James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Blues put Wild in big 2-0 bind with slim Game 2 win

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Things felt different for the Minnesota Wild with Bruce Boudreau in charge. Veterans and young players alike have flourished. A team that consistently fell in bubble positions flirted with a Central Division title.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, things are all-too-familiar for the Wild and their postseason-cursed coach so far.

The Wild dominated much of Game 1, yet they lost to the Blues in overtime. Game 2 was a tighter affair with St. Louis succeeding 2-1, taking a 2-0 series lead as a few narratives carried over:

  • Zach Parise seems to be the only player who can score against Jake Allen, who remains on top of his game. They haven’t been able to best him at even-strength, either.
  • Joel Edmundson is turning into a sniper with two big goals in as many games.

  • Did we mention that Jake Allen is on fire? Yeah, but it’s probably worth another reference. After looking like a Vezina-caliber goalie through February and March, it sure looks like St. Louis’ unquestioned No. 1 starter is carrying over that strong play into the April contests that mean the most.
  • It’s probably unfair to say that Devan Dubnyk has been bad … but he hasn’t been good enough, with such a small margin of error.

Playoff hockey involves tight-checking affairs and hot streaks for goalies, something that Boudreau’s teams have suffered through before. With the series shifting to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4, it sure looks dire for the Wild at the moment.

Stream Blues vs. Wild on NBC Sports

They’ll need moments like Jaden Schwartz‘s late game-winner to start going their way, but will it happen too late (much like Charlie Coyle‘s would-be 2-2 tally)?

Things can change, but the answers seem familiar and unpleasant for Boudreau and the Wild so far.

That was Radulov: Canadiens tie series vs. Rangers in thriller

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Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely fantastic – again – in Game 2, but Alexander Radulov and the Montreal Canadiens just would not be denied.

After taking a few bad penalties, you would have expected Radulov to be in the doghouse. Claude Julien gave him a long enough leash on Friday to factor into the goal that sent Game 2 into overtime and then to score a hard-working OT-clincher to give the Canadiens a 4-3 overtime win.

With the latest game-tying goal in Canadiens franchise history and that big Radulov tally, the Habs have tied the Rangers 1-1 as the series shifts to Madison Square Garden.

Stream Rangers vs. Canadiens on NBC Sports

Lundqvist kept the Rangers in a game that was sometimes quite one-sided in Montreal’s favor.

Both Lundqvist and Carey Price made some tough stops in a hectic game, but Montreal’s 58-38 shots on goal edge tells much of the story; Lundqvist is rapidly silencing critics who noticed that he had an up-and-down regular season.

This was a thrilling, physical affair with the teams combining for 129 hits. (Check this post for one of the most violent moments of the contest.)

The Rangers go home splitting those first two contests, at least something of a victory, but Montreal avoided a disastrous start. We could be in for quite a treat as these two teams trade blows and two all-world goalies thwart some brilliant chances.

And Radulov might make himself some serious cash in the process.

Penguins – Blue Jackets not nasty enough? Behold these ‘Sid the Kid’ masks

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Few, if any, hockey fans criticize Sidney Crosby‘s skills or effort. Plenty of people still have a problem with the Pittsburgh Penguins center’s passion, particularly when he straddles the line between feisty and dirty.

And, of course, there are plenty who can’t stand Crosby chirping at referees, even if it’s a pretty common practice among most players.

Crosby’s gotten pretty nasty with Brandon Dubinsky and other members of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and things have been quite chippy between the two teams in their opening games in Pittsburgh. The Columbus Dispatch is really feeding into the disdain (and Crosby’s “reputation”) with these “Sid the Kid masks.”

Stream Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on NBC Sports

You really just have to see them for yourself because … wow.

Update: the tweet has since been deleted, but Russian Machine Never Breaks has a screen grab of the mask.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen groups of fans go after Crosby, nor is this the only time a newspaper’s jumped into the fray. Remember the Chicago Tribune’s “Chrissy Pronger” debacle?

Even so, it’s bewildering anytime you see it. This isn’t a random Blue Jackets blog, mind you. It’s unlikely that this will make a bitter series any uglier – the two teams should provide the vitriol – but it’s still a surprising sight.

Especially if we see thousands in the stands during Game 3.

Ott causes chaos, Weber fights Miller as violence escalates for Rangers, Habs

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You can say a lot of things about the chaos that ensued between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers during the second period of Game 2, but if there’s one consensus, it’s probably:

“Wait, how did the Canadiens get a power play out of that?”

The Rangers did indeed receive the extra minor penalty after an exchange that involved a big hit by hyper-pest Steve Ott, a semi-brawl with Shea Weber and J.T. Miller and … well, there was just a lot going on. Check out the carnage in the video above.

Stream Rangers vs. Canadiens on NBC Sports

And, again, onlookers were bewildered.

This game, which just suddenly went 3-2 for the Rangers, has been a thrill-a-minute. Unless you think that they’re rotating thrills with hits, hate and trash talk.

Either way, it’s awfully entertaining.

Video: Lundqvist hung out to dry as Canadiens finally score a goal

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Henrik Lundqvist managed to shut out the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1, but he could only do so much as the Habs had the New York Rangers on their heels to open Game 2.

The Canadiens kept applying pressure behind a raucous crowd until Jeff Petry finally broke through for Montreal’s first goal of this young series, and a 1-0 lead for the Habs.

Petry enjoyed far too much time to pick a spot against Lundqvist, yet that might not be the only reason that the star netminder seemed a little upset. Lundqvist’s stick broke during that sequence, and while there’s no full replacement for a goalie stick, no skater gave him a makeshift option in the moment.

Stream Rangers vs. Canadiens on NBC Sports

Considering those two factors and the early rush from Montreal, you can kind of understand why Hank was a little flustered.

It didn’t throw him off though, really, as Lundqvist robbed Paul Byron on a breakaway attempt later on in the opening frame. Not long after, Michael Grabner scored a beautiful breakaway goal on his try to make it 1-1. Byron eventually got his goal back later on in the first, allowing Montreal to go into the intermission with a 2-1 lead.

Here’s a GIF of the goal itself (video above), if that’s what you prefer: