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Maven's Ravin': Nine Things I've Learned From Five Weeks of Playoffs

WHAT NEXT FOR WASHINGTON? Dale Hunter did Capitals owner Ted Leonsis a big favor by taking over the Caps' reins. He did it reluctantly and that's why the coach contracted only through this Spring. Now g.m. George McPhee has to get serious about picking a coach who -- IF possible -- can get the most out of Alex Ovechkin. My choice would be Ron Wilson, who's been there and done that. Or, should McPhee want to go the AHL route and take an intelligent gamble, Kurt Kleinendorst would be my man.

• RANGERS AREN'T PANTHERS NOR FLYERS: One contest does not make a playoff but the Rangers-Devils first match was an eye-opener on a couple of counts: 1. Neither the Panthers nor the Flyers confronted the Devils with the stout defense presented by the Blueshirts on Monday night at The Garden; 2, Henrik Lundqvist is two notches above Jose Theodore, Scott Clemmensen and Ilya Bryzgalov. Therefore, until Peter DeBoer's skaters figure how to depose The King, they're faced with their ultimate playoff challenge.

• PATRICK TOO BUSY RAISING KANE: The fact that Patrick Kane scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2010 has allowed the gifted Blackhawks forward lots of leeway in terms of his off-ice shenanigans. He also gained a lucrative Stanley Cup credit card commercial to boot. But Kane continues to earn the kind of off-ice headlines the Blackhawks can do without; especially when the prodigy earns $5 million while contributing far less value for coach Joel Quenneville. The Windy City talk is that Blackhawks president John McDonough has had it with Kane and that Buffalo's gift to the Windy City has become trade bait. Or as Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Rosenbloom so aptly puts it: "The Blackhawks inertia tells me they don't know what to do or how to trade him." Who knows, the Devils or Islanders might be able to help!

• RICK NASH WILL SOON BE REMEMBERED: A few weeks before the trade deadline the biggest name dominating trade talk was Rick Nash. As it happened nobody made Columbus g.m. Scott Howson an offer he couldn't refuse -- Rangers included -- and Nash finished the season with the black-and-blue Blue Jackets. Rest assured that once the playoffs conclude, Nash's name with be front-and-center on the Aces-To-Be-Dealt Parade. Figure that any club which exited the playoffs post-haste will be interested; and none more than the Sharks. The emergence on Seventh Avenue of Chris Kreider as a future star should remove the Blueshirts from the list of Nash-seekers.

• A SEMINAR ON SEMIN: Ever since he became a Capitals regular a half-dozen years ago, Alexander Semin has bewitched, bothered and bewildered the Washington brass. The Russian's modus operandi was to provide a build-up to a letdown over and over again. Even more confounding than his play was Semin's refusal to learn English well enough to engage the media. Both Alex and the Caps have reached the point of no return. It will benefit both parties if Semin returns to Mother Russia, plays in the Kontinental Hockey League and gives the European reporters the same hard time he has for the peeved press in the States. The Maven wonders how Alex's $6.7 million salary translates into rubles and Russian goals.

• RE-VISITING THE BRODEUR RETURN: My pre-playoff theory had it that Martin Brodeur's return to the Devils as an active goalie next season hinged on a few factors: 1. New Jersey making the playoffs; 2. His Devils getting to the second playoff round; 3. How well he performs through two rounds. Having watched Marty through the Panthers and Flyers series, I was convinced that a return for 2012-2013 was inevitable. Now I'm not so sure. If the Garden State skaters give New York a good run in the third round -- maybe even win it -- I'm certain that Brodeur will be secure in the knowledge that he should come back. But un-Brodeur like mannerisms in Game One on Monday night tell me that retirement may not be out of the question. Should the Rangers win again on Wednesday night and possibly even sweep the series, I submit that Marty will resign himself to calling it a career. A lot will depend on his next three games and how he blunts the Blueshirts. Or, IF he does so!

• DO DUMB QUESTIONS HAVE TO BE ASKED? A journalism teacher at Brooklyn College once told our class that there's no such thing as a dumb question -- just dumb answers. After hearing some queries put to playoff people, I have to reconsider the prof's point. Try this one for size which was tossed at Zach Parise the day after Monday night's 3-0 Rangers win over his Devils. The newsman said: "Would it be nice to be playing with the lead at any point in these games?" Did he expect the Captain to say, "NO, it's not nice to have a lead?" Therefore, Parise's response was simply, "It's always nice to play with the lead." (The Maven learns something new every day!)

 "WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS" -- ARE YOU KIDDING? The so-called "World Championships" now being played in Helsinki and Stockholm continue to be a big deal to European puck fanatics. But they are beyond irrelevant to most American reporters. One of them, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review sums up my feelings with this observation: "The world championships are the only tournament anywhere less relevant than college basketball's CBI. Good for Sidney Crosby and all of the Penguins who blew it off."

• SHOT-BLOCKING; ART FORM OR PLAGUE? More and more purists are correctly noting that the spread of shot-blocking ruins the flow of a game, among other negatives. However, proponents -- such as John Tortorella -- laud the courage of such defenders. One thing is certain; shot-blocking could pave the turnpike leading to New York's next Stanley Cup. "Everybody on the team buys into shot-blocking," says Dan Girardi. "it's our defensive philosophy. When there's a breakdown guys are diving in front of shots. Everyone's doing it and not thinking about it. Shot-blocking is our first reaction." 


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