No. 1 Star: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Montreal eliminated the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 thanks to a 2-0 win Sunday night. Price made 43 stops, including 9 in the final 3:14, for his first shutout of the playoffs. He’s currently second among goaltenders with a .957 even-strength save-percentage through the first round.
No. 2 Star: Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
Parise scored the opening goal and the insurance marker as the Wild beat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 to advance to Round 2. His first goal came shorthanded and from a tough angle, beating Jake Allen to open the scoring:
No. 3 Star: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild
Dubnyk continued his amazing run since January by stopping 30 shots in Game 6 and 67 total in the final two games of the series. Minnesota will now face the Chicago Blackhawks for the third straight year.
Honorable Mention: Mikko Koivu won 20 of 32 face-offs … Minnesota blocked 23 shots to St. Louis’ six … The Parise/Jason Pominville/Mikael Granlund line combined for 4 goals and 12 points at even strength in the series … Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring for the Canadiens 13:26 into the first period:
Montreal’s empty-net goal with 0.3 seconds left to give them a 2-0 lead was their first two-goal lead of the series.
Did You Know? "This was the first time in three years that none of the Western Conference series in the first round went to seven games." (AP)
Dishonorable Mention: St. Louis has been knocked out the playoffs in the first round three straight years … The Blues have lost 10 straight playoff games when facing elimination … A quick whistle cost Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Ottawa the tying goal in the second period … The Senators failed on four power play opportunities, including one with 3:14 left in the third period.
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Only one team during the 2014-15 NHL regular season and playoffs had avoided being shutout before Sunday. The Montreal Canadiens made sure to finally add the Ottawa Senators to that list.
The Canadiens advanced to the second round after a 2-0 win in Game 6 against the Senators Sunday night. Montreal now waits to play the winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning-Detroit Red Wings series.
After storming out to a 3-0 series lead, the Canadiens failed to close out Ottawa in Games 4 and 5, thanks to some stellar netminding from Craig Anderson. In Game 6, Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring 13:26 into first period and never looked back:
Once the Canadiens grabbed the lead, they sat on it. Over the game’s final 40 minutes, Montreal recorded only six shots, while the Senators pressed for an equalizer, throwing 30 at Carey Price, who stopped them all and finished with 43 saves.
The even strength scoring chances differed by a wide margin beginning in the second period. Here’s what it looked like in graph form, via War on Ice:
As they had done during the regular season, the Senators didn’t quit and the fans inside Canadian Tire Centre were sure a tying goal was coming. Ottawa had shown a knack for finding some magic when they needed it most, which is how they played their way into the postseason over the last two months.
So when Montreal's Jacob de la Rose took a penalty with 3:14 left in the third period, the Senators had their opportunity. But, as he was all game, Price was there to deny Ottawa a goal, making nine stops and preserving the victory. Montreal would add an empty-net goal with 0.3 seconds left, the only time in the series they led by more than a goal.
The one moment that the Senators will be unable to forget was the quick whistle in the second period which cost Jean-Gabriel Pageau the tying goal. Referee Chris Lee, stationed to Price’s left, thought the Canadiens netminder had frozen the puck after a Mark Borowiecki shot and blew the play dead. Replays showed Price never had possession, but from Lee’s angle he couldn’t see the loose puck.
It was a tough break for Ottawa, but it was also an MVP performance by Price.
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The Ottawa Senators are playing for their season in Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens. Down 1-0 in the second period, Jean-Gabriel Pageau thought he had tied the game after pouncing on a loose puck in front of Carey Price, but a quick whistle cost them a goal:
That’s a bad call, for sure, and referee Chris Lee knew it. He was in a tough position to spot the puck squirting out, and Lee was already raising his arm to blow the whistle as soon as Mark Borowiecki’s shot hit Price.
The blown call would cost Ottawa as they fell 2-0 to Montreal, ending their season in six games.
"I think the referee there just had bad puck luck," said Senators coach Dave Cameron afterward.
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April 26, 2015
Zach Parise scored twice and Devan Dubnyk stopped 30 shots as the Minnesota Wild eliminated the St. Louis after a 4-1 win in Game 6.
The Wild now move on to Round 2 where they’ll face the Chicago Blackhawks for the third consecutive postseason.
The backbreaking goal was Parise’s first of the game, which came shorthanded 7:56 into the opening period. Blues goalie Jake Allen didn’t look comfortable from the start and Parise’s goal was evident of that.
Those are the kind of road goals that can turn a game, and it certainly didn't help the Blues.
While Allen recovered and the Blues kept scraping away to get back into the game, St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock did a bench interview with NBC’s Brian Engblom during the second period. When asked if he thought about pulling Allen after that Parise goal, Hitchcock replied, "No. He's a young guy. He's learning. Gotta stick with him.”
Thirty-one real-time seconds later Justin Fontaine doubled Minnesota’s lead:
That was enough for Hitchcock to change his mind and bring on Brian Elliott to finish the game.
T.J. Oshie cut the Minnesota lead to 2-1 with a sharp-angle goal with 1.8 seconds left in the second period. But any hope of a Blues comeback was ended early in the final period when Parise netted his second of the afternoon 1:01 into the third after a perfectly executed Wild breakout created a rebound opportunity for the Minnesota forward:
“You know, it just feels right," said Dubnyk to Engblom afterward. "I kind of said that before. This is how I know we’re ready for it, I’m ready for it. This feels like where we’re supposed to be. Same with the game tonight. I just had a great feeling we were going to come out and respond. It was incredible to play behind these guys.”
The postseason struggles continue for St. Louis. Since the 2001-02 season, the Blues have advanced out of the first round only once (2012), and given the high expectations this season for Ken Hitchcock and his squad, there’s a good chance there will be some major overhauling done in the summer.
The list of unemployed NHL head coaches is already pretty loaded with the likes of Todd McLellan and Dan Bylsma looking for new gigs, and the potential of Claude Julien, Dave Tippett and, of course, Mike Babcock being available. How long until we add Hitchcock’s name to the list?
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We expect this type of treatment from Los Angeles area network television affiliates but New York City? Come on guys. It’s not like the Islanders are a novelty.
Check out the above picture (thank you @TomLiodice), and below link, of NBC’s New York affiliate saying if the Islanders beat the Capitals in Game 7, then hello ... Game 8 (S/t Deadspin). Also, there's a bit of a typo at the beginning. Hey we're all human.
And ... there’s a few Islanders fan interviews in there! Which is great, but sadly they're way more vanilla than the face of Islanders fandom:
I'm going to miss the Coliseum, just because most Brooklyn (the Islanders are moving to the Barclays Center next year) fans will probably wear skinny jeans, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and have foreign accents. The crowd entertainment value will not be nearly as high. Sad face.
From a factual perspective, if the Islanders beat the Capitals in Game 7 on Monday, Game 1 of the next round will be held at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers and the game numbers will reset. So the impossible dream of an official Game 8 will never happen. Though if the Islanders go far enough in the playoffs, they will play eight total games or more at Nassau Coliseum.
New York, you’ve had the NHL in your city since early last century! You’re a “traditional” market. Media has no excuse for this type of behavior! But the more shots/videos we can get of Islanders fans, the better, so NBC New York still deserves a stick tap.
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Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Saturday that he’s headed to the IIHF world championships in Prague.
It’s a bit of a surprise, given that Crosby hasn’t appeared in one since 2006 and given that Team Canada has said it wanted to go younger. But, um, we imagine they’ll make an exception here.
Here are some winners and losers in this rather momentous decision for Sid…
WINNER: The IIHF world championships
This tournament means a whole lot to the rest of the world but doesn’t resonate in North America. It’s like the NIT to the Stanley Cup’s March Madness. But having Sidney Crosby in this tournament for the first time since 2006 – when he posted 16 points in nine games – gives this thing a jolt for Canadian and American fans that it otherwise wouldn't have gotten. And by that we mean American fans might try to actually find the games on their cable systems.
LOSER: NHL’s World Cup Of Hockey
One of the novelties of the World Cup was seeing Crosby do something he rarely does: Play in all-star games and tournaments. One year before the World Cup, Sid will skate with some of Canada’s best and brightest in a tournament the NHL is trying to usurp with its own international ventures. (And let’s not forget that, come Monday, we could have Crosby AND Alex Ovechkin in the IIHF world championships. You think a few people might tune in for that Canada vs. Russia game?)
Pierre LeBrun was super happy for Crosby’s decision, which we’re sure has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that TSN can now promote the face of the NHL as the face if its IIHF world championship coverage, which begins on Friday against Latvia and can be seen live on TSN1, TSN3, TSN4 and TSN5 starting at 10am et/7am pt. Not a bad little consolation prize for TSN’s first postseason without the NHL after the Rogers deal.
Not only do they not have Crosby and the Penguins in the postseason any longer, but it’s not like they can ignore a Crosby-led Team Canada team that can only be seen on a rival network.
WINNER: Sidney Crosby
There are 25 players who have won “triple gold” in hockey, i.e. an Olympic gold, a Stanley Cup and an IIHF world championship. Sid has two of those checked off but didn’t win gold back in 2006 (that was Sweden). Considering the Penguins don’t make it a habit of leaving the playoffs this early, his chances at this don’t come annually. So now Sid has a shot at joining contemporaries like Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal and Jonathan Toews as triple-gold Canadians.
LOSER: City of Columbus
Just a reminder that Crosby couldn’t travel from Pittsburgh to Columbus for a non-skating cameo appearance for the fans at an all-star game to which he was selected, but will fly to Prague after 87 games this season to play in an exhibition tournament.
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Each postseason, there are players who have never lifted the Stanley Cup that you quietly hope get a chance to do so.
Some of them are veteran players that have toiled on bad teams during their careers, and finally are in a position to contribute to a championship. Some of them are players who have suffered through injury and tragedy. And some of them are players that, frankly, just need to get that non-championship monkey off their backs.
This week’s edition of the Wysh List, featuring Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski, looks a five (OK, six) players that he’d like to see potentially win their first Cups this postseason.
Who are the players you’re pulling this year to finally get a chance to kiss Lord Stanley?
April 26, 2015
When Andrew Hammond grabbed the Ottawa Senators’ starting goaltender job, Craig Anderson couldn’t grab a stick.
His right hand had a deep bone bruise, keeping him out of the lineup. With Robin Lehner injured as well, Hammond was given his shot as a 27-year-old rookie on Feb. 18. He would go on to finish the regular season with a 20-1-2 record, going 14 straight starts without a regulation loss.
Anderson became a forgotten man, a footnote to a folk hero. He wanted to take part in this Senators’ resurgence, but he physically couldn’t; at one point, he was teary-eyed in front of reporters in discussing how the situation was “killing” him.
Yet there was also the inescapable notion that the rally might not be happening were it not for Hammond. No one was throwing fast food on the ice in celebration of Anderson’s wins. This was a fresh, new vibe; Anderson was the oft-injured veteran who seemed to be a placeholder for the Next Big Thing – signing a three-year contract last summer right after Lehner did, a clear indication they wanted Anderson around but just until they could trust the younger model.
To that end, he was an insurance policy, much like he was when the Senators began their series with the Montreal Canadiens with Hammond between the pipes. By Game 3, Ottawa cashed in the policy, yanking their folk hero and turning back to their former starter.
All he’s done since then is stop 120 of 123 shots, posting two wins with a .976 save percentage.
"We've been focusing on the right things. We've been in situations where we're not where we want to be and we've found ways to dig ourselves out of the hole," said Anderson after the Game 5 win over Montreal, forcing Sunday’s Game 6. "We're in that situation right now where we're still in the hole and we're still digging. We're not out of it yet. We still need to continue to win but we're kind of in the moment of just coming together as a group, sticking together, and just winning one game at time."
You can see the Senators finding that swagger, that chemistry, that momentum that carried them from over a dozen points out of the playoffs to a wild card. It’s been missing all series, and some of that can be attributed to Hammond turning into a pumpkin at midnight. A team can play with reckless abandon when it knows its backend is covered. But that security they had in the regular season was lost in the first two games of the postseason, until Anderson started saving everything he saw.
He’s helped restore their confidence, helped them find their fight. Look no further than the stickwork he had with Brandon Prust in Game 5 to see his compete level; said Anderson, “I got the stick in the gut and then I started hacking and whacking. It was a battle of emotions.”
Beating Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens four straight times is unlikely. The Habs still have two chances to close out their series.
But we’ve seen Anderson do this before – get locked in, save 50 pucks a game, save his team’s bacon in close wins, and have it continue for several games. In a League where you’re only as good as your goalie, Anderson can make teams look quite good in stretches.
And we’ve seen Ottawa do this before: Thrive when counted out, defy the odds and make believers out of the logical and the cynical. This isn’t to say Anderson and the Senators have another miracle comeback left in them; but who among us had this thing tabbed for a Game 6 last week?
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April 26, 2015
After the Penguins were eliminated by the New York Rangers on Friday night, Evgeni Malkin held court with reporters and Mike Johnston spoke at the podium. In both case, for whatever reason, my mindset was the same: Is this the last time I’m seeing these guys with Pittsburgh?
Johnston was brought in to make the Penguins a better playoff team; instead, they existed more quickly than they ever did under Dan Bylsma. Malkin went pointless in the Rangers series, and if the Penguins were really going to shake up the team, it might have been the end of an era for him.
But David Morehouse, CEO and president of the Penguins, said Johnston and Malkin are safe. So is Sidney Crosby, quelling any of that bizarre speculation. And above all, GM Jim Rutherford, the Band-Aid applied to the team after Ray Shero was fired last summer, is back as well.
“I know there's been a lot of speculation out there, but (co-owners) Ron (Burkle) and Mario (Lemieux) never once considered a change,” Morehouse said. “Jim Rutherford's our general manager, and Mike Johnston's our coach.”
Morehouse also quashed trade talk surrounding franchise centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“We're not looking at major changes,” Morehouse said. “Jim and ownership believe the core players we have are the core players to build around. That's what we're going to try to do.”
So there you go.
Obviously, Morehouse and ownership feel the three key loses on defense – Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff to concussions, and Olli Maata to a shoulder injury – contributed mightily to their playoff flop. From Morehouse:
“We had a new coach who almost never had a chance to coach his full team because of injuries. I don't know if there's a team in the league that could have succeeded in the playoffs without three of its top four defensemen. That's the situation we faced.”
(This is where we note that Bylsma’s calling card was his ability to shepherd the Penguins through massive man-games-lost in the regular season to the top of the division.)
Surprised? A bit. With the quality of coaches that might be available in the offseason, it’s interesting to hear a hasty endorsement of Johnston.
Rutherford, however, is more complicated. There’s no way the Penguins would fire him – too much respect for a hockey lifer. There might still be a chance he wants to step away after a challenging season; heck, he’s only going to be there 2-3 years anyway.
Consistency can breed success; there were times when teams like Claude Julien’s Bruins looked like they would have been imploded before they eventually won the Cup. The question is whether this mix of Penguin still have a window in which to win, or if the team would be better off transitioning into something different.
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No. 1 Star: Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames
The Flames forward was a dynamo against the Canucks in Calgary’s 7-4 come-from-behind series clinching win. He scored two goals and added two assists to help Calgary make the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04. That season the Flames went to the Stanley Cup Final.
No. 2 Star, Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
The star blueliner notched his second game winning goal of the Chicago’s series against Nashville, which sent the Blackhawks into the second round in a deciding 4-3 Game 6 win over the Predators. Keith also played 28:00 and was a plus-2. His goal came at the 16:12 mark of the third period. Check out this sweet goal celebration to the tune of “Chelsea Dagger” by the Fratellis. Maybe you’ve heard of that song a few times most recent springs.
No. 3. Star: Peter Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings rookie goaltender stopped 28 of 28 Tampa shots on goal in a 4-0 shutout of the Lightning. The victory put the Wings up 3-2 in its series at it heads to Detroit for Game 6. It also offered a little redemption for Mrazek after Detroit blew a two-goal third period lead in Game 4
Honorable Mention: New York defenseman Nick Leddy notched two assists and was a plus-3 in the Islanders' 3-1 win over Washington … Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak stopped 38 of 39 Caps shots on goal … The victory forced a Game 7 … Detroit forwards Riley Sheahan, Drew Miller and Pavel Dastsyuk each scored a goal … Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson notched two assists … Chicago forward Jonathan Toews scored a goal and added two assists in the win over Nashville … Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane scored a goal and added an assist … Calgary forwards Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau each scored a goal and added two assists … Calgary’s David Jones (three assists), Matt Stajan (one goal and two assists) and Michael Ferland (two goals and one assists) also had three points for the Flames ... Watch Islanders forward John Tavares take a massive hit by Alex Ovechkin to set up the game winner.
Did You Know?: Mike Babcock’s 82nd playoff win tied him with Toe Blake for ninth all time in NHL history. He is 82-60 in the playoffs.
Dishonorable Mention: Ovechkin was a minus-3 … Tampa forward Steven Stamkos was held pointless and has just two assists in five games for the Lightning … Chicago’s Scott Darling was yanked after allowing three goals in 12 shots on goal in the Hawks’ series clinching win over Nashville … The Predators held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in the loss … Nashville’s Pekka Rinne stopped 28 of 32 shots on goal in the loss … Vancouver goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 26 of 31 shots on goal against the Flames … Calgary netminder Jonas Hiller was also yanked after stopping one of three shots on goal.
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