Sunday, April 26, 2015

Two Teams Ousted, One Behind the 8-Ball, One Game Seven to Come

Returning home gave the Chicago Blackhawks what they needed to get through their first round series with the Nashville Predators, as they scratched and clawed their way through a scrappy 1st period, one that ended 3-3, only to see both teams tighten up their game and play 'next goal wins' for a couple periods.

In the end, it was Duncan Keith, scoring with under four minutes to play, as the Blackhawks took Game 6, 4-3, and the series, 4-2 over the Predators.  Nashville played some strong games, but without a key player like Shea Weber to help lead them through some of the tougher times, the leadership group of the Blackhawks really turned their game on and guided their team, like their paid to do, through a very tough opening round.

Keith led all players in the pool in this game with 4 points, while Jonathan Toews had 3 points, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp each had 2 points.  Scott Darling got the start for Chicago, but after giving up three goals in the opening 11 minutes, the Blackhawks turned to Corey Crawford and he held them through the remainder of the game, getting credit for the win, his first of the playoffs.

For the Predators in Game 6, James Neal had his last hurrah, scoring a pair of goals in the losing effort.

Nashville was the favourite in the standings to go through, but they were not the favourite in the pool to go through, as the selections were 92-37 towards Chicago, an overwhelming decision against.  Neal was the most popular Nashville player in the pool, down in Box 6, as he had 10 selections, while Ryan Ellis was next, down in Box 11, he had nine selections.

Box 1 forward Filip Forsberg and Box 3 forward Craig Smith, led the pool players for Nashville in scoring, each finishing with 6 points.

Returning home for Game 6 also did the Calgary Flames a whole lot of good on Saturday night, as they dropped Game 5 in Vancouver a couple nights earlier. Their resolve was even greater than the Blackhawks above, as they managed to come back from an early 3-0 deficit in the opening frame to tie it up in the 2nd, down 4-3 shortly thereafter and then not only find a lead, but take full advantage of the open net, putting together a final score of 7-4 in the deciding game and going on to face the Anaheim Ducks in the second round.

Unlike the rest of the series, it was the Canucks that came out early and the Flames had to weather the storm, but once that storm had finished up, the Flames were ready to play again and they played like they did in the early parts of the series, hard and fast,

The Canucks had no answer for the Flames in the 3rd period and their big line came up huge for the win.  Jiri Hudler had 4 points, while Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau each had 3 points, while David Jones, a Box 4 forward, also had 3 points as well.  In somewhat of an opposite situation as the game above, Jonas Hiller, the pool goalie for the Flames, did get the start, but was pulled after the 2-0 goal, giving way to Karri Ramo, who ended up with the win.

The Flames were the favourite in this pool to move on, but there were a lot of selections that could have been used in this series, that were used elsewhere.  The Flames had a 61-17 advantage, far less selections used here than in the series above, but the favourite does move on.  For the Canucks, Kevin Bieksa had four selections and Henrik Sedin had three selections, those were the biggest losses for the Canucks, with their elimination.

Scoring-wise, it was Daniel Sedin who finished on top of the Canucks heap, he had 5 points, including a winner, to be on top.

With two teams now eliminated on Saturday, the number of perfect pool teams have dwindled once again and we are now down to five teams remaining with 24 players.  Pool newcomer, Sairosh, he sits in 2nd place and with all 24 players still, going into Sunday's action.  Draft money winner, Grant S., he's in 5th place with all of his guys remaining.

As the pool headline suggests, we'll head to the game where the 8-ball rears its ugly head and that is where we'll find the Tampa Bay Lightning, who didn't make the best of their trip home for Game 5, losing in somewhat of a walk for the Detroit Red Wings, 4-0.

The veterans of this Red Wings team know how to rub off on the youth, teaching them ways of being wily Detroit players, looking at the contributors in Game 5.  Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Danny DeKeyser, all picking up points and chipping in against a Lightning team that is filled with potential and promise, but leadership does lack somewhat.  Sheahan had 2 points to lead all pool players for the Wings in the win, as the rest had singles and Petr Mrazek, the non-pool goalie, earned the shutout and spiked another 4 points away.

Game 6 is now set for Monday night, a 5pm MT start, where the Red Wings can now move on to the second round with a win.

Finally, home-ice advantage played a huge part in Game 6 of the series between the Islanders and the Capitals, as the team from Long Island, went home, behind the 8-ball, and got the job done, saving their hides for one more game, at the very least.

A deadlocked game through one, no scoring through two and the home crowd spurned on their side to a go-ahead goal midway through the 3rd, capping it off with an empty-netter to seal the deal, as the Islanders force Game 7 with a 3-1 win over the Capitals.

John Tavares, Nick Leddy and Jaroslav Halak were the big names in the pool for the Islanders on Saturday night, each coming away with 2 points each.

Game 7 will go on Monday night as well, a 5:30pm MT start, which could be the biggest game of the pool going forward, since it is such an even distribution of selections in the hockey pool selection sheet.

Game-Winning Goals
New Playoffs Game Winner Button
Four games, four bonus points, but only two of them counted for anything in this pool on Saturday night.  Duncan Keith and Riley Sheahan were the eventual point getters in the pool on Saturday, Keith being way more popular, with nine selections to Sheahan's one.

Tony C. still sits atop of the bonus point standings, with 9 GWGs, but six teams now stand with 8 bonus points, keeping up the pace.

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