It was bound to happen.
When I first started setting goals for this year's NHL Playoffs I knew there was no way to keep the happy momentum going along after a rousing success in Round 1.
Heck, I even cut down on the number of goals to be met in Round 2.
Alas, fate and incomprehensible failure on the part of two great and underachieving teams interceded and both the Stars and Flyers have moved on to put the Stanley Cup Finals in jeopardy of being dreadfully boring.
Well, maybe not that bad but certainly not as exciting as it could be.
Last year, we were openly rooting for Buffalo to beat Ottawa and Detroit to beat Anaheim in the Conference Finals because that would've presented us with perhaps the most wide open Cup Finals since Gretzky played in Canada. Instead, we got the team that played slow-it-down-clog-it-up crap hockey to beat Buffalo and the Ducks who set the rules of the game back 100 years.
This season, you've got two teams that do the same thing, just they come from opposite conferences. The Dallas Stars are more than happy to play at a snail's pace and make skating anywhere on the ice impossible. Dallas isn't really there to score, they're there to keep it a one-goal game.
Literally, if it's 0-0 going to overtime, Dave Tippett is doing cartwheels in the tunnel after regulation. Of course, that reaction might also be because Marty Turco hasn't given up a back-breaking goal either. This defense-first style is no accident and a lot of that has to do with Turco.
Before last season, Turco had a bad reputation for getting ripped up in the playoffs and pulling the El Foldo. Enter the Vancouver Canucks and their non-existant offense and you have one cured head-case of a goaltender - even still, Dallas lost but Turco couldn't be blamed. Go figure.
It was no accident though, Dallas' defense helped keep an already toothless attack at bay for most of the series and still Dallas' offense stunk it up. How bad were they? Goals scored by Dallas per game against Vancouver (wins are in bold italics): 4, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2
Obviously, Dave Tippett blamed the defense for the losses since they've only managed to get more annoying and tougher on that end of the ice. That means that Turco giving up one or two is hard to come by since teams have to work even harder to get a shot off or get to the net. It also allows their suspect offense to win more games after scoring two or three goals.
Just ask the Sharks.
The Flyers, on the other hand, came into the playoffs with the reputation carrying all the earmarks of the Flyers teams from the 70's and earning worthy comparisons to that of the Anaheim Ducks...and not the good ones. Over the season, I've covered all the issues with the Flyers and their cheap hits ad nauseum, so I'm not about to go bringing that back up. Suffice it to say, the Flyers, already a mostly unlikable team, came into this playoff season with an even worse reputation.
To make matters worse, they knock off the World's Favorite Hockey Player in Alexander Ovechkin in the first round, much in part due to Martin Biron playing solid in goal as well as to what turned out to be very suspect officiating all series long. Given how it's been all playoffs, it doesn't seem as though this was unique to their series.
Up comes Round 2 and they get to deal with the Eastern top seed Montreal Canadiens, aka: Canada's Last Hope. The last few seasons, we've seen Canada's Last Hope make it into the Cup Finals before bowing out (Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary) and Flyers fans found themselves wrapped in paranoia after Game 1 convinced that the fix was in to have Montreal make it all the way. Nevermind that the officials assisted in getting Philadelphia past Washington, this was a new round with new conspiracies!
I'm convinced, however, there was a plot against the Flyers advancing if for no other reason than it failed miserably. After all, anything the NHL tries to make happen while Herr Bettman is leading the way manages to fall flat on its face. It's for this reason alone I have this nagging feeling that we're destined to see a Dallas-Philadelphia Cup Final. After all, you have to bet that the NHL and NBC are praying for arguably the biggest hockey fan market (Detroit) to face off with team with two of the hottest rising stars in the league (Pittsburgh) in the Finals. Detroit and Pittsburgh would provide for some high-octane
I'm also convinced we're going to be having a healthy dose of deja vu come Saturday May 17th. Remember last season when Ottawa and Buffalo had their Eastern Conference Final overtime game get bumped off of NBC in favor of coverage of the Preakness Stakes? Well guess what...the NHL schedule has again set itself up for conflict, this time with the potential to get the Red Wings and Stars bumped off of NBC in favor of the ponies. The Wings-Stars game on the 17th is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. ET. Coverage of the Preakness Stakes will begin at 5:00 p.m. Dallas did just play a four-overtime game with San Jose and virtually every game involving the Stars is a one-goal game. I can't help but figure this is going to happen again and the NHL will rightfully get slapped around for things being this way.
All that said, the only goal for this round is for Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin to get a date with Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the Stanley Cup Finals - it's now the Dream Matchup for the league and for television. Canada doesn't have a stake in things this year so they're happy to have hockey to watch in general.
Anything outside of Pittsburgh and Detroit will be a letdown to some degree and a Dallas-Philly Finals will be extremely disappointing and not nearly as fun to watch. Since Round 2's goal set was a complete letdown, we're carrying it over to the Conference Finals in hope that it will be fulfilled for the betterment of hockey.