2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: 1 Adjustment Every Team Needs to Make
The NHL playoffs are underway, and teams are busy trying to create offense, close defensive leaks or find replacements for injured players. This is a very stressful time for coaches and management across the league.
Every team has areas it can improve on. Some are in urgent need of being addressed, as teams begin to contemplate their season ending soon.
Here's one adjustment every NHL team needs to make this week.
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The Adjustment for the St. Louis Blues: Coach Ken Hitchcock needs to remind his players this series is far from over. Last season, the St. Louis Blues won the first two games against Los Angeles and then lost four straight. The memory will be fresh, and Hitchcock will use it as a hammer.
The Adjustment for the Chicago Blackhawks: Coach Joel Quenneville has some problems. He is going to need more offense to get past St. Louis. In Saturday's game, Jonathan Toews played most often with Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad. An adjustment may be required, moving Toews onto a line with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane. This will be especially important at home, where the Chicago Blackhawks will get the last change and can get better matchups.
April 20: The Blackhawks are also going to have to deal with Brent Seabrook's three-game suspension, as detailed in this TSN article.
Is It Too Late? The Blackhawks are a veteran group and played very well in catching up Saturday. They lost in overtime, but it's going to take a lot more work to push Chicago out of the postseason.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
The Adjustment for the Colorado Avalanche: They have been the underdogs all year but will need to adjust to the role of favorite. Coach Patrick Roy and his gifted young forwards are setting the playoffs on fire. Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny are running away with the scoring race so far, and Semyon Varlamov is quality in the net.
The Adjustment for the Minnesota Wild: When the Colorado Avalanche are rolling, trying to defend against them is like trying to take a drink from a fire hose. Coach Mike Yeo has to find a way to get better goaltending and to convince his team to stay the course. While the game was close Saturday, Minnesota had the edge in play. If the Wild can continue it and get some goaltending, they can make this a series.
Is It Too Late? The Avalanche appear poised to finish off this series quickly, and they won't be taking any teams by surprise in Round 2. The Wild have to get better goaltending, or their season could be over this week. Colorado has a two-game lead, with Monday night's tilt being the biggest of the year for Minnesota.
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The Adjustment for the New York Rangers: Coach Alain Vigneault will need to find six defensemen he can trust. The New York Rangers also need to improve the penalty kill after Sunday's loss. The Rangers looked like they were going to run Philadelphia out of the building for the first portion of the game until they gave up four unanswered goals. It was a major opportunity missed for New York.
The Adjustment for the Philadelphia Flyers: The team won Sunday, but the Flyers still have to cut down on penalties. They can win this series, but not from the penalty box. There's also some question about their goaltending with Steve Mason out, but Sunday's performance by Ray Emery was solid.
Is It Too Late? The series is tied at one game apiece, and it could go the distance. The Rangers have enough talent to beat Philadelphia, but they have to be on their game for 60 minutes. Letting off the gas cost them a victory.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Adjustment for the Columbus Blue Jackets: Coach Todd Richards has the Columbus Blue Jackets believing they can win. Their performance improved from the first to second game, but there's work to be done. In both contests, the Pittsburgh Penguins had the edge in play when the game was close. In Game 1 it was severe, but the Blue Jackets improved in Game 2.
The Adjustment for the Pittsburgh Penguins: Coach Dan Bylsma needs his players to be better on special teams. Pittsburgh gave up two power-play goals and a third special-teams goal when the Penguins were on the power play. Three first-period goals in Game 2 should have been enough, but the Penguins let Columbus back into the game.
Is It Too Late? This is a terrific series, and it's just getting started. The Penguins are still the favorites, but this is going to be an interesting week in Columbus.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Adjustment for the Montreal Canadiens: Coach Michel Therrien already made changes from the regular-season roster. Big, immobile defenseman Douglas Murray played 53 regular-season games, but he hasn't seen the ice in the postseason. The Montreal Canadiens are rarely playing their third pairing, Mike Weaver and Francis Bouillon, and are relying heavily on P.K. Subban to play heavy minutes.
The Adjustment for the Tampa Bay Lightning: Coach Jon Cooper doesn't have a lot of moves left. He can comment on the officiating—the disallowed goal Sunday had a major impact on the series—but this is dire for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Stamkos got two points and was on the ice for close to 17 minutes in Game 3. That total will increase in Game 4.
Is It Too Late? It's too late for Tampa Bay. The Lightning could win Game 4, but the mountain is too high to climb. Ben Bishop's late-season injury has had a major impact on the team's chances.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
The Adjustment for the Anaheim Ducks: Bruce Boudreau will need to have his team ready for the road games; the Ducks can't relax with a lead. They are up by two games, but this is closer than it appears. In Friday's contest, Anaheim spent too much time on the wrong side of the possession game.
The Adjustment for the Dallas Stars: Coach Lindy Ruff needs to get better goaltending from Kari Lehtonen, and the Stars need to stop the bleeding on special teams. They have given up two power-play goals and a short-handed marker in the two games.
Is It Too Late? The Dallas Stars need to win Game 3. The goaltending and defense need to tighten up, but this is a far more even series than the current situation implies.
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
The Adjustment for the San Jose Sharks: Coach Todd McLellan is pushing all of the right buttons. He is rolling four lines, and the San Jose Sharks are scoring at will. The one possible downfall for San Jose involves relaxing after going up two games. The Los Angeles Kings will be a tough team to beat at home.
The Adjustment for the Los Angeles Kings: Coach Darryl Sutter's team is a mess, but the big item for adjustment is between the pipes. Jonathan Quick has been erratic in goal, and the Kings have given up 13 goals in two games. There are other issues—Matt Greene was a disaster Sunday night—but the goaltending has to be better.
Is It Too Late? ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted that Los Angeles is in a dire situation: "The Kings right now are a step behind. They look slow. They look out of gas." However, the Kings are a recent Stanley Cup champion. Counting them out is unwise in this series, but L.A. is not playing well in any area.
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
The Adjustment for the Boston Bruins: After losing Game 1, the Boston Bruins came out and played a complete, physical game Sunday afternoon to even the series. Now, Claude Julien shouldn't want his team to change a thing. The Bruins coach said, via ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald, "It's important for us to really grasp what we did tonight and really bottle that up and know that's what it's going to take to beat this team."
The Adjustment for the Detroit Red Wings: Mike Babcock's team allowed itself to get involved in the physical side of the game Sunday. The Detroit Red Wings aren't built to match Boston's big men, and the results are predictable. Babcock will insist that Detroit returns to its intelligent possession style in Game 3.
Is It Too Late? The Detroit Red Wings won a split on the road, and that's a big accomplishment for the underdog. If they can return to their disciplined play of Game 1, there's a chance they'll knock off the heavy favorites. If the Bruins play as they did Sunday, Detroit is in trouble.