Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Two Nights, One Elimination

Boy, just when you thought the Blue Jackets had the Penguins on the ropes on Monday night, the Penguins flex their proverbial offensive muscle and dominate for a small portion of the game, doing more than enough to shock Columbus out of a win.

The Jackets dropped their first playoff game at home in some time, 4-3, to go down in the series, 2-1, with Game Four going on Wednesday night.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Paul Martin and Jussi Jokinen were the notable players in the pool for Pittsburgh, each picking up 2 points, while Brandon Dubinsky had a pair of assists for Columbus.

An undisclosed injury sidelined Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin in Game Two, which forced him from the line-up in Game Three and he is listed as doubtful for Game Four on Wednesday.  Tyutin was taken once in the pool, so it is only somewhat notable, but in the 1+ games he has played in, he has failed to register a point.

There is something to be said about home-ice advantage, so says the Minnesota Wild.  The Wild, who were not exactly blown out of the water, playing the Avalanche in Denver, but they were able to shut down the high powered Avalanche offense and play the game they wanted.

It's hard to say whether or not the goaltending was a massive factor, since Ilya Bryzgalov was hung out to dry in the first two games of the series, but Darcy Kuemper came in and did the job, stopping all 22 shots that he saw, much to the chagrin of the hockey pool.

Mikael Granlund scored the only goal of the game, five minutes into the extra frame, as the Wild won 1-0 and took a game back in the series, only down 2-1 now with Game Four going on Wednesday night.

The Avalanche were also dealt a pretty huge blow on the injury front, as Box 9 defenseman Tyson Barrie was on the wrong end of a Matt Cooke knee-on-knee, which has, in essence, finished his playoffs, before they had even really began.  Barrie has now been listed as out 4-to-6 weeks with the knee injury and Cooke has been called to the carpet for an in-person hearing, which may cost him dearly as a repeat offender.  Barrie was taken four times in the pool and was good for 2 assists in the first three games.

The St. Louis Blues brought their late-game heroics to the Madhouse on Madison, but finally, the Blackhawks were able to hang on to a lead, as small as it was, to hang on to a 2-0 victory and climb back into the series, down 2-1.

The Blackhawks picked up the lead early in the 1st period on a Jonathan Toews goal and it was that way until the bitter end, until a Marcus Kruger empty-netter sealed the deal with only 20 seconds to go.  The defense was far more stingy and the goaltending complimented it all, as Corey Crawford made 34 saves to earn the shutout.

Of course, Crawford led the way with 4 points in the game, while Toews with the winner, had 2 points in the game and those were the only two notable players in the game.

It seems far less likely that St. Louis Blues forward and captain David Backes will be back before the end of this series.  Backes was crushed by Brent Seabrook of the Blackhawks, which appeared to give Backes a concussion, which would keep him out at least a week and probably more, giving how bad it looked at the time.  Backes was taken three times in the pool and was good for 1 assist in the first two games of the series.

To conclude the wrap-up on Monday night, the night of the home team shutout (three out of four games), the Dallas Stars played host to the Anaheim Ducks and showed their division rivals that they were far from being kicked out of this series early.

Kari Lehtonen withstood 37 shots on net, not giving up a single goal against, for his first win of the playoffs and picked up the extra 2 points for the shutout at the same time.  As the only goalie in this series that is on the hockey pool sheet, there was finally some goalie points to show from this series.

The Stars scored in each period to slowly drain the energy out of their opponents, putting the game away near the midway part of the 3rd frame.  Besides Lehtonen picking up 4 points in the game, the only other notable player in this was the scorer of the game-winner, Jamie Benn.

There was a severe injury to Ducks defenseman Stephane Robidas, breaking his leg again, but he doesn't feature in this pool, but it may be worth noting as the series goes on.

There we have it!  Our first elimination in the hockey pool, as the Montreal Canadiens swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games, although the Bolts did try to make a game, with their season on the line, almost forcing overtime, if it wasn't for a late Max Pacioretty goal to win it, 4-3.

Carey Price, taken seven times in the pool, made 20 saves on 23 shots to go 4-0 in these playoffs, good enough for 8 points, good enough to go clear in the hockey pool points in this series.

In the game, Price and Pacioretty were the only two notable players with multi-point games in the pool, so that pretty well clears up the notes on the game.  Tampa did have a new injury of note, but it becomes moot with the loss.

With the Tampa Bay elimination, 29 selections from the pool were eliminated.  Sami Salo, who spent the last two games in the press box with an upper-body injury, was the most popular Bolts player, with 9 selection, while Matt Carle had 8 picks.  The back end was more popular, as some people thought Tampa would slide past Montreal, but make it no further.

Steven Stamkos was the best Tampa player in the pool, scoring 2 goals and adding 2 assists in the 4-game series.

Montreal will face the winner of the Boston/Detroit series, which going into Tuesday, was tied up at one going into Detroit.

Game Three of the Bruins/Red Wings series went in Detroit on Tuesday night and there is no question that this was going to be a swing game in the series, as we had already seen both teams win games with the way they needed to play.  The first goal in the game obviously goes a long way to dictate how each game was played and Game Three was no exception.

It was a bench minor for the Red Wings that opened up the game in the 1st period, as Dougie Hamilton scored at the 9-minute mark, which gave the Bruins the lead to defend and not only did they do that, but they also added on.

Another goal in the 1st period held the Wings down through to the late stages of the 3rd period, when Patrice Bergeron iced the game away with an empty-netter, while Tuukka Rask stopped all 23 shots he faced for a 3-0 victory, taking one away from home.

Rask, Bergeron and Hamilton were the notable players in this one, with the keeper coming away with 4 points and the other two picking up a pair of points.

One notable omission from the Detroit Red Wings line-up, as Daniel Alfredsson was not able to dress for Game Three, due to a back ailment. Back issue have hindered Alfredsson this season, so his availability for the must-win Game Four is still up in the air.  Alfie wasn't taken in the pool this year, so his absence will mostly affect his teammates and how long they stay in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, in the Metropolitan Division match-up on Tuesday night, the Rangers went into the Wells Fargo Center to face the Flyers and try to take another lead in their opening round series.  Much to their credit, that's exactly what they did.

1st period goals from Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis got the visitors off to a good start with a 2-0 lead before the midway point of the opening frame, but there was a response from Philly's Mark Streit made the game close before the end of the period, but it wasn't going to be enough.

A goal in the 2nd and another in the 3rd, plus Henrik Lundqvist stopping 31 Flyer shots was enough for the Rangers to take a 4-1 win and a 2-1 series lead, with Game Four going in Philadelphia on Friday night.

St. Louis led the way for the Rangers with 3 points, while Lundqvist, Dan Girardi and Rick Nash all had 2 points for the winners.  St. Louis' shortcomings in the regular season, post-deadline, are all being forgotten, as he has started out well for New York in this series, leading the way with 6 points.

Going back home to the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Kings likely only had one goal in mind, trying to establish themselves in this series, and that was to slow down the San Jose offense, which has been relentless in the first two games of the series.  To the Kings' credit, they did that, but that was only relative, as their offense didn't make up for what they gained defensively.

This was an up-and-down game on the scoresheet, as the lead shifted back and forth a little bit, with the Kings holding a pair of leads that dissolved with Shark responses.  With the game tied at three in the first extra frame, it was Patrick Marleau that sealed the deal, as the Sharks won 4-3, grabbing a stranglehold on the series, 3-0, and the Kings find themselves behind the 8-ball, going into Thursday's Game Four.

Marleau finished the game as the top contributor for the Sharks, coming away with 3 points, while Antti Niemi had a couple of points for the win.  In the loss, Drew Doughty had a couple of assists to make his mark on this blog post, but that was about it.

The Kings are in big trouble now, as the dreaded 3-0 hole is next to impossible to get out of, which has 87 selections in the hockey pool rather worried.

Game-Winning Goals
New Playoffs Game Winner ButtonA quick recap of the eight game-winners in the last couple of nights for you... Jussi Jokinen of the Penguins, Mikael Granlund of the Wild, Jonathan Toews for the Blackhawks, and Jamie Benn of the Stars for Monday night's games.  On Tuesday, it was Tomas Plekanec for the Canadiens, Dougie Hamilton of the Bruins, Martin St. Louis of the Rangers and Patrick Marleau of the Sharks.

This was good news for the pool, as three teams jumped ahead to 4 bonus points each... Rob A., Gus M. #2 and Dorthea C. all took to the top of the column.  Seven teams have 3 bonus markers each, keeping the race nice & close.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Four More in the Books From Sunday

The series between the Rangers and Flyers has seen some important runs of scoring, which have gone against convention, saying that scoring first may not be the best strategy... or it has been in the first two games.

The Rangers got off to a good start, scoring twice in the first nine minutes of the game, but the Flyers were not phased by that early bout of offense, continued to play their game and then scored four unanswered markers to split the series at one with a 4-2 win.

Between six goals, there wasn't much for notable players, as Luke Schenn was the only notable skater with 2 points in the pool, thanks to his game-winning goal.  The Flyers were relying on their back-up goalie again in Game Two, so there wasn't any goalie points to give away in the game either.

The Flyers have announced already on Monday that Ray Emery will also get the start in Game Three, as Steve Mason continues to be hampered by his upper-body injury.  The Flyers were hopeful that he would have been back for Game Two, but it seems more and more likely that he won't even feature in these playoffs.

As much as Detroit's 1-0 victory in Game One seemed quite odd or astounding, if the Red Wings are going to be successful against the big, bad Bruins, that was the sort of game that they would need to succeed.

Game Two wasn't that kind of game.

The Bruins came out hungry and ready to feast on the Red Wings defense and they did... twice... in the 1st period.  A 2-0 lead after one with some dominance asserted in the process, led to somewhat of a walkover 4-1 victory in the end, tying up the series at one game a piece, heading back to Detroit for Tuesday night.

Tuukka Rask, Jarome Iginla, Reilly Smith and Torey Krug were the notable players on the Boston side, each coming away with 2 points, justifying good value for some popular players in the hockey pool.

So far, this series has been good to the pool for healthy bodies, as no one has come out or needed to go back in.

We already have our first team on the brink of elimination or behind the 8-ball, if you will, in these 2014 playoffs, as the Montreal Canadiens are making short work of a Tampa Bay Lightning team that didn't start the series with their full compliment of talent.

Of course, no one in the Tampa Bay staff would likely give that as an excuse for the playoff shortcomings this year, but I think it is a valid reason, when you're number one goalie doesn't get to play a game before you're down 3-0 in the series.

The Habs didn't make it easy on themselves, giving up a goal midway through the 3rd to make the end of the game into a bit of nail-biter, but they held on for the 3-2 victory to put the Bolts to the brink.

Carey Price, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban all featured in this game with a pair of points each.  All four featured well in the hockey pool selections, so there were plenty of points handed out there.  On the flip side, Steven Stamkos got his first two assists of the series.

A couple of key line-up notes for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Three, as Sami Salo sat out of the game with an upper-body injury and forward Nikita Kucherov was a healthy scratch for the team.  Both players were pretty deep in the Eastern Conference boxes and were taken as such, as there wasn't much belief that the Bolts would make it far, but quite a few thought they would get past Montreal in the opening round, if that says something.

I don't think it is unfair to think that the Los Angeles Kings may have run out of gas, as the first two games of the series against the San Jose Sharks have been brutal, to say the least.  

On Sunday night, the Kings suffered their second blow-out of the series, to go down 0-2 against their division rivals.  Seven unanswered goals after the 1st period by the Sharks, made a mockery of the Kings, who have featured well in the playoffs over the last few years.  The Sharks have already outscored the Kings, 13-5, in the first two games of the series.

The real unfortunate part, for the hockey pool, was that it wasn't the Sharks' big players that was doing all the damage, so there were quite a few points lost to the 3rd & 4th line players, who don't feature on the sheet.  Joe Pavelski had 3 points, which was good for many, while Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Logan Couture, Justin Braun and Antti Niemi all had 2 points.  I'm not saying it was a bad night for the pool, but with seven goals on the board, everyone on that sheet should have had 2 points for the Sharks.

This series is also featuring well in the health department, as no one has come out or gone back in.

Game-Winning Goals
New Playoffs Game Winner ButtonFour game-winners to recap... Luke Schenn for the Flyers, Reilly Smith for the Bruins, Tomas Plekanec for the Canadiens and Justin Braun for the Sharks, all four staying in the pool for the first time in these playoffs.

The total of teams with 2 bonus points has now gone up to nine, rather than the leader making any significant progress in putting some space between themselves and another team.

Four more games on tap for Monday night, so there will be ample chance to make up some more ground or pull away tonight.

Well, just in case you were hoping for big things from Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks defenseman in Box 11, I have some bad news for you.  Vatanen was a part of a small contingent heading down to the AHL to get some playoff time in the minors.  Vatanen had not figured into the line-up in the first two games and it doesn't appear that he will at all for the foreseeable future.  12 teams in the pool have taken him, almost the most popular player in that  box.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seabrook Given Three Games

The NHL Department of Player Safety has come down swiftly on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, giving him a 3-game suspension on Sunday for his hit devastating hit on St. Louis Blues forward David Backes.

As you can see in the video below, Seabrook caught an unsuspecting Backes with a Earth-shattering collision, which forced Backes from Game Two with only five minutes to go in the game.  Play the video below for more details.

ImplicationsThe player counts have been done in the pool and Seabrook was taken eight times out of the 47 teams that have entered the pool.  Seabrook was listed in the second defenseman box of the Western Conference, Box 9.

Seabrook wasn't the favourite in that box, Slava Voynov was taken 10 times to lead the way there.

Brenda, who sits in 1st place after the Rangers/Flyers game on Sunday morning, doesn't have Seabrook, but 2nd place, Aaron, does.  Will Seabrook play again in these playoffs or will the Blues finish the job in Chicago, not allowing him to return?

Three Nights, One Post... Playoffs In Full Swing

It will be somewhat of an elongated playoff update, since I haven't been sitting at my computer very much over the last few days.  I might try to shorten everything up, but we'll see how it goes.

How about this start to the playoffs, eh?

Lots of scoring, lots of dirty pool and all kinds of intrigue surrounding these series.  Sure, there is going to be all kinds of disappointment without much Canadian team content, but I think the league is making up for it in other ways.  The divisional match-ups may be kind of dumb, but already, it was proven to be worth its weight in gold, when you look at how rough & tumble some of these match-ups are.

With scoring the way it is, there is very little room for error in how you may have chosen your teams to win this hockey pool.

Unfortunately, I am going to go all the way back to Thursday night, the start of the long weekend in my recap.  That means we'll be starting with Game One of the Rangers/Flyers series, which played well on television, making a good start to the Metropolitan Division series.

The Rangers fell to a 1-0 deficit early in the 1st period, but responded back with four unanswered goals, including two power play goals to make perfect use of a Philadelphia double-minor penalty.  The Rangers never looked back in that 3rd period and earned the Game One victory, 4-1.

Brad Richards led the way for the Rangers with 4 points and I know he was taken a few times in the pool (actual pick numbers will come down early in the week).  Martin St. Louis and Henrik Lundqvist also made for good picks in Game One, as they each had 2 points a piece as well.

The Rangers & Flyers go again on Sunday morning, 10:30am start, which may even be too early for this blog post, but hopefully not.

The Philadelphia Flyers are still without their number one goalie and their Box 24 representation, as Steve Mason was not able to dress for the first game of the series and he is not expected to dress for Game Two either. Mason is dealing with an undisclosed upper-body injury, which he suffered before the regular season ended and he hasn't been cleared to play. Game Three is still a possibility, but the Flyers will be playing this one close to the vest... surprise, surprise.

Nothing screams, "the playoffs" like a triple-overtime outing, wouldn't you say?

Game One between the Blues/Blackhawks in St. Louis did just that, keeping us all on the edge of our seats, as likely one of the more marquee match-ups in the first round got underway.

Both teams were going into the playoffs with the favourite label attached to them somewhere in their description and with the Blues getting back some key players from injury, they were ready to show that they could hang with the big boys, instead of being that team that was floudering into the playoffs, losing six straight beforehand.

With under two minutes to go in the 3rd period, down a goal, St. Louis tied up the game, sending the game into the extra frame and then eventually won, two periods and a touch more later.

Alex Steen and Ryan Miller were the only two Blues players to get multiple points in the game, each coming away with 2 points, while Brent Seabrook had a goal and an assist in the opening game for the Blackhawks.  I don't think Steen was all that popular, but Miller was taken a number of times, while Seabrook saw the odd selection or two as well.

Game Two of the series went on Saturday afternoon, so it'll be coming a little bit later on in the post.

St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie wasn't quite ready to go quite yet for St. Louis in the opening game of the series, but it wasn't like they missed him too much.  Oshie was dealing with an upper-body injury, likely a concussion, which he had suffered with a few weeks to go in the regular season.  He was definitely one of the players missed down the stretch, but he was deemed close to return and would be a game-time decision for Game Two.

The Central Division 1 vs. 4 match-up may not have been the sexiest match-up at face value, but the Minnesota Wild were not going to let the Colorado Avalanche walk all over them to open up their first round match-up on Thursday night.

The Wild were throwing punches on the scoresheet, going up 4-2 before the 3rd period, looking like they were ready for upsetting the Central Division winners, but the Avalanche were not going to roll over in front of their home fans.  A goal near the midway mark of the 3rd lifted their spirits and then the tying goal with only 14 seconds to go, gave this game overtime as well.

The Avs managed to claw their way back from being two goals down, got to the extra frame and did it in the first eight minutes.  The series was 1-0 to the series favourites and they wouldn't have to wait long to build on that momentum.

Paul Stastny opened up the series with a 4-point night in the pool, followed closely by Nathan MacKinnon who tallied 3 assists.  Ryan O'Reilly, Tyson Barrie and Semyon Varlamov all had a pair of points in the pool, giving plenty of Colorado options for scoring on the sheet.  For the Wild, only Zach Parise had 2 assists for the team. who had a disappointing finish.

The Colorado Avalanche were without Box 1 forward Matt Duchene, as he suffered a knee injury before the playoffs and he isn't expected to be ready to go until the second round of the playoffs, assuming that the Avalanche would be able to slip past the Wild.  I don't think anyone went ahead with Duchene on their sheet, so he may not have a direct impact on the hockey pool, but his return may give the Avs that boost they require to go deep.

Finally, the last game on Thursday night, saw the 2 vs. 3 game in the Pacific Division, as the San Jose Sharks hosted the Los Angeles Kings, in another series that has a couple of potential favourites going head-to-head early on in the schedule.

The first two periods of the game were dominated by the hosts, as the Sharks got off to 5-0 lead before the horn went off and it looked like it was going to be a walk in the park for the final frame.  The Kings did find a little bit of pride in their game, as they did manage to make it somewhat close, making 5-3 before the 14-minute mark.  The Sharks were able to close down the game with an empty-netter, giving the game a 6-3 finish and San Jose goes away with a 1-0 series lead.

Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns and Antti Niemi were the playoff pool heroes for the Sharks, each finishing with 2 points a piece, while there were no such players doing that for the Kings.

Going into the game, there was also no injuries to mention and the game wasn't exceptionally dirty to force anyone out.  Game Two will go on Sunday night, as the Sharks look to give a repeat performance to make good use of home-ice advantage.

The Montreal Canadiens were already looking at their trip down to Tampa Bay as a success, as they had already taken one game away from the host Lightning, as they went into Game Two on Saturday afternoon.

The Lightning, already down a game, were not getting much for good news, as Ben Bishop, their number one goalie, was not able to return to help defend against this Montreal speed.

There was some emotion and hard feelings between these two sides in Game Two, as there were some fisticuffs to make mention of, just after Montreal hit the scoreboard to make it 1-0 in the 2nd period.  The Canadiens fed off this emotion, going up 2-0 after two, then held off some Lightning pressure in the 3rd, before score another two goals to go up 4-0.  The Lightning did spoil the shutout for the Habs, but that was their only consolation.

Montreal heads home with a 2-0 series lead and their own brand of home-ice advantage, as they will go again on Sunday evening to take a stranglehold on the series.

In Game Two, it was only Carey Price and P.K. Subban making noise in the pool, each picking up a couple points each.

Scoring has now been a big issue for the Tampa Bay Lightning and in Game Two, they were without one of their more consistent scorers at the end of the regular season, as Ondrej Palat suffered an upper-body injury in Game One and was not able to go in Game Two.  As of Sunday morning, he is listed as a game-time decision for Game Three.  Palat was on the ice over the weekend, so it may be a good sign for him to go and give the Bolts a bit more of a chance on Sunday night.

There was very little argument around the water cooler about how much of a favourite Boston was going to be for another Cup Finals appearance, but there was also quite a bit of support for how much of a threat the veteran squad from Detroit would be to their success.

The series opened up on Saturday afternoon and this was the closest representation to some good ol' playoff hockey that we were expecting, as neither team was giving an inch and both goalies were not ready to be the goat.

The 1st period saw the shots at 11-9 Detroit and there was only one penalty to the Bruins, as it went by without a score.  The 2nd period was even tighter, 7-5 were the shots to the Bruins, who took a second penalty in the game in that frame.  The 3rd remained tight, as shots finished up at 9-8 for Boston, Detroit killed an early penalty and then were able to break through late, as Pavel Datsyuk sniped one past Tuukka Rask with three minutes to go.

Remarkably, that was it.  The Red Wings went into the TD Gardens and stole a tight one away from the Bruins.  Game Two goes on Sunday and I think it would be fair to expect more of the same.

No one was missed in Game One and I think everyone should be accounted for in Game Two, which is good news for both teams.

Game Two in Anaheim was a show from the big stars for the Ducks, as they managed to come away with a 3-2 win at home against Dallas Stars, coming away with a 2-0 series lead.

Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist, helping out on Andrew Cogliano's game-winner in the 3rd period and in fine fashion as well.  Getzlaf has been a force in this series to start, already with 2 goals and 2 assists in the first two games of the series.  Getzlaf and Cogliano were the only two Ducks on the pool sheet to come away with points, as Fredrik Andersen continues to be the number one guy for Anaheim, taking the place of Jonas Hiller, much to the disappointment of some poolies.

The Stars haven't been too far away in this series, skating well, but some careless mistakes have cost them, especially when they are giving them up to the likes of Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

There were no changes to the line-ups on Saturday night, as far as the hockey pool was concerned, as the two players that missed out on Game One were not dressed for Game Two and they may not jump into their line-ups before the series ends.  I'm sure the Stars would really like to have Brenden Dillon back, but it doesn't sound like he'll be ready for Game Three on Monday night.

After Game Two of the series between St. Louis and Chicago, it is getting tougher and tougher to find what the biggest story of the series is. Is it the Blackhawks giving up late goals to send each of the two opening games into overtime, only to lose in the end or is the ugly/chippy play that has made this series into one full of hate?

Just when you thought everything couldn't get any uglier, Brent Seabrook laid waste to St. Louis captain David Backes in the 3rd period, which may cost some games for both players, both in suspension and in injury.  Seabrook is expected to get a phone call from the NHL Player Safety office, while Backes was hit into next week and likely suffered a concussion in the process.  His status for Game Three has to be considered doubtful.

Yes, it was a second overtime winner for the Blues, which gave them a 2-0 lead in the series, which will continue, under the cloud of emotion, on Monday in Chicago.

The second 4-3 result for the Blues was good for Kevin Shattenkirk, who finished the game with a goal and 2 assists for a 3-point night.  Vladimir Sobotka, Barret Jackman and Ryan Miller each had 2 points each for St. Louis in the win.  On the other side of the coin, Brandon Saad and Seabrook each had 2 points as well in a losing cause.

On a more positive note, as mentioned earlier in the blog post, Blues forward T.J. Oshie was going to be a game-time decision for the Blues for Game Two and did end up returning to the line-up. He had no immediate impact, going scoreless and a -1 in 25 minutes of ice-time, but I'm sure the team was just happy that they could get his energy back on the ice against a tough divisional opponent.

After watching bits and pieces of Game One between the Penguins and Blue Jackets, I had a pretty good feeling about what Columbus may be able to do in this series and on Saturday, they took advantage of possibly an over-confident Pittsburgh team.

The Penguins finished the opening frame with a 3-1 lead over the visiting Blue Jackets, but some sloppy play on the Pittsburgh special teams cost them in the end, as a shorthanded goal from Matt Calvert in the 2nd and a power play goal in the 3rd from Jack Johnson tied the game up and in double overtime, Calvert was the hero, potting the winner over a sprawled out Marc-Andre Fleury.  The series is now tied at one, heading back to Columbus for Game Three on Monday night.

In the pool, it was Ryan Johansen and Sergei Bobrovsky leading the way for the Jackets with 2 points each, while Sidney Crosby, Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin each had a pair for the Penguins in the loss.

The Blue Jackets were also able to welcome back forward R.J. Umberger to their line-up, as he missed the opening game with an upper-body injury. Umberger's line on his return wasn't too helpful, as he went with no points, a -1 rating, a penalty, a shot on goal and a blocked shot... nothing pool worthy.  Much the same as Oshie above, it is just good to get some experience in the line-up, as it goes a long way to playing a full 60-minute game.

Everyone loves a party. A lot of people really enjoy coming-out parties, which the series between the Avalanche and Wild is quickly becoming for rookie forward Nathan MacKinnon, the 1st overall pick in last Summer's NHL Entry Draft.

I'm not trying to take anything away from his teammates or in particular, his linemates, but MacKinnon is showing why he was the number one pick, at the time that you may not have expected it, but it is adding to the allure of the likely Calder Trophy winner.

In Game Two, it was a little bit of a late start for the Avalanche, who found themselves down a goal early on, but then MacKinnon jump started the offense with his 1st career playoff goal and that started the ball down the hill.  The Landeskog/MacKinnon/Stastny line added another couple goals in the 2nd period with amazing flair, before Paul Stastny added an empty-netter in the 3rd and we finished with a 4-2 win for the home team.

From a hockey pool standpoint, both MacKinnon and Stastny finished with 4-point nights, while Gabriel Landeskog had 3 points for his owners, while Semyon Varlamov got 2 points for the win.  I won't forget to mention, Mikko Koivu also had a couple of assists for the Wild, but I don't think that will count in too many places in the pool.

No changes were made to the line-ups, so we'll just make mention that this series goes back to St. Paul, Minnesota with the Wild down two games and the Avalanche are running with all kinds of confidence.

Game-Winning Goals
New Playoffs Game Winner ButtonLet's see how the bonus points were spread out in the last three days... Brad Richards of the Rangers potted one on Thursday, as did Alex Steen of the Blues in overtime.  Paul Stastny of the Avalanche scored his in the 1st overtime period on Thursday, while Raffi Torres of the Sharks stole a point away from the pool in the first San Jose win.

On Friday, the winners came from Rene Bourque of the Canadiens, Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings and Andrew Cogliano of the Ducks.

Barret Jackman of the Blues in overtime, Matt Calvert of the Blue Jackets in double overtime and Gabriel Landeskog for the Avalanche in regulation were our bonus point getters on Saturday.  Well, two out of three stayed in the pool and I know some were collected for sure.

Four teams in the hockey pool have been able to collect a couple of bonus points thus far, as Glen, Cindy, Rick and Sheldon have each taken a couple points, in varying degrees of success in the standings.

In the 2012 edition of the playoff pool, the best team in bonus points had 17, so we're already a long way from that total.  2011 saw the top team with 19 winners, just as a point of reference.

ImplicationsAfter the first four nights of the playoffs, we have an outright leader in Brenda F., who sits at 40 points through Saturday's action. We have a couple of teams chasing Brenda down in Grant S. and Aaron A., each with 38 points.

Just as a heads up to everyone, there are four more teams to be entered in the pool, which were hidden away in PDF form in my e-mail.  They were received well within the pool deadline of the end of day on Thursday, they were just missed.  I'll highlight them in tomorrow's post, just so we all know who they are.

I am also waiting for a couple of line-up corrections, which I will allow, if they come soon enough.  The corrections will be minor and likely won't have as much impact on the final results as one may not hope for.