This morning I’m thinking of David Poile, for this morning, the former Caps’ GM is savoring his first playoff series win since he arrived in Nashville to guide the expansion Predators in 1998, and his first postseason triumph since the 1994 postseason with Washington. The Nashville Predators have known only Poile as their GM and only Barry Trotz as their coach. Those are two quality hockey men. How could anyone in Washington not root for the success of that franchise?
Besides, more postseason Preds likely means more television screen time for the only country music performer I’d try and purchase front-row seats to see.
Poile I guess is regarded as a “builder” of NHL franchises as opposed to say a guider of one to glory. I’m not sure that’s fair; he’s only worked in two “small” markets in the NHL, though Washington today certainly can’t be regarded a small market any longer — thanks in no small part to Poile’s work here. He surely built the Caps up from laughingstock to contender. He has also answered the management call of our country for the World Championships on a number of occasions. Did you know that Poile has the word ‘Caps’ tattooed on a discreet region of his frame? So out West it’s easy for me to root for the Preds.
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I left the Caps-Rags series with a heightened appreciation for John Tortorella. It was Torts’ Tampa club that took out a Jagr-led Capitals’ team in the 2003 postseason after the Caps won the first two games in Tampa by a combined 9-3 tally, the Bolts winning that series’ next four games. In 2009, Torts’ underdog Rags club pushed the Caps to seven games. And while this year’s Caps-Rags matchup lasted just five games, they were wars, all of them; only in the middle portion of game 5′s third period did you genuinely have a sense that one team was clearly going to get it done comfortably. Totorella seems to me to be a coach who knows not only how to maximize the talent of his roster but tailor his strategy to close talent gaps in series like we just witnessed.
Tortorella’s post-series press conference Saturday evening was chock full of commendably dispassionate analysis and frank introspection. He acknowledged, for instance, his club’s inherent shortcomings: “I don’t think our team is fully built. The Washington team was, for a number of years. You look at how that team is built with their draft picks . . . we’re not there yet. We have to play a certain way [because of limited talent].”
The coach correctly lauded the sacrifice and effort made by Dan Girardi, who was I thought the series’ finest performer.
“His finger was all over the place,” Torts acknowledged of his brutally beat up no. 1 rearguard, who had a finger dislocated above the knuckle. He also had an ankle X-ray-ed Saturday evening, the coach reported.
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The Philadelphia Flyers may well survive the first round. Game 7 against Buffalo is tomorrow night in Philly. But this team will not see a follow-up Stanley Cup finals this spring, as its goaltending is, even by Flyers’ standards, shockingly horrific. (Ryan Miller hasn’t been much better, incidentally.)
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With no small trepidation I’ll pick the Canucks in game 7 tomorrow night, mainly just cause of home ice and a sense that the odds are so overwhelming against seeing a second consecutive spring with a team overcoming a 3-0 series deficit to prevail. My new media colleague Ed Frankovic was the first I’d heard positing that Roberto Luongo isn’t 100 percent, and may even have yanked himself out of game 5 because of his condition. If you watched game 6 last night in Chicago you saw Cory Schneider get dinged up on Michael Frolik’s penalty shot. So the ‘Nucks appear to be a mess in net. Still, winning four straight over the President’s Trophy winner? If it happens, will any club ever accept that trophy again?
The Hawks’ fortunes have changed dramatically largely because Corey Crawford has been solid in net and the impact return of center Dave Bolland. The Sedins have a combined 12 points in the series’ 6 games, which is nice, but are skating a combined -6. Bolland, in just 3 games, has 7 points and is skating a +6. One man wrecking crew.
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In the first four games of the Pens-’Bolts series Steven Stamkos had a lone assist. Game 5′s 8-2 Tampa drubbing saw Stamkos pot 2 goals and an assist. If he’s achieved some comfort in his first NHL postseason after the rough start I think he’s the difference in the remainder of the series.
With a little bit of luck we could witness the two Pennsylvania teams eliminated in game 7s on consecutive nights this week. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
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Antero Niittymaki’s only had two games between the pipes for the Sharks, so I don’t put his stats on par with Michal Neuvirth’s, yet. If you look at goalies who’ve worked most or all of first round series, Neuvirth’s at the top of all key categories: .946 save percentage, 1.38 goals-against, 4-1 record. His most impressive stat, though, for me: he’s now 15-for-15 in postseason play in his North American professional career. Wow.