The Detroit Red Wings were the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs with their 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators in Game 5 on Friday. Detroit has consistently made the playoffs starting with the 1990-91 season and this is the first time they’ve lost in the opening round since 2006.
What happened? Detroit was competitive in every game, but Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was superb. On top of that, it was the Predators depth players that stood up in this series and that proved to be a big factor.
Who takes the blame? There’s no single goat on the Red Wings’ side. They largely lost as a team. Their top players were mostly adequate, but not sensational and no one really rose to the occasion to lead this squad. That said, it’s worth noting that Johan Franzen, who just had one goal in five games after leading the team in goals during the regular season, failed to live up to expectations. That’s surprising seeing as he’s typically a great playoff performer.
What will they do about it? Detroit has committed to a long-term plan with most of their key players already signed for next season. The one big exception is Nicklas Lidstrom, who might retire this summer. If he does, the Red Wings might be forced to act out of their comfort zone and make some significant changes to their blueline in the off-season. Short of Lidstrom retiring, Detroit will probably stay the course for better or worse.
Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.
Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.
For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.
The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.
San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.
The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.
As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.
Here are the details:
McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.
The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.
One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.
Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.
The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.
It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.
Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.
That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.
(Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)
Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.
“I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.
“He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”
The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.
You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch
On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott
The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko
Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday