The following article was written by guest contributor, Howard Roark. Playoff fever has caught Howard, to the point he is now referring to himself as Howie. Next stop – Armageddon.
BY HOWIE ROARK
Huge home win. The fans have suffered through six awful seasons and a lockout. This one was for them. I was not fortunate enough to be at the game, but I could feel the electricity coming through the television, and I am hoarse as well today. Goaltending and special teams determines who wins playoff series. This one is far from over, but the Kings have established decisive advantages in both categories. Luongo has looked shaky since Kesler beat him in the Gold Medal game. Richardson made him look like Dan Cloutier. Raycroft is not the answer. Can Vancouver turn it around?
The kids have taken control of this team. Wayne Simmonds (21), Drew Doughty (20), Anze Kopitar (22), Jack Johnson (23), Brad Richardson (25), Dustin Brown (25), Matt Greene (26) and Jonathan Quick (24) form arguably the youngest and one of the most talented cores this side of Pittsburgh. It is their team now and they are proving it night after night. Throw in some veteran leadership and this team can do some damage.
How would you like to be Rob Scuderi. You come up through the Penguin system as a guy who makes the most out of limited talent. You start to play big minutes because you have an uncanny sense of where to be on the ice. Then, you play a key role on a Cup-winning team and parley that success into a large contract in Los Angeles. Without maybe realizing it, you have stumbled on to another young core that can do some damage over the four year term of that contract. If I’m him, I’m in the gym every day this summer to make sure I can stick around for a while.
Thank God Columbus is cheap. We’ll gladly pay Frederick Modin for two months and, hopefully, will give them that seventh round pick. All the guy has done is earned another year in LA.
Speaking of which, Jeff Halpern finally decided to show why he was worth the trade. Give this guy more ice time in the defensive zone with the game on the line. A shot blocking machine.
Quite frankly, Jack Johnson has been a disappointment throughout much of his tenure. He came here with a lot of hype. Last season was barely short of a disaster. Those days seem to be over. The guy has found his groove and could be on the verge of stardom. I just wish I was as sure that he wants to be here long term like I know Doughty does.
Now, to the age old question, if I was starting a franchise and could pick any player…? Well, there are the obvious choices of Crosby and Ovechkin, but two players in this series have moved themselves into the conversation. I put a lot of stock in what happened at the Olympics. There you had immense pressure as the best players in the world went after each other in an elimination format. Ryan Kesler was the best player on the U.S. team. The guy does everything for Vancouver. He wins faceoffs, blocks shots, sets up his linemates, forechecks relentlessly. Drew Doughty might not be the best defenseman in the NHL. Yet. Is there any doubt he soon will be? These two guys are just a pleasure to watch.
Game fours are always when series become interesting. It results in a 2-2 tie or one team taking decisive control at 3-1. Nothing has been settled. Nothing has been proven.