As the seconds ticked down on New Jersey's valiant Game Four victory, one that ensured at least one more home game for Martin Brodeur in his illustrious career, very few people believed that the win gave the Devils any kind of chance in the series. After all, only three teams in NHL playoff history have erased a 3-0 series deficit to come back and win the series and none of them have happened in the Stanley Cup Final. However, in a series that has been very evenly played except for a late Game Three meltdown by the Devils, there was a little bit of justice. The Devils have played well enough not to be swept. They'll get at least three more days out of the NHL season thanks to winning on Wednesday night.
Much has been made in media circles and among fans paying close attention to the series about the bandwagon nature of the Los Angeles Kings fanbase. Like any fanbase, there are diehards and casual fans, but the Kings aren't the apple of the LA market's eye when it comes to sports. With two very high-profile teams, the Lakers and the Dodgers, in the fold, it's understandable to see why the Kings are a second, or even third, rate team in LA. Sports anchors in LA have mentioned goaltender Jonathan Swift (Quick), defenseman Drew Doty (Doughty) and center Anze Kopidor (Kopitar) during their nightly reports. None of that matters to the players as long as they win the Stanley Cup, but on some level, there are a lot of people rooting for the fans of New Jersey. New Jersey has had their successes, but they're in the fairly distant past as far as championships go, unless, of course, they take credit for the Yankees.
In any event, there are two days off between Games Four and Five as the series makes the cross-country trek back to Jersey for Game Five on Saturday night. If you take away New Jersey's empty net goal to seal the deal in Game Four, the Devils have scored four goals in four games. It's easy to see why they're down 3-1 in the series. The Kings have done what they've done all postseason long and it has continued to be a recipe for success. Martin Brodeur has played admirably in the series, one that could be his final go-round in the NHL playoffs. That decision would be a lot clearer if the Devils pulled off the improbable comeback, but I've gone on the assumption all postseason that he will retire at season's end.
If the Kings win Game Five on Saturday, or Game Seven next Wednesday, they would tie the NHL playoff record for road wins in a postseason with 11. The Devils continued a streak of their own on Wednesday night, making the Stanley Cup Final the 43rd straight series in which they have not been swept. That's the longest active streak among the major sports. It sets the stage for a tremendous Game Five on Saturday night.
As you know, I have been looking at five of the top-ranked draft prospects who will be available at the Columbus Blue Jackets' second overall pick in the June 22 first round of the NHL Entry Draft. So far, I've looked at defenseman Ryan Murray and forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and Filip Forsberg. Last week, I went across the board to Sweden to profile Forsberg. This week, we come back state-side and look at another forward, the highest-ranked US-born player on the board, Alex Galchenyuk.
Name: Alex Galchenyuk
NHL Central Scouting Bureau Rank: #4 North American, #2 North American Center
Birthdate & place: February 12, 1994; Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Height, weight: 6', 198
Alex Galchenyuk suffered a torn ACL in an Ontario Hockey League preseason game and played just eight games with the Sarnia Sting. That makes Galchenyuk a bit of a wild card in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft because there was not a lot of scouting done on him. Galchenyuk graded very well at the recent NHL Combine in the anaerobic test, a test that measures explosiveness as a skater. Teams are still worried about how he will bounce back from injury and how good of a prospect he actually is because the injury limited his exposure.
In eight games this season, six in the playoffs, Galchenyuk scored two goals and recorded two assists. The year before that, in the OHL, Galchenyuk had 31 goals and 52 assists in just 68 games. There are good bloodlines with Galchenyuk as his father, Alex Sr., was a member of Team Belarus in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Galchenyuk is a bit of a world traveler, having lived in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Russia and he speaks three languages. In international competition, he has decided to participate for the US team.
As for his skills, he's an explosive, fast skater with good vision and soft hands according to TSN, the Canadian Sports Network. Teams have very little information on his durability or his ability to handle physical play, unless they go back to 2010-2011 and he has likely matured more since that time. Further, the Sarnia Sting also had consensus first overall pick Nail Yakupov on their roster, so it remains to be seen how Galchenyuk plays with talent that isn't dominant at the level he's playing at.
Analysis: Galchenyuk might very well be the best player in this draft class and could have surpassed Yakupov had he stayed healthy. That said, it's probably too big of a risk for the Blue Jackets to take with the second overall pick in the draft, a pick that they simply cannot screw up. Galchenyuk has decent physical measurables and has scored well at every level he's ever played at, not to mention, he's a smart kid who has lived and played in many different situations and should not be overwhelmed at the next level.
Nobody would besmirch the Blue Jackets for taking Galchenyuk because second-ranked North American player Mikhail Grigorenko apparently has consistency and work ethic issues, Filip Forsberg may have not have the "boom" potential you would want from a second overall pick, and if the Blue Jackets want to draft a forward, Ryan Murray wouldn't be an option since he's a defenseman. It all depends on how well the Blue Jackets scouted Galchenyuk before the knee injury, how he did in interviews, and what former coaches had to say about the kid.
The first round of the 2012 NHL Draft will take place June 22 in Pittsburgh, PA.