I hated last year's playoffs. Not just because the Bruins lost, but because they were boring. Almost every team was playing collapse, shot-blocking defense and there was nothing exciting. The Bruins series was a grind-fest decided by a lucky bounce. Every game the Rangers played was like that. The Capitals. The Devils. The West was hardly any better, as the lowest-scoring team in the league cruised to a championship. The one and only exciting series was Pens/Flyers. I complained that hockey was awful and said drastic steps were needed to improve the game.
Fast-forward to this year. Bruins are winning, yes, but the hockey is also so much better! I enjoy watching every series. There are back and forth battles, comebacks and... yes... some scoring! It's doubtful that any GAA or SV% records will be set this year. We are seeing great goaltending from some great goaltenders, but they are earning every save. There is puck movement, passing, breakaways.
My question is, why? I think part of it is the lockout. After the last lockout, teams were under-coached and the players were extra-excited. That made for great hockey to watch and I think it's the same this year, to a lesser extent.
But have teams adapted? The TV panel last night was commenting how the Rangers are collapsing on everything, and that it is failing. One fellow said "but it worked last year..." The thing is, it's not this year. Why? Is it because the Bruins are simply a better team? Does adding scoring talent like Jagr and Horton make the Bruins too deep/good? Is it the Bruins more mobile/active defence? One comment was that the Rangers are collapsing on everything and the Bruins are moving the puck around the ouside, forcing Rangers to chase outward and back, tiring them out, making the opponent tired as the game wears on. Boston is definitely using the defence more on the attack, perhaps as an answer to teams not challenging the points in recent years.
I'm focusing on the Bruins because I watch every minute of their games and analyse them to death, but it seems like it's a trend throughout the league. The level of playmaking and excitment has been WAY up. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Islanders take a stab at the Pens. Ottawa's been great fun. Chi,Det, LA and S.L. have provided me with great entertainment. I was glad to hear the Competition Committee is looking at goalie shinpad length again in the off season, but the situation seems far less dire watching these games.
Does anyone else find the games much better this year, and do you think teams have adapted their styles of play in the attacking zone to make "collapse on everything" zone defence obsolite?