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The Penalty Box: Playoff thoughts

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com



We're in full playoff mode here at Crashing the Net and its readers appear to be, as well. This week's Penalty Box is chock-full of quality e-mails, covering everything from Pittsburgh's stunning sweep, to Martin Brodeur's supposed fall from grace, Sean Avery's first-round behavior and a perceived lack of love for the Colorado Avalanche.

Remember, you can join the hockey conversation by sending your thoughts, rants, suggestions and/or criticisms to roarkeblog@nhl.com. Remember to include your name and hometown with all submissions and look for your letter to appear in a future edition of the Penalty Box.

Now, on to the mailbag:

Hi Shawn,

There is giddiness throughout Pittsburgh right now. I must say that most people thought we could take the series against Ottawa -- possibly in five games, but not a sweep. I know how die-hard the fans in Ottawa are and I must say even the fans in Pittsburgh are now die-hard. Do you think it's reasonable to think that the next series would go five or a full seven games? Consider also that the Penguins will be the most rested team for the next round. Will that hurt them or help them? Thanks for the input and keep it up with your music selections. Because also music is an integral part of the hockey game to get the crowd into it.

-- Crystal, Scottdale, Pa.


Crystal, the Pittsburgh area has reason to be giddy. People can point out all they want that Ottawa was a team that was falling apart, but the Pens still displayed the killer instinct necessary to put the Sens down as quickly and painlessly as possible. Plus, it doesn't hurt that Marc-Andre Fleury had a stupendous first round. He posted a .955 save percentage, which will make any team look awfully good. It also doesn't hurt that the team has defined solid identities for most of the players – a well-organized team is an effective team. It will be interesting to see how the long layoff affects the Pens. Will they have too much time to reflect on what they have accomplished and the daunting journey that lies ahead? Or, will they use the time to rest and refine their game and come out fresh? Nobody knows. The rest vs. rust argument is one of the biggest mysteries in the game. But CTN will tell you this; this is a team that can clearly reach the Stanley Cup Final -- especially if the matchups break right. Enjoy the first-round domination, Crystal, and get ready for more excitement this week.

***

Shawn,

Great insight. Obviously, you deserve your post as NHL.com editor. I found your blog after surfing through the fan pages and blogs, and after three truly dismal accounts I actually found something worth reading. You definitely have the inside scoop, and I am envious. Some questions for you:

* Do you believe the Penguins can go all the way?
I think that they cannot, and this is based on the fact that the Pens are talents -- speedy and young. But if they run into a team that is willing to grind them out, and seriously forecheck the bejesus out of them for 6-7 straight games, the Pens will crumble. Should the Flyers beat Washington, and face the Pens, I think the Pens will win, but be ruined physically for the next round. And I do not believe they would stand a chance against any team in the West.

* What are your thoughts on Sean Avery?
My thoughts are here: http://fans.nhl.com/members/ecparke/blogs/11193

Thanks for your time.

--Ted


Sean Avery's postgame silence during the first round increased the burden of his teammates. Watch Sean Avery highlight video
Ted, my friend, flattery will get you everywhere – including high billing in this week's Penalty Box. Keep up the good work, buddy!

As for questions, CTN will take them in inverse order.

CTN appreciates the role that Avery is trying to occupy, but has little use for the way he goes about it. There have always been players like Avery – Matt Cooke, Claude Lemieux, Esa Tikkanen, Steve Ott, all jump to mind – but CTN can't imagine any of them pulling the stick-waving, face-guarding stunt Avery pulled in Game 3. Plus, all of those players mentioned above usually answered for their actions with postgame comments. Avery's convenient vow of silence – which, by the way, increased the burden of his teammates – doesn't play with CTN, either. Especially when that vow conveniently ended after the round was over and Avery took more unsolicited potshots at Martin Brodeur. But that is just CTN's personal opinion. To each their own, and CTN does think that you were quite eloquent in your blog about Avery's merits.

As for your contention about the Penguins, you again make a very valid argument. Any team that wants to beat the Penguins will have to exert its physical will in the series. But remember two things: you have to catch something to hit it, and the Penguins are a fairly rugged team when they want to be. Let's put it this way -- Gary Roberts, Jarkko Ruutu, Brooks Orpick and that bunch aren't exactly shrinking violets.


***

"Martin Brodeur is supposed to steal playoff games?"

When did that ever happen?

There's a reason the Devils have three and Marty has zero Conn Smythes. In fact, after the Devils' first Cup, Brodeur was outplayed by such goaltending luminaries as Tom Barrasso and Damien Rhodes. He was also outplayed by Mike Richter on more than one occasion. None of these guys are considered competition for "possibly the greatest goalie ever."

Brodeur is a fantastic goalie who will deservedly be in the Hall of Fame one day. But he does not steal playoff games.

-- Alex Kaufmann, New York City


Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur's career postseason GAA is 1.96.
Alex, CTN loves the revisionist historians that somehow believe it is righteous to suggest that Brodeur has three Stanley Cup rings by happenstance. Yes, CTN said that Martin Brodeur is supposed to steal games in the playoffs in last week's Opening Faceoff, and CTN stands by that very statement. Even with the 3.19 goals-against average he put up this playoff, Brodeur's career postseason GAA is 1.96. That means that during the Brodeur years, New Jersey has taken the ice 169 times knowing that two goals could well be enough to walk out with a win. That's a pretty good feeling to have. And as for your contention that Brodeur has never won a Conn Smythe and therefore cannot be too important to New Jersey's postseason success, CTN says hogwash! In 2003, the losing goalie, J-S Giguere won the MVP Award, but Brodeur was a viable candidate. He allowed just 41 goals in 24 games that postseason and posted 7 shutouts. That means he won two games a round all by himself. Yet, he never stole a game? In 2003, the Devils allowed 12 goals in the first four games against the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Final to fall into a three-games-to-one hole. The club came back to win the next three games to miraculously advance. Guess how many goals Brodeur allowed in those games. Three's the winner. That's right; three goals in three win-or-go-home scenarios. Yet, Brodeur never stole a game? In the next round, the Stanley Cup Final against Dallas, Brodeur allowed three goals in Game 1 (a win, by the way) and then never allowed Dallas more than one in any other game, including a triple-OT loss and a double-OT Cup clincher. No stealing going on there. Now, if we must go back to 1995, let's consider the following facts. New Jersey won the first round in five games; Brodeur had three shutouts. The Devils beat Pittsburgh in five games in Round 2 and the Pens managed three goals in the last three games of that series. In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final that year, against the heavily favored Red Wings, Brodeur authored a 2-1 victory to set the tone for the series. That season, Detroit had scored a Western Conference-best 180 regular-season goals, an average of 3.75 per game. In the four-game Final, Detroit managed a whopping seven goals. Doesn't appear Brodeur had an effect there either, does it? In closing, Alex, CTN would suggest that it is always advisable to check your facts before opening your mouth and saying something so patently ridiculous that it can only generate derision from anyone knowledgeable on the topic at hand. 

***

Alright, alright, I've heard and read enough content from hockey analysts, hockey gurus and just plain old hockey fans and I've just got to ask one simple question: Where is the love for Colorado?

It seems to me that nobody even thought they would make it into the playoffs this season, but they did. Not only that, but they did it while losing three of their top offensive players to various injuries. When hockey's second season finally started, everybody expected Minnesota to just walk right over the Avs into Round 2, but guess again, Colorado now has the Wild on the ropes and in this series they are just plain out-playing them.

And while I'm on the subject of the Wild, does nobody else think that racking up 111 minutes in penalties in one game is grounds for some kind of punishment? I mean, yes, if you are clearly going to lose a game, then you are probably going to play a little dirty. But for the love of all that is good, a hockey game is only 60 minutes long, acquiring double the minutes in penalties is ridiculous. My point is, can somebody other than myself and the rest of the Avs nation show a little love to an organization that just keeps proving the doubters wrong?

PS: I hate to bring it up, but with all the talk of "is Hasek done?" can somebody turn their attention to Martin Brodeur? Every year, we hear how he is a "proven playoff performer" but the past two postseasons he has... dare I say it, he's (stunk)! And, he is clearly not as good as he used to be in the glory days in Jersey.

-- Tyler Moyes, Cambridge, Ont.


Tyler, CTN has already addressed the Brodeur issue at length in the last letter, so we can leave that be – other than to say that Brodeur was not good this year or for the past few playoffs. CTN, however, thinks Brodeur is certainly allowed a pass or two, considering his Vezina Trophy-worthy regular season this time around and his former playoff heroics.

Now, onto your Avalanche points. CTN would like to meet the sports fan that doesn't feel his team is being shortchanged in the love/respect department. CTN is convinced that fan does not exist. In the case of the Avs, they were the underdogs for a reason. They played the same amount of games, against the same competition and finished behind the Wild. Yes, it was a mere three points (the difference in OT losses) that separated the teams. Yet, there was still a separation. The Avs played a great first round and deserved the win, there's no denying that. But CTN thinks the nobody loves us/nobody respects us/nobody gives us credit for the hardships we have overcome cards do not apply here. As far as CTN knows from his dealings with fans and NHL personnel alike, Colorado is one of the most-respected, most-copied franchises in the NHL. All CTN can say is enjoy your team's win and forget about what others think or what you believe them to think. The beauty of playoffs is it is an us-against-the-world mentality. Buy into it and enjoy the ride, buddy.

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