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Greg Thomson

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After 16 years of frustration and uncertainty, the Winnipeg fan base has finally be rewarded with an NHL team to support. In what was an ongoing process between the Atlanta Thrashers ownership group, the Atlanta Spirit, and True North Sports and Entertainment, the fans in Winnipeg could not be any happier at what the future holds. There are still legalities to be settled, including the approval from the NHL’s Board of Governors, along with a name being chosen for the franchise prior to the draft on June 24. Good things come to those who way, and boy has the city of Winnipeg waited long enough.

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While the Stanley Cup Playoffs are still running for another two weeks, the major junior season wraps up tonight with a highly anticipated matchup between the Saint John Sea Dogs and Missisisauga St. Michaels Majors. The QMJHL champion Sea Dogs entered the tournament as the favorites, with four players ranked in the top 20 for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, including the tremendously talented Jonathan Huberdeau. However, the Majors will put up a good test and attempt to outmatch their opponent up with depth and physicality.

The atmosphere at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga will be off the charts as junior hockey fans everywhere gather for the top event of the year. Regardless of which team wins, the Memorial Cup has been thoroughly exciting, with several promising prospects eager to leave a lasting reputation with scouts. Not only is the NHL at an all time high for popularity, but the quality of the play in the CHL may have never been better.

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With the Vancouver Canucks having been on the sidelines for several days now, all of the attention has shifted towards the Eastern Conference finals, with Game 7 set for tonight in Boston. The entire series has been as unpredictable as it has been exciting. The Lightning have had four five goal outings in the series (Games 1, 2, 4 and 6) disrupted by 1-0 and 3-1 losses in Games 3 and 5. We’ll see if Tampa Bay can produce offensive success in the seventh and deciding game and if Dwayne Roloson provides the backing necessary to make it hold up.

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It’s not every day that a team can acquire a true number one centre with the ability to carry a franchise. Nevermind a guy who is only 26 years old and has recorded 115 goals in his last three seasons. When online reports trickled in from Comcast in Philadelphia and mentioned on Twitter that Jeff Carter may be on the open market, Leaf fans went abuzz about a potential swap. Regardless of whether the sources reporting the deal are legitimate, there is some reason to believe the Flyers are willing to move Carter.

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Hopefully everyone survived rapture. The Tampa Bay Lightning survived yesterday and evened the series at twos by overcoming a 3-0 deficit (once again proving the most dangerous lead in hockey Boston) to win Game 4. What was most surprising to hear from members of the Lightning after the game was the calmness that head coach Guy Boucher showed during the first intermission, when he successfully refocused his team. Yes, this same guy. Anyone want to dispute the statement that the Lightning have had a major coaching advantage in this series?

Backup Mike Smith put in the grunt work, stopping 21 saves in relief of Dwayne Roloson, who was pulled after allowing a trio of goals. Tampa’s grinder power came through again as Teddy Purcell had a pair, while Sean Bergenheim scored his ninth of the playoffs. Oft-injured winger Simon Gagne sealed the deal with the game winner past Tim Thomas. Despite a shaky outing, Roloson is expected to return for Game 5 on Monday.

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The San Jose Sharks have fought back and made the Western Conference final series much more interesting. Unlike years past, the Sharks’ received offensive support from top-to-bottom, most notably by Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Marleau was in fine form, notching two goals, including one on the power play. He is currently tied for the team lead with 7 goals in the post season. With that being said, Jumbo Joe Thornton has been the Sharks most consistent and versatile forward during the playoffs. His 14 assists (three last night) and 17 points are both team bests. It was the output by both Marleau and Thornton that enabled San Jose to regain life against Vancouver after being dominated in Game 2.

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With only one win in their previous five games prior to last night, it seemed inevitable that the San Jose Sharks were bound to collapse against the high-flying Vancouver Canucks. In a game where the Canucks completely took over midway through the contest, it was clear that the Sharks were holding on for dear life.

Go-to offensive leaders Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler came to play, as did blueliner Kevin Bieka, who scored his second in two games on a short side shot off a breakaway chance. Secondary scorers Raffi Torres, Chris Higgins and Mason Raymond bolstered the Canucks lead to secure a 7-3 win. While he probably enjoyed the chest action more so than a rare playoff goal, Ben Eager came up too little, too late in a late third-period marker for the in teal. With that being said, Eager had an eventful game, with a huge hit on Daniel Sedin and several trips to the sin bin.

Nonetheless, last night’s game was another prime example of why the NHL is the greatest sports league, in large part to the end-to-end action that we are witnessing on a nightly basis. It goes without mentioning the fan support, which as you can see, is at its peak. Despite the blowout loss, the Canucks and Sharks played an entertaining brand of hockey. Fitting that the Sports Business Journal named the NHL the top sports league, ahead of the NFL, NBA, MLS and UFC. And for that, take a bow NHL.

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They all have them. Every star player, both in the past and present, has had a coming out party. While some happen earlier than others, one Tyler Seguin was an offensive monster in the Bruins’ 6-5 win last night. In only his second career playoff game, Seguin collected two goals and two assists, the best output by a teenager since Trevor Linden had a four-point effort in 1986. Although be began the post season in the press box, has Seguin found his place in the offensive ranks and asserted himself as a true goal scorer for the Bruins?

It was pretty unlikely the former second overall pick wouldn’t be heard from eventually (Burke didn’t make the Kessel deal expecting otherwise), and Seguin displayed tremendous skill and poise on both goals, each going right under the cross bar. Not only did he bring his current total to 5 points in 2 games this series, but managed four of those in only 13:41 of ice time. In large part his success was influenced by the play of line mate Michael Ryder, who had his first two-goal game since round one against the Montreal Canadiens. Ryder opened up space for Seguin and worked hard along the boards to retrieve the puck for Seguin.

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Game two of the Eastern Conference finals gets underway tonight, with Boston trying avenge their 5-2 loss on Saturday. They are hoping Patrice Bergeron returns from a concussion to provide some much needed face-off prowess and ability to shutdown Tampa’s skilled forwards. With a two-day layoff between games one and two, expect a high octane, physical brand of hockey.

Feel free to share your predictions for the game down below in the comment box. Now onto your links.

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They say ‘good things come to those who wait’ and that is no different for the Tampa Bay Lightning. After several years of bottoming out and falling into a downward spiral, the Lightning have established a new identity. Gone is the shaky ownership, inexperienced management and questionable coaching. No more quick fixes or patches in the lineup. Years of waiting in St. Petersburg has finally brought positive change.

That change was in full movement last night as they came to play against the Boston Bruins, en route to their eighth straight win. The Lightning score a franchise record two goals in 19 seconds and three in 1:25. And although neither Steven Stamkos or Martin St. Louis buried for Tampa, third line role players emerged, as they have all playoffs, including the likes of Sean Bergenheim and Teddy Purcell. Along with other goal getters Brett Clark and Marc-Andre Bergeron, Bergenheim an Purcell represent the body of work that Steve Yzerman has accomplished at the helm. Yzerman is capable of recognizing talent and finding players who will thrive in the team system.

Every playoff teams secret weapons are third line role players who can play in all situations and shutdown the oppositions best line. If you want to pinpoint one reason for the Bolts success, it better be the grinders.

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It’s hard to believe the third round is already beginning tonight. Doesn’t it feel like the post season just began and we were experiencing an opening round for the ages? As they say, time flies when your having fun. With the level of play at the highest it’s been in years, there is lots of excitement leading up to the third round, which features two very interesting match ups.

Out west, the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks enter the series as the one and two seeds in the regular season. Both teams play a team game and rely on role players to contribute. I say Canucks in seven.

In the east, the Bruins and Lightning are the forgotten teams, despite sweeping through their opponents in the second round. Tampa Bay will continue to rely on consistent play from its secondary forwards, like Sean Bergenheim, along with solid goaltending from Dwayne Roloson. If they manage to keep Boston’s big guns off the board, I’m confident for Tampa to win in six.

What do you think?

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There have been few players criticized in the playoffs more than Sharks forward Patrick Marleau. After losing two straight games to Detroit and on the verge of being eliminate in Game 7, Marleau made his impact felt by lifting San Jose to a 3-2 win, and ultimately, a berth in the Western finals. Despite his inability to produce consistently throughout the series, Marleau compensated for his dismal play by ousting the veteran-laden Wings.

The Red Wings, who have 16 former Cup winners on their current roster, battled hard and deserve credit for coming back to force a Game 7. Not only did they deal with adversity, but they also felt the injury bug. Both Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary left last night’s game with injuries. In the end, Detroit has had their time and it is a refreshing sight to see two relatively inexperienced battle in the next round. Neither the Sharks or Canucks have tasted Stanley Cup glory, but one will come that much closer in several weeks time.

The question is, who will that be?

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Since there were no games on tap last night, today’s Mashup will be condensed as the Red Wings and Sharks prepare to do battle in Game 7. All the talk leading into the game is revolving around the Sharks top six up front and whether they can get the job done, which is something that have struggled with in years past. If you ask me, the Wings have all the momentum and shouldn’t have any problem putting away the Sharks. They have come up large in two straight games to tie the series, and there is no reason why they can’t do it again.

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For a team that was down and out only one week ago, the Detroit Red Wings have mounted quite the comeback to force a Game 7. With three teams already locked into the conference championships, the final spot will be up for grabs when San Jose hosts Detroit in a highly anticipated Game 7 on Thursday.

Both teams were scoreless through 40 minutes before Logan Couture opened things up on his fifth goal of the post season. Less than seven minutes later, Henrik Zetterberg evened the game and jumpstarted the Wings’ third period comeback. Valteri Filppula would then add to the lead to his team a 2-1 advantage with still over half the period to play. Despite their hard fought effort and string of scoring chances, the Sharks could not solve Jimmy Howard between the pipes.

Speedy center Darren Helm sealed the deal with an empty netter to lift Detroit to victory in front of the hometown crowd. Rest assured there aren’t too many people who would have predicted such a comeback. It’s not the first time we have witnessed epic playoff performances from the ‘winged wheel’ but overcoming a 0-3 series deficit is something even the 11 time Cup champs have yet to add to their list of franchise accomplishments.

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Despite a hard fought effort throughout the playoffs, and more specifically in this series, the Nashville Predators could not contain the Canucks versatile offense or solve Roberto Luongo in net. It’s not the end of the world for the Preds, who finish the season knowing they achieved more than what many predicted and set a higher standard for the franchise and its fans. Who ever thought Nashville could draw such a vibrant, supportive crowd? Even without a player over the 50-point barrier, the Preds achieved their success by committee. One thing is certain. In the NHL season preview magazines releasing in the fall, there will be observers counting the Preds out of the post season picture, just as they did before this season. Nashville wouldn’t have it any other way.

Although the Vancouver Canucks still have a few days off before Game 1 of the Western Conference final, they will anticipate their next opponent. The San Jose Sharks can wrap up their series with Detroit tonight and secure a berth in the second round. After playing all seven possible games the opening round against Chicago, and more recently six with Nashville, the Canucks havent taken the easy route to the final four. Compare that to the Bruins and Lightning, who both went seven games in round one, but swept their respective series following that. The grind out West, combined with the heavy travel schedule and level playing field, would lead to an Eastern team having a clear advantage. However, that may not be the case. A series versus either the Sharks or Red Wings will be the best Stanley Cup final preparation.

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Another third period comeback helped the Detroit Red Wings overcome the San Jose Sharks to win Game 5 by a 3-2 score. After taking a comfortable 3-1 lead into the third period on goals from Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, the Red Wings stormed back with three unanswered markers to defeat the Sharks. Jonathan Ericsson opened the third period scoring, before Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom added to the lead. Detroit proved once again why they are such a stellar playoff team and can never be counted out in a series. While an upset is unlikely, the Red Wings have a chance to tie the series when they return home for Game 6 on Tuesday. We will see if storming back to win when facing elimination down 3-1 in the third period goes onto be the pivotal series-changing moment or if the Sharks can seal the deal.

At the worlds, Team Canada is back in action today against the Swedes. Ken Hitchcock declared after Friday’s game that Jonathan Bernier would be given a chance to start over James Reimer. The coaching staff would like to evaluate both goaltenders before determining the official starter for the medal round.

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The Vancouver Canucks forfeited an ideal chance to put away the Nashville Predators, with wind in their sales and a heightened sense of confidence playing in front of the home fans. The Predators turned the corner in the second period when Joel Ward burst onto the scene, with two goals and an assist.

While the Canucks managed to get three goals past Pekke Rinne, they did not play their best game yesterday. However, Ryan Kesler continued his second round dominance, scoring two of Vancouver’s three goals on the night. The Canucks, who currently hold a 3-2 lead in the series, can secure a berth in the Western final of they defeat the Predators on Monday.

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With both series’ last night potential elimination games, there was a lot at stake for the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers. Despite losing all three games by one goal – with two games decided in overtime, the Red Wings had every reason to believe they still had a chance of gaining life in a rather deceiving series. Although they are down 3-1, the Red Wings has displayed a stronger sense of urgency and hunger in the last two games.

The old saying ‘quit while you’re ahead’ may very well describe Nickas Lidstrom’s situation, as he continues to weigh his options and ultimately decide if he will return for another season. While he has kept his cards close to his chest, you’d be hard pressed to find a player of his age who continues to be among the best defenseman in the league, without showing any signs of wear. Lidstrom scored a pair of important tallies for the Wings last night, including a play where he batted the puck out of the air past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi. All indications are that the Sharks will win this series, however, the Wings haven’t given up the fight.

Milan Lucic rediscovered his scoring touch last night with a two-goal performance in Boston’s 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins, who narrowly defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the post season, have a new sense of confidence after putting away the Flyers in four games. With the win, the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference finals to play the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.

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In rather convincing fashion the Vancouver Canucks knocked off the Nashville Predators 4-2 last night. After winning the second game in Vancouver and sweeping the back-to-back set in Nashville, the Canucks have pushed the Preds to the brink. Although the Sedin twins have been MIA for much of the series, Ryan Kesler has elevated his game to a new level, with two goals and six points in his last two games.

The Canucks have proved to be too much to handle for Nashville, who had relied heavily on Pekka Rinne between the pipes. At the opposite end, Roberto Luongo has been solid when he has to be, albeit having long periods of time without facing a shot. While the defense has played relatively well in front of Luongo, it will be even better when Sami Salo returns from injury on Saturday in front of the home fans.

The turning point in the series may be the beautiful goal scored by Kesler last night and the final thorn in the Predators side. Barring a monumental comeback, the Canucks are poised to advance to the Western Conference final.

As Alex Burrows stated to members of the media after the game, “We’re pretty confident in tight games. We’re not going to break down. We’re going to make the other team break down.”

Lucky for Burrows, the most tight and hard fought games have yet to be played. Things only get more challenging from this point forward for Canada’s only team still alive in the post season.

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After witnessing four first round series advance to a game seven, the feeling going into the second round was that there would not be any clearcut favorites, especially in the 2nd vs. 3rd seedings. That hasn’t been the case thus far. Sure, there has been a record number of overtime contests, but the same teams are winning. The trend continued last night, with victories by Tampa Bay, Boston and San Jose.

The Lightning are on a mission and look unstoppable, with seven straight wins dating back to game 5 of their first round series with Pittsburgh. Not many picked them to upset the top seeded Capitals, in four games no less, and become the first team to secure a spot in the conference finals. It has been quite the storied journey for the Bolts, who are making the most of their first playoff appearance in three seasons. Led by bench boss Guy Boucher, the team has established an underdog attitude and a belief that they can’t be defeated.

While last night didn’t decide the series for these two teams, the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks both came within one win of advancing to the final four with victories last night. Boston crushed a lifeless Philadelphia team that has hit a roadblock, virtually shattering all hope remaining. They are only a shadow of their former selfs and will be hard pressed to comeback and win the series. Last years epic rebound after being down 3-0 in the series was a result of a change in team mindset, along with several lucky bounces, but is a stretch to expect two years in a row.