Saturday presented the first round matchups for the Western Conference’s side of the 2013 playoffs. Eastern Conference fans had to wait an extra night to see how the Ottawa Senators’ eventual 4-2 win against the Boston Bruins might juggle the seeding, but now we know which teams will face off in the quarterfinals:
1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8) New York Islanders
Casual fans might look at this as an easy win for Pittsburgh, yet the Islanders have finished this season on an absolute tear and the Pens have dealt with an array of injuries that might cause some challenges. The two teams haven’t met in the postseason since the Isles upset the two-time defending champions 4-3 in the second round of the 1993 playoffs.
2) Montreal Canadiens vs. 7) Ottawa Senators
The Canadiens haven’t faced the modern version of the Senators in the postseason before. Still, the two teams shouldn’t need any time to generate ire for each other thanks to their regular meetings as Northeast Division foes. Oh yeah, that Canadian thing might factor into the hype just a touch, too …
3) Washington Capitals vs. 6) New York Rangers
These teams are about as familiar with each other as two East playoff teams can get. This is the third straight year these two squads will play in a seven-game series, but at least the Capitals insist on shaking things up by changing their coaches each time (2013’s contestant: Adam Oates).
4) Boston Bruins vs. 5) Toronto Maple Leafs
Recent history might be more interesting in this series than the stuff that goes way back. Do you weigh the Bruins wobbly finish (2-5-2 in their last nine) or their dominant days against the Leafs in the playoffs (Toronto has dropped 12 of its last 13 postseason games against Boston, according to The Score TV) more heavily? Most Buds fans are still trying to get over the “We finally made the playoffs after nine years” thing, though.
What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.
It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.
Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.
He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).
That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.
Some Twitter reaction to the goal:
The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.
It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).
He’s considered day-to-day at this point.
Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.
“You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.
“From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”
After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd still doesn’t have a contract for next season and with the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, something’s gonna have to give.
According to TSN’s Gary Lawless, the Winnipeg Jets will make one last push to sign the forward before making him available on the trade market.
Ladd doesn’t want to leave and the team wants to keep him, but after Dustin Byfgulien got an extension earlier this month, there may not be enough money to go around.
At one point, the Jets reportedly made Ladd a six-year offer worth $6 million per year, which he obviously didn’t accept.
Can they top that? Time will tell.
Waiting to trade Ladd is probably the smartest decision.
Keeping the captain around would be great, but if the two sides can’t agree to a new contract, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Ladd’s services.
Lawless mentions the Penguins, Panthers and Blackhawks as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old.
The Kings have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ladd.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks.
Michal Neuvirth will make his first start of the month in Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
The 27-year-old missed five games with a lower-body injury. He was activated off the injured list earlier this week and served as Steve Mason‘s backup in Thursday’s game against Buffalo.
Neuvirth has an 11-6-2 record with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage in 2015-16.
He’s put up some solid numbers against the Devils in his career. Neuvirth has a 5-2-4 record with 2.03 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage in games against New Jersey.
Steve Mason, who’s coming off a 41-save performance in a win over Buffalo, hasn’t been as good against Saturday’s opponent.
Mason is 0-7-0 lifetime against the Devils.
Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m. ET.