|Posted by Radatz on April 19, 2017 at 1:00 AM|
Hockey fans everywhere (except in three cities) had reason to rejoice tonight as we were spared two sweeps and one foregone conclusion. The playoffs are short enough as it is. Could the NHL simply shorten the season to 60 games and make all playoff series best-of-11? I'll watch. It'd sure help with Super Bowl hangover.
Despite the 3-0 Pittsburgh advantage coming in, this series has featured near picture-perfect hockey and close games. This night Columbus' shot advantage dwindled in the 3rd but it was a solid win, Pitt's last goal coming at 00:26. Are these teams really as close as they've looked, or do the champs just have too much star power? We'll have more time to answer that. One thing is sure, Torts has manufactured a well-oiled machine of who-deys in Ohio. The question is whether they have the overall horsepower. They don't look too far off.
Once the Rangers finally realized that Montreal's game is heavily predicated on the 2-on-1 and 1-on-0 breakout (and that skating is required), things changed a bit. The officiating monster reared its ugly head again as the Habs' only goal, a pretty 2 on 1 play, came with six skaters on the ice, and not marginally. NY, meanwhile, had a goal turned into a Montreal PP on a GI call on Nash. But fortunately these items (particularly the former) didn't dictate the outcome. NY's chances in game 5 will be dictated by their ability (or inability) to quash breakouts and forecheck effectively, two things they hadn't really done until the last 2 periods of game 4. Montreal will have to lay back a bit for breakout prevention themselves, to judge from this game, though the Rangers aren't nearly as adept as the Habs in decision-making on the fly.
The basic question seemed to be how dominant the Oilers would prove. Few expected that if a blowout occurred it would be by San Jose. It's hard to believe in retrospect that their shot advantage was only 32-23. It looked for all the world like a skilled Cup finalist against a bunch of kids. Maybe that's what it was. The basic questions now are whether Edmonton can absorb this blow and whether San Jose can sustain this level of play. The latter should be true; after all, they're good and it's the playoffs. The former dominates. Was Joe getting his legs back making the difference? Maybe but not likely. The Sharks for years folded when they got hit and the machine was disrupted. Tonight they outskated, outhit and outshot what had looked like a fast, physical and confident team until now, and on a grand scale. If they've added toughness to their repertoire they'll be tough to beat for anyone.
Categories: NHL Blogs