Sunday, May 9, 2010

The third isnt enough

Last night's games proves one simple point: it's not enough to just play the third period. Montreal and Detroit both experienced the too little, too late final third period push where a more or less evenly matched game ended in defeat- barely.

In the Montreal and Pittsburgh game, there was a lot of cycling of the puck, but very little action on either of the nets. It seemed like there was a lot of effort for very little results, much like the timbits hockey games where the first goal is having fun, so everyone just skates as much as possible and maybe someone gets a rush on net in the last 2 minutes of the game. This game lacked intensity, particularly in a saggy second period where I was left wondering if I was watching the same game reel over and over again like the looping video in Speed. You know that video where they're on the bus and they just keep looping the same image of Keanu and Sandra driving? Pretty much like that.

Despite the 2-1 score, this game wasn't as close as it seemed. Pittsburgh wore out the Montreal defense in front of Halak, creating a ton of traffic and scoring twice from the point. Montreal, for its part, didn't wake up until about the third period, where an offensive rush actually resulted in a squeeze play goal from Cammaleri, who once again, like in every game of this series, always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

You have to give this guy a ton of credit for being opportunistic and placing himself on the right places on the ice, giving himself a ton of scoring chances simply by virtue of where he's placed. It's not just a question of good puck handling and a killer slap shot; you also need good positioning to give yourself more chances.

That said, if Montreal wants to continue in this series, they're going to need someone other than Cammaleri to step up their game and get on the scoreboard. Plekanec, Gionta and Gomez have all been active in this series, but they're going to have to combine for more opportunities and apply more pressure if they don't want their series to come to an abrupt end on Monday night.

For Pittsburgh, Gonchar came up big in this game and this just goes to show the depth of this team. Even when their two headed offensive monster isn't active, this team still knows how to win. They know better than to rely just on their star line and the fact that everyone's involved means that there's a mighty good chance that they won't be worrying much about the Habs for much longer.

Halak didn't have a bad night, but he didn't have a good night either. It must be disheartening for some to hear the star goaltender speak to the media after the fact in such a critical fashion. It's clearly not for lack of good goaltending that this game was lost. But with such great goaltending, why would a team wait so long to wake up? Is his fantastic play starting to make them lazy? Or is the entire team waiting for more heroics from Cammaleri? It's going to take more than Jaroslav and Michael to shut this series down.

One series has closed down without a lack of serious goaltending effort on both sides of the ice. Detroit has been ousted from the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks in a nail-biting final to a deafening crowd in HP Pavilion. The once cursed Sharks are poised to have (possibly) their best ever Cup run. Both Howard and Nabokov were fantastic in this series and gave their teams a fair chance at a win.

Detroit almost walked away with this game with a hard effort throughout, but the third period just wasn't enough, despite a late 2 man advantage on a penalty call. Detroit came out so strong, but San Jose found a way to shut them down, playing like flies on every available Red Wing. The Sharks were out for blood and they got it.

It's hard to imagine a Cup run without the Detroit Red Wings and a part of me is disappointed, while another part of me is relieved. It's not fun when the playoffs become too predictable and it's always great to see at least a few upsets. It's also a true redemption for the San Jose Sharks who have come so close in the past, have dominated the regular season and just couldn't push it through. Now that they've made it, it will be exciting to see just how far they can actually go.

I'm always touched at the end of every series at the way the players line up to congratulate each other on a good run. You can see that some of them are ready to forget the bad blood, trash talking and questionable hits, while others have a true respect and admiration for their opponents. It's the greatest display of man-love ever. It's cathartic and wonderful. Because ultimately, they're all after the same thing, which is the Stanley Cup. And how can anyone not admire that?

Will there be more upsets from Philadelphia, Montreal and Vancouver? Can they mount an unforgettable comeback against Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago?

Only if they play all three periods.

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