Thursday, March 13, 2008

"He's Not Dead Yet"

Resiliency. It's a tough thing for a hockey team to acquire, but when there, often separates the Stanley Cup winning teams from the skilled, but not quite over the hump, competition.

If you look back at the last few Playoff seasons, there were some pretty resilient teams. Three years ago, Tampa Bay had to win a game 6 in Calgary and then go back to Tampa and win game 7 of the finals. Two years ago, you had a Carolina team that got shellacked 5-0 by Edmonton in game 6 and then rebounded in game 7 to claim the Cup. Last season we unfortunately never got to see what mettle Anaheim was made of because... they were just that good.

It will be fascinating to see what role resiliency plays in the upcoming playoffs... and regular season stretch drive for that matter. The below column from Ross McKeon for Yahoo! Sports chronicles the San Jose Sharks recent playoff woes as well as a few thoughts about how this season might be different for the Sharks. Will it?;_ylt=AuuwnATpxxJSiERqXMQ8OGZ7vLYF?slug=rm-sanjosesharks031108&prov=yhoo&type=lgns&

In addition the playoffs themselves, there's interesting story lines around teams pushing to make it to the final 16. There will likely be more teams on the brink and plots that develop between now and the end of the regular season, but one of the most interesting right now is Washington.

The Capitals had a horrendous beginning to the season which resulted in the replacement of their head coach. Since that time, they've played solid hockey as a team as well as relied on the wizardry of all-world left wing Alexander Ovechkin. This push to the playoffs might be too much of an uphill battle, though, especially given the events of earlier this week. On Saturday they led the Bruins 1-0 with only a few minutes remaining, only to implode led by Donald Brashear and his 6 minutes in penalties... leading to a 2-1 loss. The very next day they played the Penguins in a superstar matchup of Sidney Crosby vs Ovechkin and were well on their way to getting at least a point when that was snatched away by a Nicklas Backstrom "own-goal" on a clearing attempt.

After two losses like this and being 6 points out of the 8 seed, the Caps proceeded to win their next game 3-2 over Calgary and now sit 4 back of Philadelphia in the race for the last playoff spot. It could be that Washington is just too far back (and has too much competition with the Leafs and Panthers also pushing to catch the Flyers), but if Washington does pull off the comeback, they'll be a scary playoff opponent for anyone, both because of Ovechkin and what they would have to have in spades to reach that point... the aforementioned resiliency.

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