Allan Maki shares his opinion on the previous night’s NHL action and looks at the early news of the day Monday through Friday during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Hockey types like to say anything can happen in a Game 7.
They might want to rethink that for the series finale between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
So far, through six games, the results have been a steady stream of predictability: the Kings win in Southern California; the Sharks win in Northern California. San Jose’s power play is prime rib at home, month-old meatloaf on the road. L.A. has manhandled the Sharks at the Staples Center only to lose 2-1 at the HP Pavilion. It happened in Games 3 and 4 and it happened again Sunday night.
As sure as San Jose sports fans love to chant “Beat L.A.,” the Sharks got a power-play goal from Joe Thornton, the winning goal from T.J. Galiardi and enough saves from Antti Niemi to beat L.A. thereby forcing a Tuesday showdown in Los Angeles.
Given how the home team has yet to lose in this match-up, a quick reading of Probability for Dummies suggests the Kings will take Game 7 and advance to the Western Conference final against either the Detroit Red Wings or Chicago Blackhawks.
Of course, probability being what it is, there’s always a five-hole of doubt. In the opening round of these Stanley Cup playoffs, there were three Game 7s and twice the visiting team won (Detroit and the New York Rangers). But overall, the home side is doing exceedingly well this postseason, winning 48 of 68 times. That advantage is even more pronounced in the second round, where the winning percentage sits at .857.
This is the best home teams have done since 1975-76.
Now, yes, anything can happen with bouncing pucks and split-second decisions. Scott Gomez might score for San Jose. L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick might have another meltdown and go screaming after the referees. But, really, the way things have gone in this series, how can you buck the trend?
Home side triumphs; L.A. jumps the Sharks.
When he was a Calgary Flame, Jarome Iginla was hardly ever booed, even in opposing rinks. He’s going to get booed in Boston, louder than he did when he last played there April 20.
Not only is Iginla a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, he’s the enemy who could have been a Bruin but chose Steeltown over Beantown and now it’s the playoffs, which means there’s no such thing as forgiveness.
On Sunday, as the Bruins recovered from their latest series win, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli met with the media and talked about the Iginla trade that never happened, the one that would have sent prospects Alex Khokhlachev, Matt Bartkowski and a conditional first-round pick to Calgary. Instead, Iginla balked at going to Boston forcing the Flames to work a deal with Pittsburgh. (The Flames received Kenneth Agostino, Ben Hanowski and a first-round pick.)
At the time of the no-trade, Chiarelli was ticked. These days, he’s positively tickled.
“If you're asking me, ‘Am I happy to have kept (Bartkowski) instead of getting Iginla?’ Now, yes,” answered Chiarelli, who traded for Jaromir Jagr in the Iginla aftermath. “(Bartkowski) has helped us and you've seen him emerge … We didn't want to give up Bart, but that was the case at the time. But I'm glad to have him right now."
A playoff rookie, Bartkowski averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time against the Rangers and has a goal and an assist through the playoffs. He’s been steady in every situation and has more than made up for the loss of injured veterans Andrew Ference and Wade Redden. Had Bartkowski been shipped to Calgary, the Bruins would have been stymied, maybe even knocked out of the playoffs.
As for Iginla, who played one regular-season game in Boston as a Penguin – and scored the game winner - he has four goals in the postseason and has been a power-play finisher. Most often, he’s played on a line with Evgeni Malkin, who could be the key to the series.
During the three regular-season meetings, Pittsburgh beat Boston, every time by a single goal. And Malkin missed all three games. With a full roster and a locked-and-loaded offence, Pittsburgh has more than Boston can match. If Tomas Vokoun stays strong in goal, Pittsburgh wins and goes to the Stanley Cup final.
Krug the Konqueror
The legend of Torey Krug just keeps getting better.
With his goal in Saturday’s ousting of the Rangers, the 22-year-old Bruin became the first rookie defenceman to score four times in his first five playoff games. He is also the second rookie defenceman to score four times in one playoff series. Andy Delmore of the Philadelphia Flyers was the first, scoring five times in a six-game series in 2000.
Krug was called up from the AHL when Boston’s defence was injury riddled against the Toronto Maple Leafs. After doing away with the Rangers, Boston coach Claude Julien, who had spoken repeatedly of Krug’s grace under fire, said his young player had delivered beyond expectations.
“There’s no doubt he was magic for us in this series,” said Julien.
Magical enough to score three power-play goals in a single series. Okay, we have to say it: not even Bobby Orr did that.
Give John Tortorella his due: he accepted some of the blame for the Rangers quick demise against Boston.
Through the five-game playoff, Tortorella pushed all the usual buttons, said one of his players “stinks on the power play” and helped zap Brad Richards of his confidence before scratching him outright. But when it ended, the coach took a moment to acknowledge his own shortcomings.
“You’re always looking for that end goal and getting to the final and getting an opportunity. We didn’t,” Tortorella said Saturday. “Some of the … the responsibility falls on me. I think one of the big things in this series is I could not – and it does, it falls on me, it’s a big part of my job is to get your top players to play consistently. I couldn’t do that. We tried. And so I need to take some responsibility in trying to get them in those spots to help us there. I thought that hurt us a little bit.”
It hurt a lot. But let’s not quibble over such a rare admission.