Gardiner playing like a veteran, Wings and Hawks meet for one last Western showdown, Switzerland’s Furrer wants to play in the NHL and Price uncomfortable with media and fan attention

In his second season, Jake Gardiner has been a steady presence on Toronto's blueline. (Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

In his second season, Jake Gardiner has been a steady presence on Toronto’s blueline. (Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner may only have 92 games of NHL experience under his belt, but he carries himself with the poise of someone with over 1,000 and has been the Leafs’ best defenseman in their first round series against Boston which wraps up tonight in Game 7. 

As Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out, he was one of Toronto’s best players in Game 6 despite not recording a point:

Gardiner did not show up on the scoresheet for the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 win in Game 6, but he was something to behold every time he touched the puck, which was often. His skating ability alone is enough to make him elite, but when you throw in that hockey sense and skill level, you have a player who has the chance to be special.

Gardiner has 1-3-4 in the series, tied with defense partner Cody Franson and forward James van Riemsdyk for first in assists and is second in points despite being scratched for the first game of the series The Leafs are a young team without too much playoff experience, but the are playing much better than the Bruins who have largely the same roster that won the Stanley Cup in 2011. More from Campbell:

As the teams enter Game 7, it’s uncanny that Gardiner and the Maple Leafs have looked like the more veteran team the past couple of games. After being overwhelmed in Game 1, the Leafs have done a remarkable job of adjusting to the playoffs. The Bruins, meanwhile, have looked tentative and tepid. They have refused to use their physical advantage in all three zones and are passing the puck far too much, despite the fact they’ve outshot the Leafs in four of the six games.

That puts the pressure squarely on the more experienced Bruins in Game 7. And the Leafs unknowingly gained an advantage after the game when the Bruins were forced to stay in Toronto Sunday night because of a mechanical problem on their charter plane, while the Leafs jetted off for Boston right after the game.

Campbell also brings up a valid point which is was the Leafs’ handling of Gardiner, and Nazem Kadri as well, by bringing them along slowly and allowing them to develop at their own pace the right thing to do? It sure seems like it. 

*     *     *

The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings have been rivals ever since they entered the league for the 1926-27 season and they will face each other in the second round of the playoffs in the last season Detroit plays in the Western Conference before next year’s realignment. If they ever hope to see each other in playoff action again, it will be in a Stanley Cup final.

This is their first playoff meeting since the 2009 Western Conference final in which the Red Wings disposed of the Hawks in five games and just second since 1995 when the Wings also won the Western Conference final in five. In 15 postseason series in their history, Chicago is 8-7 including the 1934 and 1961 Stanley Cup finals. 

Via Brendan Savage of mlive.com, Justin Abdelkader thinks this is going to be a very exciting series:

“Both teams know quite a bit about each other. It’s going to be a fun series, fun for our fans. We’re happy to be going to the East but disappointed we’re not going to be playing Chicago as much. It will be good to go out with one last playoff series with them.”

Detroit lost all four regular season meetings between the two teams this season, but one was in overtime and two in the shootout, so it is going to be a very close series. More from Savage:

The Red Wings played well enough during the regular season to give themselves a chance in three of their four meetings with Chicago despite losing all four games.

They took the Blackhawks to overtime in three of the four games, losing twice in shootouts after leading with three minutes to go in regulation of both games.

Patrick Kane scored a power-play goal with 2:02 left to force overtime in Chicago’s 2-1 shootout victory March 3 in Detroit and Jonathan Toews connected with 2:57 left to force OT in a 3-2 shootout victory April 12 in Chicago.

“We should have won two of those,” Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said of the OT games.  “It felt like that anyways. We’ve got some wins here (in Anaheim) to take on these guys. We’re gonna play better. It’s going to be a fun series

“We had some of our better games against Chicago and we’ve been playing better at the end. It’s a big rivalry and everyone steps up for those big games. It’s going to be loud in both buildings, we know that.”

*     *     *

Easily the best draft class of the past decade, the 2003 selections will be considered one of the top five groups ever in another 10 years. Selected in the sixth round, 179th overall by the New York Rangers, Swiss defenseman Philippe Furrer has yet to cross the Atlantic and make his North American debut, but remains hopeful he can make it to the NHL. Furrer is currently playing for Switzerland in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship and has helped them reach the top of Group S with a 5-1-0-0 record for 17 points, one more than Canada. He has a plus-1 rating and is fourth on the team averaging 17:26 per game and recently talked to John Sanful about Switzerland’s success so far in the tournament, his injury history and what it would be like to leave Bern in National League A, the top league in the country where he has played since 2002-03.

A tryout won’t be good enough for Furrer who wants to make and contribute to a team should he decide to make the move. He has battled injury, but now feels healthy as ever after hip surgery in 2003, a broken hand in 2005, shoulder injuries and two concussions. 

I always felt that I didn’t want to ever go over just to try out, I wanted to bring my best and make the club. But I never felt good enough with my body and in dealing with the injuries to make it over. Now it is different and I’m healthy and we’re having a good tournament so you never know what’s going to happen.

For many European players, the IIHF World Championship is a place to show they can skate with proven NHL talent and if Furrer can convince a team to take a look at him, he would be prepared to leave Bern where he has put up 31–74-105 with 360 PIM and a plus-29 in 343 career games.

The last few years I’ve been thinking about what it would mean ending my career there. I actually feel pretty good because this year we reached the third championship in Switzerland. I have reached my career goals which very easy on for me was three Swiss championships. Now it’s about having new goals and for sure the NHL has always been a goal for me.

*     *     *

The pressure of tending goal in Montreal is getting to Carey Price. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

The pressure of tending goal in Montreal is getting to Carey Price. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Carey Price was drafted by Montreal fifth overall in 2005 in hopes he would be the guy capable of leading the team to heights they haven’t reached since 1993. He started off the season on fire, but faded down the stretch and got hurt just before overtime of Game 4 against Ottawa. As if his play late in the season, a 5-9 record with a .882 save percentage and 3.42 goals-against average since April 1, wasn’t concern enough, he is clearly uncomfortable being a major celebrity in hockey-mad Montreal according to Jack Todd  of The Montreal Gazette. 

The media attention would be enough for some players, but Price can’t even leave his house without being bombarded by attention from fans. From Todd:

After acknowledging the media scrutiny here is tough, Price spoke wistfully of the burdens of celebrity in this hockey-mad city: “That’s one thing I miss,” he said, “just being anonymous. It’s tough to do that here.

“It’s impossible. I don’t even go to the grocery store anymore. I hardly do anything anymore. I’m like a hobbit in a hole.”

That is not a life for anyone, much less a wealthy, handsome young athlete. If those comments didn’t set off red flags through the organization, the Canadiens aren’t paying attention. First of all, it reflects badly on Montreal fans, who don’t have the simple decency to leave players alone when they’re out and about.

Whether he wants to leave or not is up to Price, but as some players such as Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia show, some players thrive more when there is less of a spotlight in their eyes and too much attention can be a negative thing. 

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