The NHL Conference Finals in both the East and West head to hockey weekend with two teams with a 2-0 lead.
Out west the Blackhawks should change their name to the Chicago Road Warriors, as they swept both games in San Jose and tied a playoff record with seven consecutive road games.
In the East, the Canadiens failed to score in Philadelphia as Michel Leighton became the first Flyers goalie to record back-to-back shutouts since Bernie Parent.
In this weeks edition of the top shelf I will break down the scorers in both series and lastly look ahead to the upcoming Memorial Cup Finals weekend.
Sharks vs. Blackhawks:
Jonathan Toews has continued his march towards the Conn Smyth Trophy in the Western Conference Finals. The Blackhawks captain has added onto his league lead in points with three points (G, 2A) in the first two games. Also with three points for Chicago is Toews linemate Patrick Kane (3 assists) and top defenseman Duncan Keith (3 assist).
The Sharks captain, Patrick Marleau, has three points in the first two games (2G, A) and only Dan Boyle has more than a point in this series (2 assists).
The first game of the series was a shooting gallery that saw the teams combined for 85 shots but only three goals as both goalies stood tall. The second game in contrast was not as closely contested as the Blackhawks led by 3-0 and 4-1 en route to a 4-2 win. The Blackhawks have made a conscious effort to frustrate Joe Thornton in similar fashion to how they frustrated the Sedin twins.
In order for the Sharks to get back into this series, they need to focus on playing their game, not playing into the Blackhawks mind games. They have to continue to get good special teams (2 for 6 on the series). Once red hot, Joe Pavelski now has gone five games without a goal, and for the Sharks to have any chance of coming back in this series they will need their second line to wake up and produce like they did in the first two rounds.
Chicago would benefit by checking into a hotel and continue the success they feel when not playing at home. They would also like to see Marian Hossa start getting on the scoreboard as the sniper only has two goals this postseason but already has eight shots in this series. They do have a goal from each of their top three lines in this series, but would be more dangerous heading forward if Hossa wakes up and gives them two legitimate lines that strike fear in their opponent.
Flyers vs. Canadiens:
The Flyers rode a historic miracle comeback into two home wins where they outscored the Canadiens 9-0. The Orange and Black have now scored 13 unanswered goals with Danny Briere and Simon Gagne combining for six of those goals.
The playoffs are all about unheralded players stepping up when called upon and Ville Leino has done just that. The 26-year-old winger played only 13 games during the regular season for the Flyers and registered four points. He now has 11 points in 10 games since being inserted in the lineup for the injured Jeff Carter.
For the Canadiens not much can be said offensively as they have not gotten a puck past Michael Leighton. The one positive sign they can take to the Bell Center is that they have been able to outshoot the Flyers 58-48. The bad news is the Canadiens are now 0-5 when they outshoot an opponent and 8-3 when they get outshot.
The Flyers take a good amount of penalties so for the Canadiens to get back into this series they will need more scoring out of the power play, currently 0 for 8. Scoring the first goal on home ice could change the series for the Canadiens as they are 7-2 when they get the first goal, and it could give hope to the rabid fans in Montreal.
The Flyers must keep the momentum they have built from this magical run they are on. They will have to maintain the advantage they have created on the power play. With their four power play goals in this series, they now have a league high 17 power play goals.
The Windsor Spitfires have already clinched a berth in Sunday’s Memorial Cup Final as they try to become the first team to repeat champion since the 1994-95 Kamloops Blazers.
They have been led in scoring by none other than the top prospect in the upcoming NHL entry draft, Taylor Hall. The 18-year-old winger has four goals and two assists in the three games played this year, giving him 14 career points in 9 Memorial Cup games. Also contributing for the Spits is Cam Fowler, one of the top defensive prospects in the upcoming draft, who has four points.
Facing off against the defending champions will be the winner of the Calgary Hitmen and tournament-host Brandon Wheat Kings. The Hitmen destroyed the Wheat Kings 5-1 on Wednesday and the host team will look for a better showing in the rematch Friday.
Calgary is led by the hottest scorer of the tournament, Jimmy Bubnick , who has three goals and eight points in his three games. The Thrashers sixth round pick in 2009 was traded from Kamloops earlier this season. The 6’2’’ center had 22 goals and 53 points combined for the teams, nothing spectacular in the high scoring WHL , but has come up huge for the Hitmen in the playoffs.
The Wheat Kings are offensively led by Toni Rajala (2G, 3A), the Oilers fourth round pick of 2009, and the Kings first round pick last season Brayden Schenn (G,A in 3 games). The two teams facing off on Friday have some history.
As they have met in the post-season four times in the last six years, but Calgary has won three of those times.
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