Tim Thomas, Mike Richards

Five Thoughts: Flyers and Bruins give us lots to chew on

We know that there were two potential elimination games yesterday but when one team fights off elimination while the other is bounced out, we’re a bunch of negative nellies here and want to focus on the team who got tossed out while lauding the winner. Hey, we’re good at that here aren’t we?

1. It’s quite remarkable to see two teams roaring into the Eastern Conference final the way we’re seeing both Tampa Bay and Boston doing that. Boston’s sweep of Philadelphia and Tampa sweeping out the top seeded Caps should translate into these two having an incredible series. The coaching matchup is also worthy of intrigue. Both Claude Julien and Guy Boucher are noted defensive tacticians but their teams are scoring tons of goals this postseason. Whenever there’s worries about the game slowing down and becoming dull again, these teams have been getting singled out. Their ability to put the puck in the net and push the pace of the game when needed, however, proves differently.

2. Obviously with the Flyers getting swept out, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered there. GM Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette will be dealing with queries into the team’s goaltending until they do something different. Whether you believe they need to go with an affirmed number one goalie or pick one guy out of the bunch they’ve got and ride him til he breaks, that’s up for debate. One thing that hurt the Flyers more than anything in this series was erratic defensive coverage. Too many times Bruins players were left alone for shots or to follow up rebounds because defenseman were busy chasing ghosts. That lack of dedication to manning up doesn’t cut it.

3. Of course, it does come back to goaltending for the Flyers ultimately and given how well Sergei Bobrovsky played in spite of losing in Game 4 makes you wonder why he lost his starting job after one bad game against Buffalo in the opening round. It can be tough to stomach a bad start in the playoffs, but pulling the plug on a rookie goalie that carried the team for most of the year after one bad game seems really dumb in retrospect. While the goalie shuffling worked out decently for Philly last year, this year every change carried that air of panic. Whether or not the Flyers choose to address this in the offseason will be fascinating. Bobrovsky is a talented young guy but there are free agent options to be had out there that better fit the bill if looking for a #1 guy.

4. If the Milan Lucic who showed up in Game 4 is the guy that’s going to show up against Tampa Bay, the Lightning have their hands full. Lucic was buzzing the net and asserting himself all game long, something he had yet to do at all in the playoffs. Getting the mix of physical play and goals from Lucic is key because if he’s got his game going the Bruins just seem to be more at home on the ice. With Patrice Bergeron potentially out for a while with a concussion, they’ll really need Lucic to be a force.

5. We’re not ignoring the Red Wings and Sharks too badly here but with how thin the margin of error has been for all four games of this series, it’s crazy to think how much closer this series could be. It’s crazy to see four one-goal games like this and think that either team has definitive control over the series.

That said, if Detroit pulls out a win tomorrow in Game 5 it’ll make for a good test of will for the Sharks. After all, they’re just one win from the Western Conference final and while Detroit isn’t about to roll over easily, they are the kind of team that if given the opportunity can rattle off four wins in a row. If the Sharks want to avoid making history, they’ll repeat what they did in Game 5 against Detroit last year and snuff out all Red Wings hope. Otherwise they’re inviting danger into a series that’s seen fortune smile upon them.

Eichel makes everyone look silly, Varlamov gets the early hook

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You know, with Connor McDavid hogging so much attention, it’s about time that Jack Eichel provided us with another awesome goal.

That tally came at the Colorado Avalanche’s (and especially Semyon Varlamov‘s) expense as that was the Buffalo Sabres first shot of the game.

Patrick Roy apparently felt like this just wasn’t Varlamov’s afternoon, as Colorado’s head coach decided to pull him after Varly allowed two goals on as many shots. Evander Kane nabbed the other goal for Buffalo.

You can watch the goal in the video above, which reminds us that “Eichel Tower” might not be a unique pun.

Another shot of it:

Check out Kane’s goal, too:

To be fair to Varlamov, Calvin Pickard has already allowed a goal as well. The Sabres are currently off to a 3-0 lead, and maybe a small roll considering how well they played against Montreal on Friday?

NHL on NBC: Red Wings, Bruins fight for Atlantic positioning

Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (71) keeps Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) from the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Both the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins are finding new ways to win these days, and while they might not be as obvious contenders as they once were, each team can still be dangerous.

Sunday’s NBC game proves enticing for plenty of reasons, yet the most obvious is that if the postseason began today, these two squads would face off in an intriguing first-round matchup.

The Bruins have taken the first two games between these teams in 2015-16, but they might be forced to face the Red Wings without crucial forward Patrice Bergeron, who may have been injured during an unlikely fight with Blake Wheeler.

Detroit features Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as usual, although Dylan Larkin is a new, ultra-speedy forward who is worthy of plenty of attention in his own right.

While Jeff Blashill continues to establish himself following up Mike Babcock, Claude Julien recently hit a milestone with his 500th win and earned plaudits from CSNNE.com as one of the best coaches in the league.

(Speaking of milestones, Brad Richards is expected to play in his 1,100th game.)

Boston currently holds the second spot in the Atlantic with 66 points in 55 games played, but Detroit is right behind them with 65 in as many contests. With the Tampa Bay Lightning hovering nearby, each team likely recognizes this as an important game.

Goalie nods: Backups battle as Kinkaid faces Enroth

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings prefer to lean on workhorse goalies Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick respectively, but Sunday presents a change of pace.

In the Kings’ case, Jhonas Enroth is playing in part because of (what Los Angeles hopes is) a minor injury to Quick.

It’s true that the under-sized goalie sports a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but he’s given the Kings legitimate chances to win games considering his impressive (especially for a backup) save percentage of .925. Perhaps he can earn a few more reps if he plays well in what may be a tight game?

Speaking of earning more reps, Keith Kinkaid must continue to work to prove that he’s able to make the jump from AHL goalie to at least an NHL backup. The Kings aren’t likely to make it easy for him, either.

Elsewhere …

Avalanche at Sabres: Semyon Varlamov vs. Robin Lehner

Bruins at Red Wings: Possibly Tuukka Rask vs. Petr Mrazek

Blues at Lightning: Best guess – Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop

Flyers at Rangers: Steve Mason vs. (possibly) Henrik Lundqvist

Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.