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Offense could carry this season's playoffs

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

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Offense could carry this season's playoffs
A number of the TV analysts covering this season's Stanley Cup Playoffs believe this postseason could challenge the theory that defense wins championships.
The saying goes that defense wins championships, but some of the top teams in the NHL might challenge that theory this season.

Questionable goaltending with certain teams, as well the high-scoring nature of today's game, could set a new postseason standard.

"I really think the Washington Capitals, who are not known for playing great overall team defense, as the highest scoring team in the NHL, has a chance to debunk the 'defense first' mentality," said TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire. "If they do it I think that will be tremendous news for the rest of the NHL, because usually there is a mimic factor that happens. And I think that would be very, very positive for the League."

McGuire joined Glenn Healy of CBC, Mike Milbury of CBC and NBC and Versus' Keith Jones in giving their opinions on the impending start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Monday.

Healy agreed with McGuire that scoring could carry the day in this year's postseason battles.

"Teams like Washington that have that run-and-gun system, maybe don't have the dollars, then, to spend to load up on the back end, and load up in goal as well," he said. "So that's, I think, the excitement of the Stanley Cup Playoffs."

Healy said none of the 16 teams are perfect, which makes the playoffs that much more entertaining.

"I have no doubt when I look at all the teams, there is a weakness on every team," said Healy. "There is something you can point to and say, boy, they really should have shored that up. But that's through all 16 teams in the postseason. So any two-week war, anybody can win at any time. So I wouldn't discount any team or anyone in the East or West to not have a chance at the Cup."

Milbury said one of the series he'll be watching closely is San Jose, the top seed in the Western Conference, against the Colorado Avalanche.

"This is really a critical point in their franchise development," said Milbury. "To think that they wouldn't at least make the Stanley Cup Final and come back with the same cast of characters is almost unthinkable. So I think they know what's on the line. I think (Joe) Thornton and (Patrick) Marleau and (Dany) Heatley and (Evgeni) Nabokov all understand that they need to find a way to dial it up at a time when all the eyes are on them. And they've been close in the past. They've got a pretty good team there. Obviously, they've kind of run through the regular season.
"But the questions will be answered now. And if they're not answered in a positive fashion, I can't in any way fathom that this team wouldn't be severely altered."

Milbury, a Boston-area native and long-time Bruins player and coach and GM, said the Buffalo-Boston series is the Eastern matchup he'll be watching closely, because the teams are so similar.

"I really think the Washington Capitals, who are not known for playing great overall team defense, as the highest scoring team in the NHL, has a chance to debunk the 'defense first' mentality. If they do it I think that will be tremendous news for the rest of the NHL, because usually there is a mimic factor that happens. And I think that would be very, very positive for the League."
TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire

"Their (Buffalo's) penalty killing is excellent, so is Boston's," said Milbury. "Their power play is middle of the road, Boston is at the bottom of the pile. They're somewhat challenged offensively with great goaltenders in (Ryan) Miller and (Tuukka) Rask. They both have these towering defensemen in (Tyler) Myers and (Zdeno) Chara, so the question for me comes down to who can score the most goals."

McGuire was focusing on Nashville and Chicago, where he says the series could hinge on how the Predators' big three on defense -- Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis -- deals with the Blackhawks' forwards.

"The big three on defense on Nashville have to matter and make a difference," said McGuire. "They're going to have to find way to stymie the better offensive attack for Chicago."

In the East, McGuire said the difference in the Montreal-Washington series could be in goal, but not because of any perceived weakness by the Caps' tandem of Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov.

"Washington should probably win this series," said McGuire. "I know lots of people are questioning their goaltender and maybe give the tale of the tape edge to Montreal. But Jaroslav Halak looked tired on Saturday night, and he didn't look right this whole last week, so that will be something to watch."

Healy, a long-time NHL goaltender, said the series between Vancouver and Los Angeles will come down to goaltending, which he believes is pretty good on both sides.

"I think the big thing for (the Canucks) is Luongo," said Healy. "He probably played in one of the most pressure-filled hockey games ever in the history of Canadian hockey in the Olympics, and championed that. So the advantage has to go to Vancouver when it comes to the goaltending.

"They (the Kings) have got a surprise guy in net, as well. (Jonathan) Quick is a guy who has had a sparkling season, and you kind of waited for the wheels to fall off the cart with him, and they just never have.

"So both teams are pretty well suited. I think it will be a real competitive series."

Healy also sees the Ottawa Senators being in a prime position to upset the defending Stanley Cup-champion Penguins.

"I think it's going to be a long series," said Healy. "And I think Ottawa is in a perfect spot in the sense that they played great the last 10 games -- they got seven wins. No one's expecting them to win. It's no pressure on them. It's going to be about Pittsburgh and (Sidney) Crosby. But they're in a real sneaky great spot. No expectations for them."

Many people have lauded the job Dave Tippett has done in Phoenix, but to Jones, he's been more impressed by how Detroit coach Mike Babcock has managed all his team's injuries to still lead them to fifth-place in the conference.

"Terrific coaching job by Dave Tippett," said Jones. "He has a very disciplined Coyotes team in the playoffs. I think that will continue. But when you're up against a team like the Detroit Red Wings, who have had an extremely difficult season, but one that I think Mike Babcock should consider one of his best coaching jobs ever, they're in perfect position now as far as health goes. They've got a wealth of playoff experience and Stanley Cup championships."

In the Philadelphia-New Jersey series, Jones says one player worth watching is Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.

"I would expect him to put his imprint on the series," said Jones. "He's been terrific during the regular season especially against the Devils. He's matched up against Zach Parise, and has proven to be a guy that can cause problems for Parise. I would expect that to continue as well."
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Quote of the Day

I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride. I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years. I could have never played for so long or accomplished all that I have without the unwavering love and support from my wife, Heather, our three sons, Ryan, Lucas, and Mason, and my parents.

— Martin St. Louis after announcing his retirement from the NHL on Thursday