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.
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.
What was interesting about Friday's late-breaking report by Stephen Brunt of a deal between the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers and True North Sports & Entertainment was less the news of a possible deal to bring hockey back to Winnipeg (the story of True North's - and particularly part-owner David Thomson's - interest in buying the Thrashers was first reported by Al Strachan on HNIC back in 2009), and more the mini-controversy that immediately followed the report.
While Brunt's report claimed sources had confirmed a deal was finalized, TSN followed with a report of their own claiming their sources suggested a deal was definitely in the works but stressed that nothing was finalized. What's interesting about this are the connections at play: The highly-respected Brunt writes for the Globe & Mail, whose Chairman is none other than David Thomson ... a fact not lost on the many joyously quoting said report. TSN, on the other hand, was using sources tied to the NHL, which as a matter of policy (and legal protection) will not confirm any deals until everything is signed, sealed and delivered. [more…]
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.
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.
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.
Conference Finals typically mean a rise in intensity of play of all the teams that are still playing hockey mid May. Teams, coaches and players feel like they are coming closer to the Grail and itâ€™s visible in every puck battle, shot and save. Yesterday night was no different as we witnessed a very close, hard fought battle between the San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks.
San Jose played a solid road game until the third period, when Vancouverâ€™s speed just took over. Once again, Roberto Luongo didnâ€™t look like a 5 million plus goalie. His mishandling of a pass led to one Sharks goal and his flair for embellishing things was once again there for all to see. I fail to see why a top goalie (not elite, but top) has to act in a way that not only humiliates him, but his team and the game of hockey as well. That third period showed what the Canucks are capable of when in full flight (and with a somewhat recuperated Henrik), but the game also showed what SJ could do relying solely on their goaltender who almost single handedly stole the win. Now, if they can raise their level of play to match the kind of hockey they played against Detroit (better PK, less breakdowns in the D zone, crease crashing) I can see them winning the series.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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 Wingsâ€™ 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.