April 18, 2012
Canucks, Penguins won't go quietly
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
Put those brooms away, at least for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Vancouver Canucks avoided becoming the first Presidents’ Trophy winner to be swept from the Stanley Cup playoffs, earning a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night.
The return of Daniel Sedin helped spark the offence and Cory Schneider rewarded coach Alain Vigneault’s decision to start him in an elimination game over Roberto Luongo.
Schneider showed why he might be both the present and the future for the Canucks. He finished with 43 saves, including a critical stop on a penalty shot for Kings captain Dustin Brown early in the third period with Vancouver clinging to a one-goal lead.
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when the decision to start Schneider was announced. While we understand that Luongo led the Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final last spring and played well in the first two games of this series, at the end of the day Vigneault had to go with the guy he thought gave his team the best chance to win.
Contract status shouldn’t be the deciding factor and in this case. It wasn’t and Vigneault deserves credit for having the cojones to make the decision.
Many believe this decision could mark the end of the road with the Canucks for Luongo, who has another 10 years left on a contract that comes with an annual cap hit of $5.33 million.
There are some who believe the trade value for Luongo will shrink exponentially because of this decision by Vigneault, but we don’t buy it.
Luongo is still a more-than-capable NHL goalie and several teams would welcome him with open arms, despite his big-ticket contract.
STAYING ALIVE PART 2
The Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t about to go quietly into the night either.
Despite giving up the first goal of the game for the first time in their series against the Philadelphia Flyers and actually trailing 3-2 late in the first period, the Penguins buckled down defensively (no, we’re not kidding) and scored the next eight goals to stave off elimination Wednesday.
Aside from the offensive outburst, the best news for the Penguins was that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury survived a rocky start and snapped a personal six-game losing skid in the playoffs that had seen him allow 26 goals.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette decided he’d seen enough of his netminder after Ilya Bryzgalov gave up five goals on 18 shots. Laviolette yanked his starter for Sergei Bobrovsky, who also gave up five goals on 18 shots.
That left both Flyers netminders with a save percentag of .722 for the contest.
We’re thinking Laviolette comes right back with Bryzgalov as the series shifts back to Pittsburgh.
You had to like the creativity of the Flyers’ marketing department, who handed out orange T-shirts at the game with the slogan, "Guess what? We don’t like you either!" an obvious response to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s post-game rant on Sunday.
All three Flyers goals came with the man advantage, giving them a total of nine power-play goals through four games in the series.
In case you were wondering, they’ve also scored three times while short-handed, giving them an amazing 12 special-teams goals so far.
SENATORS GET SCARE
Already without captain Daniel Alfredsson (suspected concussion), the Ottawa Senators were probably holding their breath when Jason Spezza took a big hit from New York Rangers defenceman Marc Staal late in the second period.
Spezza was carrying the puck into the offensive zone and was leaned well forward when Staal stepped up to deliver the check and caught the skilled centre in the head.
However, it was not a blindside hit and Spezza put himself in harm's way, so don't expect the hit to be reviewed for any supplemental discipline.
Spezza finished the game and was able to celebrate when Kyle Turris took a nifty drop pass from Jim O'Brien and used Anton Stralman as a screen before blistering a shot over the glove of Henrik Lundqvist at 2:42 of overtime to even the series 2-2.
Somehow, Lundqvist has lost seven consecutive overtime decisions in the playoffs and is 1-7 lifetime.
HOW MANY GAMES FOR TORRES?
It's clear the NHL is going to come down hard on Phoenix Coyotes winger Raffi Torres for his high hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, who was carted off the ice on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital before being released.
Torres has been given an indefinite suspension and will have an in-person hearing with Brendan Shanahan on Friday.
But how many games will it translate into?
Torres is the type of guy who is synonymous with dangerous hits, both during the regular season and in the playoffs, so expect the hammer to come down.
From where we sit, Torres has to be gone for at least five games and some are saying as many as 10, in order to make a strong statement and provide a real deterrent for head-hunters.