Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Goalie Announcements (Apr 25)

Frederik Andersen versus Tuukka Rask
The Toronto Maple Leafs got their Game 7, after going down 3-1 in the series to the Boston Bruins.  They have rallied back and they do have some semblance of momentum, even taking the last game in Boston on Saturday, so it is far from impossible that they snake this one out.

Frederik Andersen will be tasked with the job of keeping the playoff veterans from putting the puck in his net, while at the other end, to no one's surprise, it will be Tuukka Rask, babysitting the young Leafs and trying to keep them quiet in his end.

Of course, the winner of this one will get the Tampa Bay Lightning and that series is slated to get started on Saturday, while we will see the second round of the playoffs start tomorrow night.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 24)

Well, we've got one Game 7 coming! The Maple Leafs survived Game 6 at home, with a very solid effort all around in a 3-1 victory on Monday night.

The Leafs showed some resiliency going down early in the 2nd period, scoring only 35 seconds later to tie it up at 1-1 and then the push was on.  These Leafs looked like the team that a few of us were expecting to see in this series, using their speed and youth to overcome the Bruins' system and I'm sure having the last change went a long way in the game last night.

Frederik Andersen made 32 saves for the victory, giving his two teams in the pool a little more hope, while Mitch Marner scored the eventual winner, also adding an assist for a 3-point night and Nikita Zaitsev had a pair of assists in this one for the pool too.

The pool thought the Leafs to be slight underdogs in this series, so getting to a Game 7 is a pretty big accomplishment.  That game will go on Wednesday night, a 5:30pm MT start for us in the pool.

There will only be one Game 7 on Wednesday night, as the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to get out of Game 6, in their own barn, alive.  The Jackets didn't have an answer to the ramped up offense that the Capitals were sporting on Monday night and they were playing catch-up from the very start.  Dmitry Orlov got the scoring going in the 1st, Alex Ovechkin had a pair of goals in the 2nd and the depth did their thing in the 3rd period, beating their Ohio rivals, 6-3, to advance.

The Jackets did bring the heat in the 3rd period, so Braden Holtby, who has now won four in a row, had to come up huge to get this W.  In total, he made 35 saves and got his 2 points, bringing his playoff total up to 8 points.

Other notable players in this game included Brooks Orpik for the Caps, who had a pair of assists and Nick Foligno, on the losing side, had a couple of goals, which wasn't enough.

Now, the Jackets are officially eliminated, 15 selections have now been flushed down the toilet, Zach Wereneski was taken four times, as the most popular Columbus player and Artemi Panarin, who wasn't taken at all in Box 13, led the scoring with 8 points.

The Capitals will now face off against the Penguins in the next round, we'll probably setup a pool preview here in the next day or two, once the schedule has been announced.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 23)

Catching up on the weekend's action, we'll start with Saturday afternoon's elimination of the New Jersey Devils, who put up a reasonable effort against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it just wasn't to be for the Cinderella team from the Metropolitan Division.

The Lightning put together a pretty good playoff effort, scoring early in the 1st period and making that lead stand with a huge stand in the 2nd period, only allowing four shots on goal.  Nikita Kucherov added a goal midway in the 2nd period to help pad the lead, but things did get a bit interesting, when the Devils pulled their goalie, where they were able to pull one back, but end up giving up an empty-netter and the game finished at 3-1, the series ending at 4-1.

Kucherov's goal then stood up as the game-winner, his 3rd of these playoffs, making him the only notable skater in the game, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 26 saves for the win, giving him 8 points through the opening round.

The Devils were not among the popular teams, having only five selections to their name, as some pool teams were certainly hedging their bets, possibly thinking that an upset was possible in this series, but most didn't think so.  Rookie defenseman Will Butcher was taken twice, the most popular Devils player, who has now been eliminated.

The Lightning are now waiting on the winner of the Maple Leafs/Bruins series.

As expected, the series between the Blue Jackets and Capitals, albeit home-ice disadvantage going into Game 5, was not necessarily going to be the same, especially with the Capitals were going with Braden Holtby in this game.  The Blue Jackets were certainly inclined to make it close, forcing a 4th overtime in this series, with an early 3rd period goal, but it was the Capitals that came up big in the overtime, as Nicklas Backstrom redirected a shot from the point, beating Sergei Bobrovsky and getting his team to a 3-2 series lead.

Holtby had to be huge, making 39 saves to get the win in the end, and he could certainly be the difference in this series, as he has been in the last three games.  Backstrom's winner was part of a 4-point effort in this game and Dmitry Orlov also had a pair of assists to be the other notable Washington player.

The Jackets got a boost to their lineup, Alexander Wennberg came back from his upper-body injury, picking up a point in his return, but he couldn't lift his team into the win column.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were on the brink of elimination and they showed a little bit of resiliency, using their speed and some of that natural skill to good use, giving the Boston Bruins all they could handle.  The Maple Leafs pushed hard and got themselves up to a 4-1 lead and they needed each and every goal of that 3-goal lead, as the Bruins pushed back, including a late 2nd period goal and an early 3rd period goal, but the young Leafs were able to hold on and force a Game 6 with a 4-3 victory.

James Van Riemsdyk got credit with the eventual winner, also adding an assist for a 3-point game.  Tyler Bozak also had a goal and an assist, while Frederik Andersen stopped 42 shots to keep his team alive for at least one more game.

The Leafs finally got Nazem Kadri from his 3-game suspension, while the Bruins saw Patrice Bergeron returned from a 1-game injury absence as well.  Kadri was a big help, picking up an assist in the win, while Bergeron couldn't quite find the scoresheet, but registering six shots on goal.

Just when the Philadelphia Flyers thought they had a line on Game 7 in the bag, Jake Guentzel and the Pittsburgh Penguins opted to not just break their hearts, they shattered them and stomped on the pieces.

A 4-2 lead, midway through the 2nd period, just wasn't enough to put fear into the Penguins, as the Flyers fell apart and allowed five straight goals, not only giving away that lead, but the Penguins built an insurmountable lead and took the air from right from their lungs.

Guentzel led the way with 4 goals, including the winner, and added an assist for a 6-point effort.  Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang each posted 3-point afternoons, while Phil Kessel also had a couple of assists in the win.  Matt Murray had a rough start to the game, but bounced back well, making 21 saves for the the series clinching win.

Evgeni Malkin sat out Game 6 with an apparent leg injury and is currently listed as day-to-day, I'm sure he would have liked to be in this game, given all the points.  The six pool teams that took him probably are thinking the same.  Hornqvist, as you could see earlier, returned from his upper-body injury and made an impact.

The Flyers were not a popular team among the 23 pool teams, as there were only eight selections among the Flyers, three of them were Ivan Provorov in Box 21.  No one had the top Flyers player, Sean Couturier, who finished with 12 points, heads and shoulders above anyone else on the team.  They won't really be missed going forward in the playoffs.

The Penguins will now face the winner of the Columbus/Washington series.

We have to give the Colorado Avalanche plenty of credit for sticking in their series with the Nashville Predators, as going to Game 6 was probably a lot further than most people would have expected.  Game 6, however, was a dominant effort, right off the hop, as the Predators really put the boot to the Avalanche, scoring a pair in the 1st, scoring another pair in the 2nd and an early goal in the 3rd period, keeping puck possession and really limited the chances for the Avs.

Pekka Rinne only had ot make 22 saves for his first shutout of these playoffs and it brought his point total is 10 points, which was good news for the 10 teams that picked him up this year.  Mattias Ekholm scored the opening goal of the game, which stood up as the winner, making him into the most notable skater in this game on the pool sheet, as everyone else was a single point player, if they got points at all.

The Avalanche were the least picked team in the hockey pool, with only three selections and they all came from one team in the pool, Sheldon's side.  He took a long shot gamble and that didn't pay off for him.  Go big or go home, right?

The Western Conference match-ups are now set with this result, as the Nashville Predators will get the Winnipeg Jets and the San Jose Sharks will get the Vegas Golden Knights.  More on that in the next day or two.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Goalie Announcements (Apr 21)

Cory Schneider versus Andrei Vasilevskiy
In the first of two 1pm MT starts on Saturday, the New Jersey Devils will try to get out from behind the 8-ball, if only partially, in Game 5 in Tampa Bay.  No one was really counting on the Devils to do a whole lot in this series, yet they have been fairly competitive, despite where the series stands, going into today.  The Devils will need their best players to be just that, if they wish to keep plugging away at these Bolts, but the Lightning have the muscle and the firepower to get this job done today.

It's hard to say whether or not the Devils coaching staff will change their minds about who should start in goal, but Cory Schneider has been very good in his two starts, registering the team's only win in this series, so it does seem very likely that he will get the nod today, while Andrei Vasilevskiy will go out and prove why he was a top-3 vote-getter in the Vezina Trophy running this year.

Sergei Bobrovsky versus Braden Holtby
The deadlocked series between the Blue Jackets and the Capitals returns to the Verizon Center this afternoon, in the other 1pm MT start, and this series has been dominated by the road team through the first four games of the series, but the Capitals do have an ace up their sleeve.... Braden Holtby didn't start either of those games at home earlier in the series.  Holtby came in to start Game 3 in Columbus, won both those games and now likely has the momentum, if you can call it that, heading into Game 5.  The Capitals are really under the gun with all of the high expectations and if they're going to do it, they better get after it now.

I don't think we should expect anything less than Sergei Bobrovsky at the other end today.

Frederik Andersen versus Tuukka Rask
The Boston Bruins are on the verge of getting through the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, a prime time game, 6pm MT start on CBC.  The Bruins have really hooked the Leafs behind the 8-ball and it sounds like they will get Patrice Bergeron back from a 1-game absence, due to injury. which only makes things that much harder for those young buds.  The Maple Leafs have had their shots at taking down the big, bad Bruins, but it hasn't quite worked out in their favour just yet.  Somehow, they need to find new and inventive ways to use their speed around the playoff smarts and experience on the other side.

No surprises in net tonight, as it will be Frederik Andersen for Toronto, Tuukka Rask for Boston and they're either playing again on Monday night or Boston is setting up to play the winner of the New Jersey/Tampa Bay series.

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 21)

Well, if you saw the goalie announcements post yesterday, you probably thought that I wasn't giving the Flyers much of a chance in Game 5 against the Penguins... and I wasn't.  The Flyers did turn around and start Michal Neuvirth, contrary to what was indicated by our good friends, the beat writers watching practice suggested, but that was probably a smoke screen by the Flyers coaching staff anyways.  Sean Couturier also returned from a 1-game absence, due to a lower-body injury, so that was a huge boost for the team too.

Yes, the Flyers were a motivated bunch and they had to be, going into the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh and hoping to come out with a win.  After giving up a 1-0 lead and going down a goal in the 2nd period, the Flyers were able to pull up their socks and find that extra gear they needed to stay alive in these playoffs.  They tied it up, shortly after going down by a goal and they scratched and clawed their way to a Couturier winner, late in the 3rd, adding an empty-netter to seal it.  The Flyers now get to head home and try to force Game 7 now.  That game will go on Sunday afternoon, a 1pm MT start.

Box 18 forward Valtteri Filippula had a good game, finishing with 3 points, while Couturier got the bonus point, those were your two notable players from the game.  Neither player was taken in the pool, rendering those points moot.

Dust off the boot!  We have ourselves an elimination!

The Minnesota Wild went into the whiteout, probably with a little bit of hope, that they could make it out alive.  The Winnipeg Jets, however, had other ideas and got to them in a big hurry.  The Jets scored 31 seconds into the game, they had a 4-0 lead before the 12-minute mark and they never really had to look back.  The Jets poured it on early, leaving little doubt and then coasted to the finish.  The Jets made it through on the shoulders of a 5-0 victory in the end and they will now await the result of the Colorado/Nashville series, which could have ended in the late game last night... but more on that in a bit.

Mark Scheifele, Paul Stastny and Dustin Byfuglien all had 2-point nights in various fashions, Jacob Trouba scored the opening goal of the game to capture the bonus point and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves to post back-to-back shutouts to finish the series.  It was a good night for Jets supporters in the hockey pool and there are many of them.

As for roster notes, Tyler Myers returned to the lineup after missing a game with his lower-body injury, while Nikolaj Ehlers was a late scratch for the Jets and we're still unsure about the official reason why.

As for the Wild, they really didn't get too far off the ground in this series, thanks in large part to injuries, but they were one of the least favoured teams in the hockey pool anyways, only having six selections to their side, going into this series.  Zach Parise was taken three times in Box 7 and he was hurt in Game 3 and wasn't able to return.  It's a tough one for the Wild, but the chips didn't fall into place for them this year.

The Avalanche were pushed right to the edge of elimination at the start of the 3rd period in Game 5 on Friday night, but managed to recover. A hard fought game went into the final frame of regulation with no score, but the Predators were the first to draw blood, midway through the period, but the desperation gear seemed to kick in for those pesky Avalanche, as they found both the tying goal and Sven Andrighetto's winner, before the buzzer sounded to end regulation.  The 2-1 victory ensured that the Avalanche would live to see another game.

This wasn't a great game for the hockey pool, as the bonus point was assumed by a non-pool player, the Avalanche were down to their third goalie and there were a few singles through the box score, but nothing special.

The Avalanche did get some good news before this game, as defenseman Samuel Girard was cleared to play and did so, but that also didn't have any play in the hockey pool, as he wasn't taken either.

Game 6 for this series will go on Sunday night, back in Denver.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Goalie Announcements (Apr 20)

Brian Elliott versus Matt Murray
There are some fairly low expectations of the Flyers tonight, as they head back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 against the Penguins and there just doesn't seem to be any fight left in their game.  The Penguins have run them ragged in their three wins, giving way to a passionate win for the Flyers in Game 2, but that passion was very short-lived.

The early indications from the morning skate were that Brian Elliott would again get the start for the Flyers, despite being pulled in Game 4 and replaced by the newly-healthy Michal Neuvirth.  The Flyers will have to put up a pretty good game, if they are going to want to stay alive in this series or else Matt Murray and the Penguins will be looking ahead to the winner of the Columbus/Washington match-up, sooner rather than later.

Devan Dubnyk versus Connor Hellebuyck
The Winnipeg Jets have a chance to close out their series against the Minnesota Wild tonight at the MTS Centre and there doesn't appear to be any changes on the horizon for either side, as both goalies have played pretty well to this point, it has just been the teams in front of them that have been the difference.

Devan Dubnyk will get the nod again for the Wild, as they try to force a Game 6 back in their barn, while Connor Hellebuyck will look to close this out in front of the home fans and then move on to face the winner of the Colorado/Nashville series.

The Jets took both games at home earlier in the series and the whiteout will be on yet again, making for a pretty crazy atmosphere, especially the further the Jets go into these playoffs.

Andrew Hammond versus Pekka Rinne
The Colorado Avalanche are down to their last life in these playoffs and they'll now have to lean on their number three goalie, Andrew Hammond, as now Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier are now hurt.  There's no taller task than to take on the Nashville Predators, in their barn, the Bridgestone Arena, and to take on Vezina finalist Pekka Rinne.

It hasn't like the Avalanche haven't had their chances in this series, they have been able to score goals, they've even held a handful of leads.  The struggle has been to either score enough goals or do more to keep the puck out of their net.  Hammond's job will be to do the latter and I wouldn't say it's an enviable position to be in.

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 20)

No Patrice Bergeron?  No problem.  The Boston Bruins were without their top centre for Game 4 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, due to an lower-body injury, but the Bruins were able to still able to grind out a 3-1 win and thus, take a 3-1 series lead as well.  Brad Marchand netted the eventual winner for the bonus point, David Pastrnak had 2 assists and Tuukka Rask made 31 saves for the win.  It was the usual suspects getting it done for the Bruins and now they can go home to finish the series over the weekend.

There is no such thing as home-ice advantage in the Washington/Columbus series, as the two sides faced off at Nationwide Arena and it was all Washington, right off the hop.  The Capitals piled on the pressure and took a 2-0 lead into the 3rd period, keeping Sergei Bobrovsky busy and not letting too much get to their keeper, Braden Holtby.  The game finished as a 4-1 romp, T.J. Oshie scored the winner in the 2nd period, Evgeny Kuznetsov had a 3-point night, while Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson each had a goal and an assist.  Holtby made 23 saves for the win and now the series shifts back to Washington tied at 2-2.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 19)

It was a dominating performance again by the Pittsburgh Penguins, as they shut out their cross state rivals at their own barn in Philadelphia, 5-0, to take a 3-1 series lead.  Any time the Flyers had any sort of pressure against the Penguins, the defense would quickly turnaround and skate back in the other direction to apply equal or more pressure and in a good number of cases, a goal would be scored.  The transition game was strong with those Penguins.

Matt Murray led the way with a 26-save shutout for 4 points, followed by Evgeni Malkin, who scored the winner and added an assist, and then Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel were all in with 2 points a piece.

For the Flyers, Sean Couturier did indeed miss Game 4 with what is believed to be a lower-body injury, he's still considered day-to-day, while Petr Mrazek has now been demoted to the press box, as Michal Neuvirth was activated from the IR on Wednesday and was backing up Brian Elliott for this one.

Game 5 goes early on Friday night, the 5pm MT game on CBC.

You can't say enough about the effort that the New Jersey Devils have been able to put in against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that match-up on paper is really starting to translate to the action that is on the ice.  The Lightning capitalized on their chances in Game 4, like good offensive teams do, getting the better of the Devils, 3-1, at the Prudential Center.  The two teams will now go back to Tampa, with the Lightning having a 3-1 series lead of their own and for good reason.

Nikita Kucherov had a big night, scoring a pair of goals, including the winner, added an assist and he may have earned himself a call from the Department of Player Safety for a high hit, not unlike Drew Dougnty's, on Sami Vatanen.  Still, 4 points in the pool is a big high to leave on.  Box 17 forward J.T. Miller also had a good night, finishing with a goal and a pair of assists, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves for the win.

Vatanen, a Box 20 defenseman, not taken by anyone, left the game with an upper-body injury after the Kucherov hit, not to return.  His status for Game 5 is definitely questionable.

C'mon, let's make it three series in a row, where they finish up 3-1, heading back home to try and end it! "Okay," said the Predators, as they climbed on the 3-1 bandwagon on Wednesday night, holding on for dear life in the 3rd period. The Predators were doing more than enough early on against the Avalanche, Filip Forsberg getting the job started with a beautiful goal and then the defense going to work, defending well against a determined Avalanche power play.  The Predators added two more before the end of the 2nd, taking a 3-0 lead into the 3rd period, but then desperation started to work its way into Colorado's game.  The Avs managed to put a couple on the board, with still about nine minutes to go, but the Preds shut the door and held on for that 3-2 win.

Craig Smith got credit for the game-winner, Forsberg had one and one, Mattias Ekholm had a couple of helpers and Pekka Rinne made 31 saves for the win.  It may not have been the prettiest of finishes, but the job was done in the end.

The Avalanche lost their number two goalie, Jonathan Bernier, to a lower-body injury, as he was replaced by Andrew Hammond in this one.  It's hard to say whether or not Bernier could go for the Avs in Game 5 or else it'll be Hammond that likely gets the nod, but I'm sure the Avalanche are already hearing the death rattle on their season.

Two sweeps in the first round of the playoffs?  Both of them happening in the Pacific Division?  You better believe it!  The Ducks are done.  The San Jose Sharks put up a brick wall, named Martin Jones, in this series and he played exceptionally well, making 30 saves in the deciding game, as the Sharks took it, 2-1.  Tomas Hertl scored his second game-winner of these playoffs to be the only other notable player in this game and he did so, shortly after the Ducks tied the game up at one in the 3rd period, stomping out any momentum their opponents might have gained with tying the game up.

The Sharks were the favourite in this series, according to the pool, 35-26 were the selection totals between the two teams and that means quite a few teams have lost some (or some more) players.  Three teams are already down to 18 players, having lost three to the Kings and three to the Ducks, while only four teams in the pool have yet to lose a player.  Jakob Silfverberg and Brandon Montour were the most popular Ducks players lost, each were taken five times.

Well, that's two down... six more to go in this opening round!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Morrissey Cross-Check Nets Defender One Game

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey will now miss Game 5 of the series between the Jets and Wild on Friday, due to a suspension, rendered from a play on Tuesday night, where he cross-checked Eric Staal in the head/neck area.

Morrissey, taken twice in the playoff hockey pool, has been a solid member of the Winnipeg blueline, as they have worked their way to a 3-1 series lead against the Wild.  He has been eating a lot of key minutes for the team and he has 1 assist in the first four games of the series as well.

Now that we're moving into the elimination portions of the playoffs, we'll start having some longer looks in the standings.  Saying that, of Morrissey's two teams that he is a part of in the standings, Brenda's 3rd place team is one of them, but with his current point production, it's hard to really say whether or not he'll be missed.

Goalie Announcements (Apr 18)

Four more games to go on Wednesday night, including one more elimination game, which should make tonight's schedule pretty interesting.  I haven't seen any surprises yet amongst our projected starting goalies, so I don't suspect I'll be blowing anyone's minds with this post.

Matt Murray versus Brian Elliott
Game 4 between the Penguins and the Flyers should have the same goalie match-up as the previous three games, despite each loss being fairly significant in this series.  The Penguins have won the first two games and they'll look to win both games away, so they can try and win the series at home, while the Flyers are going to try and even up the series and make sure it goes at least six games.  I'm looking for Matt Murray and Brian Elliott making the starts again tonight.

Andrei Vasilevskiy versus Cory Schneider
The Devils did have Cory Schneider back in the starter's net for the morning skate, which may have only come as a slight surprise after watching him labour through what appeared to be a groin issue of some sort in Game 3.  Schneider played through it in the 3rd period and got himself the win, so back to the crease it is for him.  The Lightning, of course, won't change the course, staying with Andrei Vasilevskiy tonight.

The Devils can even up the series with a win tonight, heading into this one down 2-1.

Pekka Rinne versus Jonathan Bernier
Expecting the status quo in Denver tonight, with the Avalanche winning Game 3 and the Predators likely not having any plans to deviate from their plan.  The goaltending match-up in Game 4 should be exactly the same as it has been for the first three games of the series, Pekka Rinne against Jonathan Bernier.

John Gibson versus Martin Jones
The Pacific Division has historically been a collection of teams that are hard to play against, but by this year's standards, we have seen a couple of teams roll over quite easily.  The Anaheim Ducks are on the verge of rolling over dead, like their California counterparts, the Los Angeles Kings, as they start the night behind the 8-ball against the San Jose Sharks, down 3-0 and ready to be swept away.

The Sharks have no business thinking that they're going to change up their netminder, since Martin Jones is already 3-0-0 in these playoffs, but the Ducks, unconfirmed at the time of writing this post, has a decision to make.  Do they live and die by John Gibson, who hasn't seen the results yet, or do they opt for Ryan Miller, trying to change it up and spark the team?  It's a tough call and I'm sure glad I don't have to make it.