April 10, 2011
16 questions for 16 NHL playoff teams
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Antti Niemi was thought to be the Achilles heel of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.
Ten weeks later the rookie goaltender was sipping champagne from Lord Stanley’s Cup.
So much for the notion that Niemi was the so-called “wart” of the team.
Heading into the 2011 playoffs, every roster seems to have similar blemishes at first blush. It’s the team whose warts turn into winners that usually end up hoisting the silver mug.
Keeping that in mind, here are 16 pressing questions for 16 playoff teams.
Can Gabby and Ovie finally get over the playoff hump?
Bruce Boudreau and Alex Ovechkin have combined to win one playoff series. One. That’s only one more than you and I have won.
Will Philly Bob ignite memories of Bernie Parent or Roman Cechmanek?
Parent was awfully good; Cechmanek, at times, awful. Which one will rookie goalie Sergei (Philly Bob) Bobrovsky be like?
Can Claude Julien’s men exorcise the demons of last spring’s historic collapse to the Flyers?
Eleven long months ago, the Bruins blew a 3-0 second-round lead in games and lost the series 4-3 to the Flyers, who joined the 1942 Leafs and ’75 Isles as the only teams to make such a comeback. The Bruins better have short memories.
If Crosby doesn’t lace them up at some point, cancel the parade.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Can a team win when its starting goalie is older than the head coach?
Dwayne Roloson is 41. Guy Boucher is 39. In age, there is wisdom. But is there a Cup?
Can the bleu blanc rouge repeat their Cinderella run of 2011?
Carey Price is capable but has won just one career playoff series. Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez can not turn invisible again like they did last spring.
How will banged-up Ryan Miller deal with Philly’s big bruising bodies?
Count on Scott Hartnell, James Van Riemsdyk and Jeff Carter spending a lot of time in Miller’s face. Rattle Miller and you rattle the Sabres.
New York Rangers
If Henrik Lundqvist can’t score, who will?
Lundqvist has had very little goal support when playoffs roll around. It’s time for the Gaboriks and Wolskis to give him some help.
Can they finally advance past the second round?
After two consecutive eliminations to the Blackhawks, it’s time for the Presidents’ Trophy winners to step up. There are no excuses now that Roberto Luongo-enemy Dustin Byfuglien is a Thrasher.
San Jose Sharks
Can Antti Niemi erase the Sharks reputation of post-season underachievers by going back to back?
They’ve gone under the radar, perhaps in anticipation of another spring collapse. It will be up to Niemi, a Cup winner with the Hawks a year ago, to change the script.
Detroit Red Wings
Are the red-and-white just too black and blue?
In the past few weeks, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Brian Rafalski and Jimmy Howard all missed time due to injury. Reason to worry?
Goalies, goalies, who to pick?
Jonas Hiller has post-vertigo syndrome. Ray Emery is banged up. Dan Ellis finished the season with back-to-back wins. Choices, choices ...
Can Martin Erat and Mr. Underwood produce enough offence to carry a team?
Mike Fisher, hubby of country music star Carrie Underwood, will have to lead a goal-starved offensive. With Pekka Rinne in goal, they don’t need many.
Can the ’Yotes add another chapter to the Desert Soap Opera and upset the mighty Wings?
Just 51 weeks ago they extended Detroit to a seventh game only to fall short. Now, after another season of off-ice chaos, they’ll try to get it right.
Los Angeles Kings
Will the Kings be able to compensate for the losses of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams?
Dustin Penner was brought in as a complimentary scorer. Now he’ll have to lead the way along with Dustin Brown and Ryan Smyth.
Is Corey Crawford the next Antti Niemi?
If the Hawks want to repeat, he’d better be. The defending champs don’t have nearly as much depth after the departures of Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg, among others, last summer.