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.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

Their struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.

Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

 

NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.