2010 NHL playoffs: Upsets galore on opening night

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The first night of playoff hockey did not disappoint. Three upsets
out of four and all games were decided by one goal, in a night that had
plenty of hitting, skill, goaltending prowess and even a snake thrown
out on the ice.

Sens4.jpgPittsburgh Penguins 4, Ottawa Senators 5
Senators lead series 1-0.

This was NOT the game that
showcased great goaltending. Marc-Ander Fleury looked unsure of himself
and was nowhere near the confident goaltender that took his team to the
Stanley Cup finals the past two seasons, and was spraying rebounds all
over the ice. You have to hand to the Senators, however; they were able
to contain and frustrate the Penguins for much of the game, and it
wasn’t until the score was nearly out of reach that the Crosby and the
Pens woke up. Yet everytime that the Penguins would score, the Senators
would answer right back. The Penguins now face questions of
inconsistency and suddenly fragile goaltender in net, while the Senators
continue to build confidence.

Next game: Friday, Apr. 16;
7:00 p.m. EDT

New Jersey Devils 1, Philadelphia
Flyers 2
Flyers lead series 1-0

This wasn’t
exactly the knock down, dragged out brawl I half-expected it to be; in
fact, the Flyers and Devils had the least amount of hits total out of
all four games. The Devils were just completely disinterested to showing
any intensity in the game, and when they had a chance in the third
period to seriously close the gap on the 2-0 deficit with a four-minute
power play, mustered hardly any attack at all.

The Devils were
outworked in front of their own net and Martin Brodeur allowed two goals
on just 14 shots. Still, plenty of credit goes to the Flyers, who were
lead by a solid performance in net by Brian Boucher and showed
confidence in themselves and each other for 60 minutes.

Next
game: Friday, Apr. 16; 7:30 p.m. EDT

San Jose Sharks
1, Colorado Avalanche 2
Avalanche lead series 1-0

Uh
oh…can you see the wagons circling? The Sharks entered the postseason
with nothing but questions about how they would perform in the playoffs
— once again — and nothing from the game tonight did much to quell
those fears. You have to hand it to Colorado, however, who’s confidence,
speed and stamina outlasted the top seed in the West, while Craig
Anderson once again proved why he
was perhaps the best free agent signing of the season
.

Not
all is lost. Evgeni Nabokov was great, and it’s just one game. Sharks
fans can all calm down. For a day at least.

Next game: Friday,
Apr. 16; 10:30 p.m. EDT

Wings.jpgPhoenix Coyotes 3, Detroit Red Wings 2 Coyotes
lead series 1-0

As expected, this was the game of the night.
The atmosphere at Jobing.com Arena was absolutely electric, and the
Phoenix Coyotes overcame an early 2-1 deficit to take out the much more
experienced Red Wings. It was exactly Dave Tippett hockey; the Coyotes
allowed 40 shots on goal and have the brilliance of Ilya Bryzgalov to
thank for the victory. But in the end, it was the team approach by the
Coyotes and and every player on the ice selling out to preserve the lead
that netted one heck of a victory.

On the other side, the Red
Wings were outworked and outhustled by the Coyotes for the final 40
minutes of the game, and only Pavel Datsyuk showed any true life for the
Red Wings down the stretch.

There is still plenty of hockey to
be played, and the Coyotes cannot become too elated based on one win.
But for the Coyotes fans and the franchise, what a tremendous night.

Next
game: Friday, Apr. 16, 10:00 p.m. EDT

Looking to make the leap: Pierre-Luc Dubois

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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

Columbus surprised people when they took Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi with the third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Now Dubois is tasked with showing that they made the right call.

While Puljujarvi did get his first taste of the NHL last season with Edmonton, Dubois spent the full campaign in the QMJHL. However, Dubois is entering training camp with a real shot of landing a job with Columbus.

His versatility should work in his favor throughout his battle for a roster spot. Dubois is capable of serving as a winger or center and while he’s offensively gifted, he’s also a physical force.

It doesn’t hurt that he took his additional season at the junior level as a learning experience. He was able to play a full campaign at center and work on his positioning. He was also dealt from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada during the season, which gave him the benefit of experiencing a different system.

“It was a little more of a defensive (style),” Dubois said of Blainville-Boisbriand’s system, per NHL.com. “That’s how we won our games, by scores of 2-1. It was a more pro-style game. I learned a lot from that.”

All that being said, he still has an uphill battle ahead of him. There’s a potential opening for him, but it’s not a given that he’ll secure that job and even if he does get a chance with Columbus, he’ll have to work hard to make his stint with them be more than just a nine-game trial.

The 19-year-old can’t play in the AHL yet either, so if he doesn’t find a role with the Blue Jackets then he’ll have to play in the QMJHL again. By contrast, Puljujarvi was able to be sent to the AHL last season and if he doesn’t play for Edmonton in 207-18 then he’ll at least be able to get ice time against men in the minors.

When PHT asked the question last year if the Blue Jackets were right in selecting Dubois over Puljujarvi roughly two-thirds of voters said no. Perhaps Dubois will be able to change some minds this season.

Related: Getting sent to junior made Blue Jackets prospect Dubois a ‘more mature’ player

Callahan (hip) will be fine for start of training camp

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Ryan Callahan could only play in 18 games last season and underwent two hip surgeries, but perhaps 2017-18 will be different. The news is certainly good so far.

“I’m full go, right from Day One,” Callahan told the NHL.com. “It’s going to be nice to be able to do a hard training camp this year.”

His statement was reinforced by the fact that he participated in the first day of voluntary workouts on Monday.

Tampa Bay signed him to a six-year, $34.8 million contract in the summer of 2014 and while he was great for the first year of the deal, he declined in 2015-16 and then of course barely played last season. That’s led to concerns that the 32-year-old’s contract might prove to be disastrous in its back half.

“I know there’s chatter and people doubt me — if I can come back and what I’ll be like when I come back,” Callahan said. “I’ve always tried to use it as motivation. That’s how they propelled me to the place I am right now in my career. I’m looking at this the same way. I’m excited to get going this year. I think it’s going to be one of the best years I’ve ever had.”

Tampa Bay could certainly use the help. The Lightning fell short of the playoffs last season, but also missed Steven Stamkos for much of the campaign as well as Callahan. If those two stay healthy and if Callahan bounces back then Tampa Bay could be one of the major contenders in 2017-18.

Report: Flames might have interest in Jagr

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We’re mere weeks away from the start of training camp, but Jaromir Jagr remains unsigned. Even at the age of 45 he can still contribute as he did last season with Florida, but is there a team out there that ultimately will pay the future Hall of Famer to extend his NHL career?

That remains to be seen, but it sounds like there is some interest out there for his services.

“I know some teams that have kind of talked and taken a look at it,” said Elliotte Friedman on the NHL Network (H/T to FanRag Sports). “I think Calgary has been one that has kind of looked at it. One of his former coaches, Glen Gulutzan, is coaching up there.”

Friedman also heard teams suggesting that Anaheim might be interested in Jagr, but based on his own investigation that doesn’t appear to be the case. Ultimately Jagr might end up starting the season in the Czech Republic and would have the option of playing in the Olympics if that happens, but even if he does begin the year in Europe, he could still re-sign with an NHL squad later on in the 2017-18 campaign.

Jagr is the second all-time player in terms of total points and third in goals behind Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. If he did play another season, the main statistical achievement that he could chase would be fourth place on the assists list as he’s 20 behind Ray Bourque.

He finished the 2016-17 campaign with 16 goals and 46 points in 82 contests.

Related: The case for Hurricanes signing Jaromir Jagr

Under Pressure: Ryan Murray

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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

The Blue Jackets were naturally hoping for great things when they took Ryan Murray with the second overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, but he’ll turn 24-years-old in September and so far he hasn’t consistently lived up to those early expectations.

To be sure, he’s had some bad luck along the way. He suffered a torn labrum while playing in the juniors during the 2012-13 campaign and in the years that’s followed he’s been limited at times by knee and ankle problems. Most recently he missed the last 15 games of the regular season and the Jackets’ playoff run due to a broken hand.

Injuries haven’t been Murray’s only issue though. While they’ve resulted in setbacks along the way, when he was healthy last season he still wasn’t living up to expectations. Seth Jones, David Savard, Jack Johnson, and rookie phenom Zach Werenski served as Columbus’ defensive core while Murray was relegated to more of a supporting role.

That top-four core isn’t particularly old either as Johnson is the most senior member at the age of 30. Johnson is on the final season of his contract, but unless the Blue Jackets can’t re-sign him, Murray has no simple path back into prominence. He’ll have to get there through merit alone and he’ll want to demonstrate his ability to do so this season given that he’ll be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2018.

“It’s a big summer for Ryan; for him and for us,” Blue Jackets president John Davidson noted to the Columbus Dispatch in April. “He knows it. We’ve had good talks with him. He’s had good talks with our strength and conditioning people, our doctors.

“He’s a good hockey player, and we’ve seen some good things from him. He’s had bad injury luck without question, but he’s going to overcome that. He’s at the age now where he’s not a young pup.”

Players at his age are still typically regarded as having upside, but also beginning to transition away from the point where they’re regarded as prospects. There won’t be many more years where Murray will be looked at as a potential top defenseman if he doesn’t force himself into that role soon.