|Poni on Ryan Smyth mullet night|
It seemed reasonable enough, Ponikarovsky had averaged 20 goals for five straight seasons. If he couldn’t replace them all, he should at least come close.
Or so everybody thought. Yet, when the 82-game regular season wrapped up a little over a week ago, Ponikarovsky had five goals to show for it – and none since March 9th in Detroit.
However, his defensive play has shined, especially in the second half of the season.
Then, in game one of the playoffs, another dimension of his game took shape, as he was second on the team with six hits. It was a number he reached only twice all season and not in quite some time. In fact, since scoring that goal vs. the Red Wings, he averaged just two hits per game over the final month of play.
MM: In the first game you had six hits and then none in the second game. Were you more amped up for the first game, was it a result of the lines being shuffled in the second game due to Jarret Stoll‘s suspension or something else entirely?
AP: I think the first game (of a series) is usually more intense. The second game, maybe I didn’t have opportunities. I was trying to get a hit. But, we had a little change to the line-up, where our line didn’t play as much because Jarret was out. We had to move Trevor (Lewis) up to the second line. Because we were down a center, the coaching staff was trying to match up with their lines and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
MM: Obviously the outcome was different, but did you notice any differences in the way the team was playing between the two games?
AP: I think we were expecting them to come out hard in the first period in the first game and that’s what happened. Then, everything settled in. We started playing our game and executing the system. Basically, it works and that’s why we’ve been getting success. So, we just have to stick with it for the rest of the series.
In 36 career playoff games – mostly with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins – Ponikarovsky has two goals.
Both times, he found the back of the net in the third game of a series.
Can he do it again tonight?
photo courtesy of Michael Zampelli