Thoughts heading into round two.....
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-- It's funny how things work out sometimes. The salary cap was supposed to mean every team had a chance of winning every year, and that has been the case.
In the post-lockout NHL, no team that reached the Stanley Cup finals has advanced out of the first round the following season, but look a little deeper.
In the Western Conference, we have Detroit, San Jose, Dallas, and Colorado remaining. In the Eastern Conference, it is Montreal, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, and Philadelphia.
With the possible exception of the Rangers, who were mired in an era of overspending, this list looks a lot like the power teams of the late 1990s. In that era, people said those were the big money teams, and the less wealthy teams were unable to compete.
Perhaps that was the truth, but overspending never got the Rangers anywhere.
Rather, it seems those teams have a template that works. Good drafting, finding hidden gems, wise trades -- that is what has caused many of those teams to return to the top.
Under the new system, it is often the case that many teams are able to offer the same amount of money to an unrestricted free agent. Increasingly, the desire to win will be the determining factor of a final destination -- players will go where there is a winning tradition.
In that case, the eight teams still playing could be in good shape for years to come.
-- The fervor over Sean Avery's arm-waving, in-your-face antics has died down, but the agitator's effectiveness has not dissipated.
He may be the most reviled player in the game, and there is no question he spends most of his time straddling a fine line between what is and is not allowed. Yet his three goals and five points in five first round games make him one of the Rangers' most valuable players.
His unique style of screening Brodeur that prompted the "Avery Rule" is something nobody wants to see regularly in hockey. Yet a good number of people would admit to laughing when seeing it for the first time. Once, it is funny. Twice, it is annoying.
Kind of like the player himself. I'm not sure the NHL needs more Sean Averys, but at the same time, it may be a more entertaining place because of the presence of one.
-- The NHL might be excited about renewing their television contract with NBC for another year, but I am less than thrilled.
The league's press release states eight of the nine Sunday "afternoon" games will be at 12:30 Eastern/9:30 Pacific.
Ouch. Not only is 12:30 an inconvenient and unenjoyable time to attend a hockey game, it will kill ratings in most of the country.
12:30 in New York is 11:30 in Chicago, 10:30 in Denver, and 9:30 in Los Angeles. Hockey for Sunday breakfast just does not make sense.
The NFL thrives in spite of, not because of, their game times. And even there, the highest rated games are typically the Sunday and Monday night games.
Apparently, the rumors of ESPN picking up NBC's portion of the television contract were not true. It is a shame, since those rumors included replacing the annoying morning games with Friday night games.
On the bright side, it is a one year deal. We can only hope something changes next year -- specifically, the game times.
Second round predictions:
1) Detroit over 6) Colorado in six games
2) San Jose over 5) Dallas in six games
1) Montreal over 6) Philadelphia in six games
2) Pittsburgh over 5) New York Rangers in seven games
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