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.

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