NHL on NBC: Devils try to contain explosive Flyers in series opener

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The Philadelphia Flyers are good and rested after they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 22 in six games. What was projected to be a heated series between bitter rivals loaded with star talent didn’t disappoint, but the Flyers managed to come out on top with some tremendous offensive showings.

Thanks to their efforts, by the time the puck drops in Game 1 of their second round series on Sunday (3:00 pm ET, NBC), Philadelphia will have already had a week off.

By contrast, the New Jersey Devils only barely managed to defeat the Florida Panthers. The Devils did not look particularly impressive in the first round and if they thought the Panthers were tough with the man advantage, just wait until they see what Philadelphia can do.

Still, New Jersey can’t be ruled out. Although they lack the Penguins’ firepower, they do have plenty of offensive weapons and a stronger defense than Pittsburgh had. What worked against the Penguins won’t necessarily be as effective against the Devils.

Martin Brodeur will be the big X-factor in this one. With the exception of Game 3, when he was pulled, Brodeur was terrific in the first round. He still has what it takes to compete in the playoffs, even as he approaches his 40th birthday. That said, Philadelphia should present him with a much tougher challenge than Florida could offer.

At the other end of the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov still has to prove that he can lead the Flyers in the playoffs. He did much better in the first round than his 3.89 GAA and .870 save percentage imply, but it’s still fair to say that he left something to be desired. If this turns into a more defensive series, then Philadelphia will have to lean heavily on Bryzgalov and he might not be up for the task.

Game 1 Notes:

— New Jersey outscored Florida 8-3 in the first periods of their first round series. However, the Devils netted just 10 goals after the first intermission compared to the Panthers’ 14.
— Philadelphia leads the league with a stunning 30 goals in just six games. New Jersey ranks third with 18 goals in seven contests.
— Four of the Devils’ seven playoff games have been decided by just one goal and New Jersey won three of those contests. Only two of the Flyers’ six contests were decided by a single goal and they had a 1-1 record in those games.
— No team accumulated more penalty minutes in the first round than the Philadelphia Flyers. They had a total of 165 PIM compared to the Devils’ 78.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins.

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.

MacArthur, Senators end Bruins’ season in OT after controversial calls

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It’s a feel-good story, especially if you can look beyond questions of officiating.

Clarke MacArthur could have very well never played another NHL game considering his lengthy battles with concussion symptoms. Instead, he drew a penalty on the Boston Bruins in overtime of Game 6 and then managed to score the series-clinching goal.

Now, this isn’t to say that MacArthur didn’t rightfully draw a penalty; it most clearly was. And, in the bigger picture, it’s one of those stories that almost makes you wonder if real-life sports actually do follow Hollywood scripts.

People just wonder about some other decisions during that overtime, in particular, making it frustrating for some Bruins fans to see the season end in such a way.

Whether they like it or not, that is the case, though.

The Senators took Game 6 by a score of 3-2 (OT), winning their series 4-2. They can breathe a sigh of relief in avoiding a Game 7, an especially valuable bonus since Erik Karlsson had been pushed hard lately, logging more than 40 minutes in a recent game.

Ottawa avoids a do-or-die contest. Instead, they’ll face the New York Rangers in the next round while the Bruins enter the summer following an up-and-down campaign.

Bergeron takes advantage of slow Sens change, sends Game 6 to OT (Video)

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Every game in this Senators – Bruins series has been decided by one goal, so why not send Game 6 to overtime?

Oh, and speaking of overtime, this contest going beyond regulation makes it 17 OT games, tying an NHL record for the most in a single round.

Ottawa appeared to take a “lazy change” with a 2-1 lead, and Patrice Bergeron made the Senators pay, putting in a rebound to collect the goal that eventually sent this contest to overtime.