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Morning Skate: Playoff Name Game

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci has covered hockey for Rotowire since 2002 and is the author of Blue Line Buzz since 2011 as well as being the co-author of Morning Skate. He also is a contributor to Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils blog and podcast. He is an English teacher and formerly wrote for The Coast Star in Manasquan, New Jersey where he and his sports section won several New Jersey Press Association awards. Dan Pennucci is a supporter of the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC. He's attended sporting events in six countries.

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Saturday, April 20
Subject: Playoff Name Game
 
The playoffs are almost here and it's time for a little "name game." I'm going to give you some names and you pick which trio is the better heading into the postseason. Then I'll tell you if you're wrong LOL. Seriously, let's see if we agree and explore why we don't. Health could be a big factor.

Let's roll through this quick and keep our reasons Twitter-worthy. Cool?

1. Joe Thornton -- Patrick Marleau -- Logan Couture OR Daniel Sedin -- Henrik Sedin -- Ryan Kesler

2. Daniel Sedin -- Henrik Sedin -- Ryan Kesler OR Pavel Datsyuk -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Johan Franzen

3. Pavel Datsyuk -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Johan Franzen OR Anze Kopitar -- Mike Richards -- Jeff Carter

4. Anze Kopitar -- Mike Richards -- Jeff Carter OR Ryan Getzlaf -- Corey Perry -- Bobby Ryan

5. Ryan Getzlaf -- Corey Perry -- Bobby Ryan OR Zach Parise -- Mikko Koivu -- Jason Pominville

6. Zach Parise -- Mikko Koivu -- Jason Pominville OR Alexander Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Mike Ribeiro

7. Alexander Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Mike Ribeiro OR Patrice Bergeron -- Milan Lucic -- Brad Marchand

8. Patrice Bergeron -- Milan Lucic -- Brad Marchand OR Phil Kessel -- Nazem Kadri -- Joffrey Lupul

9. Phil Kessel -- Nazem Kadri -- Joffrey Lupul OR Max Pacioretty -- Tomas Plekanec -- Michael Ryder

10. Max Pacioretty -- Tomas Plekanec -- Michael Ryder OR John Tavares -- Matt Moulson -- Brad Boyes

11. ANY of the above VS Sidney Crosby -- Evgeni Malkin -- James Neal?

12. ANY of the above (including the Pens' boys) VS Jonathan Toews -- Patrick Kane -- Marian Hossa?

Get at 'er.
Eagle out.
 
From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Saturday, April 20
Subject: Parade Plans
 
The playoffs have been cancelled. The other 15 teams that are in or will be in the playoffs have conceded that Toronto won the Cup on Saturday night when they beat Ottawa. Sounded like they were in the provincial capital there rather than the national one.

Also, is Montreal trying to play defense at all? Have they collectively been betting the over the last week? Wow. Toronto hung five on them, Philadelphia seven, Pittsburgh six and the Caps put up six on them tonight. Sandwiched in all that is a 3-2 win over juggernaut Tampa Bay. I'm worried now if I'm the Habs and Claude Julien.

Hell of a game in Manitoba this afternoon. Impressive seeing the Isles score four goals with Matt Moulson and John Tavares not getting anything.

Last note of the beginning...We've all known Boston play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards of NESN to be a man of enthusiasm, unabashed bias and "did he just say that?" moments topped himself on Saturday. While playing the Penguins, Edwards likened Pittsburgh pest Matt Cooke to R.F. Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan. I'm just going to leave that there and let it sink in on its own.

Now to the name game...

1. Joe Thornton -- Patrick Marleau -- Logan Couture OR Daniel Sedin -- Henrik Sedin -- Ryan Kesler: San Jose's trio. When they decide to play they can be a force and they're more physical than the twins. Window is still slightly cracked in San Jose, but not for much longer.

2. Daniel Sedin -- Henrik Sedin -- Ryan Kesler OR Pavel Datsyuk -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Johan Franzen. The twins negate some (just some) of the Wings' top duo's skill and a healthy Kesler, 2011 era Kesler, can be an absolute force. Shamu's a sleeper, if you will, heading into April.

3. Pavel Datsyuk -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Johan Franzen OR Anze Kopitar -- Mike Richards -- Jeff Carter. LA can not be overlooked and Kopitar is ridiculously skilled (not Datsyukian), Richards and Carter can take over games when they wish.

4. Anze Kopitar -- Mike Richards -- Jeff Carter OR Ryan Getzlaf -- Corey Perry -- Bobby Ryan. Until the Ducks beat LA in playoffs I'm taking the Kings' trio of centers.

5. Ryan Getzlaf -- Corey Perry -- Bobby Ryan OR Zach Parise -- Mikku Koivu -- Jason Pominville: Quack Quack Quack, Mr. Ducksworth. Getzlaf and Perry have the grit and the skill and can frustrate the opposition. Close one though.

6. Zach Parise -- Mikku Koivu -- Jason Pominville OR Alexander Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Mike Ribeiro... Parise is a tireless worker, but the skill of the DC trio is too much. That said, I'll take the hard work and leadership of the Wild over the Flash of DC

7. Alexander Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Mike Ribeiro OR Patrice Bergeron -- Milan Lucic -- Brad Marchand: If all were healthy, easily Boston's trio. Bergeron and Marchand are playing but brain pain is serious. Lucic has been a shell of himself. Can't believe I'm saying this, but the Caps.

8. Patrice Bergeron -- Milan Lucic -- Brad Marchand OR Phil Kessel -- Nazem Kadri -- Joffrey Lupul: Again, all are healthy, it's an easy choice. Kessel and Kadri have something special working in Toronto., factor in Lupul and JvR, again, can't beleive I'm saying it, but the Buds.

9. Phil Kessel -- Nazem Kadri -- Joffrey Lupul OR Max Pacioretty -- Tomas Plekanec -- Michael Ryder: Go Leafs Go. I'm questioning how Montreal is playing right now. 

10. Max Pacioretty -- Tomas Plekanec -- Michael Ryder OR John Tavares -- Matt Moulson -- Brad Boyes: Islanders. Tavares is a dark horse Hart candidate, Moulson's one of the more quiet 30-goal guys ever. Seriously, John Tavares is insanely good. 

11. ANY of the above VS Sidney Crosby -- Evgeni Malkin -- James Neal? What no Iginla? In terms of skill, the Washington duo, in terms of work ethic, maybe Parise or a healthy Boston trio, but the Pens are good. 

12. ANY of the above (including the Pens' boys) VS Jonathan Toews -- Patrick Kane -- Marian Hossa? I'm taking Toews and Kane over the Penguins just as a Devils' advocate stance. Toews is a special player and Kaner has emerged as elite this season.

I await your obvious agreements to my sagacity, yours comes later.

-DAN-
 
From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Sunday, April 21
Subject: Dan's Grades
 
I give Edwards credit for his apology. Tensions have been high in Boston and I suspect the frustrations just squirted out. I'll forgive him on that. Sometimes we say stupid things. We're human. I do give David Ortiz credit for his comments before today's Sox game -- you might not like his use of profanity, but he summed things up really, really well.

As for our trios, we're quite close in our opinions. Whaddya know!

1. Wrong. Kesler plus the Sedins are a hair better than the San Jose trio, largely because of Thornton and Marleau's collective career minus-37 in the postseason.

2. Correct. Kesler is a force, Zetterberg is too injury prone and so is Franzen. Shamu!

3. Correct again. I love the Wings, but Kopitar - Richards - Carter are (mostly) crazy good.

4. Correct again, but this was close. Jeff Carter is the weak link. Mike Richards' defensive ability seals it for me, but this was close. The Ducks are studs, too.

5. Correct again, but closer than you think. The Wild's captain line is superb, but they just don't have the experience I want heading into the postseason.

6. Wrong. Ovechkin is peaking at the right time and there's a maturity to the Caps' game that hasn't been there before. I wanted to say the Wild. I really did. Again, the postseason inexperience stings.

7. Correct. The Caps are supremely talented, but the grit of the Bruins -- when healthy -- would eat them alive. But they're not healthy.

8. Correct. Take out the injuries and there's no question it's Bruins all the way. But I'm worried about them. Kessel may struggle in the playoffs and Kadri will all but disappear. Lupul is solid, but the brain pain concerns me. But the Leafs could go a couple rounds. Can't believe I said that.

9. Correct. Na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, bye-bye Habs.

10. Correct. Tavares is in the Hart hunt and Moulson is seriously underrated. They won't get to the Cup Final like you've predicted, but they'll push whatever team(s) they face. The Habs are circling the bowl if things don't change fast.

11. Correct. I'm worried about the health of the Pens' big three. So I'm taking the Caps, Wild and the Ducks over them.

12. Correct. There is no better and healthy trio right now than Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. I'd even take them over Crosby-Malkin-Neal, if all were healthy. Those Hawks are special.

Not bad -- just two wrong. Hahahaha.

My turn. Bring it on.
Eagle out.
 
From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Sunday, April 21
Subject: D-Fense
 
Yes, Ortiz's comments were powerful and the whole situation was captivating on Friday. I'm okay with the profanity in a small sense, but it's not like kids in Boston haven't heard it before.

Thank you for judging my personal opinions correct. You cited stats, you didn't say there'd be specifics on this? (I'm channeling my students).

1. Corey Schneider and Roberto Luongo/Alexander Edler/Dan Hamhuis v. Antii Niemi/Dan Boyle/Marc-Eduoard Vlasic

2. Corey Schneider (Bobby Lu, too)/Alexander Edler/Dan Hamhuis v. Jimmy Howard/Nicklas Kronwall/Jonathan Ericsson

3. Jimmy Howard/Nicklas Kronwall/Jonathan Ericsson (wow the Wings are weak on the back end) v. Jonathan Quick/Drew Doughty/Slava Voynov

4. Jonathan Quick/Drew Doughty/Slava Voynov v. Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth/Francois Beauchemin/Sheldon Souray

5. Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth/Francois Beauchemin/Sheldon Souray v. Niklas Backstrom/Ryan Suter/Jonas Brodin

6. Niklas Backstrom/Ryan Suter/Jonas Brodin v. Brian Elliott (possibly Jaroslav Halak too)/Alex Pietrangelo/Kevin Shattenkirk/Jay Bouwmeester

7.Brian Elliott (possibly Jaroslav Halak too)/Alex Pietrangelo/Kevin Shattenkirk/Jay Bouwmeester v. Braden Holtby/Mike Green/Karl Alzner/John Carlson

8. Braden Holtby/Mike Green/Karl Alzner/John Carlson v. Tuukka Rask/Zdeno Chara/Andrew Ference/Dougie Hamilton

9. Tuukka Rask/Zdeno Chara/Andrew Ference v. Craig Anderson/Sergei Gonchar/Chris Phillips (possibly Erik Karlsson)

10. Craig Anderson/Sergei Gonchar/Chris Phillips (possibly Erik Karlsson) v. Carey Price/P.K. Subban/Andrei Markov/Alexei Emelin

11. Carey Price/P.K. Subban/Andrei Markov/Alexei Emelin v. James Reimer/Dion Phaneuf/Cody Franson/Mark Fraser

12.  James Reimer/Dion Phaneuf/Cody Franson/Mark Fraser v. Evgeni Nakokov/Mark Streit/Lubomir Visnovsky/Travis Hamonic

Any of the above v. Marc-Andre Fleury/Kris Letang/Paul Marin/Matt Niskanen?

Bubble team bonus: Sergei Bobrovsky/Jack Johnson/Fedor Tyutin/James Wisniewski v. Kari Lehtonen/Alex Goligoski/Trevor Daley/Stephane Robidas

Easy one: Ondrej Pavelec/Dustin Byfuglien/Tobias Enstrom/Zach Bogosian v. Henrik Lundqvist/ Ryan McDonagh/Dan Girardi/Michael Del Zotto?

Have at it...
 
From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Sunday, April 21
Subject: Rangers Turning Around
 
You've picked some doozies. Let me try:

1. Antti Niemi, Dan Boyle and Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, by a hair. I give a slight advantage to the Orcas' D because of Hamhuis, but Niemi has been Vezina-worthy this season. Plus he has that Cup ring ...

2. Cory Schneider/Bobby Lou, Alexander Edler and Dan Hamhuis. I like Niklas Kronwall, but Jonathan Ericsson is still waaaay too prone to brain farts for my liking.

3. Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov. Questions? I dare you.

4. Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov. Ditto. I like Beauchemin and all, but there is no comparison.

5. Niklas Backstrom, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin. I don't care if Brodin is a rookie, he's unflappable. Suter-lite already. And exactly who is the starter in Anaheim these days, any way?

6. Niklas Backstrom, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin. I don't trust the Blues' goaltending, Jay Bouwmeester is a curse on playoff success and, no matter how good Alex Pietrangelo is, St. Louis cannot overcome their nagging coach. They've shut him out.

7. Braden Holtby, Mike Green, John Carlson and Karl Alzner. Holtby's save percentage is better and that D trio combines O and D in a better defined way than the Blues' counterparts.

8. Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Dougie Hamilton ... on Rask and Chara alone. Chara has the ability to completely negate the opposition's best line. Few others can say the same.

9. Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference. As good as Craig Anderson is, the Sens are lost without Erik Karlsson, and I don't know if he's truly 100 percent. Oh ya -- Sergei Gonchar sucks.

10. Craig Anderson, Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips and Erik Karlsson. I'd take the Habs' D trio for sure, but Carey Price gives me the heebie jeebies right now. What's up with him?

11. James Reimer, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson and Mark Fraser. Wow, I can't believe I chose that side, either, but they're remarkably steady within a tighter structure. And they block a lot more shots. That counts in the postseason.

12. Hmmmm ... James Reimer, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson and Mark Fraser. Reimer's save percentage is better than Nabokov's, and Streit's plus-minus scares me. A lot.

13. Any better than Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin? Heck, yah! Martin has a busted hand and as much as I love Fleury, his ups and downs drive me nuts. Which MAF will we get? The Kings are ahead of them for sure, and maybe even the Caps if Mike Green keeps up his Kris Letang-like ways -- Carlson and Alzner >> Niskanen and Martin.

Bubble team bonus: Sergei Bobrovsky, Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski. Bob the goalie makes all the difference. I'd hate to line up against those guys.

Bonus team again: Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh. I love the Jets' trio, but Bogey's out with a concussion suffered yesterday and Enstom's out (again). King Henrik can steal games all on his own and Girardi's elite -- did you see him stop Matt D'Agostini dead in his tracks today? Wow.

Last question for you. Who would you take from this list and why?

1. Mike Green circa 2008-09
2. Erik Karlsson circa 2011-12
3. Duncan Keith circa 2009-10
4. Niklas Lidstrom circa 2007-08
5. P.K. Subban circa 2013-14 (yes, you read that right)

This wasn't meant to be easy, my friend.

Eagle out.
 
From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Tuesday, April 23
Subject: Janet's Grades, as if they could be wrong
 
Just on sheer principle some of your answers were wrong. It seems like both of us have endorsed teams like the Leafs and Kings in our emails, the Caps as well. (I'll cede my Jackets-Isles wishes in the hopes of a Leafs-Kings). I'm just not ready to call a Hawks-Pens final yet. Rangers are playing dangerously but I'm sure Tortorella will fix that soon. Habs playing much better on Tuesday, allowing a mere three goals against one of the league's weakest offensive teams in the Devils; Habs have allowed five-plus of late, they'll take three. Marked improvement.

1. Mike Green circa 2008-09
2. Erik Karlsson circa 2011-12
3. Duncan Keith circa 2009-10
4. Niklas Lidstrom circa 2007-08
5. P.K. Subban circa 2013-14 (yes, you read that right)
 
The List

1. Duncan Keith in his golden year. Gold medal, Cup, 60-plus points. Yea, that works. 

2. Lidstrom's season during the team's last Cup win was outstanding, plus he plays decent defense for a cyborg. Seriously, Lidstrom is not human.

3. P.K. Subban: This season was just the appetizer. Kid will be an early 2nd round pick, possibly late first. But he's so "brash."

4. Erik Karlsson: Norris trophy, exciting player. Huge numbers, made him a late first-rounder this season. As a defenseman. Team made a great playoff run that year too. 

5. Mike Green: the regular season version. Monster seasons. 

Yours:

Brad Richards, 2003-04
Patrice Bergeron, 2009-10
Corey Perry 2010-2011
Jonathan Toews, 2009-10
Dany Heatley, the good Ottawa years
Zach Parise, 2008-09
Taylor Hall 2013-2014

Buying any Leafs playoff tickets?
Last word is yours.
 
From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Tuesday, April 23
Subject: Final Word
 
Yah, those D'men I tossed out were tough to grade -- they're all great, respectively. And I'd say the two best seasons were the ones you nailed -- the hoisting of the Cup says it all. I would have perhaps considered them 1A and 1B, but the gold medal is pretty good way to differentiate. Now to your list.

Jonathan Toews (2009-10) -- Captain Serious is on the top of my list. In a few short months, he won a gold medal (and was named best forward at the Olympics, too) and a Stanley Cup. He also earned the Conn Smythe that year, the second-youngest guy in NHL history to do that. Toews is a member of the Triple Gold Club -- a Cup, an Olympic gold and a World Championship gold -- and was the youngest to manage that distinction. He could have scored 20 or maybe 30 more points per season (and still could), but puts the team first. I respect that tremendously.

Brad Richards (2003-04) -- Richie capped a top-10 scoring regular season (and a Lady Byng trophy) with a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe trophy to boot. So many people talked about Vincent Lecavalier and how important he was to the team, but Richie and Mighty Mite carried that team. I've long maintained I'd take Richards over Lecavalier any day and any season for the intangibles he could deliver.

Patrice Bergeron (2010-11) -- He notched the game winner in Game 7 to win the Cup and finished the playoffs with 20 points in 23 games. He could have easily won the Conn Smythe that year instead of Tim Thomas. And all within a few seasons on being stretchered off the ice ... Postseason dominance and the supremacy of leadership in that grand forum put him higher on my list than perhaps most. That Cup win put him into the elite Triple Gold Club -- a Cup, an Olympic gold and a World Championship gold. I'll take team hardware over individual any day.

Corey Perry (2010-11) -- Hart Trophy. Rocket Richard trinket. First All-Star. His was a regular season for the ages, but was it different than Jonathan Cheechoo's 2005-06 (no Hart for Cheech, but yes to RR)? At least Perry's lightning in a bottle hasn't cracked and sunk to the ocean floor the way Seto's did. Still, that was a brilliant year relative to his peers. And at least he got his team through one round of the playoffs.

Dany Heatley (2005-06 & 2006-07) -- He set single-season goals (50) and points records (105), and was a Second All-Star and First-All Star in those respective seasons. They came oh-so-close to the Cup in 2006-07 and he played a large part. And that line -- wow! Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. That was one that rivaled the big lines of the past. No?

Zach Parise (2008-09) -- It was his best statistical season, finishing third in goals and fifth in points. And it earned him a Second All-Star nod. I expected more in the postseason, though. They were done in seven, right? Sorry for ripping off the band-aid.

Taylor Hall (2013-14) -- Will he lead the league in goals? No. Points? Nope. But I do believe he'll ascend to a similar height as Parise in 2008-09. I pray he stays healthy. I love this guy.

The last word? I am not buying Leafs' tickets. I cannot afford them on a regular day, so a 75 percent increase in price makes them unattainable. It's nuts in Leafsland when it comes to the playoffs. There will be people in the streets after the first win. I highly recommend watching the City of Toronto's traffic cameras at Lakeshore and Bay after a win at the ACC. You will be amazed, impressed and stunned, all at the same time.

I'll be at home watching it on my precious plasma.

Eagle out.