Random thoughts after the first five days of the playoffs:
Give Sean Avery credit, he always manages to find a way to be in the midst of everything and so it is with his bizarre version of "extreme" screening of New Jersey Devil goalie Marty Brodeur last night.
But while he deserves high marks for creativity and will to win, any right-thinking hockey fan must know his waving of his arms and hands in Brodeur's face, fake crosschecks and highsticks in Brodeur's airspace cannot be tolerated.
He's not the first NHL player to engage in the practice – Ryan Smyth has been known to occasionally use his stick blade as a goalie blindfold – but no one has ever taken it to the extreme that Avery did. And if the NHL follows through as it has suggested it will, no one will do it again - and if they do, they will be penalized for it. All the league needs to do is figure out the mechanics of a rules directive in the middle of the first round of the playoffs. Chances are they aren't, as Brendan Shanahan suggested, going to need to get a 30-0 vote of the NHL board of governors to "change" a rule. They will simply "clarify" an interpretation of some existing rule, probably in the area of unsportsmanlike conduct or inciting.
If it is the former, it will be a two-minute minor. If it's the latter, it's more likely to be a 10-minute misconduct.
Whatever they are going to do, they need to do it quickly because what Avery did is so far across the line in terms of gamesmanship that it cannot be tolerated. We don't need to see Steve Ott doing the same thing in J.S. Giguere's grill in Game 3 in Dallas.
That said, Avery is a creative little S.O.B. and a pretty fair player to boot.
Let's hope, for the sake of the Nashville Predators, and everyone else for that matter, the NHL gets it right in Game 3 tonight in Music City.
The Predators are frosted, and rightfully so, that what should have been their first goal in Game 2 in Detroit was disallowed and never even went to video review.
Preds' GM David Poile is right. There's no point having all that hi-def equipment and technology if you're not going to use it when the situation calls for it. And Alexander Radulov's washed-out goal was nothing if not an example of a goal that should have been reviewed.
The video showed fairly clearly that the puck crossed the line before the net was knocked off its moorings. Not that video review can be used to overrule a referee who blew the whistle before the puck went into the net or was, in the official's mind, in the process of blowing the play dead before the puck crossed the line, but it bordered on criminal that no one thought to stop the game to have a look-see at exactly what happened.
Either the on-site supervisor of officiating should have held up proceedings and not let the ensuing faceoff take place or the NHL's hockey operations department in Toronto should have buzzed in to stop play from continuing until the video could be looked at.
Had that been done, hockey ops and/or the on-site video official could have told referee Dan Marouelli, who made the call, that it looked like a good goal in every way, shape and form. Then, at that point, Marouelli would have had to make a decision. Either take the video boys' word for it and signal a goal. Or respectfully tell the off-ice officials on site or in Toronto, 'Thanks for the help, boys, but the reason I disallowed the goal was because I was in the process of blowing the whistle and in my mind the puck went into the net after I thought the play should have stopped. That's not something you can use video review for, so thanks just the same, but I'm waving off the goal.'
Ultimately, it should have been Marouelli's call to make AFTER the video had been reviewed. If Marouelli still chose to say "no goal" the Preds wouldn't be any happier but the system would have at least worked the way it was designed to work.
Up Against the Wall
Guess we'll find out tonight what the Ottawa Senators are made of.
Down 2-0 to Pittsburgh, and outclassed for the first five of six periods against the Pens, the Sens have two things going for them. One, they're back on home ice and as the playoff cliche goes, a team is never in trouble until they lose one at home. Two, they played well enough and hard enough in the third period of Game 2 to have a little something to build on.
As long as Marty Gerber continues to play like he did in Game 2 – when he faced 53 shots – and the rest of the Sens follow the lead of grinders Chris Neil, Shean Donovan and Dean McAmmond, the Senators at least have a chance to put the Penguins' feet to the fire a little bit, the same way the Boston Bruins have risen up to give the Montreal Canadiens a wake up call.
You never know how a team is going to respond when adversity hits but what we do know is that if the Senators play as soft and ineffectively as they did in Game 1, get out the brooms. Pittsburgh looks like a team that isn't going to be denied but the question is whether the Senators are going to make them earn it or just hand Geno and Sid a free pass to the second round.
Who Starts for the Ducks?
Some people are wondering if the Anaheim Ducks will lift Jean Sebastien Giguere as their starter in favor of back-up Jonas Hiller for Game 3 in Dallas, but I can't imagine Giggy doesn't come out to start the game.
But in the hockey lexicon, look for him to be a short leash. A very short leash. If he gives up a goal early or let's in a softie, you have to believe Randy Carlyle will have the hook out pretty quickly.
Fountain of Youth
You have to love the playoffs and unlikely heroes. The San Jose Sharks might not have felt warm and fuzzy about it, but the performances of Curtis Joseph and Owen Nolan for the Calgary Flames in Game 3 were nothing if not inspirational.
Joseph was stellar in relief of Miikka Kiprusoff after he gave up three quickies to San Jose and Nolan capped the amazing comeback with the game-winning goal, a beauty, late in the third period. What's amazing is that a lot of us thought at various times in the last couple of years that the careers of both guys were, for all intents and purposes, over.
Nolan, in particular, has been a real Renaissance Man, a revelation. He's certainly not the same out-of-shape, injury-prone under-achiever that was he as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Which just goes to show you that if a player can stay healthy and fit and get in an environment where there's structure and discipline and he's playing for a GM and coach who believe in him, the aging process can be halted and an old warrior like Nolan can step up to be a playoff hero when the games matter most.
Nice. Very nice.
Now, let's see what is the response of the young studs on the Sharks.
Aren't the playoffs wonderful?