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FARQUHAR PEAK… Another week of the Stanley Cup tourney is in the books. The Wild are still alive but need a big victory to stave off elimination, the NY Rangers have apparently awakened, so have the Ducks, and this eve the Montreal Canadiens need a win at home to play on. The Rangers won Game 6 at Madison Square Garden this evening vs. the Pittsburgh Pengwah by a 3-1 margin. They took Game 1 in Pitt, then lost the next three tilts and looked fairly lethargic in doing so, but have taken the last two games and have clearly outplayed the Pens. There will be a “seven heaven” in Pittsburgh on Tuesday eve, and fasten your seat belts—I believe the Blueshirts have grabbed the momentum in this series right by the throat.
If the Rangers advance with a Game 7 victory, it will be interesting to see what occurs with the Pens. Does Head Coach Dan Bylsma get pink slipped? Does net minder Marc-Andre Fleury get moved out? Do you trade Evgeny Malkin and break up the Sid Crosby-Malkin duo? There are any number of personnel questions that could arise with a Pens defeat. Stay tuned…
The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings will do battle in Game 5 Monday eve with each team winning two games apiece on the other’s rink. This contest will be back at the Duck pond, and it appears that the Duck goal-tending questions have been answered at least temporarily by rookie John Gibson. The youngster is well known in USA Hockey circles as “The Future” between the pipes for the national team and has excelled at every age level for Team USA thus far. After going 3-0 as a late season call-up, he is 1-0 in the playoffs, and I believe he will be in for Game 5. I can’t say how this tilt will go. The Kings were on a six-game win streak before dropping their two home games at the Staples Center. All that proves is that no one is going to run the table in this tourney. The same goes for Gibby if he is the Game 5 starter; he is going to drop a game sooner or later. This game could indicate how the remainder of the series will go, though, and that will be huge…
For Les Habitants and the Bruins? The Bruins are tied with Philadelphia as my most disliked NHL clubs. After splitting games at each other’s sheets, the Bruins came up with a dominating Game 5 performance to get the series lead 3-2. The Habs must win Monday or get out the Pings and set up some tee times. The funny thing is that you could say that the Habs were outplayed totally in Game 1, somewhat outplayed in Game 2, outplayed Boston in Game 3, and had kind of an even contest in Game 4—so they could have very well been up three games to one before dropping Game 5 in brutal fashion. The Habs could have been playing to move on in Game 5 instead of fighting to survive. I think they will come up big and there will be a Game 7…
The hometown boys, the Wild, have been an enigma of sorts so far in the tourney. They are 1-6 in road contests so far and are 5-0 at home. They will be up against it in St. Paul Tues. evening, but they just seemed to own that rink in the recent past. The Blackhawks will be tough, though. They have won two of the last four tournaments and have the experience the Wild don’t have when it comes to long playoff runs. In Game 5, I thought the Wild had the superior first period to the Hawks in obtaining a 1-0 lead on an Erik Haula tally. The Wild appeared to not go at the remainder of the game with as much juice as they did in the opening frame, and paid the price.
Then the Hawks benefited from a phantom hooking call on Jonas Brodin in the second period and tied the game on the subsequent power play. The way I saw the penalty call was that Brodin had Peter Regin’s stick tied up by going underneath it with his. A hooking call in the show is normally obtained when you go parallel with your stick on the opponent’s body, thus impeding his progress. Maybe my “old-timers” is kicking in here, but I didn’t spot that in the replay I watched. The player who was awarded the goal, Big Bryan Bickell, was doing little more than standing in front of the net.
The Jonathan Toews’ game winner in the third wasn’t exactly highlight reel stuff either, but it counted. Outside of the two scores, I thought Wild net minder Ilya Bryzgalov had a nice game for the team and has been playing better than most analysts are giving him credit for. There are times when he makes saves look as adventuresome as former Twins outfielder Delmon Young looked shagging fly balls, but he has been effective. I am also quite certain that I’m not the only person who has contemplated where the team would be had Josh Harding never became ill. He was on it last fall before his condition got the better of him.
I am truly hoping the Wild can take this to a seven heaven and then oust the Hawks. As you know, I take in hockey news, views, and info just about every waking hour, and if one thing has grated on me during this tourney, it is how little publicity the Wild have gotten thus far. Even when they win, the spotlight has always been tilted a bit more toward the opposition. It doesn’t matter what the source is either. I’m hoping that sometime late Thurs. eve, I will be holding a farmer match to a real big stogie. Nothing against the Hawks, mind you, just a giant KMA to all the naysayers. Let’s Go Wild!!! PEACE
Marc Elliott is a free lance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota.