April 27, 2012
Five looming questions in Round 2
By Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency
Five Questions in the Eastern Conference
1. Can Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, 22, channel some more Ken Dryden? Like Dryden before him in 1971, Holtby is a rookie goaltender who came out of nowhere to take down the defending Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins. That's a pretty cool parallel. Dryden went on to lead the 1971 Montreal Canadiens to a Cinderella Stanley Cup. Holtby -- similar in physical stature to Dryden -- used his 6-foot-2 frame to block 233 pucks during the first round to lead all goaltenders.
2. What's up with Ilya Bryzgalov? It wouldn't be a playoff without questions about the Philadelphia Flyers goaltending. Bryzgalov had his moments against the Pittsburgh Penguins, not many of the them good. He enters the second round with the lowest save percentage of any surviving goaltender (.871; no other goaltender is below .922). He helped the Flyers win the first round by being less bad than Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. To his credit, Bryzgalov did a pretty good job of not being a distraction off the ice. The bottom line is it looks like Bryzgalov will have to be a lot better if the Flyers are to get by the Devils.
3. Do the New York Rangers have another gear? The Blueshirts have pretty much played at a high level for the whole season and have carried it over to the playoffs. But it was barely enough to avoid being upset by the eighth-seeded Ottawa Senators. Credit coach John Tortorella for pretty much squeezing the most out of his club, but he is going to need a little more to get by the Washington Capitals. The Caps aren't going to flinch. They became the first team in Stanley Cup history to win a seven-game series in which every game was decided by one goal.
4. Will we see home ice finally start to mean something? It is a stunning stat: Road teams were 30-18 in the first round of the playoffs. In the three Game 7s that were played in the East, the road team won two of them -- New Jersey in Florida and Washington in Boston. The only home team to win the decisive game was the Rangers over the Senators. The only surviving East team without a winning record on the road was the Devils, who were 2-2 in Florida against the Panthers. The Caps were 3-1 in Boston, the Rangers 2-1 in Ottawa and the Flyers 2-1 in Pittsburgh.
5. What were the odds of Dale Hunter being the best interview among the coaches in a series? The media -- and by extension the fans -- probably won't be spending too much time listening to the coaches in the Rangers-Caps series. Rangers coach Tortorella made a joke of his media availability in the series against the Ottawa Senators, insulting both the media and the fans on whose behalf the media ask questions. A couple of his "media conferences" were under a minute on the morning of games with curt, one-word answers. He had something to say only when he was significantly miffed about some perceived outrageous act by the Senators, most likely by Chris Neil. Hunter is a guy who tries, but usually just doesn't have much to say.