The Islanders could very easily be up 3-1 in their series with the Pens if not for that heartbreaking loss on Sunday. Nevertheless, New York is in good shape at 2-2 and could be looking at a major upset. John Tavares and company have had no trouble keeping up with Pittsburgh when it comes to scoring, and if they can just slow down the Penguins big guns a little bit, then they have a shot.
It's a lot of fun to watch Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky right now. Streit chipped in with two goals and a helper in this one, while Visnovsky went plus-3. The pair have provided a lot of stability to a young Islanders team.
Marc-Andre Fleury had a rough evening. Giving up six goals on only 24 shots is not going to get it done against any opponent in the playoffs. Fleury's play is starting to look eerily similar to his performance last year against the Philadelphia Flyers as he has already given up several questionable goals against the Islanders, including two in Game 4 alone. He is more than capable of getting the job done and has proven so in the past, but the ugly goals continue to haunt him.
The Jean-Gabriel Pageau Player of the Night award goes to the Islanders Casey Cizikas who had three points and finished plus-4. You can only hope to contain him.
As a Leafs fan I must admit I was kind of hoping the Senators/Canadiens series would end up like one of those old school pro wrestling tournaments where two guys get counted out or disqualified and nobody advances. However, that doesn't look like it will be the case as Ottawa has grabbed a 3-1 lead. Believe it or not a hockey game even broke out in Game 4 as opposed to another brouhaha. This series has had a tremendous pace to it though and team speed is what both of these groups have going for them.
The Canadiens took a 2-0 lead on two great shots by P.K. Subban and Alex Galchenyuk. Both went up high in the top corner and that seems like it's precisely where you have to shoot on Craig Anderson. He is so good at battling down low and taking away the bottom part of the net, so if Montreal can't elevate their shots quickly, he is going to be tough to solve.
Staying with Galchenyuk, I'm surprised he hasn't been getting more minutes in the post-season. He only played 10:30 on Tuesday and it doesn't seem like he is being rewarded for his production. He's posted three points so far in this series which ties for the team lead, and he had 12 points in his final 13 regular season games as well.
Montreal suffered a tough break when Carey Price went down right at the final whistle of regulation after making a stop onMika Zibanejad. It looked like it might have been a left leg issue, but it's best not to speculate so let's just call it an upper or lower-body injury. Peter Budaj was forced to come in to start overtime and gave up a bit of a softy to Kyle Turris, that looked like it may have hit Player 61 (aka Raphael Diaz) in front.
Chicago just looks to have too much depth for Minnesota to handle. They're up 3-1 now as well after defeating the Wild 3-0. Not having Dany Heatley and missing Jason Pominville for the first three games of the series really hurt them. They had a chance to steal the opening game when it went to overtime, but when the Wild failed to do that all the momentum shifted to the Blackhawks.
Mikko Koivu hasn't seemed like his normal self in the playoffs. He has been held pointless and is a minus-5 in the series. Not to mention he has taken four minor penalties and a couple of which have really hurt the Wild.
Darcy Kuemper stopped 16 of 18 shots coming in for an injured Josh Harding on Tuesday. Kuemper was called up when Niklas Backstrom was hurt in warmups prior to Game 1. This may have cost the Houston Aeros a first round playoff series against the Grand Rapids Griffins as Kuemper was their starter and had to miss the deciding Game 5. Just one of the issues AHL teams have to deal with this time of year.
Minnesota's power play isn't doing them any favours as they are now 0-15 in this year's playoffs after going 0-6 last night.
Patrick Sharp chipped in with two goals in the Blackhawks win and Bryan Bickell added his third of the post-season. Marian Hossa is the catalyst for the Chicago offense right now though as he was everywhere in Game 4 causing all kinds of turnovers.
Another disappointing playoffs for the Canucks and although I'm sure some felt the Sharks would beat them, not many would have predicted a sweep. Whether you want to blame it on a lack of playoff scoring or a goalie controversy, it is clear something isn't quite right in Vancouver.
Here's a theory from yours truly. Vancouver doesn't look as battle tested as a Boston, San Jose, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, or Ottawa for example, and that might have a lot to do with the division they play in. You could make an argument that the Northwest is in a grudge match with the Southeast for the title of worst division in hockey. Colorado, Edmonton, and Calgary were awful this year and Minnesota was only above average. It's been that way for a while now and the lack of tough divisional games for the Canucks may not have them as sharp as they need to be. Just a thought.
Joe Pavelski looks like he's regaining his form from a couple of years ago. He scored two more goals in Game 4 and the Canucks couldn't match the production from him, as well as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. That and some foolish penalties which the Sharks cashed in for six power play goals in the last two games doomed Vancouver.
Does this performance ultimately cost Alain Vigneault his job?
Should Mika Zibanejad's goal have counted last night? What say you folks?
The Leafs are essentially in a must win tonight and it will be interesting to see if Randy Carlyle makes any lineup changes. Ryan O'Byrne and Jake Gardiner were shaky at times and I'm wondering if John-Michael Liles sneaks back in there. Gardiner's offensive ability seems too valuable though to not have on the ice.
The forward group they used in Games 2 and 3 gives them the best chance to win one would think. Minus Colton Orr of course, who for some reason still occupies a lineup spot.
The Red Wings and Ducks seemed destined for seven games. Anaheim has had opportunities to take control of the series, but the veteran presence on Detroit just won't allow it.
I've criticized the Blues at times for playing some boring hockey, but their series against the Kings has been very entertaining. All one goal games and low scoring, however, it's been the best series of the first round in my opinion. It has a third round feel.
Whoever survives the Rangers/Capitals series has a chance to go a long way in the playoffs. Both teams were coming into the post-season with plenty of momentum and an emotional win will only add to that.
The NHL has begun announcing the nominees for their annual awards, which started on Monday with Calder finalists Jonathan Huberdeau, Brendan Gallagher, and Brandon Saad. Although all are worthy candidates, I would have to cast my vote for Huberdeau. He tied for the rookie lead in scoring on a bad Panthers squad, while Gallagher and Saad had the luxury of playing on stronger teams. I like Saad's upside a lot, but he owes a lot of his success this season by playing alongside Jonathan Toews for the majority of the time.
Also a little surprising Jonas Brodin was left off the list.
As far as the Norris goes, the nominations of P.K. Subban, Kris Letang, and Ryan Suter seem solid as well. I’m thinking Suter may have an edge because of what he has accomplished after leaving Shea Weber.
I've really been getting into the AHL playoffs the last two seasons. It's hard to find the games televised unless you live in a specific city that is still competing in the post-season, and even then it's no picnic. The quality of hockey is great though and it's a good way to watch up-and-coming prospects. An intriguing series in the second round will be Toronto against Grand Rapids. Detroit has an underrated group of young talent including Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak, who combined for three goals in the series deciding game against the Houston Aeros in round one.
How about Switzerland starting 3-0 at the World Hockey Championships? The program has slowly but surely been making strides over the years and now appear to be turning somewhat of a corner to be able to compete with the big boys more regularly. The Swiss have now beaten Sweden, Canada, and the Czech Republic in succession. Edmonton Oilers bench boss Ralph Krueger deserves a lot of the credit as he served as Switzerland's coach from 1997 until the conclusion of the 2010 Olympics. The time and effort he put in really made a difference.
Either the Paul MacLean look-alike is back, or MacLean is a ninja who is everywhere.
The Islanders deserve more credit says Cam Charron.
More on the Islanders with this interesting piece from Bryan Curtis of Grantland on how fans feel about the upcoming move to Brooklyn.
The NHL 14' cover voting is down to the final 16. Still disappointed Matt Beleskey didn't make the cut.
Sidney Crosby lands on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
There will be an outdoor game at Dodger Stadium next season between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Not sure how that is going to work with the ice preparation as they have already had difficulties in northern climates. Players may be using water skis instead of skates.
Former NHLer Bates Battaglia and his brother won season 22 of The Amazing Race. And yes, you read that right.
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