Some thoughts from the NHL on TSN panel on Monday night.
The folks in Montreal have not been big fans of Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Briere over the last number of years. He was a guy the Canadiens would have liked to have signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2007, but the Gatineau, Quebec, native really wanted nothing to do with playing in Montreal.
Briere is a good player in the regular season, but he elevates his play when it comes to the playoffs. All his numbers go up in the post-season and he's almost a point-per-game player in the Stanley Cup playoffs for his career. And in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Canadiens, he's proving once again that he's a really tough guy to play against.
With the injuries the Flyers have had, Briere has done an amazing job of stepping up and playing out of position, moving from the wing to the centre, and being a huge offensive factor for the Flyers.
Mike Richards plays a 200-foot game, while Danny Briere is much more of an offensive star. In his own end, he sometimes makes those miscues that lead to goals in the back of his net, but at the end of the night he usually comes out on the plus side of the ledger because he creates so much offensively and he loves this time of year.
He's been a thorn in the Canadiens' sides and will continue to be unless they pay some special attention to this guy.
Call And Answer
We'll really find out what these Montreal Canadiens are made of in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They bounced back so well after a bad Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but now you've got mixed emotions and you're saying, 'They've proven in the playoffs they can do it before,' but you also start to wonder if maybe this is Cinderella, the clock is striking midnight, and it's all about to come undone. Game 2 will give us our answer.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeff Carter took a twirl on Monday morning and that came as a surprise to a lot of people because he's had the walking boot and everything else that goes with a broken foot, but it's looking more and more like he's going to be a player in this series.
I don't think there's any chance he plays in Game 2 and I think there's an outside chance that he plays in Game 3, but I think by Saturday there's a real good chance we could see Carter back in the lineup.
I suppose as long as the Flyers continue to win hockey games, the pressure comes off in terms of inserting him into the lineup. I know general manager Paul Holmgren said they're more likely to see Ian Laperriere back in the lineup before Carter.
The San Jose Sharks had a huge advantage in terms of manpower in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Blackhawks, receiving five power play opportunities to Chicago's none.
The Sharks did score early with a power play goal by defenceman Jason Demers, but on the second and third power plays they really didn't do a lot. They had no traffic in front of the net on the shots that they had, and they didn't create a lot of sustained pressure with the man advantage.
Those things didn't happen until the fourth power play in the second period. The Sharks finally had a shift where they started to throw a lot of people in front of Antti Niemi and made life difficult for the netminder, forcing him to make some good saves to keep his team in it at that point.
I doubt we're going to see many games where you end up with no power plays on one side and five going the other way, and while the Sharks did get one goal with the man advantage, their power play did not deliver.
There were all sorts of question marks surrounding Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi coming into these playoffs. Mind you, there were all sorts of questions coming in on Evgeni Nabokov because of all the playoff losses the Sharks have had.
But Niemi was the difference in Game 1 of this series. You don't want to put too fine a point on it but if you put Niemi on the other end and bring Nabokov down to the Sharks' end, the result would have been precisely the opposite.
Patrick Sharp's goal in the second period was from way outside and Nabokov saw it the whole way, but he wasn't able to stop the puck. Niemi was making those kinds of saves.
Sharks forward Patrick Marleau touched on what his team needs to do in Game 2 for success, and that is getting more second opportunities. Too many of the shots the Sharks had on Niemi were first-shot opportunities; there was no second shot and that's in part because there wasn't nearly enough traffic. It's the same old story - a cliché in the playoffs, but they're going to have to do a better job of getting bodies to the front of the net.