Round Three…Ring the Bell! Second Round Losers, Sundin/Leafs

Well, I have finally recovered from PPED and back to talking hockey with all you good hockey fans. Som interesting topics to further discuss and so click away to continue reading.I am sure some of you are wondering what PPED is. I was diagnosed with PPED on Sunday, May 6. PPED is Post Playoff Elimination Depression. Yes. My New York Rangers were eliminated and it broke my heart, but life goes on, right? I mean, what’s five months? It’s nearly six months, which is half a year, half of 350 days or so in a year. Time flies, right? Come on, someone tell me time flies…

So, the Third Round of the playoffs is coming in TV’s near you. The Ottawa Senators versus the Buffalo Sabres and the Anaheim Ducks versus the Detroit Red Wings.

Ottawa Senators vs. Buffalo Sabres

I am not much of a guesser as far as making predictions; I honestly stink at it so what’s the point to predict the series in this match? But, I will say this convincingly that I think Buffalo will win this series. I like their goaltending, their defense, and their well balanced offense. The only thing I like about the Senators is the offense. Yes, their defense has shut down the Penguins and the Devils, but Pittsburgh was young, the key players were inexperienced, M-A Fleury inexperienced, and apparently Sidney Crosby was not 100%; yet not many star players in the playoffs are 100%. So, I was not surprised that the Senators won that series. Against the Devils, well…..you had Martin Brodeur who was not able to come up with enough big saves, and yet instead he actually allowed some costly soft goals. The Devils offense looked disinterested and did not look sharp at all. Patrick Elias, what was THAT? Last year I praised your performance and would have loved for the Rangers to sign you, but you were like a total ghost out there. What happened? So, in the end the Senators faced an ugly looking Devils squad. They played them great, but I don’t think they needed to bring their A-Game against the Devils. The Sabres on the other hand most likely underestimated the Rangers, especially after Game 1, but when Buffalo really tried to play their best game they struggled due to a solid Rangers defense and a stellar Henrik Lundqvist. Before this series, the New York Islanders also gave the Sabres a hard time with constant work. It was only a matter of talent that made the Sabres win, but I still give credit to the Islanders for playing them tough.

In the end, we now have two teams in the East that have excellent offense and can definitely win the Stanley Cup. But I find the Senators to show their weakness when Ray Emery will have to make saves a la Rick DiPietro and Henrik Lundqvist against all four Sabres lines. Ryan Miller is a great goalie, beatable, but great, and all that the Sabres must watch out for are stellar talents Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. HA! Easier said than done. But, I am pulling for the Sabres here. I think they should have won last year, they should win this year. It’s a team that worked hard to have such a great group of players to make it to the Finals. Everyone works hard, good leadership, good coach. Sure, they beat my Rangers, but I’m cheering for these guys. And while I actually tend to favor Canadian teams, I’m going with the Sabres since I believe the last US born goaltender to make it to the Cup Finals was Mike Richter in 1994…….possibly? So, go Sabres go! No hard feelings for Senators fans reading this. But hey, if the Senators end up winning the series then I’ll wish for them to win the Stanley Cup. Come on Leafs fans, it can’t be that bad, can it? At least the trophy comes back to Canada after fourteen years! Still, I think Buffalo has the better team and I think they will beat Ottawa.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Anaheim Ducks

This should be a good series. Actually, it HAS to be a good series because so far the games that I watched from the Western Conference have disappointed me. My favorite series from the West was Stars vs. Canucks. I thought the Ducks vs. Canucks series was dreadful to watch. San Jose was a pathetic team to watch. Nashville was even worse and the Flames only had a chance on home ice as they had in the regular season as well. All these teams were supposed to be great, yet none of them have really given me that feeling that they are. Detroit has been the better team to watch, I’ll give them that. They really win with talent and especially experience. The Ducks on the other hand did not look good at all in my opinion against the Vancouver Canucks. The one game where Vancouver had a 2-0 lead and they blew it in one period……that was tragic. I stopped watching that game after the second period was over. It was constant sloppy and boring play with point shots as the theme. Talk about zero creativity.

In this case, Anaheim HAS to be more creative against the Red Wings, or else they will really get beat. This is a tough series to call for me because I honestly did not see much greatness from either one. The Flames stunk, expected to though, Sharks were as painful to watch like it is when watching Nicolas Cage trying to act. So if the Ducks play sharp hockey for the whole series, how well will the Wings do? We don’t know. And what about Anaheim? Minnesota Wild looked as flat as Paris Hilton’s chest, and Vancouver’s offense died later on. What can I expect? I don’t know, to be honest. I have always like Scott Niedermeyer, though, and I think he is the kind of player that nearly guarantees his team a Stanley Cup Final. Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermeyer? I just have to pick that, so I think the Ducks will once again reach the Finals and possibly win it. Detroit’s defense is not 100% healthy, and at some point Hasek has to feel fatigue and show his age. Yet, I’d love to see an Original Sixer make it to the Finals again. So, good luck to both teams, let’s see what you both got.

Second Round Losers

The New Jersey Devils have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that they will have money to spend to improve their team next season. Other good news is that both Travis Zajac and Zach Parise will become the future of the Devils. Parise was an excellent pick and shame on the Edmonton Oilers for giving that pick away for nothing. The bad news………..buh bye Scotty Gomez. Brodeur for the first time in a long time has really played lousy in a series where he was slightly above average. The free agent pool is decent at best this year. Not much out there to make them improve. Also, who will coach the Devils? I hope that Pat Burns can come back healthy, he could use a nice comeback for his own piece of mind. Not much out there for coach candidates that would fit with Lamoriello and I don’t think he would attract much interest from unemployed coaches after he booted Claude Julien for no good reason that was proven anyway. It seems to me that for the first time in years that the Devils seem a bit lost and are starting to lose their identity. They have to redefine themselves and really regroup. Maybe it’s time to take a season off and allow their prospects to develop and maybe find a good draft position. I am not saying tank the season or NOT make the playoffs, but don’t push for Cup glory by making quick fixes.

The Vancouver Canucks proved a lot of people wrong, but I’d say Roberto Luongo and Alain Vigneault take credit. I said it in a message board that if the Canucks were ever to make the playoffs that it would be for Vigneault. His system was dull and very defensive, but it worked. It allowed Luongo to find himself quickly and feel comfortable, and the defensemen really responded well to the system, including the low profile forwards, such as Taylor Pyatt. The Sedin Twins are great. I think Trevor Linden MUST return. I like where Nonis is taking this team so far. Yet, I know he HAS to make changes. I would not necessarily go after the big shot star players like Peter Forsberg or try to trade for a Brad Richards (no I won’t accept the Lecavalier trade rumor). Keep it simple. I think he should add more talent, absolutely, but no one that would place this team on everyone else’s radar screen. I think the Canucks were not expected to make it anywhere and so they just climbed their way as underdogs. Remain underdogs! I’d like to see the Canucks as a speedy two-way team with more character and more scoring potential. I’d love to see management work on projects as they did with Pyatt. Go after Scott Hartnell, go after Nik Antropov…. sign a second tier forward in Mike York (works extremely well with forwards that cycle), possibly Todd White….take Marcus Nilsson. I’d like to see these players added. I also think that since they have Luongo (please Canucks fans, it hurts my eyes and mind when I see fans calling him “Bobby Lou”), they should absolutely trade Corey Schneider to add a scorer. Changes must be made, but nothing flashy.

The New York Rangers are one of the most interesting teams to follow this off-season. There is a very strong feeling in Manhattan that this team can make it to the Finals if it fixes things. What kind of fixing? Ha, I am not the general manager here so don’t expect me to tell you what these guys should do. Of course there is a little doubt about Michael Nylander coming back, after all….market value says he should be a $4M player. So, that’s up in the air, but many believe he will stay and he should. Shanahan will most likely come back, obviously for less than $4M. We’ll have to see what kind of contract Henrik Lundqvist gets; it will play a big factor on the budget for the salary cap. But, the Rangers really need to solidify that second line. I know many Rangers fans would like to see Nigel Dawes and Brandon Dubinsky make it to the line-up, but the Rangers, as Jagr said, handed the series to the Sabres. They should have won and I agree as well. They should have won Game 2, they should have won Game 5. They had them in their hands and if they beat Buffalo they could have beaten Ottawa. So, the big names are the obvious ones in Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, and Scotty Gomez. Personally, I don’t want any of them. That’s right. Gomez is really the most complete 1st line center. I think Briere will never produce 95 points again once he leaves the Sabres via free agency. Drury is not a great offensive star, but he plays well yet the guy is a chatter in the locker room and if he and Jagr, or Avery, collide then havoc starts. I’d love to have Drury as a Ranger had Jagr been leaving the team, and the NHL, this year, but it’s not happening. As badly as they could use a 2nd line center, I think the Rangers can go strong on the wings and get a player that is extremely hungry for success, badly wants to have a second chance at winning the Cup, and to me that’s Ryan Smyth. Yes, he will be overpaid (who isn’t these days) but this is the kind of player that will put the effort even if he does not get on the score sheet and will still play effectively. He has grit, skills, knows how to forecheck, play NA style hockey, has played with finesse player Ales Hemsky, so he could fit well with this Rangers team. Him, Straka, and Shanahan would make a heck of a second line, in my mind. And, Smyth, also known as Mr. Hockey in Canada, would love to give a vague resemblance of a 30-year-old Mark Messier walking on Broadway and helping the Rangers lead to the Cup Finals. I see him as the one wearing the C on his jersey after Jagr and Co Euros are gone, I want this guy. He is a Ranger in my mind more than Drury, Briere, or Gomez would be. The Rangers really need to add more potential on the second line that way they cannot overly depend on Jagr, who played like a god in the playoffs. The defense appears to be set, tight, and I don’t think the Rangers should overspend for a solid d-man. This was the best defensive team in the NHL in the second half. I think it should remain the same, lose Rachunek, and give Marc Staal a shot, who has thus far been the star in the OHL playoffs. I really do think this Rangers team can pull it off if it adds the right ingredient on that second line.

San Jose Sharks………..San Jose Sharks…….hmm. What to do with the San Jose Sharks. I thought this team was going all the way yet they love to disappoint everyone. How does GM Doug Wilson approach changes? Is it really possible to trade Patrick Marleau? I mean, it’s insane. This is one team that I think should go out of its way to make it to the Finals. I know it feels like a change is much needed, but I think that if they lose Scott Hannan, go after Sheldon Souray, keep Craig Rivet….., add a real skilled winger like Paul Kariya. Just go for it. Build a Cup team, add a veteran player that can be effective with experience, like Martin Gelinas. Just go all the way. Other than that I have nothing else to say about this very very very frustrating team.

Sundin, Maple Leafs

You know who should really get kicked out of Toronto? No Sundin. Not JFJ, not anyone else but Mr. Simmons himself who really put forth a story that shook Toronto. Sir, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!? He (Simmons) blew up this story that tried to disrupt Mats Sundin and the Toronto Maple Leafs AND get the fans to not feel so bad about Mats Sundin being left out. Who the hell does this guy think he is? Kick him out of Toronto. It was disrespectful towards Sundin. Leafs fans should be outside the newspaper’s building and demanding that Simmons be fired. I am not a fan of his material, I think his analysis of any topic in hockey is flawed. His rumors rarely make much sense to me……I mean, come on Leafs fans, don’t give this guy credit by reading such content. After such a pathetic story that ended up backfiring on him, and I stress the word firing in their because that’s what should happen, Leafs fans should really ignore this guy, not bother to read his articles, send in complaints and demand a journalist that thinks with his brain instead of his ass. This guy has brain farts that if flammable would burn the whole city of Toronto. Kick him out!!!

Mats Sundin should be back as a Leaf and he should retire as a Leaf. Yes, he deserves to have a chance to be in the Stanley Cup Finals, but sometimes it’s not meant to be and sometimes it is. Even if he may not win it, ever, the guy is a Hall of Famer, a class act, an excellent hockey player and if he chooses to finish his career as a Maple Leaf, then let him. He gave it all for this team and for the Leafs fans, and it would be such a back stab to have fans not wanting him anymore because he is old. It’s like adopting a puppy and once he is too old to play around with, you give him away to the pound. It’s a back stab and Simmons is a back stabber and is the anti-Maple Leafer. How about asking him to leave town before Sundin does? I’d love to see that.

Anyway, this concludes this fine edition of Challenging Mikster. What I covered seems interesting enough and my opinions can be quite different and outside the box. By the way, two things before this ends.

I know that there are many snowbirds here in South Florida, many of them from the Northeastern states, like Massachusetts. And, many Canadians come down here for the winter, which is cool because once in a while I see a Canadian and it’s like “wow…..it’s one them…..” and it’s fun to talk hockey then. But anyway, if you have any family friends or relatives that are snowbirds, or that want to move down to South Florida, then encourage them to check out tickets for the Florida Panthers. I know it’s not the same, (hey, to me nothing beats MSG), but it’s a nice stadium and the games are fun to go to. I’ve been a season ticket holder for two straight years now and they offer some great plans. There is this 13-game season ticket plan that is very affordable and you can choose a good selection of games. I had it with my dad and family last year and I really enjoyed it. This past season we had half a season and I’ve really come to like the Florida Panthers. You guys know how I am a diehard hockey fan first, so for me to say that it’s fun to go watch the Cats, I truly mean it. So, please…..anyone you know tell them about it and if they need more information, my e-mail is in my member profile, or you can leave me a private message. It’s a fun team and any Canadian who is a hockey fan and who spends the winter away from home MUST go watch hockey, and for a good price, why not? Spread the word!

Following this, there is a good message board out there for Panthers fans. But, you don’t have to be a fan to join. The Panthers Message Board http://www.darsys.net/bbs/index.php. It’s good to see what Panthers fan say about their team, how many felt about Luongo so if you are interested to get their point of view on anything, check that place out. I like it.

Thanks for reading as always,

Micki Peroni

Vice-Administrator