Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The 8-Ball Returns with Two Teams Behind It

The series between the Panthers and the Devils is quickly turning into one of the most pleasant surprises in these playoffs.  It wasn't billed as one of the more exciting match-ups in either conference, but with enough goals, some quick leads and games where teams have to hold on for dear life, it is turning into a great series.

On Tuesday night, the two teams engaged in Game Three and it was a doozy.  The Devils stormed out to a 3-0 lead early in the 1st period and all was thought to be lost.  Much like the Penguins and Flyers series, the 3-0 lead was not very safe, even before the opening frame had concluded.  An unsportsmanlike call against Patrik Elias set the Panthers power play in motion and the game was on from there.  It was 3-2 by the end of one.  In the 2nd period, the Panthers kept pouring it on, with a couple more goals to take a 4-3 lead and then it was all holding on from there on in.

Panthers back-up goalie Scott Clemmensen earned the win, as starter Jose Theodore was pulled after the 3-0 goal, so 2 points disappeared from the pool there.  Brian Campbell ended up with the game-winner and an assist for a 3-point night, while Sean Bergenheim had a goal and an assist as well in the win.

On the Devils side of the ledger, Zach Parise had a goal and an assist in the game as well.

This series is now 2-1 for the Panthers and Game Four will go on Thursday night in New Jersey.

If there were some doubters out there for the Nashville Predators, they are on the verge of being silenced, as they now have a 3-1 series lead over their Central Division rival, the Red Wings, after a 3-1 win on Tuesday night.

The Predators have been able to display some very disciplined defensive hockey in front of Pekka Rinne and they have also been able to score timely markers, which has been one of the trademarks of their series rival through the years.  It now appears that the tables have been turned and we may be seeing a new age in Nashville.

After two periods without scoring, the Predators and Red Wings got busy in the 3rd period, with three quick goals in the first seven minutes of the period and Nashville had themselves a quick 2-1 lead to defend and defend they did.  Rinne made 12 stops in the final frame, 40 in total, and the Predators added a late David Legwand power play marker and they came away with the win.

Only two players of note for the pool in this one, as Kevin Klein scored his first game-winner of these playoffs, picking up a couple of points there, while Rinne got the 2 points for the win as well.  This series has not been great for points, but what can you do?

The series will shift back to Nashville for Game Five, which will go on Friday night.

It looks like Jordin Tootoo's time on the active roster was short-lived, but he does pose a threat, when is placed in the line-up, whenever that may be again.  I don't think there is any reason to get excited about him any more this Spring, which is disappointing for the five teams that have selected him in the hockey pool this year. Tootoo will likely figure back into the line-up when an injury occurs, but it is so hard to count on something like that at this point in the season.

The scene has shifted to Chicago for Game Three  in the series between the Coyotes and the Blackhawks and this series has added a little bit of intrigue to these playoffs as well.  A very tightly contested series to this point and it took overtime to end Game Three.

The Blackhawks scored a late marker in the 1st period to take an early lead, but with a hot goaltender, the Coyotes were able to keep it a 1-0 lead through two periods, not letting the late marker do anything for their confidence, going forward.  A pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to Shane Doan and Niklas Hjalmarsson, early in the 3rd, forced the play into a little 4-on-4 action, which turned the whole game around.  The Coyotes struck first, matched 33 seconds later by the Blackhawks to re-take the lead and then 32 seconds later, the Coyotes tied the game up again.  That was all the scoring before the game went into overtime and it was Mikkel Boedker stealing another bonus point from the pool, as he scored the overtime winner for Phoenix, midway through the first extra frame and the Coyotes come away with a 2-1 series lead.

The scoring for Phoenix did not fall on the players that are in the pool this year, rather Mike Smith was the only pool player to pick up 2 points on the evening after making 35 saves for the win.  There were also no multiple-point players for Chicago.

Scaroy moment in the game last night, with Marian Hossa being stretchered off the ice, after a massive hit by Coyotes forward Raffi Torres in the 1st period.  Torres hit Hossa in the open ice, hitting an unsuspecting Hossa with a bit of a charge, launching up into Hossa's head.  Hossa was reportedly taken to hospital for further examination, but was released shortly thereafter and it is fair to assume that Torres will be getting a phone call or a face-to-face meeting with Brendan Shanahan about this one.  Of course, there is no word as to how long Hossa will be out for yet.

Game-Winning Goals
New Playoffs Game Winner ButtonTwo of the three game-winners were counters on Tuesday night and they were Brian Campbell's winner for the Panthers and Kevin Klein's marker for the Predators.  The other winner belonged to Mikkel Boedker of the Coyotes, but he wasn't up far enough on the depth chart to be selected for the pool this year.

Our pool leader to this point in the year is now Allan S., who has been collecting a few more winners as the playoffs have gone along, as he now sits with 5 bonus points to this point.  Allan has Brian Boyle the pool leader for GWGs, as well as Klein, Martin Havlat and Zdeno Chara.  There are also seven teams in the pool with 3 GWGs each, but they are now falling behind quickly.

Nine teams have not posted a bonus point thus far in the playoffs, which has really hurt their teams.  The highest ranking team without a bonus point is Grant S.'s team, which is in 16th place.

Tonight's Games

In the first game of the evening, the Rangers will look to take a commanding lead over the Senators in Ottawa, as they try to make a 3-1 lead in their series with a win.  The Senators, on the other hand, will try to get back to Madison Square Gardens with a tied up series.  There is no word as to whether or not Daniel Alfredsson will dress for the Senators, but it would seem unlikely now, as he has been linked with concussion problems, which would likely finish his participation in this series.

The first 8-ball game of the playoffs belongs to the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins series, as the Flyers have the ability to chase the Penguins from the playoffs with a win on Wednesday night.

The Flyers have a 3-0 series lead, thanks to the grinding ability of the top players, standing up to the stars on the other side, getting under their skin and still putting pucks in the back of the net.

The Penguins were huge favourites in this series, outnumbering the selections in the playoff pool, 97-32, which means there are going to be a lot of disappointed teams in the pool that will go without players, if and when Pittsburgh bites the bullet.

Expect Ilya Bryzgalov and Marc-Andre Fleury to match up against each other for Game Four, the same as the first three games and it will be interesting to see what kind of resistance that the Penguins put up in this one.  I would expect the Flyers to come with the same game, trying to push the stars' buttons and get into some fisticuffs before the end of the night.  This will be a great game.

The first 8-ball game will closely be followed by the second 8-ball game of these playoffs, as another favourite is poised to fall out of these playoffs.

The Los Angeles Kings have the Vancouver Canucks on the ropes with a 3-0 series lead and they are in California to try and finish this series off. The Kings have been able to disrupt an already disrupted Canucks team with some strong forechecking and fantastic goaltending from Jonathan Quick.

The Canucks were also huge favourites in their series, 101-21 in selections, so there are going to be a lot of playoff pool teams that will take a hit and with two huge favourites on the verge of being eliminated, the final point totals in the pool may hurt terribly, when it is all said and done.

I don't believe the Canucks starting goalie has been announced for Game Four and both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider can lay equal claim to the spot, with good appearances in their losses.  You will know that Quick will be back in the net for the Kings, as he has been strong thus far.  The likelihood of Daniel Sedin returning for the Canucks looks promising, but we won't know for sure until the mid-afternoon.

This has the potential to be an excellent game, even if it is a sweep elimination game.

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