Saturday, April 14, 2007

Old and Busted vs. New Hotness

During the first period of the Ottawa-Pittsburgh game this afternoon they started talking about the team leaders – guys like Crosby, Malkin, Heatley and Spezza, all leading their teams and sometimes the league in various categories. It seems that this postseason, as it has been the whole season, the storyline that stands out above all else is the changing of the guard from generation to generation. There is a phenomenal amount of highly skilled youth in this year’s playoffs; on the same line, there is also a phenomenal amount of grizzled veterans who bear the wounds of many a postseason battle.

It happens every year, but there seems to be an inordinate number of players on both sides of the coin this season. It’s an interesting aspect of the playoffs that is heightened this year – who will overcome first-time jitters and who won’t; who will use the wisdom of age and experience and who won’t.

We’ll start with one of the most anticipated series of the first round, Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh.

The Preschoolers:
- Sidney Crosby, 19 – Did you know that Crosby is playing in his first playoff series? Did you know he’s only 19 years old? Did you know that he was the youngest player to lead the league in scoring? Yup, me neither. Luckily we have the helpful boys at Versus and NBC to remind us every 10 seconds. Anyways, he's an okay hockey player I guess.

- Jordan Staal, 18 – Staal has been overshadowed a bit by Crosby and fellow rookie Evgeni Malkin, but he has quietly scored 29 goals and become a key member of the Penguins’ penalty-killing crew, notching a league-leading 7 shorthanded goals. He was also arguably Pittsburgh’s best player in the disastrous Game 1 loss.

- Marc-Andre Fleury, 23 – Fleury’s inconsistency this season can largely be contributed to youth and not a lack of talent (as much as I’d like to believe the latter). When he’s shaky, not even the Penguins’ “defense” can keep the puck out of the net. When he’s on, though, very little will get by him. If he can find his groove the Penguins will be very hard to beat. That's if. If.

- Jason Spezza, 23 – Spezza was taken 2nd overall in the 2001 draft and hasn’t disappointed, quickly becoming a leader and a fan favorite for the Ottawa Senators. Despite missing 15 games with injury, he has posted a career high in goals (34) and was a +19 this season.

- Ray Emery, 24 – When Dominik Hasek was sidelined with injury last year Emery was forced to shoulder the burden and carried the Sens into the conference quarterfinals. He returns this year with a full season as the number one goaltender and a year of postseason experience under his belt but may still be prone to the mistakes of youth.

- Andrej Meszaros, 22 – The loss of Chara and Pothier in the offseason left a big hole on the Ottawa blueline, forcing rookie defenseman Meszaros to try and help fill the void. He had a decent offensive year but was a -15 on an offensively potent Senators team.

The Oldtimers:
- Gary Roberts, 40 – Roberts will turn 41 at the end of May and brings with him 13 trips to the playoffs, including a Stanley Cup victory with the 1987-88 Calgary Flames. He has 85 points in 115 playoff games and has experienced a resurgence of sorts since being traded from the Panthers at the deadline.

- Mark Recchi, 39 – With 22 playoff appearances and 2 Stanley Cups to his name, Recchi is the most experienced on either roster. He was picked up by the ‘Canes en route to their Stanley Cup run last season and returned to the team that drafted him for conceivably one last run, despite reports of tension last season between Recchi and pipsqueak Crosby.

- Daniel Alfredsson, 34 – For all the talk of youth and pre-teens on the Penguins squad, Alfredsson is the oldest player on the just 34. He has often been the target of some criticism, as the captain of a Canadian team is prone to be, but has continued to lead his team, picking up 87 points in 77 games. He has appeared in every single Ottawa Senators playoff game, the only Senator to do so.

Up next...Rangers and Thrashers...


george said...

i'm tired to day and apologize if i'm just missing the joke, but i think you might mean Jordan Staal.

CapsChick said...

Oops...yup. I meant Jordan. Fixed it.

Damn those Staals, they all look the same! I'm going to be really confused when all four of them are in the NHL.

george said...

haha, i know, imagine being their mother. most parents have a hard enough time keeping four kids straight, let alone if they are all blonde and two feet taller than you. it probably becomes hard to distinguish facial features at that point.