Keith Ballard Patric Hornqvist

Western Conference semifinals Canucks-Predators; Who do you have?

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The Western Conference semifinals will kick off at the end of the week, but thanks to everyone all done and the pairings set, we’ll break down how things look. With the Vancouver Canucks finally figuring out a way to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs, now their next mission sits in front of them: Getting out of the second round. To do that they’ll have yet another Central Division team and one that should look eerily familiar to them in the Nashville Predators.

I say that because like Vancouver, Nashville is a tough defensive team with an all-world goalie. Say what you will about Roberto Luongo, and we know there’s plenty, but he was able to overcome an absolute circus of hysteria in the first round to show up huge in Game 7. His opposing goalie this round, Pekka Rinne, is a fellow Vezina Trophy finalist who didn’t quite look like a Vezina finalist in the opening round. With offensive chances figuring to be at a minimum, we could see a goalie battle for the ages in this round.

The interesting part of this match-up  is how each team responds to this round. Nashville’s never been to the second round of the playoffs before in team history, meanwhile the Canucks haven’t been able to get past Chicago the previous two seasons. The Canucks haven’t been able to get past the second round of the playoffs thanks to Chicago the last two years so we’re left to wonder who uses the momentum gained from the first round the right way.

With the likes of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows the Canucks certainly have plenty of offense to burn. Nashville doesn’t seem to be as loaded up with Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist, and Shea Weber. One person we’re hoping continues to be a force is Jordin Tootoo as his spectacular play against Anaheim helped the Predators to be a much deeper team getting production from their third line.

With Alain Vigneault and Barry Trotz coaching these sides, expect things be a battle of tacticians. Vigneault’s decisions in the first round certainly gave us all pause to wonder just what he was doing while Trotz keeps steering the Predators ship ahead.

How do you see things playing out between these two teams? Which team grabs momentum and sprints ahead to the Western Conference finals? Let us know in our poll.

Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record

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When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.