Alex Burrows

Five Thoughts: Alex Burrows’ weird, wild, and triumphant night; A tale of two goalies

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If tonight’s two Game 7’s provide the kind of excitement last night’s game between Vancouver and Chicago did we’ll all be better off for it. We also might pass out or have a heart attack as well. That kind of excitement is unbeatable and what makes the NHL playoffs unlike any other. If Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh and Montreal-Boston can weave some of their own magic tonight, the following rounds of the playoffs will have their work cut out for them to beat the drama of the first round. Here’s our five thoughts for today.

1. How relieved was Alex Burrows after scoring the game-winner in overtime to send the Canucks to the second round? After getting the Canucks out front early with a goal, Burrows’ night started skidding towards hell after not converting a penalty shot, then turning the puck over late that led to Jonathan Toews’ tying shorthanded goal and then taking a penalty for holding Duncan Keith in overtime. So many possible dire outcomes there for Burrows and the Canucks and yet they prevailed. Alex Burrows lived Vancouver’s series with Chicago just over the course of a night starting out sky high then hitting rock bottom only to surface again on top of the world. The Canucks aren’t quite there yet, but Burrows’ goal could be the catalyst to get them there.

2. Poor Ryan Miller. He was carrying all the swagger for a Buffalo team that distinctly lacks a personality. He’s had an “off” season for his abilities and for half of the playoff series with Philadelphia, he showed signs of the Miller we’re more used to seeing. Then Game 7 happens and the Flyers beat Buffalo in virtually every way possible and Miller gets yanked from the game. Tough way to go out but this Sabres team learned a lot about themselves this year. After such a rough start to the season they stuck to each other and rallied hard. Unfortunately for them, the Flyers rediscovered who they were in Game 7. It’s tough to match up with a team that plays that hard every shift.

3. Can’t help but wonder if any of the voters for the Calder Trophy felt a bit awkward seeing Corey Crawford stand on his head and thensome against Vancouver last night. Coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t have heaped more praise on him for how he played and he earned every bit of it. Considering how things played out for Chicago this season, the impending restricted free agent was truly their team MVP given how things shook out with Marty Turco to start and how Crawford seized the day and owned the job. Here’s to hoping the Blackhawks don’t screw the pooch in dealing with Crawford the way they did with Antti Niemi.

4. Quite the contrast we got in Game 7s last night. One a beat down from the get-go, the other a classic drama with sudden death overtime there to decide it all. Incredible that after seven games it all comes down to whoever scores last. It’s easy for us hockey fans to talk about how amazing Game 7 is but there truly is nothing that tops Game 7 overtime in the NHL. Doesn’t matter what round of the playoffs it happens in, it’s the most edge-of-your-seat madness you encounter. It’s only perfect that that’s how things broke down between Vancouver and Chicago. With their history, with how the series played out, with all the shared animosity it was a perfect way to wrap that series up. And to think… That’s just the first round.

5. A lot of people probably didn’t know who Kevin Pollock was before yesterday’s Game 6 between Montreal and Boston. When you read or hear the name you’re more likely to think of actor and comedian Kevin Pollak, but it was no laughing matter for either team last night. Pollock’s rough night started right off the bat in the first as he blew a play dead for losing sight of the puck when it very much was not smothered up by Tim Thomas. Brian Gionta pounced on the loose puck and put it in only to have it waved off. A brutally bad call but not one that even replay could change. Then in the second period Pollock whistled Milan Lucic for a boarding major after he took out Jaroslav Spacek with a terrible hit from behind.

In such a wound up and hostile atmosphere with both teams champing at the bit, having one awful call getting evened out by a very dubious one makes both teams angry. The Habs are angry because they were cost a goal and the Bruins are mad because they lost a player for more than half the game. The stress of being a referee is sky high in the playoffs and only more so between these two teams. It’s not just the players that can have an off night, the guys in stripes have to be sharp too, just that when an official boots a call (or two) it can drastically swing the fortune of the game. Let’s hope things go a lot smoother tonight.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.