Spartans Through To Round Two

Winning their first playoff series in years, and first ever in St. Louis, the Spartans look forward to the second round.
by Sean Gallagher | May 2, 2009, 7:12 AM ET
"Okay, okay boys, I'll talk." Spartans general manager Sean Gallagher, out from under his superstition of not talking to the media during a playoff series, finally spoke about his team at the end of Friday night's series-clinching win at home. "You know, that series is surprising," said Gallagher, "but when you've got a goalie playing as well as [Evgeni] Nabokov is right now, a seven game series can somehow turn into a five game series." Nabokov, who put up one shutout and had a 1.20 goals-against average in the five game series, was clearly the difference for the Spartans. The Empire struggled to get anything past him and not one of their players scored more than one goal. Great offensive players like Mike Richards and Scott Gomez were clearly frustrated as neither tallied a single point. Offensively the Spartans were able to spread out their attack while the team's regular season leading scorer, Evgeni Malkin, struggled to find his game. He finally broke out with four points in the clinching game, more than doubling his point total. "We got offense from a lot of places," said team captain Joe Sakic, "you look at a rookie like Phil Kessel contributing and a guy like RJ Umberger coming back from injury and contributing. Everyone was helping out. "Hand it to those guys over there on the Empire," he continued, "they have a good team and they never quit. They just couldn't solve Nabby." But the big win was not without cost. In the final game both Jay McKee and Marek Zidlicky were injured and both are expected to be out of the lineup for a considerable amount of time. "On Jay's injury, yeah, I feel like it was cheap and it should come with a fine from the league," said Gallagher, "There's no doubt about the intent to injure there. The refs threw [Empire forward Marek Svatos] out of the game immediately. That's one of our top guys on the defense and they tried to hurt him. Svatos charged him intentionally and the result he got was the one he was trying for. "With Zidlicky, well that was more accidental looking to me. No penalty was called and that was probably correct." Either way, the loss of both players will surely dent the Spartans' chances of advancing beyond the next round. Zidlicky is the team's top quarterback and McKee was a penalty killing cornerstone. The team will face either the top-seeded Vikings or the second-seeded Makos next and both represent difficult challenges, even with a completely healthy blueline. When asked about which team he'd prefer to draw, Gallagher took a different tack on an old cliche, saying, "I have one in mind I'd rather see," he admitted, "but not because we think it'll be easy. These are the playoffs, you have to face the big guys sooner or later. Either way we go we're facing one of the big guys. We'll be ready."

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