Now, many hardened skeptics would say Detroit was helped by the Flames' flaccid offensive attack Â– they had all of two shots on Dominik Hasek in the first 10 minutes, 12 after two periods and 19 in total Â– but this hardened skeptic can only go on doubting the top team in the Western Conference for so long. Of any Game 1 winner, the Wings looked the most complete.
Â• The ugliest part of the Wings/Flames game were the shockingly high number of empty seats in the stands. However, I'm sure Gary Bettman has a wholly reassuring, tidy explanation why that's a fantastic development for the game.
Â• Does any young NHL star get less recognition than New Jersey's Zach Parise? The 22-year-old, who led his team with 31 goals this year, had two in the Devils' 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.
He's a nice kid, too: I remember him calling into The Hockey News to get statistics on visors for a school assignment he was working on at the University of North Dakota, as well as receiving a subsequent Â“thank youÂ” call from him afterward. Good to see a solid citizen like that succeed.
Â• As most rational people expected, the Sabres beat the Islanders in the first game of their first-round tilt.
Buffalo can score with the best of them, but it was their defense that held them together in the early part of the game as they limited the Islanders to just one first-period shot.
I don't care if Wade Dubielewicz and Rick DiPietro are in net at the same time Â– the Islanders are on course to be swept unless they can generate offense without giving the Sabres a boatload of 2-on-1 rushes in return.
Â• The Thrashers and Lightning both received some shaky performances from goalies Kari Lehtonen and Johan Holmqvist Thursday, so it wasn't surprising to see both teams down 1-0 in their respective series against the Rangers and Devils.
Still, it's not all about goaltending in the playoffs. Two of the top four post-season save percentages thus far belong to Niklas Backstrom and Marty Turco, who both were on the losing side of the ledger in Game 1. You do need help from the guys in front of you.
Â• Heartening to see Penguins coach Michel Therrien stick up for Marc-Andre Fleury, but if the young goalie lays an egg or two early in Game 2 of Pittsburgh's series against the Senators, I have a feeling he'll be quickly stuck on the bench in favor of Jocelyn Thibault.
Shhhh...you don't want Lou hearing you singing praises about Zach Parise. If you start, then others will follow, and then he'll have to pay the guy AND deal with the fact that one of his replaceable cogs might have a recognizable face. As long as players like Parise, Gomez, etc play in Jersey they'll remain serfs in Lou's kingdom. Once Brodeur retires (and the Devils playoff creds with him) all bets are off. Players won't play for cheap just to get knocked out in the first round.
- Joe Willix