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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are teams in every major professional sports league who dominate the opposition in the regular season, but can't put it all together and get over the hump when it counts. The San Jose Sharks have historically underperformed in the post season, despite annually posting one one of the top records in the league. If any powerhouse is going to be ousted in the second round, it will very likely be the Washington Capitals, who went down 3-0 in their series last night.
Although the Capitals managed to mount an early lead on the Lightning, Tampa Bay slowly climbed back, with solid play from all four lines. After tying the game at three in the latter stages of the third period, Tampa fed off the support of the home crowd and eventually got the deciding goal from Ryan Malone.
Alex Ovechkin had an above average game for the Caps, but lacked offensive support from his line mates. Nicklas Backstrom has been virtually invisible throughout the playoffs and is nowhere near fulfilling expectations set by Bruce Boudreau.
Unless the Capitals do the impossible and win the next four games, the Lightning will move on to the Eastern Conference Chmapionship amongst the NHL's final four. Hard to believe when the team owner, general manager and head coach are all first timers.
Regardless of what it says on your passport or birth certificate (see: Barack Obama), the atmosphere in the building at the Wells Fargo Centre when Lauren Hart serenaded the Flyers faithful with 'God Bless America' was an amazing sight and whirlwind of emotion.
The performance was a fitting tribute to the ups and downs that North America has endured and the ramifications of 9/11. Observing all of the dangers and tragedies in the world forces you to step back and think about what's really important. Sport is a way for many of us to get away from all of that. However, it is important to be thankful to the men and women who have sacrificed so much in order for us to live freely.
On the ice last night, the Boston Bruins managed to pull out a very hard fought 3-2 win on the back of Tim Thomas, who stopped 52 of 54 shots. The Flyers thrived off the emotion from the national anthem by jumping out to an early two-goal led thanks to James Van Riemsdyk. A balance Boston attack, led by Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly, paced the Bruins back to a tie game.
With two games in the bag and two more wins required to advance, it appears that the Bruins know how to solve the Flyers, but have they overcome the monumental upset from last season or is it still looming in the back of their mind?
On a night where two giants were expected to make good quality comebacks in their respective series comebacks just weren't in the hockey godsâ€™ cards. Both the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings find themselves down in a hole trailing 2-0 after two games played with Washington losing both games in their own building.
If the old saying of â€œYouâ€™re never in trouble in the playoffs until you lose at homeâ€ is true then Washington is really up the creek without a paddle. What is happening to the Capitals? Is it the Guy Boucher 1-3-1 adaptation of the trap? Is it Tampaâ€™s relentless work on the forecheck, or is it the spectacular veteran goaltending from Dwayne Roloson? Could be the almost perfect playoff PP of the Lightning. Iâ€™d argue that itâ€™s a combination of all four things coming together at just the right time for Guy Boucherâ€™s men. Not to mention the play of Marty St. Louis who currently stands 2nd playoff scoring. His main partner in crime isnâ€™t Steven Stamkos who, although improved, still hasnâ€™t matched his regular season heights. No, that mantle goes to Vincent Lecavalier, their captain who proved very captain like last night scoring the OT game winner. Washington is indeed controlling the play for most of those two games but does so with a distinct individualistic taste. There are not going hard to the net and their stars are trying to do too much, but most importantly, they are not winning puck battles and playing like last yearâ€™s Capitals. We all know where that got them.
Donâ€™t look now but the Sharks are now 6-1 in their last seven playoff games against the Red Wings. What other team can ever claim such dominance? It might be true that all their wins were 1 goal games, but that speaks volumes for San Joseâ€™s willingness to win. This may be a very even matchup, but the Sharks are finding ways to win. Tale of the tape â€“ crowding the crease. Joe Thornton and other grey sea creatures sprayed Jimmy Howard with so much snow he might end up with a fever after this one. An almost perfect game by the Sharks special teams killing off 5 Detroit powerplays before giving up a PP goal and scoring one themselves courtesy of our very own Ian White. Same as with Luongo and the Blackhawks one could say that the Sharks are in Howardâ€™s head now. The most surprising thing for me is the turnaround of Joe Thornton. Heâ€™s been a beast all these years but never really played playoff and Cup winning hockey until this year. Backchecking, playing a good physical game this might not be a 100 point plus Joe Thornton but is the kind of Joe Thornton that has 6 points in his last 6 playoff games and could very well lift the Stanley Cup.
Onto your mashup with Greg
If yesterday'sÂ 7-3 routing of the Philadelphia Flyers is any indication, the Boston Bruins have been uncaged from their former,Â low scoring self. The Bruins team that defeated the Flyers yesterday after was a much different one that slipped out of a relatively low scoring first round series with the Montreal Canadiens. Although the personnel is the same, the Bruins have taken on a different attitude with more 'swagger' as they look to capitalize after narrowly advancing past the opening round.
David Krejci and Brad Marchand each scored two goals, while Nathan Horton, Mark Recchi and Gregory Campbell all added a marker. It wasn't an issue in the first round, but Peter Laviolette is now questioning his goaltender and whether the Flyers can rely on a three-headed goaltending rotation to guide them all the way back to the Stanley Cup finals. After appointing Brian Boucher as his starter prior to the series, Laviolette opted for Sergei Bobrovsky midway through the game.
Neither team has a clear advantage over its opposition, but the Bruins showed signs of pulling away with a more balanced lineup, and more importantly, stability in net with Tim Thomas.
Along with the beginning of the second round of the playoff, the excitement in Leaf land was also brimming for the start of the World Championships in Slovakia. Canada had their first taste of tournament action in a 4-1 victory over the Belarussians, who are captained by Mikhail Grabovski. In the win, all three goal scorers (Eberle with two, Jeff Skinner, John Tavares) are under the age of 20, with the youngest being 18-year old Skinner. Judging from the offensive output displayed by these three youngsters, the Canadians will rely on youthful enthusiasm and speed to overpower their opposition. From a Leafs perspective, James Reimer was solid in his Team Canada debut. He was postionally sound and was very composed in net. What was a refreshing change in his game is his improvement on rebound control. He has clearly corrected some of his weaknesses displayed earlier this season and made a concerted effort to return in top form this fall.
Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn were both steady on the backend, each logging top four minutes. Phaneuf took three minor penalties, but compensated for his undiscipline by unleashing a cannon from the blueline, which eventually led to Jordan Eberles second goal.
Canada is back in action on Sunday against Cristobal Huet and Team France.
The second round of the playoffs got off to a relatively quiet start, with only one game on the docket. Although it's far too early to determine whether the second round will be as exciting in the first, it is unlikely than anything can top the level of excitement that was on display night in and night out through the opening round.
What we as fans should come to expect from the second round is a hard hitting, tight checking, defensive style. As evidenced from last night's game between Nashville and Vancouver, the battle between Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo highlighted what was otherwise a relatively uneventful contest.
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals host division rival Tampa Bay Lightning at the Verizon Center tonight. It will be interesting to see how the Capitals defense reacts to the Lightning attack, led by Hart Trophy nominee Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. The Caps only had to limit Marian Gaborik, who struggled for the Rangers, and Brandon Dubinsky. It will be up to Mike Green to step up as a leader on the backend and perform when it matters most.