Alexander Semin, Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos

Eastern Conference semifinals: Lightning-Capitals; Who do you have?

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While the Western Conference semifinals were clear to us by Tuesday (Predators-Canucks; Red Wings-Sharks), the East’s second round wasn’t determined until Dwayne Roloson completed his shutout against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now that we’re aware of which four teams will square off in the East, everyone can draw sides.

The Washington Capitals were supposed to cruise their way to yet another Southeast Division title, but the Tampa Bay Lightning held the top spot for a healthy portion of the 2010-11 season. Eventually the Capitals adjusted to their new, balanced system and took their title back, though. They also asserted their dominance over the Lightning, going 4-1-1 against Tampa Bay.

The Capitals didn’t miss many beats in their first round playoff series against the New York Rangers, either. That’s not to say that it was as easy as the 4-1 series record would indicate, but it was still a shining example of their renewed commitment to defense. The Capitals’ oft-criticized stars Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Alexander Semin came up big and their rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth seemed perfectly comfortable in high-pressure moments.

Meanwhile, the Lightning were in a very different situation. They found themselves down 3-1 to the Penguins but managed to win all three elimination games. It wouldn’t be wise for Tampa Bay to fall into such a hole against the Caps, but at least they know they can fight back from the brink of premature vacation. Martin St. Louis was his typical brilliant self (eight points against Pittsburgh) and Roloson’s first round output might make him the best low-risk high-reward trade acquisition of the season. Steven Stamkos started to ramp up his game toward the end of the first round, but Tampa Bay probably hopes that he will try to one-up Ovechkin in this series.

Both teams have plenty of firepower, with the Bolts being a bit less proven (beyond a handful of vets) while the Capitals must deliver under intense pressure. Which team do you expect to win and how many games will they need to get it done? Let us know in the poll.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky
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Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?