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Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Five things we learned Monday


DETROIT -- Here are five things we learned Monday night in the world of playoff hockey:

1. Drew Doughty is indeed the bomb. The 20-year-old Olympic gold medalist lit up the Vancouver Canucks with a four-point night and confirmed his status as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He received the first-place vote on my awards ballot for the Norris Trophy.

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had Doughty for two weeks on Team Canada in Vancouver two months ago. "We just talked about this in our coaches' office here this morning. He doesn't play high-risk, and yet he makes great offensive plays," Babcock said Tuesday after his team's pregame skate. "A lot of offensive D-men are high-risk. He's not like that at all. He just sees it and knows it.

"The other thing is that his body type is such that he's heavy enough and thick enough, he'll just bounce off. And he's so evasive with his tight turn. It's hard to get to him. And he's great defensively. He doesn't get wound up about anything; he's as relaxed as they come. He just plays."

What else can you add to that?

2. The Buffalo Sabres deeply miss top goal scorer Thomas Vanek. Yes, the Sabres have spread their scoring around their lineup this season, but Vanek is their most naturally gifted offensive player. They need him back to have any chance of rallying and winning their series against the Boston Bruins.

3. Roberto Luongo's topsy-turvy season continues. What an enigma. The Olympic gold medalist dropped a stinker in Game 3 on Monday night. Needless to say, the Canucks' playoff hopes reside on their captain's shoulders. How he bounces back for Game 4 will tell us a lot about him and Vancouver's destiny this spring.

4. The Washington Capitals look at home after an initial scare with the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens. The first two games of this series exposed some holes in the Capitals' game but also might prove quite fruitful in galvanizing the team for the rest of the playoffs. It was the kind of wake-up call that's better served early. Look out now.

5. Taylor Hall's season appears to be almost over. The highly touted prospect and his Windsor Spitfires, the defending Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup champions, are down 3-0 in their best-of-seven conference finals series with the Kitchener Rangers. How the Spitfires lost Monday night will blow your mind. Click here and fast-forward to the 3:48 mark of the clip. Mercy. Unless there's a miracle comeback, Hall will join Tyler Seguin on the sideline, and the two top-rated prospects for June's NHL draft can focus on next month's combine in Toronto.