Sun May 19 01:06pm EDT
The New York Rangers enter Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday with, statistically, the worst power play of the playoffs’ surviving teams: 2 goals on 31 shorthanded chances, for a 6.4-percent conversion rate.
The deficiency has gone from being a drag on the Rangers’ offense to being a boost to the opposition, like during their empty power plays in their Game 1 loss at the Boston Bruins.
So what’s gone wrong for the Rangers, and can it turn around?
Sun May 19 11:18am EDT
Via Penguins WhoSay
Besides being able to have their team advance out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the city of Pittsburgh has also made it possible to turn one of its buildings into a goal light.
A Toronto Maple Leafs fan petition to turn CN Tower into a goal light for each playoff game didn't succeed. In Pittsburgh, however, it took a round, but the top of Gulf Tower will light up red every time the Penguins score in for the rest of the playoffs.
Ian Walsh, an executive with Rugby Realty, who control Gulf Tower, met with the Penguins on Wednesday to discuss another idea when the goal light conversation came up. After figuring out a way to control the lights remotely, the plan was put into place for Game 2 on Friday.
Here's a view from inside CONSOL Energy Center after Brenden Morrow's goal in Game 2:
There was no test run, and Crosby's goal early in the first period on Friday night turned the Gulf Tower into a rotating red light for the first time. However, because there was still daylight when Crosby scored around 7:50 p.m., few people noticed.
That was not the case about 30 minutes later when Crosby scored his second goal. A darker sky provided the perfect backdrop for the Gulf Tower to stand out.
During the game, Wareham received word from Penguins employees that fans were posting photos of the rooftop goal-light on Twitter, but even he was surprised how quickly the idea became a success.
The Penguins’ director of event presentation controls the lights via an iPhone and beginning with Sunday night’s Game 3, there will be 20 rotations of the lights for each goal scored, up from 15 used during Game 2.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
Sun May 19 09:23am EDT
The Providence Bruins were unable to close out the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday night in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup as the home side forced a Game 6 with a 4-0 win. The Bruins wouldn't go quietly as a late-game brawl brought fireworks and set the scene for their next meeting on Monday night.
Both Providence and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton combined for 113 penalty minutes in the game, with the bulk of the total coming after Bruins forward Graham Mink -- who had rolled over him just minutes before -- fell on top of Penguins goalie Brad Theissen after he froze the puck:
What a call by the Penguins voice Tom Grace and a nice warning to the Bruins that Steve MacIntyre lurks. And we have to applaud the arena music person for using the Ultimate Warrior's theme during the brawling.
The two teams weren't done getting at one another. Two minutes later, after Paul Thompson made it 4-0 (8:07 mark of video), Bruins netminder Niklas Svedberg took exception and slashed him in the back of the leg, setting off another round of scrums. Svedberg would get a two two-minute penalties for slashing and roughing.
Mink was given a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure. According to AHL rules, he's fined $200 and the penalty will be reviewed by the league for supplemental discipline.
"I didn't say anything or do anything. It kind of happened. I'm not sure what provoked it," Thiessen (30 saves) told Jonathan Bombulie of the Citizens' Voice afterward. "Whatever they want to do, my job is still to stop the puck."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
Sun May 19 04:15am EDT
Jonathan Quick is typically a laid back dude. But after seeing the referees give the Los Angeles Kings two minor penalties in the final minute of regulation – leading to Logan Couture’s game-winning OT goal and a 2-1 San Jose Sharks’ win – Quick sought out the officials at the end of the game and was anything but laid back.
Watch Quick go zebra hunting (with an odd soccer highlight set to “C.O.P.S.” music after the clip):
The Sharks had a 5-on-3 power play to start overtime after Robyn Regehr went off for hooking Tommy Wingels at 19:18 of the third and Trevor Lewis went off for goalie interference for running into Antti Niemi with five seconds left.
That candor earned Quick a game misconduct. As per NHL Rule 23.2, that means Quick is hit with an automatic $200 fine, and could be subject to supplemental discipline although that’s not gonna happen.
Any guesses what he said?
Sun May 19 03:47am EDT
No. 1 Star: Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
The Sharks netminder made 26 saves and bailed them out on defensive lapses on several occasions, as San Jose defeated the Los Angeles Kings in OT 2-1, to cut their series deficit to 2-1.
No. 2 Star: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings captain assisted on goals by Brendan Smith and Valtteri Filppula, while frustrating Jonathan Toews all game, in Detroit’s 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The series is tied 1-1.
No. 3 Star: Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
The Sharks forward scored the OT game-winner at 1:29, on the power play, to give the San Jose the 2-1 win. That came after he was injured in the second period, returning to the game about 15 minutes later.
Honorable mention: Dan Boyle and Tyler Toffoli had the other goals in the Kings/Sharks game. … Jonathan Quick made 38 saves for the Kings. … Patrick Kane scored his first of the playoffs. … Damien Brunner scored his fourth for the Wings. Johan Franzen also netted his fourth. … This Brad Stuart hit was awesome:
Conn Smythe Watch: 1. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins; 2. David Krejci, Boston Bruins; 3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings; 4. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers; 5. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks; 6. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; 7. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; 8. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings; 9. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; 10. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks.
Dishonorable mention: The Kings took two penalties in the last minute of regulation to give the Sharks a 5-on-3 power play to start overtime. … Jonathan Quick received a game misconduct at the end of the game. … Dave Bolland was a minus-2 with three minor penalties.
Sun May 19 12:26am EDT
Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks was injured in the second period of Game 3 on Saturday night vs. the Los Angeles Kings on a hit from Jeff Carter. He left for the trainers’ room, but returned later in the period to an ovation from the fans.
They would give him an even bigger ovation in overtime.
Couture scored the power-play game-winner 1:29 into overtime to give the Sharks a 2-1 victory and to cut the Kings’ lead in the series to 2-1.
The Sharks began overtime on a 5-on-3 power play after Robyn Regehr went off for hooking Tommy Wingels and 19:18 of the third and Trevor Lewis went off for goalie interference for running into Antti Niemi with five seconds left.
After the first power play ended, Couture set up in the slot and received a one-touch pass from Patrick Marleau, burying the puck high past Jonathan Quick for the win and his fourth of the playoffs.
Sat May 18 11:21pm EDT
During her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon on Saturday night, Alexis Normand forgets the words around 15 seconds in. That’s OK. We’ve all seen this happen at a sporting event.
It’s what follows that makes this, perhaps, the biggest train-wreck version of the anthem ever heard at a hockey game:
The Saskatoon singer, who performs folk and jazz music, started falteringly in front of the large crowd and a Portland team which is not only based in the United States, but also has 10 Americans in its lineup. The rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner seemed to unravel once Normand got to the third line. Then the "whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight" was bowdlerized into "those broad stripes and bright stars... at the dawn's early light." The Credit Union Centre crowd seemed amused initially. Eventually, thousands of Canadians came to the rescue and completed the lyrics.
At one point, Normand appears to just be making noises that sound like words, like when you forget a lyric while singing in your car. It’s the first version of the anthem we’ve ever heard that would have benefited from the singer faking a cough, like Bruce Campbell reading from the Necronomicon in “Army of Darkness.” The only thing missing was her turning to the camera at the end and bellowing "AND HELLO ALL YOU PEOPLE ON YOUTUBE!" before winking.
To her credit, Normand quickly tweeted an apology after the anthem:
I'm embarrassed and deeply sorry. I wish I'd had more time to learn the American anthem. Thanks so much for the crowd's help! #memorialcup
— Alexis Normand (@Alex6Normand) May 19, 2013
Hey, it happens. Although not always that spectacularly. The look on No. 13 Kegan Iverson’s face says it all:
Sat May 18 02:52pm EDT
The return home for Game 3 will give the Ottawa Senators a little bit of a boost as they attempt get back into their second-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but with a 3-0 hole looming, the club would no doubt welcome a boost to their boost.
It looks like they'll get one of those too. After undergoing surgery for a herniated disc in his back and missing the last four months, Jason Spezza has been medically cleared to play.
He'll be in the Senators' lineup for Game 3. (Double boost!)
"I'm excited to have a chance to play again," Spezza said. "I feel ready to play."
Where he'll play remains to be seen, but Spezza has practiced on the Senators' first line alongside frequent running mate Milan Michalek, so our educated guess would be there.
That makes sense. Down 0-2, the Senators really aren't in a position to ease him into the lineup. Still, the question is what sort of impact he'll be able to have in his first game in 4 months. There's a good chance he'll see a lot of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, the latter of whom notched a hat trick in Game 2. These are matchups he needs to win, and that's a lot to ask of anyone, let alone a guy that's played just 5 games this season.
But it's not like Spezza's not capable of it. His last game with the Senators was versus these very Penguins, and while Ottawa lost the decision, 2-1, in a shootout, Spezza was a large part of the reason they came away from that one with a point, finishing well above water in his head-to-head matchups with both of the Penguins' star pivots, and assisting on Ottawa's game-tying goal.
Spezza played the majority of this game matched up with Evgeni Malkin, while Kyle Turris saw the Crosby matchup (as he has for Games 1 and 2, and I'd expect he will in Game 3, Crosby's hat trick notwithstanding).
But when Spezza didn't see Malkin, he saw Crosby, and despite playing the majority of the night versus two of the best centres in the Eastern Conference, Spezza finished the evening with an even-strength Corsi rate (plus/minus for shots attempted, basically) of plus-9. Crosby was a minus-9. Malkin was a minus-6.
Spezza, who is a much better two-way player now than he was the last time the Senators and the Penguins met in the playoffs, also won 11 of 16 faceoffs versus this duo in that game.
If the Senators can return a guy capable of winning these pivotal shifts, their chances of staging a comeback in this series increase exponentially. But after four months on the shelf, one wonders if Spezza can be the player he's capable of being right away.
Game 3 goes Sunday. It totally should have been Saturday, though, which is the 10-year anniversary of Spezza's original playoff debut. That would have been cool.
Sat May 18 12:42pm EDT
Courtesy of Katie Baker, this “Sounds of the Game” video the NHL produced for Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is probably the closest thing we’ll get to an HBO ‘24/7’-esque look at the game this season. (Stupid no good lousy lockout.)
Among the highlights:
• Karl Alzner asking Derek Dorsett where “they found the aquarium to fit” his head.
• Ryan Getzlaf looking up before a faceoff and yelling to Jonathan Ericsson “You’re not scary!”
• Did Pascal Dupuis call for “a [Mike] Bossy up the wall?”
• Bobby Ryan’s subtle “it’s comin’ Jimmy” to Jimmy Howard as he skates by the crease.
• Erik Karlsson, 2012 Norris Trophy winner, giving P.K. Subban his endorsement in the handshake line for the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.
• And, of course: Daniel Alfredsson leading the cheers in the Sens dressing room.
Good stuff NHL. More of this please.
Sat May 18 11:50am EDT
Carolina Hurricanes fans can exhale, put down the whiskey bottle and look forward to training camp: Eric Staal isn’t going to miss significant time after the knee-on-knee hit from Alex Edler of the Vancouver Canucks during the Canada/Sweden IIHF World Championships game on Thursday.
According to the Hurricanes, an MRI on Staal’s right knee “revealed a third-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL). Surgery will not be required to repair the ligament, and Staal’s rehabilitation should last three months. It is expected that he will be healthy and ready to play to start the 2013-14 season.”
Staal needed to be helped from the ice after writhing in pain for a few minutes following the collision with Edler, the Team Sweden defenseman who was given a 5-minutes major and a game misconduct, and then was suspended for the rest of the tournament.