Here Come The Playoffs! : A Metro Hockey Update
Here Come The Playoffs! : A Metro Hockey
Spring may be here, although you wouldn't know it due to the snow. Never fear, though - the playoffs are here, and two of the locals are in the race. Here's a look at each teams' chances (Home team advantage in bold):
The Ottawa Senators 52-21-8-1
vs. New York Islanders 35-34-11-2
Ottawa right winger Marian Hossa finished third overall in the league with 45 goals. Four other Senators scored at least 22 goals, with Captain Daniel Alfredsson also notching 52 assists (good for tenth overall). The deadline day trade for Bryan Smolinski provides extra depth at center, while ruffians Vaclav Varada and Rob Ray provide the toughness that the team has so sorely lacked in past playoff games.
Meanwhile, the Isles feature Alexei Yashin (26 goals, 39 assists), who has been shaking off a season-long offensive slump in the past few weeks. Mark Parrish and Jason Blake also provide scoring punch. Dave Scatchard (27 goals) can also contribute - but what about the left side? The Isles will certainly have a hard time matching up to the Senators' offense during critical situations.
EDGE - Ottawa
Although the Senators excel at executing the trap, the Islanders can at least sleep better when they realize that their defense corps is very adept at moving the puck on the breakout. Janne Niinimaa, Adrian Aucoin, Roman Hamrlik, and Kenny Jonsson are all excellent skaters who possess the ability to read the play effectively and open chances for the forwards with some intelligent passing. However, all the finesse in the world won't work if there aren't enough guys to do the dirty work - like clearing the crease and winning the physical battles in the corners. Can Eric Cairns and Mattias Timander intimidate the Ottawa's forwards?
The Senators will rely on the monstrous Zdeno Chara for strength on the blueline. His 6'9", 260 lbs. frame makes him virtually indestructible Wade Redden led all Ottawa defensemen with 45 points. EDGE-Islanders
Islander Garth Snow will need every bit of extra shoulder padding to counter all the shots on goal that Ottawa promises. Rick DiPietro is certainly the answer... in 2005, not 2003. The Isles REALLY should not have traded Chris Osgood, despite his flaws.
The Senators counter with Patrick Lalime (39-20-7, .911 save percentage), who has had limited playoff success, to put it politely.
EDGE - Even
The Senator's off-ice financial woes won't distract them from taking care of business. The Islanders, meanwhile, simply aren't deep enough offensively to pose much of a realistic threat. Yes, defense wins championships, but the Isles will collapse under the strain of having to deal with the Senators' deadly swarm of goal scoring talent; Wait til' next year, Fishstick fans.
OTTAWA in FIVE
The New Jersey Devils 46-20-10-6
vs. The Boston Bruins 36-31-11-4
Bill who? That's what many Bruin fans are saying in regards to this year's team. Glen Murray, Joe Thorton, and Mike Knuble have all scored at least 30 goals each, thus making many forget about 40-goal scorer Bill Guerin, who departed for the Dallas Stars in the offseason. Brian Rolston provides blazing speed and defensive savvy and is always a threat on either the power play or the penalty kill. Captain Joe Thorton's 101 points is no small feat when one considers how offensively challenged the NHL is.
The Devils are certainly not chopped liver, but Patrick Elias and Scott Gomez have underachieved all season long. Because most of the team's focus is on defense, the team may be in trouble if anyone succumbs to either injury or a prolonged slump. EDGE- Bruins
Here is where the Devils shine. Speed? Let's see... Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski, and Oleg Tverdovsky? Check. Toughness? Richard Smehlik, Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, Colin White? Check. Even without such a stellar cast, the team-wide attention to playing a tight, responsible defensive system would make the Devils a winner (Hey, New York Rangers, are you LISTENING?!?!?).
The Bruins feature Bryan Berard as their one true puck-moving threat; don't let the presence of an overrated player like Sean O'Donnell fool you into thinking otherwise. Nick Boynton and Hal Gill provide toughness. This mismatch on defense is one area the Devils will exploit. EDGE-Devils
The other is here. Martin Brodeur (41 wins, .914 save %) is currently the best goalie in the league bar none. Whine all you want about how the Devils' commitment to defense pads his stats, but the fact is that Brodeur has proven capable of making big saves at the right time. The Bruins will counter with either Jeff Hackett or Steve Shield, whose playoff resumes simply don't look half as good as Brodeur's. EDGE-Devils, by a mile
The Bruins' offense will certainly give the Devils fits, but the one-two punch of goaltending and defense can neutralize even the best scorers. The only worry for the Devils should be age; Stevens and Daneyko are yet another year older, and the latter is slowing down drastically. That said, the Devils are deep enough to make up for this minor shortcoming.
DEVILS in SIX