The Big Dance Begins

(1st week of playoffs  -  April 13 – April 21)
    
Team of the Week
Detroit Red Wings (4-0 series sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes)

As all elite teams seem to be capable of doing, the Red Wings always show their finest form during the playoffs, and this year seems to be no exception to that rule. In brushing aside a very good team in the Phoenix Coyotes in a four-game sweep, Detroit sent the rest of the league a strong message that they are as much a contender for the Stanley Cup as any other team. Even while missing one of their top players in Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings, and especially Pavel Datsyuk,  displayed their dominance in the series with the Coyotes, defeating a quality team with a strong goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov. The Red Wings are always in relentless pursuit of the puck and they have the kind of depth that pushes teams back on their heels shift after shift. With so many veterans on the team, it seems like they can get back into any game they are behind in, while also having no problem in finishing an opponent when they secure a lead. With a maturing Jimmy Howard in net and a returning Zetterberg, the Red Wings will be a tough out for anyone who has to face them the rest of the way.

Play of the Week:
Jason Chimera (Washington Capitals)   

While his overtime-winning goal in Game 4 against the Rangers will never make any highlight reels, Chimera's game-winner against New York in Game 2 was a thing of beauty. The play started with Scott Hannan rimming the puck around the boards from the Rangers blue-line, which Brooks Laich corralled behind Henrik Lundqvist's net.
With one hand on his stick, and the other holding off Rangers defenceman Matt Gilroy, Laich swept the puck behind the net and over to an open Marcus Johansson by the left face-off circle. Johansson took the pass and immediately fired it over to Chimera in the slot, who pounded a quick one-timer pastLundqvist for the first goal of the game, and what would prove to be the eventual game-winner.

Line of the Week:
Arron Asham (RW, Pittsburgh Penguins)

With only five goals and six assists during a regular-season, Arron Asham is an unlikely scoring leader for the Penguins as they hold a 3-1 series lead over the Lightning. But there you will find him, having scored three goals in four games in the series thus far, with an assist in Game 2 to give him a four-game point streak. Only Teemu Selanne, Martin St. Louis and Daniel Sedin have scored more goals so far in the playoffs than Asham, which would have probably surprised even himself had you suggested that he would be in this position prior to his recent hot streak. The fact that he has those three goals on only six shots makes it even more impressive, while the 11 hits he also has added in the four games paints a more complete picture of Asham's style of play. A solid +4 as well, Asham seems to be gaining the confidence of coach Dan Bylsma, who gave Asham 15 minutes of ice-time in Game 4, which was the first game Asham cracked double-digits in playing-time in the series.   

Milestone of the Week:
Hal Gill (D – Montreal Canadiens)

While the big defenceman is approaching the 1000-game mark in regular-season games played with 994 at the end of the season, Montreal's Hal Gill recently hit a noteworthy games-played plateau when he skated in Game 2 against the Bruins last Saturday. The contest was the 100th playoff game of his 13-year career, making him the 280th player in NHL history to reach the century mark in postseason games. The Canadiens won the game by a 2-0 score, with Gill making his contribution to the victory by blocking five shots. Congratulations Hal, from NHLPA.com, on this fantastic accomplishment!

Quote of the Week:

“You guys are making a bigger deal out of this than it is. It's hockey, I mean, you can go to the front of the net, take a puck to the face. You go and get stitches.”- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis, who had to undergo a double-root canal after taking an errant stick to the mouth during the Lightning-Penguins series, personifying the playoff spirit while talking to reporters.

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