What Went Wrong: Chicago Blackhawks

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It’s tough to say that a lot went wrong for the Blackhawks as the eighth seed taking the top seeded Canucks to seven games and losing in overtime. After all, they backed into the playoffs on the last day of the season and didn’t have much expected of them and still nearly pulled off what would’ve been one of the most stunning upsets of all time.

So just what went wrong for Chicago? There’s a few nit picks to be had here.

1. You just can’t go down 0-3 in a series
It seems like pretty standard logic that the key to winning a best of seven series would be to not go down 3-0 in the series and put yourself on the brink of losing the rest of the way. Chicago getting shutout in Game 1 and then giving Vancouver fits in Games 2 and 3 were signs that things would turn around, but it’s hard to expect that any team can just up and lose four in a row in the playoffs like that (sorry Boston fans). Yes, Chicago played outstanding for the latter part of the series, but coming away short to start put their backs against the wall immediately. It’s tough to ask any team, defending champs or not, to fight back out of a hole like that.

2. Anyone seen the captain?
Jonathan Toews is without a doubt the top guy on the Blackhawks roster. He’s the team captain, he’s the unquestionable leader in the locker room. He also saved his only goal of the series for the right moment in tying the game late in the third period of Game 7. Toews had just one goal and three assists in the seven game series and while he deserves all the credit in the world for netting that shorthanded goal, he wasn’t getting it done the other six games. While Chicago got big performances from Duncan Keith and Dave Bolland, Toews was virtually invisible. For a captain that’s not good enough especially when his team needed that one extra jolt. Don’t expect Toews to take this lightly and he’ll be more focused and scarily motivated next year.

3. No defensive help
Duncan Keith played like a man possessed in this series. He led the team with four goals and two assists. As for the other Chicago defensemen… Well, they weren’t so good. The combination of Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook, Chris Campoli, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, and John Scott all combined for one goal and six assists. Six players with seven points ain’t helping out. While they had their hands full in trying to contain the Canucks offense on their own, they certainly weren’t giving the rest of the team a lift offensively. It’s almost fitting that Campoli’s misplay that led to Alex Burrows’ game winner in overtime is what did them in.

***

Chicago had a lot to deal with this year. From having so much roster turnover to figuring out that Corey Crawford was the man in goal to the run of the mill injuries throughout the year it was a bit much to ask of a defending champion to deal with. Still, Chicago’s got nothing to be sorry about.

Things broke right for them to get into the playoffs and they seized the day about as well as any team could from their position. And besides, if Nashville is able to stun Vancouver by making them look slow to the task, the Predators can give a “thank you” nod to Chicago for helping make life easier on them. They’ll be back again next year and likely even scarier.

Preds proving preseason hype was warranted

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They were a trendy pick to win the Stanley Cup.

And then the season started.

The Nashville Predators never really got rolling during their 82-game schedule. They’d have some good stretches, followed by some bad stretches. They ended up as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Most predicted they’d lose to Chicago in the first round.

Of course, most were wrong. The Preds swept the Blackhawks, and now they’re up 1-0 on the Blues in the second round.

“We come in, we’re supposed to be this awesome, amazing team and we didn’t start so hot,” d-man Ryan Ellis said, per NHL.com. “We started to get better, and then some injuries crept into our locker room. We battled the whole year, losing guys at various times in the year and some younger guys stepped up. But overall, it’s adversity that makes you stronger. This was one of those years we faced a lot of adversity.”

A quick glance at Nashville’s roster and it’s not hard to understand the preseason hype. The Predators have a No. 1 center in Ryan Johansen, a tremendous goal-scorer in Filip Forsberg, and one of the more underrated wingers in the league in Viktor Arvidsson.

But the real jewel is their blue line. Roman Josi is the No. 1 defenseman, paired with puck-mover Ryan Ellis, a former 11th overall draft pick. On the second pair is a former Norris Trophy winner, P.K. Subban, who skates with the dependable Mattias Ekholm.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better top four than that. And to think, the Preds also had Seth Jones, until they traded him to Columbus for Johansen.

The wild card heading into the playoffs was Pekka Rinne, the 34-year-old goalie who was spectacularly inconsistent during the regular season. He had a .949 save percentage in November, followed by an .875 in December. It was .933 in January, down to .888 in February, then back up to .923 in March.

So far this postseason, it’s .962.

Tonight in St. Louis, the Preds can make it six straight wins in the playoffs. More importantly, they can take a 2-0 lead over the Blues back to Nashville.

“Throughout the year, I think we’re a little bit inconsistent,” winger Colin Wilson told reporters. “But when we played our game, we were always unstoppable. We have a lot of talent, great D, great goaltending, all-around strong team with a lot of depth.”

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Rangers won’t let Drury interview for Sabres GM gig

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As a former player and well-regarded young executive, there was a fit for Chris Drury in Buffalo’s front office.

Of course, there’s the exact same fit with the Rangers.

That’s why today’s news can’t come as a huge surprise. Per Sportsnet and TSN, New York has turned down Buffalo’s request to interview Drury for its vacant general manager gig.

Drury, 40, has spent the last two years climbing the Rangers’ executive depth chart. He was brought aboard in 2015 as the club’s director of player development and, a year later, was promoted to assistant GM under Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers aren’t the only ones enamored by Drury’s front office skills. Recently, USA Hockey tabbed him — along with Bill Guerin — as the braintrust responsible for building Team USA’s entry in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

As mentioned above, it was easy to see why the Sabres were interested. Drury played three seasons in Buffalo, served as team captain, and the club appears primed to make a splash with its next hire after dismissing Tim Murray.

Drury, of course, spent four seasons with the Rangers and also wore the “C.”

Should Erik Karlsson’s game-winning goal have counted?

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We’re only one game into the Sens-Rangers series, and we already have a little bit of controversy.

Ottawa won Game 1, 2-1, thanks to Erik Karlsson‘s game-winning goal from a seemingly impossible angle (seriously, he scored from the corner).

But should it have counted?

There’s no issue with the Karlsson shot going off Henrik Lundqvist‘s mask and in, but the Rangers felt that the referees missed an icing call moments before the goal happened.

Karlsson is standing near his own blue line when he sends a pass in Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s direction. Did Pageau get a piece of it? It’s hard to tell from the angles we have at our disposal, but Alain Vigneault seemed to have had a good look at the play.

“We felt on their game-winning goal it should have been icing,” Vigneault said, per Sportsnet. “When we look at it, and look at the angles we get, I think it should have been icing. But at the end of the game you gotta play and you gotta do more than we did tonight to win.”

Challenging icing calls isn’t permitted, so when the officials decided that Pageau touched the puck, there’s nothing more the Rangers could do to reverse the call (except get the puck out of the zone when they had the chance).

 

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Friday, April 28

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Two games on the schedule tonight, as the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks look to avenge their losses to the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers in Game 1.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (Preds lead 1-0)

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Check out the highlights from Nashville’s 4-3 win in Game 1.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks (Oilers lead 1-0)

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Check out the highlights from Edmonton’s 5-3 win in Game 1.