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Twenty thoughts and observations from the first round of the playoffs

Just when you thought Patrick Kane was looking ordinary in the playoffs, he keeps Chicago alive with a double-OT winner.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

I know we’re not supposed to be watching hockey in Canada because there are no Canadian-based teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but I just couldn’t resist. Here are 20 first round thoughts and observations:

-I was thinking that after winning the scoring race and setting himself up to be named the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player, Patrick Kane was looking rather ordinary through his first four post-season games. Then he bags the game-winner in double overtime in Game 5 to keep the Chicago Blackhawks alive.

-There are many stars who glitter for the Blues, but the player who stood out the most for me through the first five games is defenseman Colton Parayko. The 6-foot-6, 226-pound right-shooting defender was chosen 86th in 2012 and looks like a player who could be a dominant force for many years to come.

-I believe linesmen get more than 95 percent of offside calls correct. I can live with that number. The ones they miss are only by a fraction. Let’s scrap the offside challenge.

-Every year at playoff time we wonder who will be this year’s John Druce. You know, the grinder who gets hot and lights it up as he did in 1989-90 when he scored 14 goals and 17 points in 15 games for the Washington Capitals in the playoffs after scoring eight goals and 11 points in 45 regular season games. Well, keep Druce and his family in your thoughts and prayers. His 25-year-old daughter, Courtney, is battling cancer for the fifth time.

-I am not convinced the New York Rangers will look back at the Eric Staal trade as a good one. A star for the Carolina Hurricanes for so many years, Staal is no longer an impact player and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

-For my money Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson is pound-for-pound one of the toughest players in the NHL. The ace shot blocker puts himself in harm’s way shift after shift and never backs down.

-Thanks for the memories Pavel Datsyuk. Too bad about the final chapter, though. No points in a five-game playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Detroit Red Wings center.

-Sometimes I wonder if Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals doesn’t put too much emphasis on the physical portion of his game. No question Ovie is a wrecking ball, but I wonder how much energy he expends on hitting that could be applied toward scoring?

-Nothing annoys me more than fans in the front row banging on the glass. The constant thumping makes for horrible television and I am surprised the NHL has not done something about it.

-Only slightly less annoying are the scrums that follow just about every whistle. With fighting all but out of the game, not-so tough guys feel free to hand out facewashes knowing they will not be held to account. Referees should sent one player from every scrum to the penalty box starting from Game 1 of the playoffs and I guarantee the trend will fade away.

-Veteran agitator Steve Ott had no points in his first three playoff games for the St. Louis Blues and yet while averaging just 7:51 ice time, he was making a huge impact keeping the opposition on its toes.

-In an era where defence rules, Vladimir Tarasenko of the Blues knows his way around the offensive zone. Thanks in a huge part to his magnificent quick release on his shot, Tarasenko has 13 goals in 18 career playoff games.

-There has been far too much debate about who is better – Drew Doughty or Erik Karlsson – and not enough debate about where Brent Burns fits into the equation. The San Jose Sharks defenseman is one of the most impactful players in the NHL.

-The Pittsburgh Penguins are living proof that you don’t necessarily need great goaltending to win, you just need a goalie to give you a fighting chance. With starter Marc-Andre Fleury still battling a concussion, the Penguins have been carried by Matt Murray and Jeff Zatkoff.

-Just like Martin St. Louis before him, Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson is standing tall despite his lack of stature. Aside from his obvious skill, Johnson, who is 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, shares St. Louis’s desire and determination.

-Not exactly sure what the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins didn’t like about Reilly Smith, but he has emerged as a solid contributor for the Florida Panthers. Smith is leading the playoffs in scoring with four goals and eight points in four games and is a responsible defensive performer, too.

-Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau was right on when he said his players were “just stupid out there,” after taking awful penalties in Game 2 of their series against the Nashville Predators. Boudreau’s players might not have liked to hear it, but they could not argue with his assessment.

-With Rogers opting to use local broadcast teams for some games rather than their own announcers, fans have had to put up with a lot of hometown criticism of the officials. One announcer actually said a player from the other team was lucky he didn’t get a five-minute interference penalty. Five minutes for interference? Get serious.

-His numbers didn’t back this up (one goal in five playoff games), but rookie Dylan Larkin was Detroit’s best and most dangerous player against Tampa Bay. This fierce competitor is going to be a star.

-Coaches who do not deserve to lose their jobs if their teams are eliminated in the first round of this year’s playoffs: Alain Vigneault, Ken Hitchcock and Peter DeBoer.


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