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Monday, 23 April 2012

Cup Favorites Early Exit

Sunday was a great day for a lot of hockey fans, particularly fans who don't like the Vancouver Canucks and or the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both the Penguins and Canucks were eliminated from Stanley Cup contention after losing their first round series'. It's not every day the 2 teams picked by so many to face off for hockey's ultimate prize get eliminated in the first round!

Flyers win the series 4-2 over the Penguins
It's really weird knowing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, arguably 2 of the 3 best players in the world are no longer in playoffs. I didn't think the Penguins would be able to beat the Flyers, but I thought they would be able to put up more of a fight, they really made the Flyers job pretty easy. Malkin decided to take the first round of the playoffs off and it cost his team. As soon as the opponents realize that Malkin wasn't doing anything they turned all their attention to Crosby, and 99% of the time not even Crosby can beat 5 opposing players. It was a rough series for the Penguins and they just couldn't bounce back after some shaky goaltending. Bottom line though is key players for the Flyers stepped up while key players for the Penguins did not!

3 reasons the Penguins lost

1. Goaltending: I don't know what happened to Fleury but he was not the goaltender he was all season or in past seasons, he let in suspect goals, goals at the worst times and he just looked shaky. The Pens  scored a few key goals to take the lead, but a couple minutes later the refs were fishing the puck out of the back of the Pens net. For whatever reason the Penguins didn't get the goaltending they needed to advance in the playoffs. The only thing that keeps the Pens in the series at all was, Ilya Bryzgalov didn't play that much better than Fleury.

2. Star Players: The Penguins star players really didn't step up and help the Pens. Malkin, Crosby and Neal were all pretty much absent during the series, the three combined for just 8 goals in 6 games, heck the Flyers Claude Giroux had 6 goals and 14 points in the 6 games! Giroux and Daniel Briere carried the Flyers offensively during the season and showed some great leadership. What everyone forgets is the Flyers are doing all this without their Captain Chris Pronger who has been out for the majority of the season!
People talk about Crosby being the best player in the world, but right now the best player in the league/world is Claude Giroux. He was a clutch player for the Flyers and contributed in every game.

3. Discipline: The Flyers were able to get under the Penguins skin and bait them into taking stupid penalties. It was most evident in game 3. The Pens lost their composure, and tried to out tough their opponents which was never going to happen! Philly was able to get into their heads and throw them off their game.

LA Kings win the series 4-1 over the Vancouver Canucks
Most of Canada rejoices with me as the Vancouver Canucks are eliminated from the playoffs and may have just wasted their last chance to dominate the league and win a Stanley Cup.
You have to believe with this loss there will be some major changes coming in Vancouver; first of all they need decide if they're keeping Loungo or shipping him out of town, right now all signs point to him leaving, especially after the Canucks virtually told him they have more faith in Schnieder (after game 4 and 5 starts), there are also rumblings of a coaching change in Vancouver, and who knows if the free agents will stay or go! This was probably the Canucks last chance to make it far with their current roster. Just goes to show that 2 presidents trophies don't mean anything, as the Canucks still have not won a cup. I saw an interesting tweet earlier: "Giving a team the Presidents Trophy, is like giving a student an award for having the highest mark in the class before the exam!" Seems like the Canucks can't seem to pass the biggest test!

3 reasons the Canucks lost

1. The absence of Daniel Sedin: One thing fans noticed is that 1 Sedin without the other is pretty much useless. Henrik did nothing during the first 3 games while his brother was injured. It was obvious he didn't have the good chemistry with his line mates! As soon as Daniel was back he started to score again, and compete harder. Without his brother Henrik looked lost out on the ice, seems like Daniel may be the anchor between the twins. Without Daniel and Henrik scoring the rest of the Canucks weren't able to pick up the slack and ultimately the Canucks got outplayed.

2. Didn't win at home: The Canucks lost all 3 games at the Rogers Centre in Vancouver, during last seasons playoff run the Canucks won every single game 1 at home which put them in a nice spot. But Vancouver was not able to win a single home game this series.

3. Started the wrong goalie: Now this isn't a criticism towards Roberto Loungo, as he surprisingly played really well, his team just couldn't score. But we've seen for the last little while that the Canucks are a different and arguably better team when Cory Schnieder is net, which is why I believe the Canucks will keep Schnieder. But neither goalie got any support from the team, so the goalies are not to fault for this early exit!

The Canucks are not the same team that went to the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, They seemed weaker and not as ready to battle this season, and got outplayed by the Kings.

It's a tough break for the two Stanley Cup favorites, but perhaps a lesson well learned for both teams. The regular season (Presidents trophy) means nothing come playoff time and reputation means even less. Teams must stick to their true identities and not change their game to play like their opponents, for some reason the Pens weren't confident playing with their own style and tried to play the Flyers type of hockey!

Now let's see how the Bruins do...

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