There's no missing the point(s)

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There's no missing the point(s)

By Michael Felger

Should we care where the Bruins finish in the Eastern Conference? I mean, really. It's hockey, right? What's the difference? The playoffs are the ultimate crap shoot. It's about momentum and hot goalies. Seedings don't matter. Home ice doesn't matter. Regular season records don't matter.

Right?

Well, not exactly.

Take a look at the last decade of Stanley Cup Finals.

2010 -- No. 2 Chicago over No. 7 Philadelphia
2009 -- No. 4 Pittsburgh over No. 2 Detroit
2008 -- No. 1 Detroit over No. 2 Pittsburgh
2007 -- No. 2 Anaheim over No. 4 Ottawa
2006 -- No. 2 Carolina over No. 8 Edmonton
2005 -- Lockout.
2004 -- No. 1 Tampa Bay over No. 6 Calgary
2003 -- No. 2 New Jersey over No. 7 Anaheim
2002 -- No. 1 Detroit over No. 3 Carolina
2001 -- No. 1 Colorado over No. 1 New Jersey

Nine seasons, eight different champions, eight years where either a first or second seed won the Cup. Surprising, right?

The list shows that the NHL may be a little more like the NBA than us hockey snobs care to admit.

Yes, unlike in basketball, you can emerge from the bottom of the NHL playoff seedings and actually do something. You can knock on the door of a championship -- as the 2010 Flyers, 2006 Oilers and 2003 Ducks would attest. And there's certainly a better variety of teams in the Finals from year to year. It's what makes the NHL playoffs infinitely more entertaining than the NBA version, where upsets rarely happen.

But, eventually, the result usually ends up the same in both sports. In the end, a team that established itself as one of the best during the regular season will prevail in the Finals.

Over the past decade, only one NHL team has emerged from "the pack" to win a Stanley Cup championship -- the 2008-09 Penguins, who featured Sydney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and Marc-Andre Fleury. Hardly the little engine that could.

Obviously, seedings don't guarantee you a thing. Recent history is littered with failed No. 1s and 2s (hello, Washington and San Jose . . . and Boston, for that matter). If the B's finish this season with 105 points to earn the No. 2 seed as opposed to finishing with 103 points to earn a three seed -- does it really matter? It's hard to imagine it would.

Yet, for whatever it's worth, history says otherwise. It's interesting to note that over the last decade, no No. 3 seed has won a Cup. Only once did a No. 3 even make the finals (the 2002 Hurricanes). Again, that may be a statistical oddity. Or it may be an indication that winning a crappy division gets you nothing.

If I were the Bruins I'd want to avoid the No. 3 seed because it could very well mean a first-round date with the Canadiens. Call me a scaredy cat, but I'd just as soon avoid them. Too much baggage. Too much hate. Even in victory, a series with the Habs would take a chunk out of the B's.

Besides, it's just a bad matchup. The B's bloody, 8-6 win over them last month was just their second victory over Montreal in 10 tries. Tim Thomas, for some reason, has problems with them. He's 9-18 with a 3.16 goals-against average lifetime against Montreal, the highest GAA he has against any opponent. It's even worse this year, as Thomas' 4.28 GAA against the Habs is over two goals higher than his GAA against everyone else. It will be interesting to see how he looks in the final regular-season matchup Tuesday night in Montreal.

As dawn breaks Monday morning, the Bruins find themselves sitting at the No. 2 position in the Eastern Conference with 84 points. They're two behind Philadelphia for the No. 1 seed and two points ahead of third-seed Washington with a game in hand against the Caps. The B's have 17 games left to play. The Habs appear destined to finish no lower than sixth.

You may not think that two points here or there could make a difference, and that's certainly the conventional wisdom. After all, it's just hockey, where the playoffs are supposed to be nothing more than a roll of the dice.

But call me crazy. I'll be watching the standings the rest of the way.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.