Kovacevic: On penalty-killing, pouty coaches and 'Peggy'
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As sure as a dozen power-play goals sent the Penguins packing, as sure as a dozen days marked the reign of Claude Giroux as king of the NHL, as sure as the next dozen seconds could comfortably contain a John Tortorella news conference, I offer these 12 pluses and minuses of the Stanley Cup playoffs:
Plus: The Devils followed the Penguins' historically pathetic penalty-killing performance by choking the Flyers into just three goals on 19 chances, and they did so by pressuring aggressively. In fact, they pressed so hard that, on Philadelphia's lone power play of the decisive Game 5, you couldn't find a single Flyer on the ice facing the New Jersey net.
Plus: Capitals over Rangers in Game 7 on Saturday night. Alex Ovechkin will be a superstar reborn.
Minus: Tortorella finally will have an actual reason to look like someone just cut in front of him at Sam's Club.
Plus: The eighth-seeded Kings' stirring sweep of the Blues has sparked a Los Angeles love affair unseen since the Wayne Gretzky trade had Janet Jones as a throw-in. Nothing could mean more to the NHL's growth than to captivate the continent's second-largest market.
Minus: It's nice to see class act Shane Doan smile this deep into a playoff, but do we really want to save the Coyotes? Again? I'll take more Quebec Nordiques, s'il vous plait .
Plus: The league's two best goaltenders, Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith, go head to head in the West. And if you don't think they're the best, you don't watch enough late-night TV.
Minus: Ilya Bryzgalov, leaker of 36 playoff goals and perpetrator of one other he scored on himself, is due $5.6 million annually through 2020. Not coincidentally, that's the year the Flyers will celebrate the 45th anniversary of their last Cup.
Plus: Anze Kopitar, Slovenia's finest export since the polka, is a joy to watch.
Minus: It's fun to appreciate other cities' players once your team is eliminated. But I get the feeling more locals should appreciate what they already have, judging from some comical trade suggestions involving Evgeni Malkin and/or Jordan Staal. Based on what I've heard, I will be stunned if either isn't with the Penguins next season.
Plus: The “Peggy” ads. Priceless.
Minus: A pox on the Blues' Ken Hitchcock and any coach who dumbs down his defense to the point of having everyone systematically collapse to block 100-mph slap shots. It's dull, it diminishes skill and it's demoralizing. Ask those players who were eating pucks for Kevin Constantine here a decade ago how they felt about being coated in bruises.
Plus: Ilya Kovalchuk in New Jersey. If you thought this marriage would succeed, you're lying. But he's actually making passes, and the Devils are actually forechecking.
Minus: The world championships are the only tournament anywhere less relevant than college basketball's CBI. Good for Sidney Crosby and all of the Penguins who blew it off.
Plus: Jaromir Jagr told reporters after the Flyers' ouster, “This was the most enjoyable year I've ever had. It's a sad day for me. I want to cry right now.” Doesn't surprise me. Jagr was as happy as I've ever seen him while in Philadelphia. I'll say it again: He made the right choice.
Minus: No. 68 also said he'll take the summer to ponder his future. Uh-oh.
Plus: Automatic penalty for delay of game, even in triple-OT.
Minus: No automatic penalty for a head shot. Sounds about right.
Plus: Giroux's one-game suspension for his flagrant assault on the Devils' Dainius Zubrus was a welcome departure for a league usually loath to punish its stars.
Minus: There have been 10 suspensions in these playoffs. Half have been for just one game — including the one to the Penguins' James Neal — even though all involved a player's head. Either the NHL wants to get rid of this garbage or not.
Plus: Mike Emrick is our planet's most artful play-by-play man.
Minus: The rest of NBC's broadcast guys either delve into arcane, self-absorbed talk of Xs and Os sure to shut out novice viewers, or they're Mike Milbury.
Plus: Johan Hedberg could cap one of Pittsburgh's great rags-to-riches stories with his first ring, even if it's earned from the end of the New Jersey bench. Another old friend, Rob Scuderi, could be a Piece of history with the Kings.
Minus: No real pucks around here until the NHL Draft comes to town in 42 days. Guess this is how the other half — of the commonwealth — lives.
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