Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Morning Player Notes in the Playoffs (Apr 20)

The Tampa Bay Lightning are for real, everyone!  The Lightning have officially put the Detroit Red Wings behind the 8-ball on Tuesday night, as they came away with a 3-2 win at Joe Louis Arena in Game 4, and they now head back home to Amalie Arena with a 3-1 series lead.

In the pool, Nikita Kucherov had a big game, taking away 2 goals and an assist in this win, while Ondrej Palat scored the game-winner to ice it, late in the 3rd period on the power play.  Kucherov was taken six times in the pool this time around, while Palat dropped points on eight teams last night.

It's a darn shame that no one had Ben Bishop, that's another 2 points lost on this pool and who would have thought that Jonathan Drouin would have had a 3-assist night.  He would have been a nice fixture on this sheet, right?

Game 5 of this series is now set to go as one of the early games on Thursday night.  The first upset of the playoffs (according to the pool) is teed up and ready to go.

How would you like to make your Stanley Cup playoffs debut in the crease in a game at Madison Square Garden? Enter: Matt Murray.  The Pittsburgh netminder, who has been strong in Marc-Andre Fleury's absence, but was having some injury issues of his own, finally got the net back from Jeff Zatkoff, getting the start in Game 3 and he made good on it.  Murray was beaten once on only 17 shots on goal and the Penguins defense really held the hometown Rangers in check.

The game really went the Penguins' way, when Matt Cullen picked up a puck, just before a couple Rangers defenders collided with each other, opening the lane to Henrik Lundqvist, where he buried it and gave the visitors a 2-1 lead.  That goal held up to be the winner, as Kris Letang added an unassisted empty-netter and it was a 3-1 victory for Pittsburgh.

So, the Penguins steal a win in New York, take a 2-1 series lead and the team without the number one goalie has a series lead, making things very interesting on the road.

Did anyone see the St. Louis Blues taking both games in Chicago coming?  Well, in Game 4, the Blues found the puck dropping on their sticks at the right time and in the right places, especially in the 3rd period, taking a 2-2 tie after two periods, potting a couple of key goals before the 5-minute mark and then holding on for a 4-3 victory in the end.  This series will shift back to the Scottrade Center for Thursday night and the Blues will get their first crack at knocking off the champs.

Vladimir Tarasenko was a monster in the first couple periods, scoring a huge couple of goals, including the tying goal before the end of the 2nd, which was a real momentum killer.  Tarasenko finished with 3 points in the game for his six pool teams.  Alexander Steen scored the eventual winner and added an assist, while Jaden Schwartz had a goal and an assist and Kevin Shattenkirk had a couple of assists.

The Blues are finding a way to punch through the Blackhawks defense and now they are on the verge of an upset of their own.  The 122-61 selection difference suggested that this was the closest of the four Western series, so that's a plus, no matter the upset.

The Anaheim Ducks took a page out of the Detroit Red Wings model in the East, changing up their goaltending and getting immediate results.  On Tuesday night, the Ducks opted for non-pool goalie, Frederik Andersen, and he made 27 saves, stonewalling the Predators, as his offense provided three goals to help his cause and climb back into this series.

So far, it's the series of the road team, as the home team has yet to win one out of the three games.

It wasn't a great game for notable players in the hockey pool, especially since there was the goalie switch.  Jamie McGinn, the trade deadline pick-up in Box 4, opened the scoring in the 1st period and that stood up as the game-winner, giving his one and only team a 2-point game.

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