Apr 21, 2002
Well, the playoffs are under way and some things haven't exactly gone according to plan. Just ask Dominik Hasek and the Detroit Red Wings, Presidents Trophy winners who haven't played a game of any meaning in more than a month.
On one hand is the $900,000 salary of Vancouver Canucks starting goaltender Dan Cloutier. On the other rests the $8 million salary of Dominik Hasek. So far, with his team stealing both games in Detroit, Dan Cloutier (Save% .930) has outplayed Hasek (Save$ .822).
While it is true that Hasek has been the victim of several unlucky bounces, what made his career was the thought a few years ago that even those couldn't get past him. The Canucks, for their part have just applied the adage that "A shot on goal is never a bad idea." Even more surprising is the fact that Vancouver won the first game in overtime without their big line featuring Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi clicking well.
Switching to the East for a moment, I know that a division leader winning both games at home isn't a surprise. Well, this is Carolina, perennial underdog despite leading the southeast division, the worst division in the league.
Stunning the New Jersey Devils, the Hurricanes are going back to New Jersey with a 2 games to none lead, in large part thanks to the play of Arturs Irbe, looking like the same goaltender that confused playoff shooters for the San Jose Sharks in 93/94. Compared to Martin Brodeur's very respectable 1.74 Goals Against, Irbe is posting a 0.88 mark.
Curtis Joseph is another surprise in the East coming back strongly from a broken finger to stymie the New York Islander offense and posting a 0.50 Goals Against Average, and a .978 Save%. Make no mistake; the Islanders' road to the second round goes right through Joseph.
What is no surprise is that the Ottawa Senators were shut out in the playoffs again, losing 1-0 in overtime against Philadelphia. What was surprising was that the Sens came back the next game against Roman Cechmanek, netting 3 goals. 3 goals - the same output in the whole four games against Toronto last year.
In splitting the first two games against the Flyers, the Senators have given themselves a confidence boost. Maybe not a real lift, but the First Union Center is a very tough place to play and win. If the Ottawa offense continues to come through, this could be a long drawn-out series.
In another series between two teams with a lot of history, Montreal took the first game from Boston in the Fleet Center. In doing that, the Habs answered a few questions for themselves. Will Saku Koivu be effective with Donald Audette, considering the two have missed a total of 120 games this season? Each got 2 points in the first game. Can Montreal use their speed to counteract the booming Boston defense? Once again, they can. The last question had to do with Hart Trophy Candidate Jose Theodore playing in his first playoff game in four years. He was called on to be steady, but not necessarily spectacular in stopping 30 Bruins shots in game one.
There really is nothing like the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And if a few teams keep up their hot streak (Vancouver, Montreal) there could be a good number of upsets in either conference.
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