James O'Brien

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

Losing ‘doesn’t really feel right’ for Kane, Blackhawks

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The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t fold when the St. Louis Blues managed a 2-0 lead in Game 7, but they ultimately lost 3-2 anyway.

For a team with three recent Stanley Cup rings on their resume, moral victories probably don’t do a lot of good.

CSNChicago.com features full reactions from a downtrodden Blackhawks team on the same night that their season ended following an instant-classic series.

“It just doesn’t really feel right. Pretty quick right after to put everything right after into words. Obviously not the outcome we were looking for,” Kane said. ” … Obviously they got that goal there in the third and you’re trying to play catch-up again. Maybe one too many times in the hole.”

The Blues finally landed that last punch in a series that had a big-fight feel.

You won’t hear many players pin that 3-2 loss on this chance not going in:

Maybe more soul-searching (and finger-pointing?) will come with some downtime, but right now, the Blackhawks are sticking up for each other.

Chicago now must face something they haven’t seen very often in the past several years: a long summer.

Breaking through: Blues best Blackhawks in Game 7 to end epic series

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They left us breathless, but the St. Louis Blues finally did it.

In an absolutely enthralling Game 7, Troy Brouwer‘s ugly-beautiful 3-2 goal stood as the clincher against his former team in the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues slayed one huge narrative dragon by dispatching the defending champions in a 4-3 series.

It’s one of those series we’ll likely deem a classic in retrospect.

(In an amusing twist, this is the Blues’ first Game 7 victory since – wait for it – Joel Quenneville was their coach.)

It’s fitting that this thrilling, dramatic series ended despite an extremely close call.

The Blues will take on the Dallas Stars in the second round. With the San Jose Sharks awaiting either the Anaheim Ducks or Nashville Predators, it’s a changing of the guard in the Western Conference and NHL in general.

St. Louis stormed off to a 2-0 lead before Marian Hossa made it 2-1 to end the first period. Chicago tied it 2-2 in a back-and-forth middle frame before a tight, exciting third period that went the Blues’ way.

The narratives flip flop in many ways. Brian Elliott gets some credit as a hero, capping a strong series with 31 saves. Ken Hitchcock is vindicated … although plenty of people are still questioning his decisions regarding Vladimir Tarasenko‘s ice time.

For at least one round, the “choker” talk subsides. Some might bring it right back up if they struggle against the Stars after taking all four games in their season series.

Who knows how many jobs were saved by this breakthrough?

What we do know: it will be tough to top Blues – Blackhawks, but it will be fun to watch the remaining teams try.

Isles – Lightning Game 1 kicks off Wednesday alongside Preds – Ducks Game 7

AP
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The NHL’s doing something rare on Wednesday: starting the second round on the same night that the first round will end.

Many probably expected that night to only feature Game 7 between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators. Instead, that game will be accompanied by the first contest of the series between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Here are some other tidbits from the NHL:

  • The start time for Game 7 of the First Round series between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators has been set for 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT/7 p.m. PT on Wednesday, April 27, in Anaheim. Outside of the local markets, the game will be televised on NBCSN in the U.S. In Canada, the game will be on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.
  • The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round will begin on Wednesday, April 27, with one game when the Tampa Bay Lightning play host to the New York Islanders in Game 1 of their series at 7 p.m. ET in Tampa. The game will be televised exclusively in the U.S. on NBCSN. In Canada, the game will be on CBC and TVA Sports

Predators fight off extinction by forcing Game 7 vs. Ducks

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This Nashville Predators – Anaheim Ducks series has been testy and tightly matched, so it only makes sense that it will go the distance.

The Predators won their first home game of the series by a score of 3-1 to force a Game 7 against the Ducks on Wednesday.

One key difference for Nashville: they managed to protect a lead after seeing some squandered edges in previous games (not to mention the 2-0 series lead that dissolved into a 3-2 deficit that really doesn’t matter right now).

Another big one: Pekka Rinne rebounded with some big saves, stopping 26 of 27.

It was a tight game. The two teams combined for just 52 shots on goal and penalties were sparse. That doesn’t mean there was no controversy, as Predators fans were not happy about the call that helped the Ducks score on the power play.

This series has been back-and-forth with the growing distaste building between the two teams being one of the most consistent storylines. If the previous six contests are any indication, expect a close one on Wednesday.

One secret “winner” beyond fans of the sport as a whole?

Blues get off to quick start in Game 7 (But Blackhawks aren’t rolling over)

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Look, just about no one will count out the Chicago Blackhawks, especially after they shrank the St. Louis Blues’ lead to 2-1 just moments ago.

Plenty of skeptics have been mocking the Blues about possibly squandering their quick start in Game 7 even when they just went up 1-0 and then 2-0.

Still … it’s better to start strong than to meander out of the gate, right?

As you can see in the video above, the Blues scored very early into the first period via a Jori Lehtera deflection.

Colton Parayko boomed a thunderous shot for a 2-0 lead, and things were looking good for St. Louis. Of course, it couldn’t be that simple.

Marian Hossa looked terrifying for the Blues late in the first, scoring a goal to make it 2-1 and nearly tied things up going into the intermission.

Long story short: don’t be shocked if this decisive contest features plenty of other twists and turns.