Blackhawks kick Predators out of playoffs

nieminash.jpgIf anyone deserved to score a goal for the Chicago Blackhawks, it was John Madden. His empty netter was his first goal (and point) of a series despite the fact that he played some great hockey.

Chicago Blackhawks 5, Nashville Predators 3

Blackhawks win series 4-2

Both the Eastern and Western Conferences will wait for a Game 7 each (Red Wings-Coyotes Tuesday, Canadiens-Capitals Wednesday). Aside from that, it will be the Penguins, Bruins and Flyers in the East and the Sharks, Blackhawks and Canucks in the West.

This sets up what could very well be an epic series between the Blackhawks and Canucks, two teams who developed some serious hatred for each other during the last two seasons. While Chicago handed Vancouver a resounding defeat last year, it seems like things have changed for both teams. The Canucks were the West’s leading goal scoring team and Roberto Luongo must be feeling very confident after a fantastic performance against the Kings last night. The Blackhawks had an up-and-down series, but Antti Niemi was often excellent in net. Still, the Canucks’ offensive firepower is an atom bomb to the Predators’ fire cracker arsenal, so we’ll see if Finnish netminder Niemi is for real soon enough.

Nashville cannot help but ask what could have been. Night after night, their anemic powerplay let the team down. It’s harder to put lipstick on this pig because the Predators aren’t a team that can make big free agent splashes (if they were more capable, I’d strongly recommend adding Gonchar to bolster their tepid man advantage). As hard as it is to be positive about a franchise that has never made it past the first round, you still have to give it to Barry Trotz and company for even making it this far year after year. The question is: will the team fork over some money to try to do some damage?

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    Flames keep showing life, Stars stumble once again

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    If you think the Dallas Stars are struggling because of defense more than anything else, then you’ll make sure to keep the video above “on file.”

    There Kari Lehtonen was, helpless on a 2-on-0 rush for the Calgary Flames, which Johnny Gaudreau finished with calm and ease. For some, that goal is the symbol of the Stars’ season.

    Either way, it was a painful goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Stars. Calgary won despite Dallas firing 30 shots on goal versus the Flames’ 20.

    One team climbing, the other stumbling

    With that, the Flames are now on a four-game winning streak. Since falling to 5-10-1 on Nov. 12, the Flames have gone 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, pushing them to 14-13-2 overall. Gaudreau coming back is the icing on the cake after Chad Johnson really took charge of the Flames’ top job.

    During a similar span, the Stars can’t seem to get it together. Dallas stood at 6-6-3 after beating the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 11. They’re now 10-11-6, essentially standing in place as a .500 team.

    Dallas can’t seem to get momentum going, a thought that might have left them envious of the team on the other end of the ice on Tuesday.

    Canadiens are facing some turbulence (and mostly passing the test)

    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues checks Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens at the Scottrade Center on December 6, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
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    The Montreal Canadiens aren’t in crisis mode, but as far as this so-far outstanding 2016-17 season goes, they are finally facing some adversity.

    Alex Galchenyuk, one of their most promising young players, is out indefinitely. There are murmurs that captain Max Pacioretty isn’t getting along with head coach Michel Therrien.* Tuesday presented a body blow or two to boot.

    For one thing, the Canadiens gave up a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Jaden Schwartz grabbed an assist and scored the game’s last two goals, including the OT-winner:

    Losing to a contender like the Blues, especially while still grabbing a “charity point,” isn’t that big of a deal. A possible David Desharnais injury makes things a little dicey, however:

    Really, though, it’s not all that bad for Montreal. They managed a 2-2-1 mark during a five-game road trip heavy on quality opponents.

    Also: six of their next seven games come at home, where they’re 12-1-1. So things will look brighter soon enough.

    Still, with some injuries and a big road trip to end 2016 and start 2017, there may be some moments where Montreal looks vulnerable.

    Ultimately, fighting through stretches like these could very well benefit the Habs later on.

    * – Ah, the old standby: “Player X isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Therrien.”

    From the Blues’ side:

    Ristolainen, Kane, O’Reilly push Sabres past McDavid and the Oilers

    EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 16:  Rasmus Ristolainen #55, Matt Moulson #26, Sam Reinhart #23, Kyle Okposo #21 and Ryan OÕReilly #90 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers on October 16, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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    On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about Jack Eichel vs. Connor McDavid. Instead, it was a clash between a fleet of young scorers who were in their prime, with the Buffalo Sabres coming up on top against the Edmonton Oilers.

    In particular, high-scoring defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, power forward Evander Kane and two-way center Ryan O'Reilly made the difference in Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime win.

    Ristolainen’s first goal of 2016-17 was a big one, as it clinched the contest in OT:

    Evander Kane scored two goals of his own, including one in the dying seconds of regulation to allow Buffalo to get a standings point (and then a second) in the first place.

    Kane finished with two goals, O’Reilly generated two assists and Ristolainen managed a one-goal, two-assist performance.

    It would be wrong to say that the marquee names didn’t show up at all. McDavid generated two assists and Eichel also nabbed a helper.

    You’d be correct in saying that other young players stole the show, though, and the Sabres were the biggest beneficiaries.

    Video: Brent Seabrook shaken up after awkward fall

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    It wasn’t nearly as scary as the falls suffered by Travis Zajac or Philip Larsen, but the Chicago Blackhawks are still holding their breath when it comes to defenseman Brent Seabrook.

    As you can see from the video above, Seabrook was tripped up by Jordan Martinook of the Arizona Coyotes during a simple puck battle. Seabrook was shaken up after falling awkwardly on that play.

    At the moment, it’s unclear if this will be an ongoing issue or if the Blackhawks avoided a costly injury.

    Martinook was not penalized.

    CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers notes that Seabrook wasn’t out to begin the third period. So far, not so good.

    The Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0, so the silver lining for Chicago is that they won.