- Barry Melrose, NHL studio analyst
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The playoffs are alive and well, and the action has been great. It certainly looks as though it's going to continue from here on out, so enjoy it, folks!
So far, the two teams that have impressed me the most are Colorado and Montreal. To come in against the No. 2 seeds (Dallas and Carolina, respectively) and completely dominate them is amazing.
We're at least used to seeing the Avalanche as a power, but every team would rather be the underdog. Colorado coach Joel Quenneville relishes this role, relishes that he doesn't have to be "the" team. It's much easier for a coach to motivate an underdog team than a favorite.
Both teams have shown resilience, both coming back from deficits in Game 2 to win in extra time. Colorado and Montreal also have gotten solid goaltending at key times. Colorado's Jose Theodore hasn't had the same amount of work as Montreal's Cristobal Huet, but he hasn't self-destructed. It's all good for these teams.
Another team that just continues to roll is New Jersey. The Devils have won 13 in a row; what an amazing way to end the season and jump into the playoffs. Martin Brodeur has led his team to two solid wins against the Rangers (more on them below), and the Devils seem poised for the second round.
Now, the other side of the coin for those matchups.
While Huet and Theodore have been solid, Dallas' Marty Turco and Carolina's Martin Gerber have been, well, terrible. Turco has allowed 10 goals in two games, and Gerber gave up nine in two games before being pulled in Game 2. If either team is going to survive, it needs solid goaltending.
While the Devils have been rolling, the Rangers have been outplayed. The Blueshirts' season had so much promise, but now they've run into some bad luck.
Jaromir Jagr was really frustrated when he tried to take a swipe at Scott Gomez in Game 1. The Devils, Jay Pandolfo in particular, have done a great job of shadowing Jagr. Jagr initiated the hit, but he has a fluke injury that could keep him out of more games. The Rangers need him because they are going nowhere without him.
Well, this topic is someone else's "ugly," but not mine.
There has been a lot of talk the past few days about the hits in the playoff games and coaches going back and forth after the matchups. Personally, I don't think any of it is bad. Now, I have no problem with players being suspended for questionable hits into the boards, but the Flyers-Sabres series has been all about intimidation. The Flyers were trying to intimidate the Sabres after the R.J. Umberger hit.
As for Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock, yeah, they exchanged words, but that is part of their jobs. In their own ways, they were both making sure their teams didn't get complacent. Hitchcock was trying to veer attention away from how poorly the Flyers have played.
Folks, it has been like that for 50 years. I think it adds more excitement to the game. It's not always pretty, but it's not "ugly," either.
Barry Melrose, a former NHL defenseman and coach, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.
15dScott Burnside and Craig Custance