You’d hope, but even that might not be able to keep the franchise in the desert.
Jay: Any early candidates for the Conn Smythe (playoff MVP)? I’d have to say Smith, Holtby, Giroux, Briere…
Stephen: Holtby for sure, and Smith if the Yotes survive this round. But overall I’d have to say (even if I hate his team for personal reasons) Giroux. This post-season has just been his debutante ball.
Jay: Lundqvist, too.
Stephen: And let’s not forget Quick
Jay: Oh yeah. Maybe even Dustin Brown, too.
So do you sit there watching these games and think the Penguins could take any of these teams? The Pens on paper, anyway.
Stephen: On paper maybe, but not the team I saw in round one. We’re still a strong team but this wasn’t our year. I have comes to terms with that, and am now selfishly pulling for the Kings, so I could attend a Cup Finals match (provided I get a buyer for my extra kidney in time).
Plus I just love underdogs. I’d love to see a Caps/Kings final.
Jay: I’d like to see Flyers-Kings or Rangers-Kings. I’d hate to see a neutral zone trapfest with Preds-Caps or something like that.
Stephen: True that. I still can’t abide the Flyers in the finals. But that’s just the Pens fan in me being bitter. Any of these remaining teams deserve a place there though.
Jay: I hate the Flyers, too. And the Rangers, really. Whoa, Ovechkin just missed a HUGE chance.
Stephen: Wow. Bouncing puck but he should have had that.
Jay: I’m kinda bitter today because it’s 45 years to the day that my Leafs last won the Cup. 1967, man. Ugh.
Stephen: Man. A bittersweet anniversary. But if these playoffs have shown us anything, it’s that a team’s star can changes fast. Just ask the Senators. And St. Louis.
Jay: It was actually the year I was born, so I haven’t had a sniff at the Cup in my entire life. The closest they’ve gotten has been the semifinals a few times.
Stephen: That’s the definition of true hockey fandom, my friend.
Jay: No kidding. I’ve stuck with them this long, no sense in switching allegiances now.
Stephen: Right you are!
Jay: Hunter’s playing Ovechkin a lot more tonight. He’s out there every other shift in the OT, it seems.
Stephen: Yeah. I guess that game winner last time earned him Hunter’s favor. But you have to appreciate his willingness to adjust line-ups based on play, not starpower.
Jay: Whoa, the Rangers are getting a power play with 2:28 left in the OT. This is huge.
Stephen: Not a penalty the Caps want to take there. Not when the team is already looking gassed. Game winner coming up?
Jay: I hope so. I have to work tomorrow.
Stephen: And I need dinner. So go Rangers, then!
Jay: Speaking of power plays, how impressive have the Flyers been on the PP? They’ve got something like 13 goals, whereas the Bruins had two or three. Special teams are so important.
And the Caps kill off the penalty.
Stephen: Amazing. OT 2, here we come! By we I mean the two teams. I need food and my girlfriend is looking at me impatiently. But we’ll be back next week to update everyone on this exciting playoff season. Predictions?
Jay: Man, my predictions have been terrible. I’ve gotta think all these series will go at least 6 games.
Stephen: I think the Kings may already be in by next week. But the other three I agree. At least 6.