Only the Pittsburgh Penguins know for sure whether they threw their last game of the regular season in order to draw the Ottawa Senators as a playoff opponent.
But the fact is it doesn’t matter.
They created the perception they tanked their last game and at this time of year, that’s enough to motivate your opponent, particularly when it’s lead by someone as manipulative as Senators coach Bryan Murray.
Karma is just one of the reasons why I’m picking the Senators to shock the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, even without Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher. It’s certainly not the most prominent reason. Heck, stuff like that happens all the time.
The Nashville Predators looked an awful lot like they wanted to avoid the San Jose Sharks in the first round, and was it just me or did it look like the Vancouver Canucks were doing everything they could to get Jarome Iginla his 50th goal of the season Saturday night?
Here are a couple of other reasons:
• The Penguins will one day be a great team, perhaps a Stanley Cup champion. But if you go back in history, you find every great team had a number of playoff disappointments to their credit before they learned how to win in the playoffs. I think the Penguins are still one monumental collapse away from that exalted status.
• THN.com’s Ottawa contributor Murray Pam sent along a very interesting statistic. Martin Gerber has a career record of 4-0-1 against the Penguins, including 2-0-1 this season. Marc-Andre Fleury, on the other hand, has a 3-8 record against the Senators including playoffs and played only 11 minutes against Ottawa this season.
• Marian Hossa’s playoff performances, with the exception of three years ago, have been very sub-par. Yes, he has been part of three teams that have been swept, but part of the reason they were swept was because he played so poorly.
• I’m not convinced Daniel Alfredsson is as seriously injured as the Senators are making him out to be. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a miraculous comeback at some point in this series.
OFF THE ICE, TO THE WEIGHT ROOM
Daulton Leveille has about eight weeks to add some bulk to his frame and convince NHL scouts he isn’t a 165-pound weakling.
The St. Catharines Jr. B star, who is garnering all kinds of attention as a possible first-round pick, saw his season end Monday night when his Falcons were eliminated from the playoffs. Leveille went straight from the ice to the weight room to prepare for the NHL’s draft combine in June.
The problem is, Leveille has never really worked out in his life and needs to add some strength before doing the bench press in front of representatives from all 30 NHL teams. He checks in at just a touch under 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds and obviously has to get stronger both for the NHL and Michigan State, where he is scheduled to play next season.
But Leveille remains an intriguing prospect. In his Ontario League draft year two years ago, Leveille was just 5-foot-7 and the Ottawa 67s took him in the sixth round. At his first OHL camp he was 140 pounds.
The 67s tried to get him to join their team this season and will undoubtedly continue a full-court press through the summer, but Leveille has apparently already made up his mind to go the U.S. college route.
After scoring 29 goals and 56 points in 45 games this season, Leveille finished second in Golden Horseshoe Junior League playoff scoring with 14 goals and 30 points in 16 games.
HAWKS CONTINUE TO CLEAN HOUSE
Jim De Maria, who was considered one of the best in the media relations business and had worked tirelessly for the Blackhawks for 25 years was let go by the club the day after the season ended.
De Maria was let go by Blackhawks president John McDonough, who was brought over from the Chicago Cubs after Bill Wirtz’s death earlier this season. De Maria and McDonough go back about a quarter of a century to their days when both worked for the Chicago Sting soccer team.
“I guess I had a little different philosophy,” De Maria said. “I can’t say much about it. I had 25 years and it was a good run.”
Said one Chicago beat reporter: “I’ve covered every team in this town and he was by far the best media guy there is. You wouldn’t find a more loyal guy and I guess that was what did him in.”
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