Devils Dominate Pens; Red Wings Lurke; Blackhawks Goaltending Hole
March 18, 2010 by Big Tony
Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins were held in check yet AGAIN by the New Jersey Devils who have now swept the season series against the Penguins 6-0 and in a decisive manner every time. One team dominating another like this is not rare, but the difference in this case is that the Penguins have consistently been one of the best teams in the league all year and are even still fighting for the division crown with New Jersey despite having lost every game against them. It’s not very common to see a team get dominated by another team and yet still be so high in the standings. So what does this mean for the playoffs? Quite frankly as long as both teams make it (as they surely will) it doesn’t mean a whole lot should they match-up with one another until the first game is played. If Pittsburgh can manage to win the first of a best-of-seven series with New Jersey then the slate is essentially wiped clean. However, should New Jersey beat Pittsburgh and dominate them the same way they have all year then New Jersey will have affected the confidence of the Penguin team so much that the series would basically be over before it even gets started. There’s no real rhyme or reason for the Devils’ dominance over the Penguins it has simply been a matter of New Jersey playing their system soundly and the Penguins allowing too many chances and not creating enough of their own. We’ll see what happens from here but if nothing else this series of victories should give New Jersey a ton of confidence as the stretch run continues and transitions into the playoffs.
For you Western Conference fans, don’t look now but the Detroit Red Wings are in prime positions to qualify for the post-season yet again. As of right now the Red Wings have a one point advantage over 9th place Calgary with a game in hand and have defeated the Flames each of the last two times they’ve played. No matter how the regular season goes for Detroit they always seem to do away with any weaknesses they showed throughout the year and return to top form when April rolls around. Detroit is also getting healthier so the likelihood that they’ll flounder down the stretch diminishes with each player they get back. Should they make the playoffs it will likely be as the 7th or 8th seed; what a prize for the team who comes away with the conference regular season title. You work all year to put yourself in the best position possible and you’re rewarded with a first round match-up against the two time defending conference champions. There’s nothing like a date with Franzen, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, etc. and all of their Stanley Cup rings as a way of saying congratulations on claiming one of the top spots in the conference. Despite how the season has gone for Detroit, if they get in you have to peg them as one of the favorites to come out of the west.
Lastly, what were the Chicago Blackhawks thinking at the trade deadline? In large point their team is solid and needs no adjusting in order to sure up what should be a run to the Stanley Cup Finals (that is a reasonable goal at least). But one area that absolutely needed addressing was goaltending. No disrespect to Huet and Niemi but they are not ready to lead a team to the promised land. Neither has any playoff experience of note and while you can only get experience by actually playing, when the rest of the team is ready to make a strong push that is NOT the time for your netminder to get his feet wet. Kane, Keith, Sharp, Toews, Hossa, Byfuglien, Versteeg, Campbell (pre-injury), etc. are all poised to improve on last year’s run to the conference finals by taking their respective games’ to the next level and the last thing they need is goaltending to bring them down. Going after someone like Manny Legace who has some experience, or even J-S Giguere who despite falling out of favor in Anaheim has a decent track record and perhaps a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered for him. Either choice would have been worth at least trying because neither could do any worse than Niemi and Huet have been of late. In two Sundays in a row both Huet and Niemi have given up a plethora of goals in very short order causing their team to blow 2 and three goal leads respectively, blown leads Chicago was unable to rebound from both times. Sure that could happen to anybody on a given day, but twice in 7 days is unacceptable and it does not bode very well for Chicago this season if they play even close to that poorly in the playoffs.
Less than one month to go until playoff time!