Some thoughts from the NHL on TSN panel on Sunday night:
In order for the Montreal Canadiens to win Game 5 against the Philadelphia Flyers, they're going to need to put their work boots on.
The second period of Game 4 might well have been the turning point of the series. That's when the Flyers really started to assert themselves. They took the game from the centre of the ice where the Canadiens' speed worked well and put it on the wall.
Scott Hartnell became the biggest factor in that period - he was like a man possessed, all over the ice. He won battles, drew penalties and did an all-around terrific job. There was about a 10-minute span that period where the Canadiens lost any and all momentum that they built in the first period when they were flying through the neutral zone and creating things on the rush.
The Flyers held the Canadiens to only one shot that period and that's the type of game that they'll try to use again on Monday in Game 5. If Montreal wants to beat them, they'll have to adapt to that type of game.
Blackhawks the favourites to win the Stanley Cup?
Right now, the Chicago Blackhawks look to be the favourite to win the Stanley Cup, regardless of who comes out of the East.
There seems to be a runaway sense of optimism that nobody will be able to beat the Hawks because they're the best team from the best conference.
I think if the Blackhawks play as well as they can - if Antti Niemi continues to be solid in net, if Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook remain the best defensive pairing on the ice at any given time, if Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien continue to wrap it up and the Hawks continue to get key supporting goals from players like Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland, then they're not going to lose a series to either Philadelphia or Montreal.
We have seen the Blackhawks have a stutter step here and there during the season, which might allow either team from the East to win a few hockey games.
I always go back to the 1995 Stanley Cup Final, when everybody said that the Detroit Red Wings were so much better than the New Jersey Devils, and that the series was going to be a blowout for the Wings.
The Devils ended up sweeping the Wings, so let's wait and see, before we hand the Blackhawks the Stanley Cup.
Future of the Sharks?
There are going to be some people who feel that the San Jose Sharks should blow their team up after 'another playoff failure.'
I don't think that will happen.
In the cap world, you have to look at what your situation is, and what your opportunities are. Evgeni Nabokov is an unrestricted free agent. He's a big money goaltender, and I don't think that they'll spend big money on that position in the offseason, so there will likely be a passing of the torch there.
Patrick Marleau is another big money guy, but he scored a lot of goals for them in the playoffs. He's also unrestricted, and the club could use that opportunity to go in a different direction.
I think the Sharks will make some moves to change the chemistry, but guys like Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley will likely remain. The Sharks also have a ton of young players coming up in their system and I think a lot more them will get a chance to play in the NHL going forward.