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Top Shelf: Lessons from Round 1

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

One round down and what did we learn?

Don’t blink or you might miss Marty Brodeur demonstrating why a lot of people still like to place Patrick Roy ahead of him on their ‘Gimmie this guy in goal’ list.

Nobody will or should pin the Devils’ Game 7 loss squarely on Brodeur. But the fact is, he allowed two goals in the last 80 seconds of a decisive game, the second of which certainly looked like it should have been saved by a guy who has won more regular season games than any other goalie.

All the talk heading into the post-season centered on how a rested Brodeur had the potential to lead New Jersey to a Cup that, unlike the Devils’ previous three championships, was defined solely by his performance.

He made some terrific saves with his team up by one in the third period of the final game, but ultimately the Canes found a way to get to Brodeur and, for another year, anyway, his hardware collection won’t contain a Conn Smythe Trophy…

Trade Joe Thornton. You know spurned Sharks fans are thinking/yelling this all over the Silicon Valley. While reckless ‘Tear it down’ talk and hurt-filled ‘Never again’ cries are the rightful domain of fans who cheer for a Presidents’ Trophy flop, people are pretty quick to dismiss the details of what a Thornton swap would actually mean.

First of all, there’s no real chance of San Jose getting equal value back. Thornton is a big, talented playmaker who has won a league scoring title and an MVP award. To think the Sharks could trade him for somebody who has all the same assets, plus that missing playoff DNA, is foolhardy.

Basically, trading Thornton – assuming San Jose believes he and not captain Patrick Marleau or goalie Evgeni Nabokov are the real problem – would signal the Sharks are committed to charting a new course with a yet-to-be-identified new focal point. Finding that leading man is no easy task, but if they’re convinced it’s not Thornton, then, by all means, get to work.

That’s what the Bruins did and are still often criticized for. Boston got nowhere near equal value for Thornton when it moved him to San Jose for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau in November of 2005. But, as senior writer Ken Campbell has previously pointed out in the pages of The Hockey News, the move ultimately allowed the B’s to make Zdeno Chara, signed to a huge free agent deal in 2006, the centerpiece of the organization

Right now, that long-term “swap” is looking pretty good for Boston, but San Jose fans need to understand wheeling Thornton for a new franchise face isn’t a painless, straight-up, 1-for-1 move; it’s more about showing the gumption to walk in a new direction...

Eric Staal doesn’t always play like a star, but it’s a thing of beauty when he does. The 24-year-old center really cranked it up in Carolina’s last two victories over the Devils and he’s going to have to find a higher gear to make any headway against Boston’s great negator, the aforementioned Chara…

Although I doubt he has a speck of grey hair, Sergei Fedorov is the NHL’s ultimate silver fox. His zinger of a game-winner in Game 7 versus the Rangers was fantastic, but it was just one example of how Fedorov can still really impact a game.

For 82 contests, you might not notice him much. But in a playoff scenario, where everything is heightened, all of a sudden you really notice how the guy doesn’t just doesn’t make mistakes. He’s not going to blow the doors off any defensemen at this point, but no foray into the offensive zone is wasted thanks to Fedorov’s ability to elude attackers long enough to find open teammates.

Fedorov’s overall play and persona is simply that of a distinguished man with a boatload of confidence in his abilities based on past experience.

Next time he scores the goal should be accredited in Bond-esque fashion to, “Fedorov. Sergei Fedorov.”

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Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.

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