Ten Takes: From weak offence to great defence to Tavares to Ovechkin to St.Louis.

First off, some friendly advice, hockey fans.

Rest now. Or get all your chores done this weekend. The back-to-back, back-to-back, back-to-back series of Stanley Cup playoff doubleheaders is just around the corner.

First off, some friendly advice, hockey fans.

Rest now. Or get all your chores done this weekend. The back-to-back, back-to-back, back-to-back series of Stanley Cup playoff doubleheaders is just around the corner.

Now, on to the meat of the latest edition of Ten Takes.

1–SQUEEZING BLOOD FROM STONE HANDS? It’s entirely appropriate the Senators clinched a post-season berth with a 2-1 victory Thursday. No playoff-bound team has scored fewer goals. The Senators have been the very definition of scoring by committee, scraping and scratching for offence. Until Jason Spezza comes back (he has returned to skating), there’s no number one centre to be found. Cory Conacher leads the team with 11 goals (nine of them scored with Tampa Bay), while Daniel Alfredsson, Kyle Turris and Jakob Silfverberg are next with 10. The leading goal scorer on all other 29 teams has more.

2–ON THE FLIP SIDE: The Senators still have an outside shot at winning the Williams Jennings Trophy for best goals against average, but ex-Senator Ray Emery and fellow Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford stand in the way. Before Friday’s games, Chicago was at 2.02 per game, Ottawa at 2.09. Considering that Craig Anderson likely lost his shot at the Vezina Trophy due to his ankle injury and that Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop were so solid in relief, the Jennings would be the ideal honour.

3–NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, BUT….: Would the New York Islanders be embracing a playoff berth without John Tavares? Tavares should be in contention for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, doing a little bit of everything for a team few people gave much chance of making the playoffs and blessed with an otherwise largely no name lineup. Interestingly, with the team on its way to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season, the Islanders have sold an additional 1,000 season tickets in the old Nassau Country Coliseum barn since qualifying for the post-season.

4–ALEX THE GR8 DEBATE: Alex Ovechkin is also in the running for the Hart, unquestionably the league’s best forward in the past six weeks. He has 24 goals and 11 assists in his past 22 games. Yet I wonder how much season-long consistency should enter into the trophy equation. Ovechkin scored only seven goals and 11 assists in the opening 25 games, when the Capitals couldn’t find their legs. On a related note, it’s nice to see that the Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby rivalry is alive and well: a fan who showed up at Washington’s Verizon Center wearing a Crosby jersey Thursday was booed mercilessly.

5–NOT MUCH BRUIN ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Boston put a temporary halt to a nasty slide by defeating Tampa 2-0 Thursday, but the Bruins have been limping along for the past month, owning a rather pedestrian record of 9-9-2 in their past 20 games and looking nothing like the team that roared out to such a great start. During that stretch, the Bruins power play (9.6 per cent) and penalty killing (79.4 per cent) hasn’t been very imposing. Could a first-round playoff exit be looming? Star rookie defenceman Dougie Hamilton has also hit the first-year wall and could be a healthy scratch spectator to start the post-season.

6—ARE THEY SAYING WE CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH: Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault has a history of being a great entertainer, dating way back to his days as coach of the Hull Olympiques, when he would scream high-pitched sweet nothings at Quebec League officials. However, his act this week – telling reporters that goaltender Cory Schneider had “a body injury” — did a disservice to the NHL and its fans. Toronto coach Randy Carlyle followed suit Friday, saying “at this time of year, I don’t like to tell anybody anything,” when asked about Tyler Bozak’s status. It’s time the NHL adopted a policy where teams must disclose the nature and extent of ailments, similar to the NFL. There were some attempts to have such a plan included in the new CBA, but it got lost among the bigger picture issues.

7–TRADE WINS FOR RANGERS: The move from Columbus to the Big Apple is agreeing with Derick Brassard, the Gatineau native and former sixth overall draft selection who will finally get a chance to play in the playoffs. Brassard has scored five goals and six assists in 12 games since being traded to the New York Rangers from the Blue Jackets at the trade deadline. Marian Gaborik, who went the other way, had three goals and four assists in 10 games before Friday’s game against Edmonton.

8–THE HALL OF FAME SHOULD BE CALLING: Martin St. Louis’s quest for the Art Ross Trophy at the tender age of 37 is a feel good story in a Tampa dressing room that lost its way after a quick start. St. Louis, who also won the scoring title in 2003-04, could become the NHL’s oldest scoring champion. The current record is owned by Bill Cook, who was also 37 when he won the honour in 1933 – five years after 44-year-old Rangers coach Lester Patrick stepped off the bench and into the New York net.

9–WHAT RISES FROM THE ASHES IN PHOENIX? The Coyotes closed out their home schedule Friday and finish the season Saturday in Anaheim. Nothing the NHL has said and done and nothing that has happened off the ice in Glendale has convinced me the team will be back in Phoenix for the 2013-14 season. You don’t have to look far into the rear-view mirror for evidence the NHL could act fast. Atlanta’s move to Winnipeg came during the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2011.

10—THE POWER OF ONE: One tweet, that is. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson — somewhat relunctantly — opened a Twitter account (@dalfredsson11) following the Senators playoff-clinching victory against Washington Thursday. He offered up a single message, congratulating the team and Erik Karlsson for returning to the lineup. By late Friday afternoon, still only tweet to his handle, he had 17,300 followers. And counting.

Tags: , , , , , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment