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.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.