Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers skates against the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 6, 2013 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 4-3.
(May 5, 2013 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Playoffs Tonight: Have Rangers started a comeback vs Capitals?

35 Comments

We got another night full of first-round action ahead of us, including two big Game 5s against teams that have split their series so far.

Please keep in mind that you can watch all these games online in addition to the channels listed below:

Game 4: Toronto Maple Leafs host Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Boston leads series 2-1

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first home playoff game since 2004 was spoiled by the Boston Bruins on Monday. Now the Leafs have to refocus on at least claiming one game at the Air Canada Centre so that the series is tied when they go back to Boston.

One thing the Bruins have done exceedingly well so far is to keep the pressure on 25-year-old goaltender James Reimer. He’s faced a minimum of 37 shots in each game this series and the Bruins consequently lead the league in shots per game in the playoffs.

Reimer has allowed four goals on two separate occasions as a result of that onslaught and the Maple Leafs lost both of those games.

Game 4: New York Rangers host Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Washington leads series 2-1

The New York Rangers got defenseman Marc Staal back from his scary eye injury on Monday and their offense finally woke up en route to a 4-3 victory over Washington. Although Staal didn’t do anything special from a purely statistic perspective in his 2013 postseason debut, his return shouldn’t be overlooked.

“It’s huge. He makes the D-core calm,” Rangers forward Derek Stepan, who netted the game-winning goal, told the New York Post. “He’s got a presence about him that he can just control a game. He did a great job tonight.”

We’ll see if that win marked a turning point in this series or if the Capitals will bounce back and find a way to contain the Rangers’ forwards once more.

Game 5: St. Louis Blues host Los Angeles Kings (9:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Series tied at 2-2

The Blues’ two-game lead has been squandered, but the news isn’t all bad for St. Louis.

First off, all four games have been won by the home team and St. Louis has the edge in that department as the fourth seed. Additionally, all four games have been decided by just one goal, so just as they couldn’t claim too much momentum after taking a 2-0 lead, the Kings can’t suggest they have a lot now even after evening the series.

“I don’t think our confidence is shaken here,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If anything, we’re just disappointed with what happened because we know we could have done better.”

It’s also worth noting that Kings forward Jeff Carter got his first goal of the series in Game 4 and he typically scored in bunches during the regular season. If that trend holds true in the playoffs, then Carter might be the difference in this series.

Game 5: Anaheim Ducks host Detroit Red Wings (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Series tied at 2-2

There have been two overtime games in this series and Detroit has taken both of them. You might think that’s a sign of their immense playoff experience, and it probably has helped, but the people actually scoring the OT winners have been 23-year-old Gustav Nyquist and rookie Damien Brunner.

A number of Detroit’s younger players have been given sizable roles in this series as the team tries to both simultaneously rebuild and compete after losing several key veterans over the last couple of years.

On the other end, keep an eye on Anaheim’s Corey Perry, who has no goals and just one assist through four games. Perry has been a very effective forward in previous playoff runs and the Red Wings will have a hard time containing him for the remainder of the series.

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

2 Comments

Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

2 Comments

People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percenate in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

Leave a comment

For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.