Performing on the Big Stage
Surprised about Alex Ovechkin? Nope.
Surprised about Sidney Crosby? Nope.
|GENE J. PUSKAR/AP|
|We're still looking for Evgeni Malkin during this series.|
Anyone who has watched either of these players over the years would know by now they are big-time players in big games. They’ve just got the stones, and in one of the most entertaining playoff games in years last night in Washington, they both proved it.
Then there’s Evgeny Malkin. Surely we can expect more from an NHL scoring champ. In Games 1 and 2 against the Capitals, you could say that Malkin has been doing a Joe Thornton, except Thornton was never quite this uninvolved or ineffective.
We got all the cards and letters before the series from people complaining about why all the coverage was about Ovechkin and Crosby, and not about Malkin. Well, this is why, along with about a million other reasons. First the no-show in the Cup final against Detroit, and now this.
Nobody’s saying Malkin isn’t a great talent. He’s got it all, and there have been times during the past two regular seasons when he has carried Crosby, not the other way around.
Even in the first few games of this post-season Malkin looked good to go. But not in the last four, and certainly not last night.
Now on to some questions from our playoff mail bag:
Q: First off, I would like to say this years playoffs have been some of the most entertaining hockey that I've had the privilege to watch.
My question is about what has happened to J.S. Giguere. I have been more than impressed with Hillers play this spring, but what would be the future of J.S. with the Ducks. Is he possibly on the move this summer?
My other question is which series in the first round was most surprising to you and why? as well as what second round series do you think will be the biggest surprise? I'm leaning towards the Ducks beating Detroit.
Liam Murphy, Barrie, Ont.
A: Well, it’s pretty simple with Giguere. He got beat out, and good for Randy Carlyle to be able to go to a youngster in goal instead of a veteran with such a big rep. It was Jonas Hiller who fueled the Ducks charge into the playoffs, and he’s just been better than Giguere for a few months. Giguere is owed $13 million over the next two years, a ticket not many teams would want to acquire. Maybe the Leafs? Only if Vesa Toskala went the other way, but it's worth wondering whether Brian Burke, who loves Giguere’s competitive fire, might be interested.
Re surprises, well, I sure didn’t see San Jose losing to Anaheim. I don’t think anybody did. This round? The biggest surprise would be if Carolina could upend Boston, and these next two games in Raleigh will be fascinating with the Bruins facing pressure for the first time in the 2009 playoffs.
Q: I've really enjoyed watching the Sedins play in the playoffs so far. They really do seem to know where each other are. With respect to their upcoming free agency, is it a guarantee that they will end up playing together, whether in Vancouver or otherwise? It would seem to me that with the salary cap, it would make it that much harder for teams to bring them both. Have you heard anything on whether money or staying together is more important to them? Thanks!
Mike C., Mississauga
A: They want to stay together, they’ve always been together and I doubt there’s a team out there that would be interested to see what Daniel would be like without Henrik, or the other way around. That said, they may have to take slightly less each to stay together. But I sure wouldn’t expect a split.
Q: What is it going to take for Gary Bettman to realize that having a profitable hockey team in Phoenix isn't going to work? This is (to my knowledge) the second time the NHL had to loan money to them just to pay rent! Do you believe if this keeps happening, Bettman will agree to moving NHL teams in really bad markets back to Canada (or somewhere where they can make money in the US)?
Also, what will it take for Bettman to be kicked out as commish? One, two, three teams to fold? I really don't like this guy!
Joel C., Toronto
A: Phoenix has been a disaster. And I can tell you, my good friend Gord Stellick was way ahead of the curve on the notion that one day the NHL would be looking to move teams back to Canada. That said, the Bettman administration has a pretty darn good record of turning struggling franchises – Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Buffalo, Edmonton, Washington – into successful ones.
The trouble spots are already highlighted, and while it’s easy to say move Phoenix, where would you move them to that they would be a guaranteed success? The question you need answered is whether Arizona fans would respond favourably to a winning team like fans have, say, with the Capitals. Sadly, the Coyote people have never been able to ask that question effectively.
During the playoffs, Damien Cox is answering your questions on a regular basis. Click here to submit a question.
**Note: please follow the link above to send a question to Damien. Questions posted in the comments section may not make it to the mailbag. Thanks.**