Mulling Over the Mule

by Ryan

I really wanted to find some hack hockey article off ESPN and destroy it FJM-style for your viewing pleasure. Unfortunately, the likes of Burnside and Hradek were busy saying absolutely nothing of interest this week. Even their The Hockey News ringer Adam Proteau went fishing for an awfully meek human interest piece to warm our cockles. So, instead of destroying the intellectual property of others, I’m forced to come up with something on my own.

Oh boy.

Habs are dead.

Avalanche never had a chance.

For the most part the second round has been a complete wash. You may be reading this while watching the Penguins play the Rangers, but I promise you that the Rangers will not win that series. Even with King Henrik coming up big, the Rangers aren’t going to get the scoring jump they need and still have no answer for Crosby/Hossa/Dupuis.

In fact, you could make the case that the Penguins are the most complete team left in the postseason. Tons of depth, secondary scoring, and two reliable goaltenders if necessary. They were and still are my pick to win the Cup this year, and it will be exciting to see how they perform down the stretch.

However, that isn’t the story this postseason.

Johan Franzen is.

Franzen is having the spring of his life, and that is making all the difference for the Red Wings. His nine goals in four games pushed the Red Wings to an easy sweep of Colorado after struggling with a far less talented Nashville team. Franzen is having a breakout year, but this postseason is his true coming out party.

The same can be said for R.J. Umberger(?!?), who has single-handedly taken out Carey Price and the Canadiens. Most people remember him from a little incident he had with Brian Campbell a few postseasons ago, but this year Umberger is putting the puck in the net. Danny Briere is going to get the praise for his cuddly demeanor, inability to grow facial hair, and uncanny ability to stand around and wait for the puck to glide his way, but Umberger is the one carrying the Flyers down the stretch. He and Marty Biron are sure to get their own vulgar hand signal named after them if they can somehow get past Pittsburgh.

Still, I don’t think anyone will get past the Pens and it seems like Pittsburgh and Detroit are destined for the finals. However, I’d hate to look past the penultimate playoff series just because anyone can have a Johan Franzen hiding on their team. In the playoffs, everything gets magnified and the game gets simpler and simpler as it moves along.

Because of this, any one person can go on a run like Franzen and Umberger are currently having, and just as quickly as that uncanny scoring touch came it can leave. Anyone remember the playoffs Fernando Pisani had with Edmonton back in 2006? 14 goals in 24 games, a total he has only matched over the entire regular season since.

I could go on and on with the names of big time playoff performers, but the only people that seem to remember these players are the ones who watched their team fall at their hands. Many a “best” or “deepest” or “favorite” team has been knocked out by a player reaching their peak at just the right time.

So while it does seem like it’s over before it even started, we’ve got a long way to go before anything is settled.