The only thing worse than one round of postseason hockey for the club you follow is no qualification at all. With the Buffalo Sabres exiting right beside Thomas Vanek when he left Game 2 injured, a lot has happened and I need to spill out my analysis/thoughts. So, I introduce a new feature called 'Thoughts And Musings' , which I'll hope to share weekly to prevent the pen's ink from drying up and creating a means of conversation.
It's become clear why people have referred to the Eastern Conference as the Leastern and the West as the Best. The top two seeds, Chicago and San Jose, have supported their high placement in the standings as they will tussle in the Conference Finals. In the East, eighth-ranked Montreal has turned into a giant killer, knocking of Washington and Pittsburgh, coincidentally with a short cast of forwards doing the damage. They, and particularly Jaroslav Halak, have been a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing.
Numbers one through five representing the East are left reminiscing, while the remaining Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins conclude their rivalry in Game 7. A win for the Flyers, and they've accomplished a legendary triumph. A loss for Boston, and they're historic losers.
On another topic, flashback to my letters for the Bruins upon their defeating the Sabres. I mentioned that Johnny Boychuk would get injured for his dirty slash that scratched out Vanek. Didn't work out, but Boston has gotten a taste of their own medicine because David Krejci was knocked hard to the ice by Mike Richards in Game 3.
Suffering a broken wrist, the Bruins have lost three in a row because of the dispossession of a fine playmaker who was piling up points. Unlike (what's his name again?) Boychuk, Richards didn't cross the line with a dirty swing of the stick. You smell that? That's the sweet perfume of karma.
Robert Luongo Wasn't At Fault Alone
Roberto Luongo this, Roberto Luongo that. Derek Zona was dead-on with this piece because it's incredible to consider how quickly these supporters turned on their goaltender in Game 6 against Chicago. The first period chants were Luuuuu, then a mocking applause for touching the puck in the second and a hint of regular booing to close the curtain. The statistics don't do him any fortune - an .895 save percentage and a 3.22 goals against average - but this was a collapse from point A to Z.
Vancouver didn't beat Los Angeles, the Kings were the masters of their own demise and Jonathan Quick was rusty when push came to shove. That should have flashed warning signs that this isn't a contending team. In Canada, it's reasonable to get ahead of yourself for the sake of hockey. Why did head coach Alain Vigneault remove Mikael Samuelsson from the first line with the Sedin twins? Were his seven goals and four assists in round one too mediocre?
Alex Burrows, who scored two of his three goals into an empty net, resurfaced with the brothers and wasn't half the performer Samuelsson appeared as. Before we cover Game 6, some other issues that didn't sink in: Daniel Sedin being outwitted by Dave Bolland to the penalty box, Ryan Kesler's inability to throw a hit or engage himself in any volume, the Canucks falling for infraction after infraction in a 7-4 Game 4 blow-out and their missing killer instinct in the final match.
How did they humiliate themselves in Game 6? Luongo made a string of exquisite saves in the first period, highlighted by a break-away robbery on Patrick Sharp. They didn't build off it; they dragged their chances down. Kyle Wellwood back-checks casually - Goal No.1 for the Blackhawks. Kevin Bieksa overskates the puck leading to an odd-man rush - Goal No.2. Pavol Demitra goes for one saucer pass too many on the powerplay, hands the puck to Dave Bolland for a break-away - Goal No.3. Bieksa waves for Patrick Kane to take the middle of the ice on a quick dash - Goal No.4. Why not just give him a carpet so his skates don't get dirty either? A defenseman pinches in and Dustin Byfuglien buries the fifth on a two-on-one - very convenient.
And you're going to tell me that Luongo was the sole reason for Vancouver's collapse? Give me a break. Win as a team, lose as a team.
Kris Letang isn't the best stay-at-home defenseman, but in Pittsburgh, apparently he's known as an offensive blue liner. Wrong again. The players who produce 40 points and beyond for numerous years are categorized as forward-like rearguards. Letang's best campaign came last year with 33 points and he threw out 27 points in 2010. Steve Montador had four fewer points than him, and we certainly don't call him an offensive defenseman. Mike Green, Dan Boyle, Duncan Keith, Sergei Gonchar - Letang doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as them, not currently.
Everything that Gonchar does, Letang can't do. His shots don't get through traffic and aren't aimed very well like the Russian's. It seems like the puck has to hit a leg, stick or take some kind of deflection for him to score. His passing and anticipation aren't special - I'd give the offensive tag to Alex Goligoski before him. Don't get me wrong, he's got the potential to be a 40-plus point contributor in the future, but he isn't in the same section as the offensive defensemen the National Hockey League owns today.
He might want to study the art of kicking the puck properly, because his errors were horrendous against Montreal. First, he kicked a puck straight to Mike Cammalleri for a break-away tally in Game 2 that sealed the outcome, then, he directed Brian Gionta's pass into his own net for a game-winner late during Game 4. While he has many strides of improvement to complete, he's young and has time on his side.
As far as being an offensive defenseman? Sorry, it takes a lot more than tucking your jersey in and skating well to be a considered such a presence.