Hard work's key for Hawks, plus what the vanquished need now
Chicago can't out-skill Detroit, they must outwork them, but it's not easy
The Capitals may need a coaching change if Bruce Boudreau can't sell defense
Roberto Luongo may be dealt later than sooner; Patrick Roy's not ideal for Habs
With the conference finals underway it seems like a good time to address some of your questions and comments. Let's dip into the old mailbag...
I probably shouldn't be this frustrated so early in the series, but Chicago really seemed to be chasing Detroit in Game 1. I think if the Blackhawks hope to advance, they need to play with a more aggressive forecheck. They need to hit Detroit's defense (especially Nick Lidstrom) whenever they touch the puck. Make them pay a physical price and tire them out. Your thoughts?
I suspect that every team that has played these Red Wings has at one time or another has thought that tenderizing Lidstrom was the key to beating them. Count the rings on his fingers and you can surmise that it's easier said than done.
That's the beauty of having guys like Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski on your back end. If the opposition sits back a bit, they've got the legs to lug the puck up the ice. If the opposition tries an aggressive forecheck, well, one quick transitional pass later the Wings are enjoying an odd-man rush. The Hawks saw enough of those on Sunday to know they don't want to play that kind of game again.
That's not to say there isn't merit in your approach. Obviously, any time you rush a defenseman who is trying to handle the puck deep in his own zone you have a chance to force an error and create a turnover. But there's a reason Lidstom is regarded as one of the best of all time: he doesn't rattle easily.
My two cents? As the recycling man told Homer Simpson, "Simplify, man. Simplify."
The Hawks appeared to be forcing their offense, looking for the pretty play when it should be the last option. Ugly is in at this time of year. Dump it in and win the battles down low. Get pucks to the net. Get bodies to the net. Work to get to the greasy areas. Bounces, deflections and rebound opportunities have a way of presenting themselves (see Kris Versteeg's goal). When you try to do too much, you risk throwing away the puck, and that's the kind of self-destructive behavior that cost the Hawks over and over again in Game 1.
The Blackhawks can't out-skill the Red Wings. They need to outwork them. But again, that's easier said than done. The Wings understand how to succeed at this time of year. The Hawks are just learning...and class is going to be out soon if they don't pick up this lesson quickly.
What's the one element the Capitals were most missing against the Penguins? I think a big, physical winger with skill would have helped. Someone like Boston's Milan Lucic would really make an impact, don't you think?
Every team could use a banger like Lucic, Karen, but they're a rare breed. That's why a guy like Peterborough's Zack Kassian is regarded so highly for next month's draft.
What Washington really needs might be a change behind the bench. Whether that's a new man or a new approach is up to Bruce Boudreau. He performed miracles last season, transforming the Caps from struggling underachievers into the league's most entertaining squad. That style worked wonders during the regular season, but it glossed over the team's fatal flaw: the lack of a cohesive, executable defensive scheme. They were able to get by against the Keystone Rangers and their popgun offense. Not so easy to do against a team with multiple high-end weapons like the Penguins.
To some extent, Boudreau has coached to his talent, crafting a system that makes the most of the tools at his disposal. But the team's near complete disregard for defense, and its inability to adapt as Pittsburgh exposed that weakness, is inexcusable.
The good news? It's a lot easier to teach a scorer to defend than a defender to score, so the Caps aren't in a bad spot...unless Boudreau is unable to create a system that the team will buy into. He certainly deserves another chance to do just that, but the leash won't be long. He needs to sell his players, especially Alexander Ovechkin, on the need to commit to two-way play. I'm guessing the pain of this loss will help sell his plan. If it doesn't? The Caps might need to look in another direction.
Roberto Luongo lets in seven goals in a must-win game for the Canucks. Do you think they try to trade him at this point? If so, what can they get for him?
Luongo has one year left on his current deal. He also has a no-trade clause and Vancouver GM Mike Gillis has said he won't ask his captain to waive it.
Does that mean Luongo won't be dealt? Of course not. We've already seen that an NTC is only a bargaining chip that allows a player to dictate the terms under which he can be dealt.
And you can certainly make the argument that a deal would help the Canucks. Assuming they keep the Sedins (who are UFAs as of July 1), the team's biggest deficiency seems to be along a blueline that was exposed as too slow and creatively challenged by the Blackhawks. Swapping Luongo would either bring in pieces that could address those holes or free up the cap space to pursue a solution in free agency. With Cory Schneider waiting in the wings, it's not an entirely unappealing option.
That said, I don't think Gillis moves him, at least not this summer. Luongo's season had more rough spots than usual, but he remains one of the top three goalies in the world. I get the sense that Gillis thinks the team is more likely to win with him than without him. And remember, Gillis has had just one season to put his stamp on the team. Given the opportunity to shuffle the deck chairs a bit during the off-season, he might stumble on the right formula. If not, and the Canucks are struggling during the second half next season, then you might seem some smoke rising on the trade front.
Any idea who might be the next coach of the Habs? Any chance it could be Patrick Roy?
After cutting his teeth behind the bench with the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts, Roy has said that he's willing to listen to NHL coaching offers. He's already met with the Avalanche, who are in the process of reviewing the tenure of Tony Granato. He's yet to sit down with the Canadiens, but the rumor persists that he's under consideration for that job even though the failure of Guy Carbonneau suggests that a more experienced hand on the wheel would better suit their needs.
Even as a novitiate, Roy has his supporters, including Scotty Bowman, but the name I'd keep in mind is Scott Arniel. The former Winnipeg Jets great was the top coach in the AHL, guiding the Manitoba Moose to a 107-point season. He's looking even better now thanks to a strong postseason run in which the Moose have won 10 straight and are up 3-0 in the Western Conference final after beating Houston 4-3 on Monday night.
Arniel is said to be a player's coach who encourages individual creativity, but he also demands defensive responsibility. The Moose were the league's stingiest team (2.30 GAA), and that's something that's drawn a lot of attention, especially in Montreal where attention to defense was as fleeting as the career of Mitsou.
There's some thought that the Canucks may promote Arniel within their system to keep him in-house for whenever they decide to pull the rug out from under Alain Vigneault (it's not imminent, but it happens to every coach sooner or later). If that doesn't happen, Arniel looks like the best available candidate for either Montreal or Edmonton.
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