Playoff notebook: Speed thrills
If you switch over to the mayhem that is the Buffalo-Philadelphia series or the increasingly ugly Tampa Bay-Ottawa series, you better have rent-a-whirlpool on speed dial.
Even the most passive NHL playoff series, likely the wide-open Carolina-Montreal affair, has had more than its fair share of bumps and bruises, contradicting the notion that the new NHL stood for No Hitting League.
For all the moaning and whining from hockey observers about how the new standards of enforcement had destroyed the game's physical element, the first week of the NHL's post-lockout postseason has revealed an electrifying level of entertainment, including long stretches of impressive physical play.
The playoffs have always been about winning the physical battles, wearing down an opponent over a seven-game stretch. Traditionally that has meant the team that did more mauling usually prevailed. But now with more open space, less hooking and holding, the speed of the game continues to provide exponentially more scoring chances -- but it's also breeding a significantly higher level of physicality than was seen during the regular season. Simply put, players can generate more speed while forechecking and moving through the neutral zone, and are using that speed to make opponents pay the price for handling the puck. Presumably like hockey was meant to be played.
Game 3 of the Anaheim-Calgary series, won 5-2 by the Flames, saw the Ducks, considered less physical, taking the body repeatedly in a wildly entertaining game that had bodies sprawling everywhere. Calgary's Darren McCarty scored his second goal in three games and blocked a shot with his head late in the game to illustrate the nature of the series.
"Our game is tenacious, forechecking, chip it and go, all that stuff, and it was better tonight," McCarty told reporters. "It wasn't pretty but if somebody says, 'They look pretty out there,' that's a bad thing for us."
Although San Jose was expected to best Nashville because the Sharks own a significant edge in offensive talent, it is their physical play, especially on the forecheck, that is a key factor in their 2-1 series lead.
Down in Tampa, the Lightning and Senators, two teams that might not have been considered particularly nasty, approached that line Tuesday in a game that saw 129 minutes in penalties and five fighting majors. The pugilists included unlikely participants Dany Heatley and Vincent Lecavalier, and Chris Dingman was assessed 17 minutes on one third-period play when he tried to fight Ottawa agitator Chris Neil as the Senators rolled to an 8-4 victory.
We said it was tough. We didn't say it was always smart.
"We knew they were going to be tough," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray added. "I don't know if you should ever hate anybody, but I think that type of game was what we needed because it had a lot of intensity."
Speaking of intensity, the next clash in the Buffalo-Philadelphia conflict should prove interesting given the Sabres' domination thus far and the Flyers' melt-down that included Ken Hitchcock's must-discussed lashing out at counterpart Lindy Ruff after Game 2.
-- Scott Burnside
No suspension for Gauthier
According to a report from Canada's TSN, Flyers defenseman Denis Gauthier will not be suspended by the league for his hit from behind on Buffalo's Thomas Vanek. Officials gave Gauthier a five-minute major and a game misconduct during the game, which ended in an 8-2 win by Buffalo.
Cooler heads on Tuesday
Coach Lindy Ruff backed off his postgame comments when he called the Flyers "idiots" for what he thought was questionable play once Game 2 got out of hand. Said Ruff: "I've got to focus on my team and how I want them to play and that's where it's all going to lie. I was emotional, he was emotional. I'm over it."
Souray day-to-day for Habs
Will the Canadiens have big defenseman Sheldon Souray available for Game 3 in Montreal? Coach Bob Gainey said Tuesday Souray has a contusion and is day-to-day. Souray left Tuesday's game in the first period with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
Who will start in net?
After Cam Ward replaced Martin Gerber in Game 2, will he get the start Wednesday? Coach Peter Laviolette wouldn't say Tuesday, but appreciated that the "competitive" Gerber still wanted a chance at the start. Gerber has allowed nine goals on 34 shots.
Avs should revel in underdog tag
We're not used to seeing the Avs as the underdogs, the team that's not supposed to be ahead 2-0. But Barry Melrose says coach John Quenneville relishes this role, relishes that he doesn't have to be "the" team and it is easier to motivate his players.
Can the Dallas Stars come back from an 0-2 deficit against the Avalanche? Well, history is not on their side. The franchise hasn't overcome a 2-0 playoff deficit since the Minnesota North Stars came back to beat Los Angeles 4-3 in the 1968 NHL quarterfinals.
|Sharks forward Patrick Marleau: He scored two goals in the Sharks' 4-1 win over the Preds.|
|Senators defenseman Wade Redden: Had a goal and an assist in his first game back since his mother's death.|
|Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson: He made 44 saves in Edmonton's double-overtime win over Detroit.|
|PHOTO OF THE DAY|
AP Photo/Steve Nesius
Ottawa's Zdeno Chara gives Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier a hello tap during a multiple-player scrum in the waning minutes of Tuesday's game.
Flames' power play cashes in vs. Ducks.
|STAT OF THE DAY|
6 -- That's how many overtime games we've had so far in the conference quarterfinals.
|QUOTE OF THE NIGHT|
"Is it the end of the world? No, they're up 2-1 in the series. The bottom line is we have to prepare ourselves for more of a team effort than we got from our group."
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle after his team's loss to Calgary on Tuesday night.
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