Making Sense of the Playoffs, the story so far edition

The Sharks played the best game of the playoffs tonight in game 4 — and still lost. The Sharks broadcasters tried to put what positive spin they could on it, but this is not the time of year for moral victories, and you don’t get an extra game in the series for a well-played loss. You lose.

It was good to see Marleau back at center. My suggestion to coach McLellan: leave him there. it leverages his speed, and it gets him in the game, and I always feel he’s more effective there than at wing. I won’t complain about Niemi — he’s been doing his part. is it enough? no. Is it his fault? no.

Down 3-1, the reality is that the Blues are a better team than the Sharks, or at least as they match up, the Blues can control the game and keep the Sharks from playing Sharks hockey. And their goaltending has been lights out, even the goalie who’s lights went out for a bit.

San Jose might take this five, but the Blues are moving on, and deserve to. The Sharks are going down fighting, and i’ll give them that, but they’re still going to lose this series. At least game 4 was a lot of fun to watch.

One of the nice things about not having playoff tickets is we can sit home and watch more of the playoffs if we want (or put it in the background and pretend to watch while doing other things if it’s boring). I’ve been enjoying the Kings/Canucks series, and it looked like the Kings might sweep until Daniel Sedin came back. His addition made the Canucks a much different team. Enough to come back from a 3-1 deficit? Probably not. But where I’m sure the Sharks won’t make it, if the difference I saw in game 4 carries forward to game 5 that intensely, the Kings might have to worry a bit. Still, maybe six for LA to carry this one through.

Chicago/Phoenix? Even before Hossa went down, I thought Phoenix would carry this series. I don’t see anything in the Hawks telling me it’s going to change. Game 5 is probably it. Ditto Nashville, where Detroit looks tired, and its goaltending just isn’t good enough.

Over in the east? I tried watching ottawa and the rangers and almost fell asleep. Who’s going to win the series? who cares? not me. I’m still rooting for the Panthers, but Brodeur is doing what he can to prove he still has it. SEries too close to call. Right now, the Capitals are tied to the Bruins 2-2 for only one reason: their 13th string goalie, some kid nobody’s heard of named Holtby. Who’s good. Some goalies come up from the minors and win some games because nobody’s scouted him. Holtby is winning because he’s that good. As laurie noted tonight, it’s going to be an interesting off-season and training camp in Washington while they sort this out, because this kid seems for real. As poorly as the rest of the Caps seem to be playing through stretches, Boston should be in command of this series, and they’re not.

And finally, the Philly/Pittsburgh series, the series where goalies are optional. One win does not get the Pens back in the series, no matter how lopsided. I expect Philly will bear down and finish this one in game 5. If not, watch out.

And while I talked at some length about the suspensions and how we got into this mess yesterday, let me touch it one more time. The Sharks broadcasters talked about the Torres suspension and suggested a suspension that not only carried the rest of this playoffs, but suggested a suspension of the next ten playoff games for Torres — in other words, if he doesn’t sit out ten games THIS year, the suspension carries on to whenever Torres is next in the playoffs, wether it’s next season or in some later year. I wonder if the CBA is set up to let that happen; it’s an interesting concept. My big worry would be that Torres might never get back in the playoffs, so why bother? Also, would the upcoming end of the current CBA create problems? Logistics aside, I figured I’d mention it as an idea worth being considered.

But my view is this; I want to see him suspended the rest of this playoffs, and at least 5 games (preferably ten) of next season’s regular season. That hits him in the pocketbook, where playoff suspensions merely cost him game time (to a player, put “merely” in air quotes, but trust me, the money matters, too). I would also like the NHL to make it clear that if his team win’s the Stanley Cup, Torres would not have his name engraved in it, and announce a rule that any player suspended 3 or more games in the playoffs would similarly be banned from being played on the Cup with a winning team that year. That may sound silly, but the way players think, it’ll get their attention. Imagine being a guy who’s one shot at that immortality being lost to a stupid play…

I’d like to also make it clear that while I said yesterday that I felt the league was going to come down TOO hard on Torres as an over-reaction, don’t take that to think I don’t think he deserves one, or doesn’t deserve a lengthy one. He does. but in the context of how the league has been handling suspensions, his suspension will be out of character in comparison.

Also remember that I’ve said more than once that the first thing I’d do if I were hired into the job Shanahan has would be to announce that all suspensions moving forward would be immediately doubled in length.. so my view is that the kind of suspension I expect Torres will get will be more in line with what I’d want to see handed out routinely, not because the league is reacting to the controversy (which they are). But that won’t happen, because Shanahan’s bosses (the board of governors) don’t want to see their players taken off the roster that long, and Shanahan has to play within the bounds of the politics of his position in the league, or the league will find someone who will.

(I am also, for what it’s worth, of the belief that teams should not be allowed to replace a suspended player on the roster, or make a call up from the minors to cover a suspended player. Make them play those games a guy short, and let it hurt the team, too).