Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun debate Anaheim's Cup chances and the state of the playoff races:
Burnside: Greetings, my friend. Is it too soon to use the term "destiny" when talking about the Anaheim Ducks? Down 2-0 to lowly Colorado in another must-win situation Monday night, the Ducks stormed back and won 5-4, thanks to the magic of the timeless Teemu Selanne. He had two goals, the first on a penalty shot, and an assist in the second period to erase the two-goal deficit. Then, he added another goal for the hat trick and another assist for a five-point night. The Ducks solidified their hold on a postseason berth.
Anaheim's top PR man, Alex Gilchrist, told us Selanne became the first 40 or older player in NHL history to post three goals and five points in a single game. Hall of Fame? You bet. But you know Selanne has his sights set on another Stanley Cup. With the way the never-say-die Ducks are going, Vancouver, Detroit and San Jose are looking at Anaheim and hoping they don't draw it in the first round.
LeBrun: Yes, you were right and I was wrong regarding Hiller/Emery. Oh well ... c'est la vie, mon ami.
But let's focus on Selanne. Not nearly enough has been said this season about the campaign he's having. His 75 points tie him with Jonathan Toews and Jarome Iginla and puts him only one point behind Henrik Zetterberg. Are you kidding me? This is a player who has nearly retired over the past few years. What the 40-year-old Finnish Flash is doing at his age is absolutely sensational. If he were doing it in any of the bigger Northeast hockey markets, this would be a much bigger story. And there may not be a classier player in the game. Mr. Selanne, take a bow, and see you in the playoffs!
Speaking of playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks also picked up two huge points to stay one point back of Anaheim in a 3-2 overtime thriller against Detroit at Joe Louis Arena.
And since you mentioned I was wrong about Hiller/Emery, I guess it's fair game to mention I predicted a Hawks OT win in the Games to Watch on Monday morning! Ha! The hockey game between the Original Six and divisional rivals was marred somewhat by a controversial hit in the first period, when Detroit winger Todd Bertuzzi got a five-minute major and a game misconduct after leveling Chicago center Ryan Johnson.
This is a tough one. While I don't think any head shot should be tolerated, the hit was more clumsy than vicious. The league seems to agree, since a source confirmed to me this morning there will be no hearing for Bertuzzi. His game misconduct is all he'll get.
Burnside: I didn't mean to throw you under the bus with the Emery comment, even though I was right. And you were once again prescient with your Hawks pick. Detroit got a terrific game from backup netminder Joey MacDonald, so maybe there aren't any worries about its goaltending depth with Jimmy Howard set to return as early as Wednesday.
I am with you on the Bertuzzi hit. Johnson played after the hit, and I thought the on-ice call was the right one. The league got this one right, even though there will be those who think Bertuzzi should have received a game or two because, well, he's Todd Bertuzzi.
Chicago-Boston is part of a Tuesday slate that includes a couple of must-see games. I'll be flicking from the Boston game to Philly/Pittsburgh, as the Penguins have a chance to move into a tie atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with a regulation win. The Flyers have a game in hand with the angst dial turned up to DEFCON 4; a loss to the hated Pens would be big news. What is your prediction on this one, ol' Kreskin?
LeBrun: I think the Flyers take it in regulation. The Penguins have been unbelievable without their top two stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury, in particular, has been all-world in net, but I see Philly urgently wanting to take this one to stay ahead in the standings. If the Penguins end up passing the Flyers for the Atlantic lead, how damaging would that be mentally for Philadelphia, given that Pittsburgh would have done it without Crosby and Malkin?
I'll also be checking out Atlanta-Montreal, if for no reason than to see if the Canadiens can actually score a goal. Three games and counting in the Habs' drought. Mercy. And there's a couple of big ones out West with Dallas at Phoenix and Vancouver at Nashville. The Canucks can do no wrong at the top of the NHL standings, but the Preds are red-hot and have won six straight. We'll see how Vancouver responds without Dan Hamhuis (concussion) in the lineup.
Burnside: Yes, the Montreal situation is intriguing, given that Buffalo (in Toronto to face the fading Leafs tonight) and the New York Rangers can pass Montreal unless the Habs start to put some points on the board. I don't think there is any danger of the Habs falling out of the playoff race, although a loss to Atlanta and a win by Carolina in Washington tonight will certainly make the folks in Habs land more nervous.
This is pretty much last-gasp time for the Canes (five points out of eighth) and the Leafs (seven points back). My guess is when we convene tomorrow morning we can stop talking about who might get in and who's going to finish where in the Eastern Conference; I see the Caps and Habs coming up with wins tonight.
LeBrun: The Stars must win tonight in Phoenix. They are now four points back of No. 8 Chicago. The Stars have played the fewest games (74) of any team in the West, but they have to make that count with points in the standings. Last night was brutal for the Stars and Calgary Flames, who sat idle while the Ducks and Hawks picked up two points apiece. The Flames are three points back of the Hawks but have played 77 games, so they're barely hanging on. Calgary's game against Anaheim tomorrow night is the game of the year. Until tomorrow, my friend.