The Maple Leafs were only five points out of the final spot in
the Western Conference playoff race at week's end, despite
having only one bona fide scoring threat in center Mats Sundin.
A big reason was their penalty killing, which ranked fourth in
the NHL. Good penalty killing is accomplished by winning
face-offs, getting solid goaltending and closing down passing
and shooting lanes....
Here are the Cup contenders who made the best deals right before
the March 24 trading deadline, in order: 1) the Red Wings, who
acquired defensemen Dmitri Mironov and Jamie Macoun--the former
to help the power play, the latter to add veteran leadership and
depth; 2) the Avalanche, who needed grittiness and got it in
wingers Warren Rychel and Tom Fitzgerald; and 3) the
injury-depleted Stars, who needed depth and picked up
playoff-hardened veteran forwards Mike Keane and Brian
Skrudland. By acquiring Keane, Dallas also kept him away from
Colorado, which was pursuing him....
Give the Hurricanes credit for obtaining former 50-goal forward
Ray Sheppard. That deal allows Carolina to create two effective
offensive lines: Sheppard will play with Keith Primeau and
Martin Gelinas; the second line will be Jeff O'Neill, Gary
Roberts and Sami Kapanen. This balance will keep teams from
focusing on one line and help the Hurricanes try to snag the
last playoff spot in the East....
Dominik Hasek is the best goalie in the world, but the Sabres
are proving they are not just a one-man team. Buffalo, which has
gone 18-7-9 since Dec. 29, has tremendous team speed and an
underrated defense, led by Alexei Zhitnik. That defense moves
the puck quickly and precisely through the middle of the ice,
thus allowing the team's skilled forwards the room to use their
speed. Credit assistant coach Mike Ramsey, the former Sabres
defensive specialist, with helping the Buffalo back line improve
as the year has progressed.
Pierre McGuire coached the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94.