The first game of all but one NHL playoff series is in the books and, as happens every year, there were a few road teams that surprised (L.A., San Jose, Philadelphia) and a few expected home-team winners (the Rangers, Bruins and Predators). There was also the same tight-checking consistency we saw through the regular season, as evidenced by four of the seven games going to overtime.
All in all, I’d say it would be difficult to have a more competitive opening to the first round. Will it continue? Who am I, Kreskin? Of course not. But thanks as always for your questions. And be sure to check The Hockey News magazine, as well as THN Radio, where I’ll answers some of the inquiries I couldn’t get to here.
Adam, how long do you think Shea Weber would have been suspended for the Henrik Zetterberg incident if it happened during the regular season? Why is this discipline in the playoffs different?
Nick Duplessis, White River, Ont.
To be honest, the way the league is run, I don’t know Weber would have been suspended at all. Remember, Duncan Keith got less than 10 percent (five games) for a clearly dirty hit that continues to keep Daniel Sedin from playing.
Incredibly, as league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said this season, he’s “not in the business of punishing” but instead was “trying to change (player) behavior.” I think the only way you change player behavior is by punishing them severely enough. But clearly, the NHL disagrees.
Moreover, as a longtime NHLer told me Thursday night (and I’m paraphrasing here), “it’s easy for the league to suspend non-stars (i.e. Andy Sutton, Matt Cooke). But suspending star players takes money out of owners’ pockets.” The owners might think that makes for a sound business plan, but when it creates a league where players have no choice but to take revenge into their own hands, it makes more of a mockery of the sport.
In short, there often is no logical line you can draw between two NHL suspensions. The league’s standards on dirty hits are inconsistent, which gives them the latitude to avoid doling out equal punishments to star players. And, unfortunately, the game is poorer for it.
Hey Adam, People are saying that the Oilers should trade the first overall pick at the NHL draft this summer, but why would they give up some great talent?
Drew Fearon, Oakville, Ont.
Dealing the top pick isn’t necessarily about giving up great talent. It’s about a team addressing its roster needs and maximizing its good fortune in the draft lottery.
In the Oilers’ case, team management understands the consensus No. 1 pick is speedy right winger Nail Yakupov. Now, his high-end skills may be tantalizing enough to Edmonton’s brass to make them find a fit. However, their more pressing organizational need is a dynamic young defenseman. They very well could be able to trade down two or three spots in the draft, choose a highly-regarded blueliner such as Ryan Murray or Matt Dumba, and add another top prospect or current NHLer in the process.
See what I mean? Although teams say all the time they’ll draft the best player available, sometimes it makes more sense for them to get creative.
What’s up, Adam? With many hot players coming into the playoffs such as Mike Smith and Pascal Dupuis, who do you think can emerge as a Conn Smythe winner?
Benjamin Wells, New Canaan, Conn.
What’s up, Benjamin? I’m turning 40 on Sunday, so I’d have to say my stress levels are what’s up with me.
As for your Conn Smythe question, it’s impossible to hazard a good guess at this stage. But as a general rule, relative non-star players like Smith and Dupuis rarely win it. Look at the list of stars who’ve won; once in a while you’ll get someone who was totally unexpected to dominate and likely won’t be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, such as Anaheim’s J-S Giguere in 2003, or Edmonton’s Bill Ranford in 1990.
So, my best guess would be for you to identify the teams you think will go furthest in the playoffs, then look to their key core players for a probable winner.
For the most part, the honor is bestowed upon a team’s best player.
Hey Adam, in your awards ballot this year regarding the Calder Trophy, why didn’t you consider Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes? He led all rookie defensemen in most categories and had the most ice time of all rookie defensemen.
Jake Gardiner was pretty good, but as I watched him play his season Justin Faulk was clearly the best rookie defenseman and if he played more games than Gardiner, there would be no doubt he would be the best rookie D-man.
Joe Cordova, Burnaby, B.C.
Just because I didn’t choose Faulk in my top five rookies doesn’t mean I didn’t consider him. In fact, on the part of the ballot I didn’t include in that blog, I did put Faulk on my all-rookie team. Ah, what the hell, let’s do a quick rundown of my NHL All-Star Team and Rookie Team votes, so you can see what I’m talking about:
CENTER — Three selections.
1. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. John Tavares, New York Islanders
RIGHT WING — Three selections.
1. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
2. Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers
3. Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers
LEFT WING — Three selections.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils
2. Ray Whitney, Phoenix Coyotes
3. Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks
DEFENSE – Six selections.
1. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
2. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
3. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
4. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
5. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
6. Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators
GOALTENDER — Three selections.
1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
2. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
3. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
FORWARD — Three selections, regardless of position.
1. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
3. Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers
DEFENSE — Two selections.
1. Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
GOALTENDER — One selection.
1. Jhonas Enroth, Buffalo Sabres
If it weren’t for New Jersey’s Adam Henrique and Philly’s Matt Read playing as well as they did, Faulk would have been in my Top 5. Alas, they did, so he isn’t.