James O'Brien

Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks - Game One

Freddie’s ready: Ducks beat Blackhawks in Game 1

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Some consider Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen a “question mark” as the team finally tries to make good on regular-season dominance. In Game 1 of the 2015 Western Conference Final, Andersen was instead the difference-maker.

Chicago carried the play for the first two periods on Sunday, generating a 25-15 shot advantage through the first 40 minutes of the contest.

Andersen was on top of the action, making 32 saves and only allowing a Brad Richards goal off a turnover all night.

He made some big saves, including this sensational stick stop on Patrick Kane:

Anaheim took a 2-1 lead into the final frame, and people made mention of how great the Ducks are at closing out games:

That certainly held true on Sunday (you can bump that playoff stat to 4-1 now), as the Ducks survived two straight penalty calls, generated a 12-8 shot edge and scored two tallies to end any threat of a Blackhawks comeback.

It’s getting tougher and tougher to doubt the Ducks as genuine contenders, as they now have a 1-0 series lead and a 9-1 record in this postseason.

They also proved that they can beat Chicago at the Duck Pond:

The Blackhawks have to be frustrated to see some dominant play go to waste, although the biggest headache might be their defensive imbalance. Michal Rozsival’s absence is being felt, as David Rundblad had a rough game and Kimmo Timonen barely played (5:15 TOI).

Still, just about every team sees some flaws in the salary cap era. It’s just one game, and the Blackhawks have been through just about everything over the last several years.

Canada creams Russia for WHC gold, Crosby joins ‘Triple Gold Club’

Canada v Czech Republic - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Semi Final
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Once again, Canada put together the best bunch of world-class players it could manage and overwhelmed the rest of the world.

This time around, their gold medal came at the 2015 World Hockey Championship, as they absolutely throttled Russia by a score of 6-1. The finish was fittingly lopsided, too, as the shot count was 37-12 in Canada’s favor.

Sidney Crosby factored into the win – including a goal assisted by best buddy in the world Claude Giroux – and now joins the “Triple Gold Club.”

HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman lists some other members of this made-up but impressive group:

It had to be a refreshing period for frustrated NHL players on Team Canada, particularly guys like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

Russia finishes up with the silver medal while the U.S. edged the Czech Republic earlier on Sunday for a hard-fought bronze. There were obviously some missed feelings for Russia after such a drubbing in the gold-medal game.

In other tournament news, Jaromir Jagr took home the tournament MVP.

A good kicking: Rangers best Lightning for 1-0 series lead

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game One
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For a while there, it looked like the Tampa Bay Lightning might steal Game 1 from the New York Rangers. Instead, the Rangers squeaked by with a “greasy goal” to win 2-1.

Officials didn’t even need an extended review of the decisive tally, as Dominic Moore’s leg was clearly stationary as it knocked in the rebound. In an afternoon where many of the bounces went the way of the Lightning and Ben Bishop, the Rangers earned that last one and a 1-0 series lead.

(Actually, there was one noteworthy empty-net post hit by Derick Brassard, but it didn’t end up making a difference.)

New York has now been in 15 consecutive one-goal playoff games, beefing up a record they set in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals.

The Rangers absolutely dominated the first 40 minutes of play. You can take your pick regarding which of the first two periods were most lopsided (probably the first?), but as you can see from this graphic, the differences between the two teams were pronounced:

This marks the first time Bishop has lost to the Rangers, yet it doesn’t end his run of strong play against New York, as he kept Tampa Bay in this game. Henrik Lundqvist was even better (a phrase that seems to be coming up quite often in these playoffs, actually).

The Bolts have a lot of work to do, as they didn’t get a lot done before the third period. One glaring adjustment may come down to benching Andrej Sustr, as his play was critiqued in many circles.

Ultimately, the Presidents’ Trophy winners looked the part on Saturday, even if they only managed another one-goal win.

Click here for more on the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Video: Ondrej Palat evens it up on the power play

Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat
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The Tampa Bay Lightning have been severely outplayed by the New York Rangers, yet it’s 1-1 as of this writing.

Simply put, the “Triplets” line of Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov is one of the hottest in the NHL in both the regular season and playoffs. You really can’t take them lightly at any time, and even when they’re well-monitored, members of that unit can still score power-play beauties like these:

There’s only so much you can do about that, right?

Video: Stepan scores another big goal

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Five
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Ben Bishop kept spurning the New York Rangers as his Tampa Bay teammates were cratering in front of him, but the feeling was something had to give. It finally did with about 13 seconds remaining in the second period.

Bishop turned Stepan aside on a partial breakaway in the opening frame, but the rising forward popped in a rebound for a big 1-0 lead:

(Some have noted that Chris Kreider dislodged Bishop’s stick before the goal was scored.)

Only the blindest Lightning fan would deny that the Rangers had been taking it to Tampa Bay through the first 40 minutes. Still, it’s a manageable deficit for a regular season scoring machine to deal with, so we’ll see how things go in the final 20 minutes of regulation.