Corey Crawford

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.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”