Just because the Bears were eliminated a little earlier than we are accustomed to doesn't mean hockey ended. So let me share with you my thoughts on things going on in both the NHL and AHL with an opinion on the NHL TV coverage thrown in too...
Let's start here since many of us loyal Bears fans are rooting for the former Bears currently wearing Caps sweaters. The Caps find themselves in a 2-0 hole after 2 losses on home ice in the NHL's second round against division rival Tampa Bay.
They have played good but it hasn't been enough. The Lightning have managed to pull out the wins up to this point and now the series shifts to Tampa for games 3 and 4 tonight and tomorrow night.
My opinion...Caps have to win both. Obviously they could split in Tampa and come back from 3-1 down but I don't see it.
In my eyes the Caps have a couple glaring problems. 1) A star who likes to shoot. When he gets frustrated he likes to shoot more. Which is exactly what Tampa wants. When Ovi skates into the zone, cuts the middle, and fires a wrist shot the Tampa coaches can hardly contain their joy. Every time it happens the Tampa defense is ready to block the shot. He needs to get the puck in deep and start moving it around. Get traffic to the net and get shots on Roloson.
2) Lack of a true supporting cast. In Pittsburgh you have Malkin and Staal to go with Crosby. In Philly you have two full lines of scorers. In Tampa you have Vinny, St. Louis and Stamkos, Chicago has Kane, Toews, and Sharp. Vancouver...the Sedins and Kesler. San Jose...Thornton, Marleau, Couture, and others. Each of those teams has 3 guys they can count on too score when they need it. Right now the Caps have how many? One? Backstrom isn't playing well, Johansson isn't quite there yet, Arnott was there a few years ago, Knuble too. So that leaves Laich and Semin. I could see a Laich/Staal comparison here. Both solid players who score. And that's great but it isnt' enough. Semin...I know he has been better this playoff year but something still seems to be missing from his game.
In the end the Caps have Ovi (who's game isn't evolving the way it needs to in the postseason) and a bunch of guys who either aren't carrying their own weight or who aren't good enough.
Will it be enough? Maybe but someone has to step up and score goals. Tampa is a good team but they aren't THAT good.
The East is wide open. No dominant teams exist and every team has their flaws. If Washington can't overcome theirs (and quickly) they will be golfing with the Bears sooner than later.
Let me start by saying this...I despise this team. I am sure the players are great human beings and are probably the nicest guys in the world. But once they put on the ugly orange jersey they become the face of evil. There are players on this team that at one time or another I didn't mind them as a player...Claude Giroux is one that comes to mind but now that he is a card carrying member of the Flyers fraternity...I despise him.
That being said...this team is as talented as any team in the NHL. If they had even the slightest hint of a competent goalie they would likely be rolling to the Stanley Cup. But their goaltending situation is a mess, to say the least, and they, like the Caps, find themselves down 2 game to none.
Despite the fact that Boston is probably the tougher opponent than Tampa Bay I still think the Caps are in a tougher spot. The Flyers have proven that they play as good or better when faced with adversity. They seem to thrive when they find themselves trailing in a series.
I do think Boston is ready this year after blowing a 3 games to none lead last spring. I do think Philly has to win both games in Boston, just like the Caps in Tampa, to win the series. But I wouldn't write the Flyers off as much as the Caps IF the Bruins were to win game 3.
3. The AHL playoffs
These are much less interesting to me without the Bears in it. Not because I care less but the games aren't on TV so unless I sit at my computer and either pay to see them (not gonna happen) or listen on the radio (highly unlikely) the only updates I get are from AHL.com and some blogs. And that isn't enough to keep me thoroughly interested.
But just for an update...
The Checkers have a 2-1 series lead with games 4 and 5 in Charlotte this Wednesday and Friday. Should the series go past that (let's hope not) then the teams would have to travel late Friday night for a Saturday evening game in Wilkes-Barre. That is a tough schedule.
Based on things I have read and seen it would appear that the Checkers have been the better team this series. That could be wrong as I haven't followed really close but that's the impression I get.
And all I have to say is...GOOD! Go Checkers!
In the other Eastern Conference series the Binghamton Senators have a 3-1 series lead over Portland with game 5 coming tonight in Binghamton. It would be smart for the Senators to show up tonight intent on ending the Pirates season as games 6 and 7 would be back in Maine.
I said before the playoffs started that I expected Binghamton to come out of the Atlantic bracket and cause some problems. They got off to a rough start, going down 3-1 against Manchester, but have come back pretty well winning 6 of their last 7 games, 5 of them on the road.
Could you imagine a Binghamton vs Charlotte Eastern Conference Final???? Who would have thought that was possible when the playoffs (or season for that matter) started!
4. NHL TV Coverage
I watch a lot of sports on TV...college football and basketball, NFL, baseball, tennis, some golf, lacrosse, and obviously hockey. And I have to say that I think Mike 'Doc' Emrick is the best play by play man in any sport. I enjoy listening to Doc call games more than anyone else on TV or radio (sorry John Walton). His enthusiasm and knowledge makes it very enjoyable to watch the games. He always has litte anecdotes to throw out there too...and he does it in a way to make it seem important to the game.
It doesn't hurt that anytime he is doing a Caps game he gives Hershey a mention!