The Opossum-Palooza

It's okay. We don't know what the name means either.

4.21.2006

Big Honkin' Playoff Edition

Ah, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No three words inspire greater joy. I'm especially excited to see this years playoffs, if only to see how all the new stuff will work out. Things to watch for:
1) Enforcement - Will the referees continue to call it as close as they did during the regular season? In past years, when the NHL has "cracked down" on obstruction, the increased enforcement has seemed to wane as the year went on, and was nearly gone by playoff time. This year, however, it seems as though officials are still calling most of the penalties they did at the beginning of the year. They've gotten somewhat lax, but part of that may be attributable to the players' getting a better feel for what is and is not a penalty in the new NHL.
2) OLN/NBC - How good will their playoff coverage be? So far, from the looks of things, it is going to be a huge improvement over the Worldwide Leader. Hockey on OLN pretty much every weeknight, with coverage on NBC on Saturdays. Which sucks if you don't get OLN. But I do, so I will, hopefully, be completely immersed for the next few weeks.
3) Young guys - How well will the untested goalies hold up under playoff pressure? This year we're seeing alot of unproven talent between the pipes for playoff teams. Whether its Henrik Lundqvist in NY who is a true rookie (though he played exceptionally well in Torino), or Manny Legace in Detroit who has been around a while, but with little playoff experience/success. History, I think, would seem to indicate that alot of these teams are in trouble, and I have to imagine the teams that will have the most success are the teams with proven goaltenders like Martin Brodeur.
4)Old guys - How much longer can they keep it up? A large number of older veterans hung up the skates this year, unable to keep up with the pace of the new NHL. Not so in Detroit, where Stevie Y and Chris Chelios are still two very important cogs in the Red Wings machine. But at this point, they've already played 82 games, plus preseason. How well will they be able to handle the rigors of a playoff schedule?
5) Shootout - Will the lack of a shootout only screw over Dallas? Obviously, in any game going to overtime, the dynamic completely changes now that there is no shootout involved. I don't know how much of a change this will be, as playoffs overtime has always been different from regular season overtime, but when you consider a team like the Stars, you have to wonder how much of an effect it might have.

What's that? You want predictions, too? Okay, fine. I'm going to have to go with the goaltending and pick a Calgary-New Jersey final. Not what the NHL wants to see, I know. (The idea of having the Rangers in the finals right out of the lockout has probably been giving Gary Bettman wet dreams for months now) And as much as I hate the Devils, I see them carrying their hot streak all the way to their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years.

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