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The Chicago Blackhawks were nearly unstoppable in the regular season. They got off to a 21-0-3 start and never lost more than two games in a row.
For most of the campaign they seemed destined to win the Presidents’ Trophy — but as we’ve seen time and time again, regular season success does not always translate into playoff victories.
Chicago entered the postseason with some significant of question marks. Could goaltender Corey Crawford, as good as he was in the 2013 campaign, step up when his team needed him the most? How would a squad that faced little in the way of adversity this year deal with it in the playoffs? Were they truly ready to battle for the Stanley Cup after back-to-back first-round exits following their salary cap mandated exodus in 2010?
After cruising past the Minnesota Wild in the first round, the Blackhawks found themselves down 3-1 in their second-round series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Chicago managed to fight back, in part because of the lineup adjustments they made, but also because Crawford performed well under pressure. He limited the Red Wings to five goals over three consecutive win-or-go-home games. Overall, the 28-year-old netminder has a 1.74 GAA and .935 save percentage in the playoffs.
Chicago’s depth players have also stepped up. When the Blackhawks were forced to shed salary in 2010, they lost a lot of key role players. However, forwards Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus, and Michael Frolik have all made important contributions during the 2013 playoffs just as guys like Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tomas Kopecky helped make the 2010 Blackhawks Cup winners.
Now all that stands between Chicago and its goal are the Boston Bruins. Beating the Bruins would be no small accomplishment, but regardless of what happens, the Blackhawks have already proven a lot this year.
Controversy just seems to find the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit Sidney Crosby & Co. for responding with a win on Wednesday.
Crosby generated two pretty goals, including this slam-dunk slapper:
… While Evgeni Malkin‘s overtime-winner stood as the Penguins managed a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues tonight.
(You can see Malkin’s OT-clincher in the video above this post.)
Will this win and strong performance from Crosby silence murmurs about his relationship with Mario Lemieux? Probably not, yet it likely turns the volume down in some ways, including killing the “Is he struggling because of distractions” storyline.
You know, at least for a little while. Maybe.
Claude Giroux isn’t the nastiest, most physical captain the Philadelphia Flyers have employed. Even so, he can be feisty at times.
Wednesday showed that, as he clearly wasn’t happy with an earlier Nick Leddy hit, and eventually got the New York Islanders defenseman to drop his gloves.
You can see the fight and the check that inspired that scrap in the video above.
It’s the fourth fight Giroux has been a part of, with his most recent adversary being may his most bitter rival.
Not a heavyweight bout between Giroux and Leddy, mind you, but sometimes it’s amusing to soak in such a rare sight.
Carter Hutton is getting something that might make fellow Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne jealous: goal support.
Still, there was at least one moment where Rinne was likely happy to be on the bench, as Hutton was left flipping during this collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Marcus Foligno:
Remarkably, Hutton remained in the game.
If you’re the type who loves adding to your “hockey players are tough” files, put this under the goalies section.
Check out this incredible shot of that moment:
Update: The Predators held off the Buffalo Sabres to win 3-2.
Tonight was supposed to be about a clash of two Eastern Conference titans who sport arguably the two best goalies in the NHL. That mattered to Montreal Canadiens fans for about half the game against the New York Rangers, give or take a few minutes.
Priorities are now shifting to calling upon higher powers/etc. in hopes that Carey Price is OK.
Mike Condon replaced Price in the third period and … well, people are concerned.
Again, people are pretty worried right now.
Price being replaced isn’t the greatest sign, yet it’s early, so stay tuned for updates. Maybe it will merely be a matter of playing it safe?
Update: The good news is that Montreal won by a significant 5-1 margin.
Yes, that probably isn’t much solace for Habs fans. Agreed.
It sounds like Price re-aggravated his previous injury.