Playoff Hockey Talk

At the start of the playoffs, you might have figured that the player with the most points would be a superstar like Sidney Crosby, and you wouldn’t have been wrong with that assertion. What many people did not see coming were the two players that follow Crosby in that category: Joe Pavelski and Mike Cammalleri.

The San Jose Sharks have been desperately searching over the past half decade for players to take the weight off of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Many thought Dany Heatley would be that player. Not many would have guessed that Joe Pavelski, 5’11” and 190 lbs from the USA (a.k.a, Little Joe), would be that player. Leading the Sharks with 14 points in 8 games, Pavelski, a 7th round pick in the 2003 entry draft, is helping the much maligned Sharks shed the label of post-season choke-artists one goal at a time. Pavelski, who has nine goals, has six more tallies then Thornton, Heatley and Marleau combined.

Going into this series with the Red Wings, the Sharks, who finished 1st in the Western Conference regular season with 113 points, entered in as underdogs despite having seven more wins than Detroit throughout the season. This was due in large part to the distinction that the Wings have as perennial playoff veterans and that San Jose has never really had success after the month of March. Case in point, the Sharks have not progressed passed the second round of the playoffs since 2004, when they lost to the Flames in the Western Conference Final. During this time their lowest point total during a regular season was 99, when they finished 2nd in their division to the Dallas Stars.

San Jose is a team that has been searching for that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ to push them over the proverbial playoff hump. They might have finally found what they have looking for in an unlikely source; a guy named Joe, who may not be Jumbo, but he is playing larger than life when it matters most.

Let’s move out east…

Mike Cammalleri is 5’9” and 185 lbs; a dwarf or little person compared to almost everybody else in the NHL. But, what Cammy lacks in size, he makes up for in skill and precision. He ranks 3rd in the league in points going into game 3 against Pittsburgh tonight and is averaging nearly a goal a game; he has 8 in 9 games. He is contributing with timely goals on a team that relies immensely on the play of their goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The Habs are the only team left in the playoffs that have given up more goals than they have scored (26 for, 29 against), yet they remained entangled in the heat of the playoff race. This is due large in part to the clutch play of Cammalleri and his ability to score when his team needs it most.

The 2010 playoffs have been a coming out party for Jaroslav Halak; and the party is showing no signs of shutting down. The Habs have been out shot, on average, just over 12 shots per game, while facing an average of 39 in each contest. They made one of the greatest comebacks in recent playoff history against the Washington Capitals (The Presidents Cup Champions), and now have stolen home ice advantage away from the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

Remarkable, if not unfathomable.

The last decade has seen 3 teams defy all odds and make the Stanley Cup Final: the 03’ Mighty Ducks, the 04’ Flames and the 06’ Oilers. If Halak and Cammalleri stay the course, we could be adding the 2010 Montreal Canadiens to that distinguished list of Cinderella’s.

Moving to the junior hockey ranks if I might, the Calgary Hitmen are two wins away from winning the WHL championship and advancing to the Memorial Cup for the first time since 1999. With the likes of the WHL regular season scoring champ Brandon Kozun leading the charge and Martin Jones, WHL Goaltender of the year, stopping pucks in between the pipes, the Hitmen will be a tough team to beat going forward.

After pummelling the Tri City Americans by a combined score of 11-1 in the opening two games in the Saddledome this past weekend, the series moves to the Kennewick, Washington and the Toyota Center for games 3 and 4 where Tri-City is 6-3 this post-season. The Americans will need to re-group and figure out a way to stop the mighty Hitmen from putting pucks past goalie Drew Owsley; who has been pulled in both games thus far.

Special teams have been the difference in this series as Calgary has managed to kill off all 12 man-advantage opportunities by the Americans, and have now killed off 27 straight power plays dating back to last series. The Hitmen have gone 2 for 8 on the power play in the final, while going 23 for 96 throughout the post-season.

Kozun leads the Hitmen in points going into Game 3 tonight with 30 points in 20 games. Joel Broda, a former Amerk who played 124 regular season games in the Tri-City area, leads Calgary with 13 goals so far this spring.

Going into tonight, if Calgary is able to get a jump on the young Amerks early, this veteran laden Hitmen team could find themselves with a stranglehold on the series and one win away from the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

This has been,

Newman on the NHL and WHL

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