Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins

2013 Eastern Conference first-round matchups are set


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.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning

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Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.

Oilers GM doesn’t want to force a trade for the sake of a trade

Peter Chiarelli

It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.

You can see and hear his full comments below:

If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.

Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.

Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.

Is he right to take a relaxed approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.

Slump busters: Simmonds, Couturier end long scoring droughts in win over Rangers


It’s been a good few days to be a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, as their team delivered not once, but twice during Thanksgiving weekend.

The Flyers picked up a 3-2 OT win over the Predators on Friday before shutting out the New York Rangers, 3-0, on Saturday.

It was a good afternoon for three players in particular.

Both Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier ended long scoring slumps.

Simmonds’ two goals were his first in seven games, while Couturier scored for the first time in his last 13 contests.

Goaltender Steve Mason also had a solid outing against the Rangers.

The 27-year-old turned aside all 24 shots he faced including this great save on Dominic Moore:

The Flyers lost defenseman Nick Schultz to an upper-body injury in the first period after he took a big hit from Dylan McIlrath.

Luke Schenn defended his fallen teammate by dropping the gloves with McIlrath, which didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.

The Rangers are now on a season-high three-game losing streak. Their lack of effort has to be concerning for their head coach Alain Vigneault.

The Flyers outshot the Rangers 30-14 over the final 40 minutes.