Which way is the league trending?

This isn't excuse-making for the Canucks btw. They sucked since the trade deadline. Just an interesting analysis about why there are so many top-seeded teams going down.

Another sign that the dead-puck era plagues us yet again.

During the height of the DPE, a number of substandard teams were able ride a hot goalie and a dumbed-down game plan through the playoffs. They didn't win the big prize. But they upset a number of more talented teams along the way.

In no particular order, the '02 Hurricanes finished with 91 points in the regular season and made it to the Cup final.The next year the seventh-seed Anaheim Ducks made it to the final after they beat the sixth-seed Minnesota Wild in the semis. Canucks fans might remember that team.

In '04 the sixth-seed Calgary Flames made it all the way to the final.

Since the lockout there have been Cinderella squads -- the '06 Edmonton Oilers being prominent among them -- but the vast majority of teams to make it to the final had a champion's pedigree.

Then there's this season. Things can change, of course, but on Sunday both top seeds were facing elimination in their respective conferences and so was defending champion Boston.

Nashville is a defence-first team. They've already eliminated Detroit. Florida and Phoenix are built along similar lines and they lead their series.

It isn't entirely a question of style but the over-riding message delivered by these playoffs is you win by junking it up in front of your goalie. Two years ago that wasn't the case and that should be a concern to the NHL.

-- But there's hope.

While it's a shame the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series didn't give hockey fans a seventh game, the Flyers represent the game's best chance to alter the existing template because the Flyers' game is exactly the opposite of what most teams are trying to do.

Their goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, is a basket case and their defence is a patchwork ensemble. But the Flyers are that rare team that tries to outscore it's defensive inadequacies and, with its incredible fleet of forwards, that's what they were able to do against the Penguins.

OK, it helped that Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a complete meltdown. But that had as much to do with the pressure the Flyers were exerting as anything else. The Flyers simply wore down the Penguins with the constant threat of attack and are now the odds-on favourite to come out of the East.

Now, here's the really good news. The NHL, as it has proven time and time again, is a copycat league and if the Flyers can win by playing uptempo, attacking hockey, there's a good chance that style will catch on. They're fun to watch, those Flyers.

It would be even more fun if other teams tried playing the same way.

ewilles@theprovince.com
http://www.theprovince.com/sports/ho...020/story.html