2010 NHL playoffs: Western Conference 1st round matchups

With Detroit beating the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime, and the Los Angeles Kings coming back against Colorado, we now have our Western Conference matchups all set.

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Colorado Avalanche
This is a great matchup for the Avalanche, who have Craig Anderson to fall back on against a Sharks team that has struggled in the latter part of the season. Of course, the Sharks finished the season on a good run at the end, so perhaps their penchant for choking will end this year? It’s the veterans with something to prove against the young, inexperienced and hungry team. Should be fun.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Nashville Predators
This is the most intriguing matchup for me. It’s two teams with completely different approaches to the game, with the Blackhawks coming in as a team with everything on the line. The Predators are a patient, defensive-minded team taking on a speedy, skilled and talented team with nothing but questions in net. Can Pekka Rinne be the spoiler for a great season by Chicago?

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Los Angeles Kings
The Kings used and abused Jonathan Quick all season long, and it could turn around and hurt them in the playoffs. Quick played in 72 games this season, but hasn’t won since March 22, a run of eight games without a win. The Canucks have the Sedins; enough said.

#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Here is the most interesting matchup of them all. The veteran, experienced and wily Red Wings taking on Dave Tippett and the ultra surprising Phoenix Coyotes. This is the perfect scenario for the Coyotes and their fans, who get to host a playoff series against the most successful NHL team of the past decade.

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    Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

    Niklas Kronwall
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    When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

    (His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

    It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

    He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

    First, the Kronwalling:

    Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

    It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

    Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

    Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

    Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

    Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

    It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

    To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

    The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

    That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

    They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

    Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


    More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

    In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

    Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

    Jack Eichel
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    The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

    You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

    That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

    Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

    Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


    Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

    While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

    In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

    The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?