Okay, so one round down, three to go. I'm glad to get this wrapped up in 5 so the boys can get in a couple of days of rest. Some randome thoughts:
- All the kudos in the world to the Islanders. I think Buffalo was clearly the more talented team, but I have no problem saying that the Islanders played more desperately and with more heart for most of the series. It would've been awfully easy for them to pack it in after the second period last night and instead they came dangerously close to forcing a game 6.
- It's never been more clear that Buffalo starts to look very average very quickly when they're skating and moving around. Use those feet, guys. That's what God gave 'em to you for.
- Buffalo definitely didn't play up to the level they're capable of. While it's a little concerning to see efforts like last night's third period and game 2's first period in the postseason, I'm not super, super worried yet. Playing down to less talented teams and tanking games that should be won has been an unfortunate trend with this team all season. On the flip side they've almost always been able to get up for big games against tough opponents. And hopefully they did learn a little something about underestimating the guys on the other side of the ice.
- As poorly as we played at times, I'm not ready to say Ottawa and the Rangers played light years better than us. The Islanders played tougher, smarter hockey than the Penguins or the Thrashers did and I think they would've given Ottawa and NY some scares just like they did us.
- The defensive game of the Afinogenov-Roy-Vanek line was absolutely frightening at times. They all need to show more hustle in our end but especially Roy who is capable of being one of the best two-way players on the ice. He needs to be the one carrying the defensive responsibility on that line.
- I hate to say it because I love him so, but Henrik Tallinder had an average series overall and "average" might be generous at times. He looked very good in the first game but unlike himself during other stretches. He and Lydman do put in the most time against the opposition's top line along with the most short-handed time, but I'd have to agree with those who think Hank is playing like he's scared of getting hurt again. That's worrisome because it seems like when guys play tense and tentative like that they're actually more likely to get hurt. That said, the penalty kill was very strong in the series. I'd just like to see Hank play a little more consistently and use that size every once in a while. Brian Campbell and Dmitri Kalinin had a very strong series.
- The powerplay remains an enigma. Some nights it looks very good, some nights it looks like they're not moving the puck and scared to shoot.
- Tim Connolly has looked better every game. He had the stick handling skills pretty much from the second he stepped on the ice (geez, that penalty kill last night), but his legs are coming back slowly but surely as well. Words cannot express how happy I am to see him out there again.
- Ryan Miller had a strong sereis. Overall he outplayed DiPietro and that made the difference in the series. Ryan may never have great individual numbers (though some of that is playing for a team that prefers to play run-and-gun and gives up a lot of odd man rushes), but he's going to win a lot of games. He almost always seems to be able to do just enough to pull out the victory.
- Jason Pominville, Daniel Briere, and Jochen Hecht make up the worst line of postseason beards in the entire playoffs. These three look like 14-year-olds trying desperately to grow enough facial hair to shave. I love it.
Not a tremendous effort but an effective one and at this point I supposed that's all that matters. I'd prefer to see Tampa Bay over the Rangers because their defense/goal tending is very suspect and St. Louis and Lecavalier are playing a ridiculous amount of minutes and almost sure to start feeling that... But I think we can beat either team for sure.
I'm off to curl up on the couch with my box of Puffs Plus and a bag of cough drops and the Calgary/Detroit game on the TV. Flame on, Flames! Man, I love playoff hockey.