San Jose Sharks v Vancouver Canucks

Poll: Who will win the Western Conference finals?

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While few hockey people saw a Tampa Bay Lightning-Boston Bruins Eastern Conference finals coming, this one was much more foreseeable. Despite the negative things written about both teams, the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks are the top two seeds from the West, after all.

The best part is – if you ask me – these really are the best two representatives from the Western Conference. Honestly, these might be the two best teams in the NHL. Each team won tough Game 7s after “blowing” 3-0 series leads, at least temporarily halting the masses from fitting them with ridiculous “choker” labels. The winner of this series might not have to deal with such talk much longer … but you really never know with knee-jerk reactions.

The Canucks enjoyed the all-world play of Ryan Kesler in the second round, but must hope for more production from the Sedin twins. Their defense might be the deepest the Sharks will face in the playoffs, even if they lack a Duncan Keith or Nicklas Lidstrom-type star. Roberto Luongo consistently finds himself on the verge of scapegoat status, even if he happens to be one of the best goalies in the world.

The Sharks boast a stout offensive attack, with the usual suspects (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley) supplemented by burgeoning young players (Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi). They might not have the same depth on D as Vancouver, but Dan Boyle will likely be the best defenseman on the ice most nights. The team also employs a ghost from the Canucks’ playoff past in the form of goalie Antti Niemi. Niemi foiled the Canucks (and Sharks, by the way) last year on his way to Stanley Cup ring with Chicago. He might have the perfect attitude (or lack thereof) for this Sharks team.

Both teams are talented and some might say that each carries baggage into this game. It’s not an easy choice at all, but who do you expect to win this series … and in how many games?

Vatrano presence: Bruins edge Red Wings in overtime

Frank Vatrano David Krejci

The Boston Bruins keep flipping the script.

In Wednesday’s case, it swerved to a “Cinderella” story, as little-known forward Frank Vatrano scored two of Boston’s three goals – including the overtime clincher – as the B’s beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 (OT).

Here’s his first goal of the night:

While this is his overtime game-winner:

It wasn’t a perfect night for the 21-year-old, yet it may have been a convincing one.

The Bruins continue to begin a month on a sour note before ending up with impressive sprees.

October: 0-3-0 start, finished month with four straight wins and victories in six of seven contests.

November: 0-3-0 start, losses in four of five; currently on a four-game winning strek with victories in five of six.

Boston faces a challenge in closing this month out against the Rangers on Friday, and it’s possible that this trend may continue, as they begin December with a three-game road trip through Western Canada.

More than anything else, the safest bet with the Bruins is for ups and downs.

Crosby roars, Malkin scores in OT for Penguins win

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Controversy just seems to find the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit Sidney Crosby & Co. for responding with a win on Wednesday.

Crosby generated two pretty goals, including this slam-dunk slapper:

… While Evgeni Malkin‘s overtime-winner stood as the Penguins managed a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues tonight.

(You can see Malkin’s OT-clincher in the video above this post.)

Will this win and strong performance from Crosby silence murmurs about his relationship with Mario Lemieux? Probably not, yet it likely turns the volume down in some ways, including killing the “Is he struggling because of distractions” storyline.

You know, at least for a little while. Maybe.

Fight video: Claude Giroux vs. Nick Leddy


Claude Giroux isn’t the nastiest, most physical captain the Philadelphia Flyers have employed. Even so, he can be feisty at times.

Wednesday showed that, as he clearly wasn’t happy with an earlier Nick Leddy hit, and eventually got the New York Islanders defenseman to drop his gloves.

You can see the fight and the check that inspired that scrap in the video above.

It’s the fourth fight Giroux has been a part of, with his most recent adversary being may his most bitter rival.

Not a heavyweight bout between Giroux and Leddy, mind you, but sometimes it’s amusing to soak in such a rare sight.

Update: The fight may have inspired the Islanders more than the Flyers, as they bested Philly 3-1 on Wednesday.

Carter Hutton gets flipped, stays in game

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Carter Hutton is getting something that might make fellow Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne jealous: goal support.

Still, there was at least one moment where Rinne was likely happy to be on the bench, as Hutton was left flipping during this collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Marcus Foligno:

Remarkably, Hutton remained in the game.

If you’re the type who loves adding to your “hockey players are tough” files, put this under the goalies section.

Check out this incredible shot of that moment:

Update: The Predators held off the Buffalo Sabres to win 3-2.