Sunday, April 17, 2016

Morning Player Notes in the Playoffs (Apr 17)

Friday night was a bit of a wash, leading to Saturday being a write-off, but we're back on the blog this morning, we'll go over the last couple nights worth of action here and now.

Well, the Tampa Bay Lightning are making the best argument that they are really a playoff team, even without a number of key pieces from their lineup. The current top line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn have been dismantling the Red Wings in these first two games, taking Game 2 in dominating fashion, with a 5-2 scoreline, combining for 9 points in the pool, including the winning goal, scored by Johnson.

The Lightning have been skating really well and it doesn't look like the Red Wings were ready for a track meet of a series, but now these two teams are heading to the Joe for Game 3 and we'll see what home-ice will do for Detroit, desperately in need of a win.

The heavily favoured Florida Panthers played up to their billing on Friday night, taking Game 2 of their series against the New York Islanders, 3-1, and evening up the series at one, before they head back to Brooklyn for Game 3.

For the Panthers, it was Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith, Dmitry Kulikov and Roberto Luongo leading the way, all with multiple point games in Game 2, Bjugstad picking up the winning goal.

This series does continue to be one of the more interesting of the bunch, as the pace of it has been very impressive through two games.

In the most high-profile series in the opening round, the Chicago Blackhawks were able to level up the series with the St. Louis Blues on Friday night with a 3-2 win at the Scottrade Center.

Duncan Keith returned to the Blackhawks lineup, scoring a goal and assisting on Artemi Panarin's eventual winner, putting an exclamation point on how important he is to Chicago's chances at repeating as champions this Spring.

Now this series will continue back at the United Center, tied at one game apiece and you would have to imagine that the Blackhawks will be able to find some momentum from this win.

The last series to get started in this opening round was the match-up between the Nashville Predators and the Anaheim Ducks and this one got off to a very interesting start, as the Predators snuck a 3-2 victory off the pond and took a 1-0 series and a little bit of intrigue to boot.

The Predators, in the pool, were not very popular at all, as no one took the only multiple-point players of the night for the victors, Filip Forsberg and Pekka Rinne.  It's a bit too early to tell, but if the Preds keep this up, it could really throw a wrench in the pool.

How will the favoured Ducks respond in Game 2?  Can they possibly earn the split?

Of note, Kevin Bieksa was out for Game 1 with an upper-body injury, but he was a game-time decision and should be good to go for Game 2, if required.  He was taken seven times in the pool, so he'll need to get back to help some lucky teams.

The New York Rangers got their number one goalie back, as Henrik Lundqvist was good to go against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon, jumping back in and making 29 saves for the win, overcoming some swelling around his eye, after the stick that clipped him, forced him from Game 1.  The Rangers rallied around their keeper, beating the Penguins, 4-2, earning a split in Pittsburgh and heading back to New York on level terms.

J.T. Miller and Derick Brassard were the focus of the Rangers' offense in the hockey pool, each coming away with 3 points, but Miller wasn't selected at all, while Brassard was taken three times.  Mats Zuccarello scored the eventual winner for the Rangers, who are not expected to come out of this series, according to the picks.

Even the return of Evgeni Malkin to the Penguins' lineup wasn't enough to spark the offense for a win.  Malkin did end up with an assist in the game, pleasing the 20 teams that picked him up in the pool this year.

Game 3 of this series isn't planned to go until Tuesday, so there will be lots of rest for these guys, who are in for a tough series.

The Washington Capitals continued to roll on Saturday and when you're good, you'll get a little bit more luck on your side, as was the case with the eventual winning goal, as Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason bungled a long clearing attempt and let one slide between the wickets.  Jason Chimera will take it, that's a good 2 points for his three teams that picked him.

The Flyers were able to claw a goal back in this one, but the eventual 4-1 scoreline was very indicative of how this series has been going, as the Capitals have full control in this series.  Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, John Carlson and everyone's favourite, Braden Holtby, gave teams lots of options for points in this one.

The series now reverts to Philadelphia, where the Flyers could really use a push from their home rink and their fans.  Will they be able to pull an emotional win out of Game 3 on Monday night?

The Dallas Stars were able to do something that the Minnesota Wild were not able to do in Game 2... okay, it was more than one thing, but welcoming back Tyler Seguin to their lineup, where the Wild are still without their two injured stars, was a pretty big boost.

A breakaway goal by Jamie Benn in the 2nd period was eventually what was standing up as the winning goal in this one, as the Stars were using a lot more defense than they are normally known for, in a 2-1 win over the Wild, taking a 2-0 series lead.  Kari Lehtonen had to be sharp, making 25 saves for the win, as the Stars really had to hold on late.

The Wild just seemed overmatched in the first two games and with no help on the horizon, will home-ice be enough to even make this into a series now?

If you're one of the few teams that decided to bet on the San Jose Sharks in their opening round series against the Los Angeles Kings, you probably have one of the top teams in the hockey pool this morning, as the Sharks, on the shoulders of a 2-1 win on Saturday night, now have a 2-0 series lead, heading back to the Shark Tank for Monday night.

Joe Pavelski, taken once in the pool, had a goal and an assist, while Logan Couture, taken 12 times, picked up the winner, and Martin Jones, taken twice, made 26 saves for the win and stripped home-ice advantage from the Kings, putting it in their court.

This series, on its current trajectory, could really turn this pool on its ear.  Los Angeles are 125-38 favourites on San Jose in the pool and it could really be trouble for a lot of teams to stay in the money race, if we keep going like this.

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