A few thoughts as we wait for the Penguins-Rangers and Stars-Sharks series to get under way tonight:
– The Detroit Red Wings
have so many stars it's easy to overlook a player like Johan Franzen
. But not any more.
Franzen was among the NHL's hottest goal-scorers down the stretch, and added the overtime winner in Game 5 of the opening round against Nashville. He had the first two-goal playoff game of his career Thursday night and added an assist as Detroit held off Colorado, 4-3, in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinal series.
'Their top line is dangerous, but he's the next guy you have to worry about,'' Colorado coach Joel Quenneville
said of Franzen, who had 27 goals in the regular season. ''He's got skill and he's a big power forward.''
Franzen got one goal on a deflection and another on a slap shot from the top of the right circle. He and linemates Valtteri Filppula
and Mikael Samuelsson
earned praise from coach Mike Babcock.
''That was our best line,'' Babcock said. ''He (Franzen) was really good with Filppula and Samuelsson. We said in the last series, if we could get that line going, we would be really good.''
The Wings already are “really good” – they didn't win the Presidents' Trophy by accident. Having a second line that can produce like that just makes things tougher for anyone hoping to beat them.
No more old days
– Detroit and Colorado used to be the NHL's hottest rivalry. They met five times from 1996-2002, and the level of intensity was incredible.
But a six-year break – and the normal roster turnover that goes on over a span like that – has quieted things down a lot.
The buzz at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday was nothing like the electricity that crackled through the crowd during the peak of the rivalry – and Wings goalie Chris Osgood
, who was there for it all, hopes those memories stay in the past.
''If you were to ask the guys that played in those series, they wouldn't be commenting on this one now,'' he said. ''So I don't really feel that this is the time for me to comment on or compare the series because there's new players on both sides.''
Getting the “breaks”
– The Montreal Canadiens
got some breaks – including a controversial goal that survived a video review – in their 4-3 overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers
. But the best “break” might have been the one that turned Philadelphia center Jeff Carter
's stick into kindling.
Carter and Montreal's Saku Koivu
faced off with just over 30 seconds to play, the Canadiens on a power play and the Flyers leading 3-2. Carter's stick almost exploded, and Koivu got the puck to Alex Kovalev
for a wrist shot that went past Martin Biron
to tie the game with 28.6 seconds remaining.
''It was a tough break but there's really not much you can do when you break your stick,'' Carter said. ''I don't even know where the puck went after that – obviously Kovalev got it, but there's not really much you can do.''
Said Kovalev: ''The puck was in the scrum there and then all of a sudden it just came out. It was just perfect timing.''
One to remember
– Montreal's Tom Kostopoulos
is in the playoffs for the first time in his six NHL seasons. Thursday night is one he'll always remember.
''Hard work by my linemates created the turnover and Markov made a good play to get the puck on net. Biron made a good save on the first shot and I was lucky to get the rebound.'' - Habs forward Tom Kostopoulos
The 29-year-old checking forward scored the first playoff overtime goal of his career when he banged his own rebound past Martin Biron
48 seconds into OT to give the Canadiens the win.
''It's exciting,'' said Kostopoulos, who has three postseason goals after getting just seven during the regular season. ''It's unbelievable how we came back twice to tie it up.''
Biron stopped Andrei Markov
's point shot and Kostopoulos' rebound try, but the puck came right back to Kostopoulos, who put his second shot into the net.
''Hard work by my linemates created the turnover and Markov made a good play to get the puck on net,'' Kostopoulos said of his goal. ''Biron made a good save on the first shot and I was lucky to get the rebound.''
The Canadiens have gotten surprising production from Kostopoulos and linemates Bryan Smolinski
and Steve Begin
in the playoffs.
“Some players don't get a lot of attention,'' Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau
said. ''They work in the shadows a bit, but they do a good job in a lot of things. They kill penalties, block shots. But that's one goal I think he'll remember.''
Contact John Kreiser at email@example.com.