Sharks beat Blues in Game 6
It is for one team. Was it really for the other?
I suppose a trip to the conference final is different for the Blues. Winning it certainly is for the Sharks. But all the noise and concerted effort to make it clear that this was a different Blues team than before makes me wonder who were they really trying to convince? It took the Blues seven games to beat a team that basically didn’t have a blue line in the first round. It took them seven games to beat a team that certainly didn’t have a goalie in the second round. And winning is obviously better than losing to those horrifically flawed teams, and that’s what we all thought the Blues would do, but how much of a triumph these things really were is debatable.
Ok, they avoided the playoff meltdown that we’d become accustomed to from them. It looked for all the world that’s where it was headed after Tarasenko lost his marbles to cost the Blues Game 2 against the Hawks and they trailed heading into the 3rd of Game 3. That was different. We’ll give you that. They got the slice of luck they never got before in the spring when Bottomless Pete hit both posts late in the 3rd in Game 7. That was certainly different.
But after that? This wasn’t so much a march as it was an odd shuffle/lurch through the playoffs. The Stars were begging to be swatted aside without Tyler Seguin and Niemi and Lehtonen taking turns doing Smothers Brothers routines in net. And the Blues took forever to do it. This was Homer pushing over the exhausted hobo.
While they may want to claim that this is the beginning of something, I’m not convinced. Backes and Brouwer leaving really shouldn’t put them off their stride. But Jori Lehtera remains the #1 center. Robby Fabbri or Robbi Fabbry is young and will improve. So’s Parayko. But Pientrangelo and Shattenkirk are right in the middle of their primes. If Jaskin and Rattie were going to be anything, we would have seen it by now. Paul Stastny already has the dumb contract coming to Backes from someone. Patrik Berglund will probably turn back into Patrick Berglund any minute now.
Will this convince them to keep the anachronism that is Ken Hitchcock around now? Because this run was more Ned Yost than it was Tony La Russa. He got beat on matchups in every round. He tried as hard as he could to cough up any third period lead by sitting on it. He couldn’t see the flaws on his own team that needed to be covered up (Hi Jabe O’Meester!). And if he sticks around it’s hard to see the Blues progressing in the way they need to to make the next step.
This division is only going to get faster. Lindy Ruff is only going to keep pushing the Stars more and more, and they’re younger than the Blues. We know how the Hawks will retool (if they can). There may not be enough to work with in Minnesota, but we know how Bruce Boudreau plays. Peter Laviolette will probably burn himself out in Nashville next year, but we know how the Preds play and have Johansen, Josi, Forsberg, Ekholm, Ellis, and whoever else. If the Jets actually ever get a goalie but how long have we been saying that?
Whatever, I’m glad they’re gone.
Lightning-Penguins Game 7
As we’ve previewed out own Game 7s over the years, it seems silly to try and predict what will happen in one game that decides it all. One, after six games we know exactly how these teams align and what they will do. We know the Penguins are much faster than the bottom two pairings of Tampa and will look to exploit it. We know that the Lightning are basically going to counter punch and hope Vasilevskiy can keep the Pens at bay long enough for them to pick their spots. Hedman will try and push them up the ice when he’s out there, which should be half the game tonight.
Based on how it’s gone, the Penguins are the favorite. They’ve controlled most of this series, sometimes graphically so. There’s no logical reason that won’t continue tonight, because Jon Cooper, while on break from his bird-mask sex club, isn’t going to unearth another d-man who can keep up with the HBK line or Crosby’s or even Malkin’s.
But it’s one game. Hedman can make one or two plays to swing it. Vasilevskiy could just not let in a goal. Letang or Malkin could go off the deep end and end up with a double minor at some point. Matt Murray could play like an overmatched rookie again, or be great as he’s been at times as well.
Best to just sit back and enjoy it.