Brian Elliott looking forward to facing the Penguins

Elliott.jpgLast night we wrote about how the Ottawa Senators are confident in
their ability to handle the Pittsburgh Penguins
in the first round, even
hinting at our thoughts that the Senators actually do have a decent
shot. The main reason why, beside their defense?

Brian Elliott.

Elliott
saved the Senators from the laugh-fest that is Pascal Leclaire, seizing
the starting goaltending spot and carrying the team at a time when it
seemed as if they might never win a game again. Ottawa stumbled out of
the Olympic break and it looked like they might actually fall out of the
playoffs; Elliott was there to help steady the ship.

Now, his
numbers are exactly great (2.57 GAA, 0.909 save %) but more importantly
he won many more games than he lost. At one point, down the stretch, he
won six straight games, including two straight shutouts. Now he’s
carrying the Senators into the playoffs, taking on one of the most
offensively gifted teams in the NHL. Per Bruce Garrioch of the Calgary
Sun, who chronicles Elliott’s journey to this point:

“I don’t see how you can’t be excited about it,” said Elliott. “The
guys say the real season starts now. Having the first practice of the
post-season (on Monday) was a little more serious and I like it when
it’s a little more competition and guys are bearing down on every shot.”

“I’m looking forward to it. All our guys — shot-blockers as well —
it’s a challenge to shut those guys down,” said Elliott. “If you do
(stop them) you give yourself a good chance.”

After being such a stumbling mess just one month ago, the Senators
have suddenly become of the more dangerous teams in the playoffs. They
are confident, and they’ve had success against Crosby and the Penguins
before.

Should I make my prediction now?

Naw, I’ll wait.

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    Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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    For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

    They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

    • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
    • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
    • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

    Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

    Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

    Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

    Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

    (Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

    Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

    You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

    It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

    Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

    Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

    Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

    Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
    AP
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    If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

    You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

    The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

    For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

    (Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

    The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

    Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

    Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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    It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

    The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

    The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

    One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.