The Hat Trick: What To Watch For This Week In The NHL
It’s back and better than ever, the Pucking Awesome Hat Trick is back after a couple of months hiatus as I traveled the world to find the answers to life’s biggest questions. The Stanley Cup Playoffs started off with a bang as we saw the top-3 seeds all fall in the Eastern Conference, road teams won 27 games—the most ever in the first round—and comebacks galore, as a team trailing in the third period came back to win nine times.
The first week of the second round we have already seen the surprising Canadiens steal home ice, Sharks exorcising some earlier demons, and an OT thriller in Beantown. Now let’s break it down Pucking Awesome Hat Trick style as we examine the top three things I am looking forward to this week.
The ever scrutinized San Jose Sharks have quieted some skeptics by coming back from a 2-1 deficit to win a first round series and avoid a second straight 8 vs. 1 upset. Now they have stormed ahead to a 2-0 series lead over the veteran back-to-back Western Conference Champion Detroit Red Wings.
I am not saying the series is over, but you have to be impressed on the way the Sharks have won both games and took care of home ice. “Little” Joe Pavelski, who already has a Sharks franchise record with nine goals, has stepped up in the absence of the other big three, but guess who scored the game winning goal in Game 2?
None other than “Big” Joe Thornton, and it was assisted by mysteriously injured Dany Heatley. I will be looking forward to see if this is a sign of good things to come for the Sharks who, if they want to contend for the cup, will need the likes of Thornton, Heatley, and Pavelski to step up their game as their beards grow longer.
BRUINS & CANADIENS FOR REAL:
Probably the biggest storyline to hit the Eastern Conference are the two teams from the lower half of the Northeast Division. The Canadiens have been playing a successful model of sit back let our goalie dominate and pick a spot to score a key goal, led by Michael Cammalleri (8 goals this postseason).
The Bruins have had the same formula with good special teams backed up by great goaltending. The Canadiens have stolen home ice from the mighty defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, and seem to have found a replacement for the injured Andrei Markov in hot-shot rookie PK Subban, while don’t you think the Pens wish Hal Gill was on their side of the ice?
The Bruins rode a hot first period and ended the OT with a flurry and got the perfect Hollywood ending when Marc Savard scored the game-winning goal in his first game back from a concussion. I will be watching both of these Northeast underdogs and see if they are for real and can keep this magic carpet ride going as they both deal with major injuries (Markov and Marco Sturm).
If you predicted a Canadiens vs. Bruins Eastern Conference Finals please send me your lottery numbers for this week also.
Many people were shocked when they saw the Canucks come storming out to beat the Blackhawks 5-1 on their home ice in Game One, I was not one. The Canucks were my pre-season pick for the Stanley Cup, and for one reason: They have more depth than any team in the league. Yes, the team they are matched up against are pretty close on paper but look at the stats this postseason.
The Canucks in their first seven postseason games have had 14 different players score a goal; the Blackhawks in their first seven postseason games have 10. Eighteen different Canucks have a point, while the Blackhawks have only 14. I will be looking forward to this matchup of depth players, we all know the main players in this series but we need to start to get to know the depth players as well.
Also, a cool tidbit I saw about this series that I just had to mention was when Patrick Kane shook Roberto Luongo’s hand at the end of the classic Gold Medal game in Vancouver he was quoted as saying “I’ll see you in the playoffs.” This matchup of Kane vs. Luongo will also be fun to watch as Kane made Bobby Lou look silly last postseason and scored against him in that Gold Medal game.
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