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.

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Alex Burrows fined $5,000 for roughing

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Alex Burrows won’t be on Dylan DeMelo‘s Christmas card list this year.

Not after Burrows swiped DeMelo in the face with the butt-end of his stick on Saturday night.

Burrows got slapped with a $5,000 fine for roughing on Sunday night, the maximum permissible under the CBA. The money is one thing, but Burrows and the Senators have bigger issues at the moment.

It didn’t help the little incident happened in the third period and the game all but over for the Senators. Here’s the slow-mo shot of the infraction:

DeMelo suffered a scratch cornea and narrowly missed a major eye injury, according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. 

DeMelo was in the lineup for the Sharks on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

Burrows’ $5,000 goes to the player’s Emergency Assistance Fund.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Is it a slump or is regression setting in for the Winnipeg Jets?

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Might regression be hitting the Winnipeg Jets at the moment?

It’s a question Jets fans are asking themselves after a three-game road trip that produced just a single point and a goose egg in the win column.

It’s the first time the Jets have lost three straight all season. In year’s past, this wouldn’t have come as much surprise, but the Jets have thrown the status quo out the window this season and have sung a different tune.

The analytics would suggest the Jets were due for a fall back to earth.

For most of the season, they’ve been near the bottom of the league in terms of Corsi, with only recently climbing up that ladder with a help of a very lopsided game against the Ottawa Senators.

Regression in goal is also starting to happen, and a lot of Winnipeg’s early-season success had to do with how well Connor Hellebuyck had been playing.

Hellebuyck has been sensational most of the season and his 15-3-4  record supports that. But his save percentage has been trending in the wrong direction lately. In five of his past six starts, Hellebuyck has only achieved a .900 save percentage or better once, and that came in that 5-0 shutout against the Senators.

Nov. 27 vs MIN: .895
Nov. 29 vs COL: .885
Dec. 1 vs VGK: .871
Dec. 3 vs. OTT: 1.000
Dec. 5 vs DET: .844
Dec. 9 vs TBL: .857

The Jets give up a lot of shots, so the odds that Hellebuyck’s early season numbers would survive throughout the year were low.

The sky is by no means falling in Winnipeg. The Jets showed they can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best on Saturday. Overtime has just been the bane of their existence this season with a 0-5 record in free hockey.

The Jets touched the summit of the Western Conference last week, a pipe dream around these parts in recent times. They also possess two of the league’s top point-producers (Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler) and one of the league’s top goal scorers (Patrik Laine), not to mention having a rookie just outside top 10 in rookie scoring (Kyle Connor).

Prior to the road trip, Winnipeg’s power play had scored eight times in 19 attempts.

The Jets have also been largely healthy. Defenseman Toby Enstrom is the midst of an eight-week spell in the press box — and there’s a pending diagnosis coming for Dustin Byfuglien after he left Saturday’s game in Tampa Bay with a lower-body injury — but the Jets gotten by relatively unscathed thus far and managed well when Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry missed several games.

The Jets have made too many strides this season to regress too far away from where they are right now. Asking a team to go from outside the playoff line to tops in the division might be asking a tad too much. But with that said, the Jets are simply a good team these days and stacked with high-level talent.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Calgary Hitmen fans make 24K stuffed animals fly during Teddy Bear Toss (Video)

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Congratulations, Vladislav Yeryomenko, you were this year’s Teddy Bear Toss goal scorer for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

Yeryomenko’s goal at 9:36 of the first period during their game Sunday vs. the Moose Jaw Warriors was the sign for Hitmen fans to launch their teddy bears inside the Saddledome. Boy, it sure did rain plenty of fur.

Here’s what it looked like:

And here’s a fan’s eye view:

After a clean up delay of approximately 40 minutes , the game resumed but the Hitmen would fall to the Warriors 6-3. The counting, as you would imagine, took some time, but when they were finished it was announced that an astounding 24,605 stuffed animals were collected, which will go to 60 local charities.

“It’s an unforgettable moment,” Yeryomenko said via the Hitmen website. “It’s possible it can only happen once in your life and it happened to me. I enjoyed the moment of it all.”

There were 23,924 stuffed animals tossed during last year’s game, and the Hitmen hold the record of 28,815 bears, which was set in 2015.

The Hitmen have been holding this event since 1995 and are their fans are the true leaders in tossing those bears. Including this Sunday’s total, the team has collected 347,948 stuffed animals for local charities. Just last weekend the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears held their Toss event and fans there set a team record with an impressive 25,017 stuffed animals hitting the ice.

This once again proves that the Teddy Bear Toss is the greatest promotion in all of sports.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.