This year’s playoffs have showed the power of momentum shifts and perhaps the shortened season has had a lot to do with that. It seems like teams have struggled with consistency and could have rounded into form easier during the post-season had they gone through a full 82-game campaign.

 

The Boston Bruins are a great example of this as they stumbled down the stretch and essentially gave the division title to the Montreal Canadiens. Then after looking like they were going to dispatch of the Toronto Maple Leafs rather quickly, they were almost bounced by the Leafs until that Game 7 debacle. That huge comeback has sparked the Bruins and since then they have gone 8-1, including four wins in one-goal games.

 

How crucial has Tuukka Rask been to the Bruins success in the playoffs? After being passed over for a Vezina nomination, Rask has posted a .943 SP and a 1.75 GAA, to go along with two shutouts. He has to be very high on fantasy boards for next season.

 

Nathan Horton is a ridiculous plus-21 in the post-season.

 

As good as the big names have been for the Bruins, it’s their depth that is making the difference. Their fourth line is arguably the best in hockey as Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille have both averaged over 11 minutes of ice per game in the playoffs, with Shawn Thornton getting close to eight. Not only is it a big help when your fourth line can kill penalties, but having them play that many minutes leaves your stars rested for a late-game push. It remains to be seen if the loss of Campbell will hurt them in the finals.

 

The offense the Bruins have been getting from their blue line is also unreal. They have 15 goals from defensemen in the playoffs and to put that into perspective, the Colorado Avalanche only had five the entire season. Torey Krug has chipped in with four and Johnny Boychuk has five.

*

What in the world happened to Pittsburgh? After averaging over four goals a game during the playoffs they scored just two in the Bruins series. It’s hard to blame Evgeni Malkin for a lack of effort though. He leads all skaters in the post-season with 67 shots, including three separate games where he fired 10 pucks at the net.

 

Kris Letang didn’t have a particularly strong series being held pointless and going minus-5. Playing over 40 minutes in Game 3 and averaging over 27 a night in the playoffs may have had something to do with it. He seemed like he was wearing down a bit.

*

The Blackhawks have also been propelled by their comeback against the Red Wings. They have looked like a totally different team since they went down 3-1 to Detroit.

 

I know everyone is excited about Bryan Bickell and he certainly is going to get a big contract, but teams should be cautious. I’m not trying to rain on his parade, but it’s a lot easier to perform on a team that has forwards like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Shape, and Marian Hossa on it. Should Bickell go somewhere and be vaulted into more responsibility, he could be headed for a tough season.

 

Niklas Hjalmarsson is quickly emerging into a top defenseman. Despite having a name that is difficult to spell and pronounce, he is one of Chicago’s most important players and only Duncan Keith is getting more ice-time than Hjalmarsson.

 

Kane finally came alive late in the Kings series scoring four goals in the final two games, including a hat-trick in the clinching victory.

*

Los Angeles really started to show the effects of the first two series during the Western Conference Finals. The battles they had with the Blues and Sharks were gruelling, and those series could have gone either way. The just didn’t have enough left in the tank to beat a team as strong as Chicago.

 

Jonathan Quick also wasn’t as spectacular as he was in the first two rounds. He gave up a few rough goals in the series that were very uncharacteristic.

*

In my Wild West column this week I took a look at Anaheim’s goaltending situation, which is in good shape. Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth were solid in 2013, but it might make sense to try and deal Hiller in the off-season if they can. Fasth could be unpredictable as he is already 30 and has only played in 25 career games, but John Gibson looks poised to take over that position sooner rather than later. Someone also commented that Frederik Andersen deserves some consideration as well. He was solid in the AHL this season.

*

It will be interesting to see what Calgary and Columbus do in the draft this year. Both organizations have three first-round picks, and although some of them are later in the round, the draft is pretty deep. I know Jay Feaster fears the word “rebuild” like the plague, but no team is in need of some young talent like the Flames. The Blue Jackets can continue to stockpile players and try to build on an impressive season.

*

The Grand Rapids Griffins claimed a 2-0 series lead in the Calder Cup Final on Sunday night with a 6-4 win over the Syracuse Crunch. Tomas Tatar chipped in with his 12th goal of the playoffs. Jan Mursak and Tomas Jurco found the score sheet as well.

*

There are differing opinions on if the Red Wings actually have a solid group of young players coming up in their system. The Griffins appearance in the Calder Cup Final this season should indicate that they do. Jeff Angus had a nice write-up in Saturday’s Ramblings on guys like Tatar, Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, Joakim Andersson, Petr Mrazek, etc. Detroit has always done a great job of integrating players into their line-up slowly to take over for aging veterans. If there’s anything I trust it’s the Wings scouting system, especially in Europe.

*

Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star thinks the Leafs should trade Phil Kessel. His theory has some merit as Toronto needs to sign restricted free agents Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson in the off-season and look for a number-one centre. However, it will be hard to justify moving a guy that you gave up so much for and that finished in the top 10 in scoring in two straight seasons. Even if at times it does look like Kessel is allergic to driving the net.

*

Mike Ribeiro should be highly sought after this summer in free agency. He has his detractors because of some of his personality antics, but Ribeiro can produce points consistently. If you include this season where he was on pace for 82, he has averaged 67 points a campaign over the last nine seasons. There is no shortage of teams looking for depth at centre and Ribeiro can play in either the one or two slot on a lot of squads.

*

Dallas Eakins figures to become Edmonton’s new head coach as early as today. The Oilers only wanted him as an assistant originally, but that has changed since Ralph Krueger was fired. Edmonton would be a great spot for Eakins to work with a group of young players, like he did with the Toronto Marlies. He could make a big difference there and probably ultimately see his stock rise even more. Going to a place like New York or Vancouver, where the teams are expected to contend right away, would be a tough first gig in the NHL.

*

One guy you will want to keep a close eye on next year is Cory Conacher. He is a little undersized and did struggle some in the playoffs, but if he gets a chance to play with Jason Spezza for a significant amount of time he could be in for a decent campaign. His value is low right now and the offensive skill is there.

*

Zdeno Chara's crazy glove save from Friday night. I'm not sure he actually meant to do it, but it looked sweet nonetheless.

 

*

The NHL Rookie Tournament will take place in London, Ontario this September. I went a couple of years ago when it was in Oshawa and it was well worth it. Lots of talented future stars on hand at a reasonable price. The Leafs, Blackhawks, Sens and Penguins are participating.

*

Anyone else think the new Stars logo is terrible? Never understood, other than a blatant attempt to force people to buy new merchandise, why they deviated from the original logo and moved to just having “Dallas” in the middle.

*

Justin Bourne ponders if Jaromir Jagr is actually over-training.

*

Mike Babcock will coach team Canada again in Sochi.

*

Sean McIndoe’s latest for Grantland. Excellent stuff.

*

It looks as though Mark Streit won’t be back with the Islanders. That’s a big loss.

 

 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike


Write comment
Comments (7)add comment

Michael Amato said:

Michael Amato
... I don't believe they should trade Kessel either. If you look at the Leafs cap situation though, you can see in a year or two they could run into trouble. It probably makes sense to let Phaneuf walk since his deal ends at the same time as Kessel's, if they need to clear some space.
June 10, 2013
Votes: +0

theIceWookie said:

theIceWookie
... In what world does trading a 25 year old, two time top 8 NHL scorer, four time 30 goal scorer, and a PPG playoff player make sense because of two players who just had their first impressive seasons? That would be very, very bad management. Unless you can move Kessel to get Malkin (in some form of double sign and trade) or some other deal like that, it just doesn't make any sense to do.

And why would Kessel need to drive to the net? No offense but why would you have a player who isn't larger than 6 feet drive to nets with 6 foo3 or more dman patrolling it? It's not his game nor should it be. He's the guy who slides passes through to the driving guy like JVR or Lupul.
June 10, 2013
Votes: +0

angus said:

angus
... Good stuff Mike.

Letang was definitely worn down. The style of game he plays... the Pens were simply asking way too much of him at both ends of the ice.

June 10, 2013
Votes: +0

Zorro said:

Zorro
... Great ramblings today, really good job Amato..

"Even if at times it does look like Kessel is allergic to driving the net." Priceless!!

You are definitely right about Conacher, but I think anyone who plays with Spezza benefits.. Conacher did play well with the stars in Tampa..

June 10, 2013
Votes: +0

Dakkster said:

June 10, 2013
Votes: +0

Pit Bulls said:

Pit Bulls
Ramblings Great job on the ramblings Michael. Very informative given the lull of NHL games as we wait for the Final to start.
June 10, 2013
Votes: +0

grits207 said:

grits207
... The idea that the Leafs should trade away their best player to make room to sign Cody Franson is hilarious to me. Shouldn't it be the other way around; trading away a 2nd/3rd pairing defenseman to make room for your only real first line caliber player? Then again this is the Laffs we're talking about so who knows...
June 10, 2013
Votes: +3
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy