Flames Die Out; Penguins in Trouble; New Challengers for Detroit.
April 8, 2010 by Big Tony
Who would have thought at the trade deadline that the acquisition by of the Calgary Flames of former Maple Leaf players Ian White, Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, and Vesa Toskala would result in the Flames missing the playoffs? How about EVERYBODY except anyone inside the Calgary Flames organization that had any decision making ability; honestly what were they thinking? Toronto played poorly all season long yet somehow taking a lot of players from that underperforming team would raise Calgary’s level of play? Snatching up these guys was supposed to aid in the Flames scoring woes, instead it did NOTHING. There are rumors swirling around that the Flames organization is in for a huge change in the offseason at almost every level, perhaps rightfully so. Many decisions made along the way contributed to Calgary’s elimination from playoff contention but the recent moves had a lot of say in their stretch run futility. The goal for the Flames coming into this season was to finally get past the first round…funny how things change.
With their 6-3 loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday the defending Stanley Cup Champions fell to a combined 0-10 against New Jersey and Washington this season. Despite that record the Penguins have managed to put themselves in position to have home-ice in the first round of the playoffs and still have a shot at winning the Atlantic Division. But that fact aside what does an 0-10 record against two of the best teams in the East mean for the Penguins in the playoffs? The numbers themselves don’t mean a whole lot since regular season head-to-head records do not carry over into the playoffs but it’s WHY they lost so many times to these teams that is the bigger story. Washington simply did to the Penguins what they’ve done to everyone all year and that is score score and score some more. There is nothing complicated about the Capitals’ game and many experts agree their lack of defense will be rather detrimental when it comes time to try to play and beat a team in a best-of-seven series. More alarming for the Penguins is their performances against New Jersey. The Devils used their neutral-zone trap to not only beat the Penguins but they dominated Pittsburgh in each of the six games they played. The Penguins managed only 5 goals in six contests—none of which were close including two shutouts. There seems to be something about the neutral-zone trap that as really given the Penguins headaches this year seemingly more than ever before. This style has affected them so much that the Tampa Bay Lightning utilized the same system against the Penguins recently to perfection beating Pittsburgh 2-0. If the Devils and now the Lightning have created a blue print for how to dominate the Penguins then it’s likely that other good teams in the playoffs could also use the same system and actually result in the Penguins being eliminated as early as the first round. Getting shut out by the trap on three different occasions against two different teams is no fluke and that’s why that 0-6 record against New Jersey is scary for Pittsburgh.
Lastly, it’s all over but the shouting out West! Every playoff spot has been clinched and now we simply wait to see what the match-ups will be. This year’s contest includes a few different faces from last season as the L.A. Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, and Phoenix Coyotes have all qualified for the post-season play after watching from home just a season ago. It’ll be great to see some new blood in the ranks out west but we cannot forget the frequent fliers in the Detroit Red Wings being present in the playoffs for the 19th consecutive year. Can any of the new teams replace the Red Wings at the top of the Western Conference Mountain? Tune in next time when we preview the west and I give the reasons why Detroit will (or won’t) return to the Finals yet again.
April 14th is almost here!