James O'Brien

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

Ducks take 3-2 series lead after edging Predators in Game 5

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The Nashville Predators put a serious scare into the Anaheim Ducks by winning the first two games of this series. Three games later, the Ducks have the Predators on the brink of elimination.

Anaheim won Game 5 against the Predators by a score of 5-2, going up 3-2 in this series, the first time they’ve been ahead in the first round.

The score is misleading most obviously because the Ducks tacked on an empty-net goal.

(And that’s assuming you’re not really hammering the argument that the Ducks’ 2-1 goal should not have counted.)

Two big areas of reversal

Most clearly, the Ducks have seen a nice boost in net after replacing John Gibson with Frederik Andersen. The big goalie has only allowed three goals in as many games, all wins.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, looks a little more like the goalie who struggled early this season in these defeats. This slippage comes after those two wins where he resembled the Rinne who prompted some optimism toward the end of the regular season.

The other significant flip-flop comes in officiating. Bruce Boudreau called out his Ducks players for taking bad penalties when Anaheim went down 2-0. In the case of Game 5, the disciplinary lapses largely came from Nashville.

The Ducks went 1-for-7 on the man advantage while Nashville was unable to score on three power-play chances. That might not be a huge scoreboard edge of 1-0, yet the Predators were forced to play on the penalty kill for substantial stretches. Corey Perry coaxed consecutive penalties from James Neal, just to name a couple instances of mental errors by Nashville.*

(It’s also fitting that Sami Vatanen‘s key goal came right after he exited the penalty box on a failed Nashville power play.)

Now the Predators find themselves on the brink of elimination after seeing a 2-0 series lead unravel into a 3-2 deficit. A place termed “Smashville” doesn’t scream control, but the Preds likely need to get it together if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

* – Or calls made against the Predators … whatever way you look at it, Nashville ended up in the box a lot more often than Anaheim on Saturday.

Predators fans wonder if a Ducks goal should have counted

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Ryan Garbutt‘s 2-1 goal for the Anaheim Ducks against Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators looked a little weird.

At first, it seemed that way simply because it came from such a severe angle, requiring some luck for the Ducks.

Some Predators fans wonder if the goal should have counted at all.

Seeing a replay from this GIF makes it look a bit odd:

Granted, that might just be the frustration from Preds fans talking, as plenty of people seem convinced that it was fine.

You can look it over in the video above this post’s headline.

The bottom line is that the goal counted; the Ducks also added a goal right after the Predators’ power play expired to make it 3-1 in Game 5.

WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 6

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Saturday already saw one team’s postseason end as the Penguins dispatched the Rangers. The Blues can do the same if they leap over the considerable hurdle of eliminating the Blackhawks.

Chicago gutted out a double-overtime win against St. Louis in Game 5, so the series shifts to Game 6 at the United Center on Saturday night.

This series has produced some hockey at a near-classic level at times; one would expect the defending champions to bring plenty of fight in Game 6.

You can watch the action on NBC and also stream it via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

There’s also plenty of time to watch the Nashville Predators and the Anaheim Ducks grapple for a 3-2 series lead in Game 5. That contest is primed to enter the third period on NBCSN.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Bummed out Rangers praise Penguins as ‘hottest team’ in NHL

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Are the Pittsburgh Penguins really the hottest team in the NHL right now? That’s a matter of debate, but they added some converts in the first round.

The New York Rangers weren’t happy with their play after losing Game 5 by a score of 6-3 to fall to the Penguins 4-1. Even with that letdown in mind, they seemed blown away after being blown out by Pittsburgh.

Just ask the likes of Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault.

(Speaking of matchups, the Penguins will face either the Philadelphia Flyers or the Washington Capitals in round two.)

No doubt about it, netminding was a story in this series, and Henrik Lundqvist took responsibility for his part in this defeat.

With some key free agents heading into the summer and years of mortgaging draft picks to try to contend, the Rangers saw their postseason hopes fade in the first round this time.

For now, it seems like the franchise is focused on the season that just ended, and plenty of questions about what could have been.

Whether it’s Capitals or Flyers, Penguins await fascinating second round

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You know things are promising when many would argue that your cross-state rival is the least interesting possibility for you to face.

One can debate the merits of either situation, yet with the Pittsburgh Penguins advancing after a Game 5 romp against the New York Rangers, the Pens are red-hot. They’re also generated to gain a fascinating second round scenario:

  • Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals for just the second time in the Sidney Crosby era.
  • Or, those aforementioned local foes in the Philadelphia Flyers.

The scorching-hot Penguins either face the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Caps or maybe the only Eastern Conference team that ended the season as hot as Pittsburgh did.

You may also recall that Claude Giroux and Crosby aren’t best buddies, either.

So, yeah, go ahead and get excited about the possibilities.

*rubs hands together with excitement for both scenarios*