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2011 Playoffs: Redemption or desperation? Tonight’s Game 2’s dictate the future

With four Game 2’s on tap tonight, there are four teams that can do something about the instant hole they’re in. Some of them could also find themselves heading back home down 0-2 if they’re not careful. Here’s what’s on tap tonight across the NHL playoff landscape. All times are Eastern.

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh – 7 p.m. – Pittsburgh leads series 1-0

Tampa Bay got the sort of lackluster effort that any team in the playoffs would like to avoid. After going through two scoreless periods, the Penguins jumped out in the third and put the Lightning down. The Lightning need a lot more physicality tonight. Brooks Orpik welcomed Steve Stamkos to the playoffs rudely on his first shift and the hitting didn’t stop all game long. Tampa Bay could stand to fire back with some big shots of their own and get snapped into a higher gear. Of all the Game 1’s played, Tampa-Pittsburgh had the most reserved pace to it. Tampa might benefit from pressing a bit more.

NY Rangers @ Washington – 7:30 p.m. (Versus) – Washington leads series 1-0

The Rangers will change things up a little bit tonight as Mats Zuccarello will sit while Sean Avery and his special brand of annoyance and aggression will play tonight. Avery against Washington should help keep the Rangers on their toes and the Caps with their heads on a swivel. They might benefit the most from a set of earplugs though so Avery’s verbal barbs won’t make them do something foolish. Avery’s ability to get players to take bad penalities rivals Avery’s ability to take some of his own. In the playoffs, however, he’s been a very effective player and that’s something the Caps can remember from the 2009 playoffs. The Caps will be hoping that Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin can continue to be the offensive studs, just that they they could do it a bit sooner than the final minutes of the third and overtime.

Chicago @ Vancouver – 10 p.m. (Versus)Vancouver leads series 1-0

If Chicago’s going to give Vancouver nightmares in the playoffs, sending the series back to Chicago tied would be the right way to do it. If the Blackhawks allow the Canucks to come out flying and seize the game right away, fighting an uphill battle against the league’s best team is a losing proposition. While Vancouver got great goaltending from Roberto Luongo in his 2-0 shutout in Game 1, there were a lot of post hits as well. Good luck is part of the battle, but if some of those shots start missing posts and hit the back of the net, Vancouver’s got a fight on their hands.

Nashville @ Anaheim – 10:30 p.m.Nashville leads series 1-0

While goaltending was only part of the problem for the Ducks in Game 1, they might be testing out Ray Emery to be the starter tonight. Emery will be hoping his defense does a better job of withstanding the Predators pressure on both sides of the puck than they did on Wednesday losing 4-1. For Nashville they’ll want to do more of the same and if Mike Fisher continues to be a ridiculous sniper, the Ducks are looking at a world of hurt potentially heading to Nashville down 0-2. The Ducks will need more of that snarl and much better play from their best players tonight. If not, the Ducks may be looking at a very quick exit.

Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

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Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.

Dupuis, Jagr, Zuccarello are Masterton Trophy finalists

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18:  Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis, Florida’s Jaromir Jagr, and the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello have been selected as the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” In 2015 it went to Devan Dubnyk, who struggled mightily in 2013-14, but dramatically turned his career around the following season and led the Minnesota Wild to the playoffs in the process.

Dupuis attempted to play in the 2015-16 campaign while taking blood thinners, but on Dec. 8 he announced that he would stop playing “because of a medical condition related to blood clots.”

Jagr celebrated his 44th birthday in February, but despite his age he managed to score 27 goals and 66 points in 79 contests this season. With that, he became the oldest player to reach the 60-point mark in a single NHL campaign.

Zuccarello played in 81 games and set career-highs with 26 goals and 61 points this season after suffering a skull fracture and brain contusion during the 2015 playoffs that left him temporarily unable to speak.

Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

“We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.