A Real Eye Opener

Jason Strudwick
April 18 2012 08:17AM

So far the first round of the playoffs have been even better than I expected. There has been everything from high to low scoring games, great to bad goaltending and some of the most physical hockey seen in many years.

The physical hockey has been a surprise considering some of the non-traditional rivalries that it has sprung from. Pittsburgh and Philly was a no brainer; we all knew it would get rough. The same can't be said for the Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers matchup, or St. Louis vs. San Jose.

Other than the Florida/New Jersey series, all of the first-round matchups have been very physical. Every check is being finished with extra love. Big players are playing big and the smaller players must have an attitude.

If this year's Edmonton Oilers were magically thrown into a series versus Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis, etc, would they be able to match and stand up to the intensity?

I don't think so.

It is clear the talent being assembled in the Oiler top six will rival most teams in the future. Another first overall pick, assuming they keep it, will only add firepower to that group. Unfortunately great talent doesn't guarantee playoff success.

Teams need somebody to do the heavy lifting. Bangers and crashers with skill are required in the playoffs. I would take a David Backes from St. Louis or Dustin Brown from L.A before either Joe Thornton from San Jose or Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. The first two are having a huge impact on their teams' success whereas the others have been largely invisible so far in the playoffs.

With a few tweaks and some luck, next year's Oilers should challenge for and possibly clinch a playoff spot. Getting into the playoffs and having playoff success are two different things however. Without some heavy lifters in the top six or at least in the top nine forward group, playoff success could prove difficult if this year's physical trend continues into next year.

Finding players like Dustin Brown will not be easy. That is the challenge for the Oiler management going forward.

Previously by Jason Strudwick

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 Closetgm
April 21 2012, 11:52AM
Trash it!
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I agree with ya 100 percent Jason except Malkin is playing some pretty good hockey the last couple games. He is physical borderline to physical and is scoring. I would say with the exception of staal he has been there best player and a major reason they are back in the series.

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#52 Chribsson
April 24 2012, 12:45PM
Trash it!
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Jason! We´re rallying in SSK to get you back over here! A campaign is in the making. The very "clever" slogan (refering to your praise of the swedish beverage "must") is off course: "Stay- it´s a must" ;)

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