Justin Faulk

Back to Class: Tournament time is the best time

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We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Friday night as No.1 Boston College hosts UMass at 7:30 p.m. ET in the Hockey East Tournament. 

NCAA basketball might have the market cornered on March Madness, but in college hockey March is as good as it gets. All the conferences are now either well into their conference tournaments or will kick them off this weekend. We’ve already seen wild action and upsets in the ECAC and CCHA while Atlantic Hockey provided us with a host of thrillers. With Hockey East and the WCHA getting started on Friday night, we’ll be full bore into the insanity of the postseason.

It’s at this time of the year where the polls don’t matter anymore and teams start watching match-ups and games across the country to see how they’ll tweak the NCAA tournament-deciding Pairwise rankings. Unlike the basketball tournament or the BCS, Pairwise is a mathematically sound and unbiased beast that nails down the tournament field each year. Of course, if you’re not a fan of how the numbers work for your team you can just win the conference tournament and not have to worry at all.

With only 16 spots in the NCAA tournament and 11 at-large bids to be handed out, let the fun begin.

Elsewhere in college hockey:

The ECAC Tournament is always good for a couple upsets in the opening round. Rensselaer and Dartmouth did the trick this time around upsetting Clarkson and St. Lawrence respectively. (Parting Schotts, Dartmouth)

This weekend’s ECAC pairings: Union College vs. Rensselaer; Cornell vs. Dartmouth; Harvard vs. Yale; Colgate vs. Quinnipiac

Northern Michigan is going to start hating Bowling Green as the Falcons upset them in the first round for the second straight season. The loss may have put a bullet in Northern’s NCAA tournament hopes. (Bowling Green)

This weekend’s CCHA pairings: Ferris State vs. Bowling Green; Michigan vs. Notre Dame (!!!);  Western Michigan vs. Lake Superior State; Miami vs. Michigan State

All seeds held in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey tournament although Robert Morris had their hands full with American International College blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 3 before winning 4-3 in overtime. (Robert Morris)

This weekend’s Atlantic Hockey pairings: Air Force vs. Connecticut; Niagara vs. Robert Morris; R.I.T. vs. Bentley; Mercyhurst vs. Holy Cross

Here’s how the Hockey East tournament sets up this weekend: Boston College vs. UMass; UMass-Lowell vs. Providence; Boston University vs. New Hampshire (!!!); Maine vs. Merrimack

The WCHA tournament pairings set up some dizzying match-ups: Minnesota vs. Alaska-Anchorage; Minnesota-Duluth vs. MSU-Mankato; Denver vs. Wisconsin (!!!); North Dakota vs. Bemidji State; Colorado College vs. Michigan Tech; St. Cloud State vs. Nebraska Omaha

Finally, let’s end with a tear-jerker of a story about how a young leukemia patient found the strength to battle on thanks to the Brown University hockey team. (USCHO)

‘Like a 1988 Smythe Division game’ – Caps, Pens react to wild 8-7 game

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals collides into Brian Dumoulin #8 of the Pittsburgh Penguins after scoring a goal during the second period at Verizon Center on November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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It’s no surprise that Justin Williams, a player who earned the clutch nickname of “Mr. Game 7,” provided the money quote for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ wild 8-7 overtime win against the Washington Capitals.

“It snowballed too quickly for us,” Williams said, according to Caps’ website Dump n Chase. “All around, it was like a 1988 Smythe Division game out there, not something we want to do.”

Penguins-turned-Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen also echoed one of the points from the game’s recap, stating that the contest had “four of five turning points.”

You could probably spend hours pouring through all the oddball stats that sprouted up from this game.

While Williams and Niskanen provided some of the better quotes, most of the players were reduced to using the same word that, frankly, most of us were rolling out.

(Aside from those of us who were spouting expletives at perceived missed calls, particularly on the losing end.)

In admitting that he couldn’t explain the second period, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan probably described the entire game most accurately:

Either way, it was a lot of fun. Let’s do this in the playoffs, too, shall we?

/scans online for a budget defibrillator.

Video evidence that Mike Smith isn’t tanking

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The Arizona Coyotes are really bad, but you could argue that Mike Smith is why the Colorado Avalanche owns the NHL’s worst record instead.

He came into tonight’s eventual 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers with a sparkling .918 save percentage, and while he couldn’t save the Coyotes, he did rob of Jordan Eberle on what seemed like a sure goal.

Watch that great save in the video above, and maybe wonder if Smith didn’t get the memo about the whole “tanking” thing.

Penguins out-gun Capitals in absurd, controversial 8-7 OT thriller

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Leave it to number 87 to win an 8-7 hockey game.

Evgeni Malkin grabbed a hat trick during that patently absurd second period, yet it was Sidney Crosby who helped to create the overtime game-winner (credited to Conor Sheary) as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Washington Capitals on Monday night.

No doubt about it, there was some controversy, including on that clinching goal. And not just because the tally survived the review process:

MORE: Watch the full overtime here. Check this post out for additional information on that zany second period.

Regardless, the Penguins’ three-game losing streak ends (as does Washington’s nine-game winning run). The Caps at least got a standings point out of the deal, which seems pretty fair when you consider the fact that they scored a touchdown and extra point’s worth of goals in this one.

(Yes, there were NFL jokes on Twitter.)

Malkin’s hat trick goal and Crosby’s fourth point both demanded official reviews, but both also stood. Capitals fans are probably upset with this game, especially since you could make a legitimate argument that T.J. Oshie should’ve drawn … you, know, at least one penalty:

Instead, you could argue that Patric Hornqvist‘s hit on Oshie ended up being a turning point of the game in Pittsburgh’s favor, although you could also argue that even M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t keep up with all of the twists.

Roberto Luongo captured the mood of the three goalies involved (Braden Holtby got the hook after allowing five goals over a zany 8:09 span) and likely the coaches, too:

To recap, Malkin had that hat trick, Crosby scored a goal and three assists and Sheary generated a three-point night (two goals, one assist). Trevor Daley generated three assists while Justin Schultz did it one better with four.

Oshie collected a goal and two assists, Lars Eller generated two big goals and Alex Ovechkin chipped in two helpers of his own.

The goalie stats, were, well … (see that Luongo tweet).

***

Overall, it was a messy, unpredictable, staggering and sometimes controversial game.

Normally, one might say that this is just what you’d expect from a Capitals – Penguins contest. Can anyone really argue they expected this explosion, though?

Do yourself a favor and watch the highlights, as there were so many exciting moments and goals that it’s difficult to summarize them all in one recap. Heck, if you just watch the highlights of the night for Crosby and Malkin, you’re likely to be highly entertained.

If we’re treated to another contest between these teams in 2016-17, it will be in the playoffs. Plenty of hockey fans would love to see that, at least if their hearts can take it.

Just about everything happened in second period of Capitals – Penguins

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Update: The game only slightly slowed down after the second period, as the Penguins ultimately edged the Capitals 8-7 in overtime. Read all about it here.

This post goes into greater detail about the second period, which is worthwhile … because it was a brain-full.

***

Let’s just take a second to step back and rub our eyes in disbelief at this Washington Capitals – Pittsburgh Penguins game, particularly the just-passed second period.

Basically everything is happening.

Evgeni Malkin is now at 21 goals on the season as he generated a hat trick in the middle frame. That third goal will be highly – and understandably – contested thanks to possible goalie interference by Patric Hornqvist.

At his best, Hornqvist is in the thick of things, and that was certainly the case on Monday. Granted, this hit on T.J. Oshie was questionable:

Braden Holtby was chased from the Capitals net after the Penguins reeled off five goals in 8:09, which you can view here:

The Capitals brought a 2-0 lead into the second period and fattened it to 3-0. After that, the Penguins built a 5-3 lead with the flurry from above.

Brett Connolly made it 5-4 just 30 seconds after Malkin’s second goal, while Lars Eller tied it up at 5-5 about two minutes later.

That tie lasted … less than 30 seconds, as Malkin’s third tally made it 6-5 for the Penguins.

There’s a bunch of other stuff that happened, too, probably.

/catches breath

You can watch the rest of the game on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App. Here’s the livestream link.