2013 Western Conference first-round matchups are set

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Saturday presented a range of emotions for Western Conference fans, who went from crossing their fingers for preferable seeding to pondering all the ways two teams will exploit each others’ weaknesses.

Here are the four quarterfinal matchups in the West in 2013:

1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8) Minnesota Wild

The Blackhawks haven’t played against a Minnesota team in the postseason since the North Stars knocked them out 4-2 in 1991. (Click here for a little more on this series.)

2) Anaheim Ducks vs. 7) Detroit Red Wings

As former Ducks blogger Earl Sleek points out, the two teams have had a quirky tendency to meet in odd playoff years. They’ve met in 1997, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2009 and now 2013. In fact, Mike Babcock once coached a lower-seed Anaheim team against a favored Red Wings squad and now finds himself in the opposite situation.

3) Vancouver Canucks vs. 6) San Jose Sharks

The last time these two teams faced off, the Canucks beat the Sharks 4-1 in the 2011 Western Conference finals. You may recall the bizarre Kevin Bieksa goal that ended that series in OT.

4) St. Louis Blues vs. 5) Los Angeles Kings

The Kings might go into this series as the favorites despite the lower seed. They swept the Blues in the two teams’ 2012 playoff series and swept this season’s three games to boot (winning by at least two goals in every contest in 2013).

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.