Round Two Heroes
No round of NHL Playoff hockey would be complete without the players that separate themselves from the pack. Some with podium topping performances, and some by falling dead in a ditch. The heroes of the first round were different from this rounds, and next round will probably have another set. But for the second round here are the men to remember.
Out on the left coast the Kings of Los Angeles are earning their crown across the board, but after Quick two guys stand out. Their St Louis Blues counterparts may be losing but not without a fight.
For the Kings:
Drew Doughty’s defensive game this season compared to his first two playoff appearances are nearly night and day. This season he’s been a force and clearly as comfortable winning battles in his own zone as he’s always been making pinpoint passes. Beefing up that component to his game has been as much a part of the teams success as Quick’s play in net simply by making less work for the goaltender.
Mike Richards has been immense in this series. Five points, a fight, and smart play all over the ice. Anyone who wrote a Conn-Smythe watchlist and didn’t include him in the top five wasted time and space.
For the Blues:
Chris Stewart after some pressbox time came into game three and took over. Some solid hits and two goals in a little over twelve minutes of ice time, more importantly he stayed out of the penalty box giving the Blues a chance to work at even strength.
Kris Russell it’s not easy to be a plus player in a series when your team is being outworked, outplayed and outscored. When that scoring imbalance is 12 to 5 it’s even harder. This hasn’t stopped Kris Russell’s twenty-one minutes a night from being a good thing for Hitchcock’s team.
Back on the east coast the New York Rangers are playing host to the Washington Capitals.
For New York:
Brad Richards has quietly managed to have points in all three games of the series so far. That’s a neat trick in a series where scoring isn’t that common, and the defensive units for both teams have been punishing everything in the other jersey.
Henrik Lundqvist is in the middle of perhaps his best playoff round to date. Five goals over three games against a team that can score from four lines and all three defensive pairs is nice work.
Alex Ovechkin: Not only was his game winner key in keeping the team in the series he’s been the consummate professional over the reduced ice time he’s seen under Dale Hunter. When his teammates score he’s just as happy it’s his team scoring as he’s ever been. That’s absolutely indispensible any time of the year much less in the playoffs.
John Carlson: Huge minutes, smart play and the guy who should have represented the team at the All Star game keeps proving his worth. Sadly the Coyotes – Predators series has been overshadowed by a ridiculously small off ice incident, and the xenophobic diatribes of certain portions of the media.
Mike Smith: Duh.
Shane Doan: Two goals, thirteen hits and zero penalty minutes. The first two are not that unusual for Doan, the latter who has been known to take a few stupid penalties when his temper gets off the leash. Against the regular seasons most potent powerplay that just can’t happen, and hasn’t.
Pekka Rinne: While he got lit up for nine goals in the first two games he shut things down in three and four earning a shutout in one and getting beat just once on a puck that was redirected at least twice on it’s way in. The way things are going in front of him, he might want to try a few shots on his opposite number.
Hal Gill: When you’re anything but an offensive defensemen, and your team has struggled mightily to stay on the same ice as their opponent, having a guy be a plus two with solid minutes is a blessing. This is why Gill was brought in. These are not the droids results you are looking for if you are a Flyers fan, or the missing bodies you’re looking for if you’re Devil’s fan. Four however does seem to be the magical number in this series as the winner of each game has finished with four goals.
Ilya Kovalchuk: Two games, four points. I do wonder how well he’d play well without the bad back.
Mark Fayne’s defense has been top shelf this series. Twenty three minutes a night of playoff hockey against one of the more physical teams in the league and he looks good until the last horn.
Brayden Coburn: Hit, skate, block shot, skate some more. Up to 29 minutes a game for this blueliner, it’s likely the Flyers would be down 3-0 without him.
Danny Briere: Of all the Flyers forwards he’s been handsdown the best of the lot. Another good game from him and they can reign the series in.
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