After nursing their wounds and counting their blessings, respectively, Jay and Stephen are back to recap the happenings in round two of the playoffs. Here’s your cheat sheet to sound like you know your hockey in the bar this week!
Jay: Much has happened since last we chatted. We left off just before the game 7s between Toronto and Boston and Washington and the Rangers. And then it’s all a blank for me…or I wish it was. Oy.
Stephen: I don’t want to dredge up the past, but the Leafs experienced arguably the most heart-rending game 7 defeat in recent memory. As underdogs, they were less than two minutes from dethroning the Bruins. Instead, they gave up two quick goals, then lost it in OT. I know most Leafs hands were happy just to be there, but to have victory dangled so close is just mean.
Jay: Yeah, as Popblerd’s resident Leafs fan, this was one for the ages. In a lifetime of disappointments from the Leafs, this was one of the biggest. They were up 4-1 on the Bruins in Game 7 with 10 minutes to go, and as you said, up two goals with under 2 minutes left, and somehow let it slip away. After Nazem Kadri scored to make it 4-1, I refused to let myself celebrate. There was just too much time left. And even as the clock wound down, the Bruins kept coming at Toronto and the Leafs sat back. Big mistake. And then in OT, the Leafs had a couple of big chances early on, but Tuukka Rask made clutch saves. Then when three Leafs were unable to clear a loose puck and Patrice Bergeron swooped in to score the game-winner, I was already on my way out of the room. I couldn’t bear to watch the celebration. Just brutal. Hard to believe that was just a week ago. Feels like it happened months ago now.
Recap: Bruins vs. Rangers
Stephen: Yeah, the second round got underway almost immediately, and after looking human against the Leafs, the Bruins have been dominating the Rangers. Lundqvist seems unstoppable against the Caps, but now he looks out of sync against an impressively deep Boston roster. They had five different guys score goals on Sunday, and look to be finding their form again. Selfishly, I hope they fall apart soon. If my Pens make it to the Conference finals, I don’t want to face a Bruins team firing on all cylinders.
Jay: Yeah, the Bruins’ amazing comeback seems to have woken them up. They’re taking it to the Rangers, although they had a lot of giveaways in game 2 that New York couldn’t cash in. Still, they look tough to beat. My pick before the series started was Rangers in 6, figuring that Lundqvist would be the edge, but so far that hasn’t been the case. It also doesn’t help the Rangers that they’ve got a popgun offense right now. Their top line at the start of the season of Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik is no more; Nash scored in game 2 but it was only his first of the playoffs, Richards is a shell of his former self and only playing on the power play and Gaborik was dealt to Columbus at the deadline. Meanwhile, the Bruins are getting offensive contributions from the likes of d-men Torey Krug and veteran Johnny Boychuk. Crazy.
Stephen: I’ll wait until game 3 ends to render my verdict, but at the current pace, I’m thinking Bruins in 5. The Rangers just look outclassed.
Recap: Pens vs. Sens
Stephen: Meanwhile, my Pens are leading the Sens, but instead of a 3-0 stranglehold, they have a slight 2-1 lead thanks to their inability to close in game 3, as well as Craig Anderson standing on his head and bailing out his team. Otherwise, the Sens have looked off their game as their usually stalwart defense has been decimated by the Pens offensive guns, including a hat trick from Crosby. Game 4 is going to be the rubber match here. If the Sens can once again keep the score low and get good play from Anderson, the Pens have cause for concern. If the Pens can play their brand of high octane, high scoring hockey and Vokoun can be good enough, I think my team takes it in 5.
Jay: My original pick was Penguins in 6 and I’m going to stick to it. As much as I hate to admit it (because as a Toronto fan, I’m predisposed to hate the Sens), Ottawa’s showing me something. Spezza coming back gave them a boost, but they’re going to need Anderson to keep playing great to have a chance. Malkin was amazing in OT Sunday night, and as you said if he fails, you’ve still got to deal with the likes of Crosby, Neal, Iginla, Dupuis, Morrow. Just so stacked. Pittsburgh’s weak link is on D, as we saw on Ottawa’s shorthanded goal with 30 seconds left in regulation to tie it up. Vokoun doesn’t scare anybody, either, but he’s fairly reliable.
Recap: Hawks vs. Wings
Stephen: I think the match everyone is talking about right now, though, is the Wings/Hawks. We were pretty outspoken about our belief that the Hawks were the heirs apparent of the West, and in fact, we sold Detroit pretty short in our round one predictions. As it stands, the Wings now hold a 2-1 lead over the Hawks, with convincing 4-1 and 3-1 wins to get them there. As it stands, the Hawks, who looked untouchable in the regular series, suddenly find themselves with something to prove.
Jay: Great game tonight, although the Hawks got jobbed by the refs when Andrew Shaw scored to apparently tie the game at 2 in the third period and the ref waived it off for goalie interference. Only thing was, the replay showed Shaw didn’t touch Jimmy Howard. Oh, well. Give the Red Wings credit for not rolling over losing the first game of the series; their big players are coming through for them. Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Howard are excelling, but speedy young guns like Brunner, Filppula and Nyquist are looking impressive. My pick was Hawks in 6 and I still think they can win, but they’re going to have to start pushing back.
Recap: Kings vs. Sharks
Stephen: The Kings looked poised for a sweep after two games, but the Sharks bounced back and showed some life on home ice in game 3. It’s another tight race, and while I think Quick gives them the edge, the Sharks can’t be counted out. Though personally I have a hard time rooting too hard for any team that defends the goonery of Raffi Torres.
(Though to be fair, the hit he got suspended on was questionable. I just don’t like the guy.)
Jay: My pre-series pick was Sharks in 7, but that was of course before the Kings came out strong with two big wins and Jonathan Quick looked unbeatable. Props to the Sharks for not giving up, though. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are still playing tough minutes and Logan Couture is a force. Yeah, Torres is a dick, but he’s out for the remainder of the series and really, just about every team has at least one despicable player (Matt Cooke, Chris Neil, etc.). The next game is obviously huge for San Jose, who can either tie or go down 3-1. Here’s hoping all these series can go to 6 or 7 games.
Stephen: Yeah, the more hockey the better when the matches are this close. And I fully admit my hypocrisy in hating on Torres but forgiving Cooke, even if I think he’s turned over a new leaf in his play.
Jay: Hey, this is coming from a guy who once had to root for the likes of Darcy Tucker and Tie Domi.
Stephen: Indeed. Well, anyways, here’s to another week of close hockey games. We’ll be back to wrap up the round two winners and look forward to the Conference finals next week.