The first two games of the Western Conference Finals in these Stanley Cup playoffs have convinced me that all that’s necessary for a great player to turn his game around is for me to criticize him publicly. First it was New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Now it’s Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter.
When I previewed the conference finals last weekend, I picked the Chicago Blackhawks to beat Los Angeles. One of the reasons I gave was that Carter has done nothing in the playoffs. And not to sound defensive or anything, but Jeff Carter really was doing zilch.
Los Angeles went the full seven games in series wins over the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and Carter took either zero or one shot in half of those games. In only three games did he have 4-5 shot attempts. Carter wasn’t just silent, he wasn’t even attempting to speak.
The first two games of the Western Conference Finals have been different. Carter has been aggressive, taking 11 shots combined in the first two games in Chicago. And, predictably, when a great player gets aggressive, it’s only a matter of time before the puck starts finding the back of the net. Carter went for a hat trick in last night’s shocking Game 2—the shock wasn’t the Kings winning, but that they nailed Chicago goalie Cory Crawford for five goals in the third period, to get a 6-2 win.
I’m still not changing my overall series prediction. Chicago is the more talented team, and for as bad as Crawford was in Game 2, he was every bit as good in Game 1 when Los Angeles attacked him throughout the night but to no avail. But at least the Kings are on the attack, and nothing captures that better than the return to form of Jeff Carter.
When I criticized the Rangers’ Lundqvist, it was in the aftermath of a poor performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as he gave up soft goals in consecutive home losses that put New York in a 3-1 series hole. I said it was the latest case of a great goalie underperforming in the postseason.
Lundqvist has since morphed into Ken Dryden, as New York first rallied to beat Pittsburgh, and now takes a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens back to Madison Square Garden tonight.
Now it’s Carter’s turn to have this sudden turnaround, right after I critique him. I’d get carried away with myself and think that I have some unique motivational skill, but for one problem—the one player this didn’t work with was Boston Bruins goalie Tuuka Raask. I knocked him after the first two games of the Montreal series, and Tuuka, for the most part, stayed down. Since I’m a Bruin fan, it only stands to reason that the players this doesn’t work with are the ones I actually care about.