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Maven's Ravin': 22 Things I Learned After a Week of Playoffs



CRAIG ANDERSON -- UNDERRATED: He won't win The Vezina Trophy but Craig Anderson -- more than any Senator -- has kept Ottawa alive in the playoffs. When a goalie wins two overtime playoff games in a row, he's got the goods. But Andy will have his test of tests on Saturday night at The Garden. Rangers will be storming.

PENGUINS ALIVE; ARE FLYERS? Before Game Four of the Pitt-Philly series, I told a pal that the Penguins would win. This club is too good -- up, down, sideways; but not goaltending -- to exit in four. Ditto, Vancouver. Say what you will about Sidney Crosby but nobody competes harder than The-No-Longer-Kid. He's reminding more and more of Terrible Ted Lindsay, the Detroit Hall of Famer of Gordie Howe years. Yeah, Philly could fold because of the perennial Achilles heel -- goaltending.

BUMBLING BRYZ:
When the season started, The Maven predicted that Ilya Bryzgalov would decline and fall in the playoffs. It took three games for Humpty to begin his Dumpty. I have grave doubts that ill-placed Ilya can recover. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Sergei Bobrovsky winds up starting Game Six; if not Five.

HOO-RAY FOR HOLLAND: No matter what happens to the Red Wings in their encounter with Nashville,  the most under-recognized g.m. in the NHL has to be the Red Wings' quiet-as-a-churchmouse, Ken Holland.

DASH AND CASH: Flash and dash may win Ottawa's Erik Karlsson the Norris Trophy. Nevertheless -- based on the Rangers-Senators series --  I'd rather have Dan Girardi or Ryan McDonagh on my blue line, game in and game out. Next season may be another story on this one.

ROUGH ON REFS: Any referee who gets miffed over criticism should go into the ping pong business. If there are any problems today in relation to the zebras, they are: 1. The game is too fast for them to keep up; even with two following the play; 2. Virtually all the veteran officials -- such as Kerry Fraser -- have retired. And let's not be hypocritical; I ripped Kerry when he was in his prime. And he knows it; and will never let The Maven forget it.

RODENTS RULE: Amazing how the Panthers again have turned rats into the most beloved pets this side of Minnie Mouse.

VIOLENCE, YES, BUT: A lot of Nervous Nelly newsmen -- "Hockey Come-Latelys" is what I call them -- have come out of the woodwork to rip The Game's "violence." I have news for them; 1. It was violent in 1912, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1952, 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2002; 2. The Big Bad Bruins and Broad Street Bullies won Stanley Cups because they played tough, tough, TOUGHER hockey; 3. Brendan Shanahan is doing his best to control the dirty stuff; 4. Brian Burke is right when he says it's the INTENSITY that's caused much of the hullabaloo.

WRONG, JOE!: With 20-20 hindsight, I can say that Joe Thornton's October rip on the Rangers must go down as the most distorted evaluation of a foe in 2011-2012.

HOCKEY NEWS -- OR DOESN'T KNOW?: My trusty edition of The Hockey News Yearbook is sitting in front of me as it was last October. The "Bible of Hockey" picked the Panthers to finish fourteenth in the Conference and -- guess who? -- the Senators to be dead last. Try telling that to the Devils and Rangers today!

BYE-BYE, ROBERTO: The reign of Roberto Luongo in Vancouver is over; kaput! The only question will be which playoff-starved team will take on his bloated contract? Answer: The Toronto Maple Leafs.

COOL CLAUDE: I don't know about you but Claude Julien never ceases to impress me with his always-professional demeanor. The Maven is tempted to call the Bruins boss a cool cat but he does have a temper; and when it explodes there's still something sophisticated about him.

WHITHER MARTY?: Martin Brodeur's decision -- to retire or not to retire? -- will be determined by his performances from the here and now. Or, to put it another way; whether the Devils can ascend to the second round or not.

If New Jersey can beat Florida -- thanks to Marty -- it will be Brodeur's decision. If the Devs exit, Stage Left in Round One, it more likely will be management telling Mister Goalie, THAT time has come.

HI-DEF, YAY!: Whoever said that Hi-Def would be a boost for hockey-watchers was guilty of an understatement. It makes viewing 25 percent better and more fun; especially replays.

PUT IT AWAY: For all that it's worth, the Presidents' Trophy should be vetoed and placed in John Ziegler's permanent collection of silverware.

GOOD FOR THE NON-GIANTS: In this age of hockey giants, it's reassuring to know that both compact-sized Gionta Brothers, Brian and Stephen, now are in the NHL. And don't ask me which one is bigger?

IS IT POSSIBLE: Yeah, I believe that Pittsburgh CAN win four in a row from Philly; now that one win is in the cards. The Flyers goaltending re-defines the word "sieve."

DEFENDING SIDNEY: This Crosby fellow has taken white heat from many quarters yet he unhesitatingly faces the media and -- better still -- says what he believes whether you, me or your Uncle Dudley like it or not. And I like that.

SAVE TOM: Frankly, I don't know what they're thinking in Edmonton but my advice to ownership is that firing Tom Renney is not the answer to a franchise rejuvenation; giving him a new, long-term deal is! After Brent Sutter was fired, he was asked if he wanted the Oilers job. With the utmost class, Brent said, "I hope they re-hire Tom; he's a good coach."

NO PANIC IN BUFFALO: The Maven is tickled pink that Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff will return to the Sabres high command. What's more it's gratifying to know that owner Terry Pegula did not capitulate to media pressure to can two good men. There's no panic in Sabreland and that's good!

NICE GOING, TRAVIS: Islanders fans loved Travis Green when he was a defensive center-ice star in Nassau. Lately, Green has carved out a neat career in Portland, Oregon as assistant coach and assistant g.m. of the WHL Winterhawks. His club just won a hard-fought seven-game series with the Kamloops Blazers and next face the Tri-Cities Americans for the Western Championships. On behalf of the Travis Green Marching and Chowder Society, The Maven has one message: GO, WINTERHAWKS, GO!

WHAT A CAPTAIN: If ever there has been a captain who leads by example -- scoring, defensive play, hitting, you-name-it -- Ryan Callahan is that man. Rarely has there been a player of Cally's size who cleanly hits bigger foes over and over and over again. He reminds me of Ted (Teeder) Kennedy, Maple Leafs "C" man of the late 1940s and early 1950s who was on four Cup-winners in five years.

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