Five things we learned from weekend

April, 26, 2010

MONTREAL -- Here are five things on our radar after this past weekend:

1. If you're a "glass is half full" sort of person, you'll look at the San Jose Sharks' ousting of eighth-seeded Colorado as a harbinger of good things. The team rebounded from a 2-1 series deficit to win three straight. Joe Pavelski came up huge with five goals and three assists and became the team's go-to guy. Devin Setoguchi, who had only 36 points during the regular season, chipped in three goals and three assists. But if you're a "glass is half empty" sort, you'll point to the performance of the Sharks' big three -- Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau -- and wonder if the annual playoff high dive has just been delayed until the second round. The three stars combined for just one goal in a series that didn't need to be as tight as it was. Heatley isn't playing at full strength, but the trio will have to be considerably more productive in the next round to keep the team's playoff ghosts at bay.

2. How long will Ryan Smyth think about that golden scoring chance in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks? With Roberto Luongo on his back like a giant turtle, Smyth had the puck alone in the slot at about the seven-minute mark. If he had found the back of the net, the Kings would have gone up 2-0 in the game and perhaps forced a Game 7 in that hard-fought series. Instead, Luongo somehow got a read on Smyth's shot and snared it with his catching glove. No question, it was the save of the playoffs.

The Canucks went on to beat Los Angeles 4-2 to advance to the second round for the second straight season. Still, it's hard not to think about the Kings in the same way we look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks -- talented, young teams that have earned their playoff chops the hard way. As our colleague Pierre LeBrun deftly described in his Game 6 column, this was a bitter series defeat for Los Angeles. Still, it's the kind of series that should lay the foundation for something better down the road.

3. The Phoenix Coyotes turned to a couple of old friends to help their ailing power play in a shocking Game 6 win over Detroit on Sunday. Veteran Mathieu Schneider wasn't even playing in the NHL when the Coyotes acquired him at the trade deadline and Robert Lang had been injured and fallen down the team's depth chart. But injuries to other players gave Schneider and Land the chance to make the lineup in the playoffs. It was Schneider who scored one of three power-play goals Sunday to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead en route to a 5-2 victory that forced a Game 7. After the Red Wings had made it 2-1, Lang earned an assist on another power-play goal that restored the two-goal lead. Strangely, Lang and Schneider were teammates twice before, once in Detroit and briefly last season in Montreal.

4. Speaking of the Red Wings, it's hard to imagine this series is going to come down to one game in the desert. It looks as though the veteran Stanley Cup finalists from last season had finally put the pesky Coyotes away with a 4-1 win in Phoenix in Game 5. All they needed to do to put the finishing touches on their eighth playoff series win in their past nine tries was beat a Phoenix team that looked beaten at home on Sunday. Now, credit is due the Coyotes, of course, who have refused to buckle under the skepticism or doubt all season. But the fact the Red Wings are now in a position to lose in the first round for the first time since the 2006 playoffs is shocking; it will be interesting to see how they respond to the unusual circumstances. Most notably, think of the pressure rookie of the year candidate and netminder Jimmy Howard is feeling, knowing the team's perennial playoff successes now ride on a one-shot deal.

5. Having a successful power play in the postseason doesn't necessarily assure a team of advancing to the next round. The Kings scored 10 times on 26 opportunities and still lost to the Canucks in six games, while the Senators scored seven goals on 22 chances against the Penguins and came up empty in Game 6. But we're pretty sure that if you don't score at all on the man advantage your chances of advancing start to decline dramatically.

The Capitals' power-play woes have been well-documented. They were 1-for-24 against the Habs heading into Monday's Game 6, but still led the series 3-2. Two other teams playing Monday, Nashville and Buffalo, managed to produce not a single power-play goal between them (Sabres are 0-for-16 against Boston, while the Preds were 0-for-22 against Chicago). Worse, the Predators allowed a short-handed goal in the waning seconds of Game 5 before losing in overtime on Marian Hossa's goal. Among the chances the Predators squandered? A five-minute power play when Hossa slammed Dan Hamhuis into the boards late in the third period of that game. We'll see whether the lack of power ultimately costs any of these three teams.

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer




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