Sunday, May 11, 2014

Three Nights Worth, New Leader

Game Four between the Bruins and Canadiens was a goaltending duel, something we really haven't seen too much in these playoffs yet. With the game going into overtime as a nil-nil draw, something had to break and thankfully, there is no shootout to decide these games. In the end, it was Tuukka Rask who came out on top, as he made 33 stops for the win and the shutout, good for 4 points on the night.

The only other point in the 1-0 Bruins win came from defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who picked up an assist on the Matt Fraser game-winner.

The win for the Bruins tied the series up at two, with Game Five going on Saturday night in Boston.  See below.

After the Los Angeles Kings took the first two games of their series against the Anaheim Ducks away from home, it turns out that winning away from home is the theme of this series.

Anaheim got an early lead in the 1st, survived a response from Los Angeles in the 2nd and then salted the game away late in the 3rd for a 3-2 win, which played more like a 2-1 game for the entire 60 minutes.

Jonas Hiller came on in relief for an injured Fredrik Andersen in the 3rd period and ended up with credit for the win, as he was the goalie of record for the Ducks' third goal.  Teemu Selanne was in line for the game-winning goal until that late 3rd period marker from the Kings, but he, like a few of his teammates only finished with 1 point in the game, making them less notable.

Game Four would go on Saturday night, which is below in this post, with Anaheim climbing back into the series, now down 2-1.

It was a game of storylines on Friday night, as the New York Rangers were on the verge of elimination, down 3-1 in the series, heading into Game Five and they would have their trade deadline acquisition playing with a heavy heart.  Sure enough, that would provide the spark that the Rangers were looking for in this series, as they came out with a real passion and vigor, something that they could have used when they were getting shutout in two of their three losses in the season.

A dominating effort in the 1st period gave New York a 2-0 lead, which was only tested once, early in the 2nd period, only before another couple goals vaulted them into the 3rd period with a 4-1 lead.  An empty-netter in the end gave the Rangers new life, a 5-1 win and they now sit only one game back in the series, down 3-2, heading into Sunday's action.

Derrick Brassard was the catalyst of it all, scoring 2 goals, including the winner and he added an assist for a 4-point night, great for the four teams that picked him up in the pool.  Mats Zuccarello, taken 14 times, had a 3-assist night for the Rangers, while Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves for the win.

Game Six goes on Sunday night back at Madison Square Gardens, where the Rangers will now try to force a Game Seven in the series.

In the Central Division Final, it is playing the opposite from the Pacific Division Final, as it is the home team that has been the dominating force. The Chicago Blackhawks took the first two games at the United Center and after Game Four on Friday night, the Minnesota Wild had taken both games at the Xcel Energy Center, thanks to a 4-2 win.

The home building for the Wild was absolutely rocking and the home team was able to take that energy and project it on the ice, giving a dominating effort to the Blackhawks, who didn't really have many answers to the speed and ferocity of the Wild.

Ilya Bryzgalov made 18 saves on Friday night for the win, Nino Niederreiter scored the eventual winner in the 2nd period, Ryan Suter had 2 assists and Jared Spurgeon had a goal and an assist in the win.

The Minnesota Wild also got a boost in their line-up on Friday night, as Matt Cooke returned from serving his 7-game suspension from the opening series against the Avalanche.  Cooke, taken twice in Box 7, picked up an assist and the 3rd star of the game in Game Four, certainly making an impact for his team.

Game Five in Boston, series tied at two games a piece, the Bruins and Canadiens went back at it on Saturday night and this wasn't much of a goaltending battle, like Game Four was. Rather, the Bruins were able to assert some dominance in the 2nd period, as they opened up the frame with two power play goals, only 32 seconds apart to take a 3-0 lead, before the visitors could even get used to the other end of the ice.

Yes, it was a dominating effort for the Bruins, one that felt a little bit of pressure in the 3rd period, but both teams traded goals in the 3rd period and it was a 4-2 win for the Bruins, who took a 3-2 series lead, heading into next week.

Tuukka Rask made 29 saves for the win, while Jarome Iginla scored the winner and Loui Eriksson had a goal and assist to round out the notable players on the pool sheet.

Game Five saw the scratching of Box 19 forward Daniel Briere, who had obviously drawn the ire of the Habs coaching staff in the last couple of games. Briere has 4 points in nine games with the Canadiens in these playoffs, but that likely isn't exactly why he was scratched for this game.  Briere, taken 12 times in the pool, may likely draw back in, as the offense was lacking some punch in Game Five.

If you were kind of thinking that the Ducks were crazy to part ways with Jonas Hiller, or at least not have him as their number one, I think they proved that they were not crazy, giving the start to John Gibson in Game Four.

If you're taking notes for next season, Gibson should be in the back of your mind for a starting goalie in the draft next year.  He was thrusted into the playoffs and he performed admirably, taking a 2-0 1st period lead, making 28 saves in total and earned the shutout for his first NHL playoffs win.  Unfortunately, Hiller is the goalie of record for the Ducks in the pool and the six teams in the pool that have him are now out of luck.

Yes, the Ducks were able to win Game Four in Los Angeles, tying up the series at two games a piece, and the road team has won all four game in the series so far.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry did make sure that two top pool players did well for the Ducks, as they each came away with a couple of points.

Despite the wins, the Anaheim Ducks were racking up a few injuries, including Box 6 forward, Mathieu Perreault, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game Three and was unable to play in Game Four. This is the second time that Perreault was out of the line-up already in these playoffs, but thankfully for the Ducks, they are ripe with depth up front and didn't miss the pivot much in Game Four.  Perreault was taken 11 times in the pool and has 5 points in eight games, including a GWG.

ImplicationsWe have a new leader! By virtue of the tie-breakers, Dale B. has done away with Don D.'s massive lead and he now sits on top of the standings, with five more players than his pool rival.  Dale has made the best of having a couple of key Rangers, like the two notable Ranger forwards in Game Five of their series.  Both Brassard and Zuccarello were instrumental for Dale to make that move to the top of the standings.

Corey M. has moved within 5 points of the top two teams, while Tom H. is only 6 points back, keeping the race interesting for the time being.

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