10 Biggest Truths That Will Shape Rest of 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
We don't propose that we can see the future, but there are a number of truths and facts that we can determine as we are nearing the midway point of the conference semifinals round of the NHL playoffs.
We believe that these truths will have an impact on the postseason and several players' careers from this point forward.
Here are 10 NHL truths that will determine how the rest of the postseason plays out.
Pittsburgh Doesn't Have the Goaltending to Win the Stanley Cup
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The Pittsburgh Penguins have the most explosive offensive team in the playoffs. They can light it up nearly every night.
However, offense alone is not going to win the Stanley Cup. You need excellent goaltending to get there, and the Penguins don't have it.
Marc-Andre Fleury played his way out of the starting lineup with his abominable showing against the New York Islanders in the first round.
Head coach Dan Bylsma inserted Tomas Vokoun into the lineup in place of Fleury, and he has performed very well. He has a 1.61 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage as he helped the Pens secure the first-round win over the Islanders and gain a 2-1 lead over the Ottawa Senators.
However, Vokoun was the Pens' backup goalie for a reason. He is not good enough to lead a team to the Stanley Cup. The Pens are talented enough to get through two or three rounds, but they are not good enough to win the Stanley Cup with the current state of their goaltending.
Zdeno Chara Is the Best Body Checker in the Playoffs
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Zdeno Chara is the biggest man in the NHL playoffs, and he uses that size to get his way.
He has a big shot, and he can carry the puck and pass it to his teammates. However, when it comes to keeping opponents out of the dirty areas in front of the net, Chara is at his best.
All Bruins opponents know that if they bring the puck in between the circles and Chara is in the area, he will thump them. If they are trying to make a play against the boards, Chara will lead with his hip and opponents are going to be hesitant to return to that area again.
Chara will take quite a bit of punishment himself, but when he dishes it out first, his opponents are going to realize they need to stay out of his way.
Jonathan Quick Gives the Kings a Real Chance to Win Every Night
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Jonathan Quick is an established entity in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
In 2010, he was on the U.S. Olympic hockey team as one of Ryan Miller's backups.
In 2012, he earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Kings won the Stanley Cup because they have a complete team, but on the nights that Darryl Sutter's team struggles, Quick is going to keep them in the game under the worst of circumstances.
That's what happened in Game 3 of the conference semifinals series against the San Jose Sharks. The Kings were outplayed for nearly 60 minutes, but the game was extended to overtime before the Sharks won.
Quick can keep his team in the game under all circumstances.
Mike Babcock Is the Best Coach on a Night-in, Night-out Basis
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Put Mike Babcock in a group with Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers and Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.
They are the best coaches in their respective sports. Babcock is not the fourth name on that list, either.
He excels at creating favorable matchups for his team, devising game-winning strategies and inspiring his team to play its best game when it matters most.
He has the edge on every other coach in the game, and that's why the Detroit Red Wings are still playing hockey and have designs on upsetting the Presidents' Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks.
Brad Marchand Is the Most Irritating Player in the Postseason
Brad Marchand knows how to live up to his nickname of the Little Ball of Hate.
Marchand was not a big offensive factor in the Boston Bruins' opening series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
However, he was yapping at Leafs players, and he was not averse to delivering his requisite share of elbows and well-placed sticks to show that he was a factor.
He has picked up his production against the New York Rangers with two goals in the first two games.
That means that Marchand will let the Rangers know he is around with every step he takes on the ice. He is a scorer, but he is also one of the game's foremost agitators.
If the Rangers don't keep their discipline, Marchand can take them off their game.
Henrik Lundqvist Is the Most Scrutinized Goalie in the Game
Henrik Lundqvist is the primary reason the Rangers earned their playoff berth and defeated the Washington Capitals in the first round.
He closed out the Capitals with back-to-back shutouts in Games 6 and 7. He is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a finalist for the award this year.
Nearly every story about the Rangers includes some mention of Lundqvist by his name or his colorful nickname—The King.
He has given up eight goals in two games to the Boston Bruins, and everyone wants to know what's wrong with Lundqvist.
It just goes with the territory, and it is why he is the most scrutinized goalie in the NHL.
Sidney Crosby Is the Most Dependable Scorer in the Playoffs
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Sidney Crosby has been the best player in the NHL since his rookie season in 2005-06.
He was near peak form for the first three-quarters of the regular season. However, when he was felled by a deflected slap shot in March, the Penguins had to play their last 12 regular-season games without him.
They also played their first postseason game without him, but he returned for the second game. Crosby has scored 12 points (six goals and six assists) in eight playoff games.
Crosby has still looked uncomfortable at times, but he still manages to find a way to score. Crosby is simply the best offensive player in the game.
No Player Has Helped Himself More in the Postseason Than Derick Brassard
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It has been widely acknowledged that the New York Rangers improved their team greatly prior to the trade deadline when they sent Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets and brought in Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore.
The Rangers became a harder working and more determined team, and that helped them clinch the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
That has continued in the postseason, as they defeated the Washington Capitals and have moved on to face the Boston Bruins.
Brassard has been a sensational find for the Rangers. While he was fairly anonymous prior to coming to New York, he has lit it up on Broadway in the postseason. He has 10 points in his first nine playoff games, and he has made a name for himself with his play.
Antti Niemi Is the Most Overlooked Goalie in the Playoffs
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The San Jose Sharks are alive and kicking in the Stanley Cup playoffs after beating the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the conference semifinals round of the playoffs.
The Sharks have a core of key players in Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton. However, the backbone of this team may be the most underrated goalie in the playoffs.
Antti Niemi is often overlooked. He gets bypassed in favor of Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick and several others, but Niemi is the real deal.
He has a Stanley Cup to his credit from his days with the Chicago Blackhawks, and he is capable of winning games on his own. He has a 2.06 GAA and a .926 save percentage, and he does not deserve to be overlooked.
Darryl Sutter Is Not Going to Crack a Joke at the Postgame Press Conference
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Darryl Sutter has proven to be the right coach for the Los Angeles Kings.
He led them to the Stanley Cup last year, and unlike the last two Stanley Cup winners, the Kings are alive and well in the defense of their championship.
There is little doubt that the Kings have the all-around talent to make a run, thanks to Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick.
But the Kings respond to their hard-nosed and humor-challenged coach.
Sutter will meet his media obligations and talk to the press after games. However, the next time he smiles will be front page news.
And if you want a coach who can leave them laughing with a joke, you've come to the wrong coach.