The Ottawa Senators have worked hard to claw their way back into the their first round series against Montreal after falling behind in the series 3-0. After the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher struck first in the opening frame of Game 6 tonight, the Senators got off to a strong start in the second frame. Their efforts nearly paid off towards the midway mark of the period, but they lost a goal to a fast whistle.
You can see that incident below:
There’s no question that the play was blown dead before the puck went in the net, but the fact that there was a whistle at all is at the heart of the controversy. We have the benefit of replays, which allows us to see the action from choice angles, and aren’t task with making split second judgment calls. That being said, it looks pretty clear that Canadiens goaltender Carey Price never had control of the puck.
That one has to be frustrating for the Senators, but they don’t have time to be frustrated.
When the Wild signed forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts, it was a statement that Minnesota expected to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup in the near future.
In their first year together they ended Minnesota’s four-season long playoff drought. In the Wild’s second campaign of the Praise/Suter era, they won their first playoff series since 2003. In both postseason runs though, they were eliminated by Chicago and if the Wild are to take another step forward this year, they will have to finally get the better of the Blackhawks in their upcoming series.
The biggest change this time around is goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Before acquiring him from Arizona, the Wild seemed to be on their way to having a disappointing campaign. Minnesota had lost six straight games and had given up seven goals twice in that span. From Jan. 15 onward, Minnesota posted a 28-9-3 record with Dubnyk starting in almost every contest.
Dubnyk earned a 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage in 39 regular season games with Minnesota, which led to him getting a Vezina Trophy nomination. Although the Blues had some success against him in the first round, they couldn’t beat him consistently and that was a big part of their downfall. Contrast that stability in net with what Minnesota experienced in the 2014 playoffs when goaltending injuries were a big part of the story.
Of course, it’s not just about him. Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Pominville all had a strong series against St. Louis. The Wild will certainly need that kind of offensive depth going forward because there’s one thing they should be painfully aware of at this point: the Blackhawks are an immensely talented team and it takes everyone chipping in to beat them.
The story of Devan Dubnyk’s rise from the ashes was not just a regular season tale. While St. Louis was able to chase him from Game 4 by scoring six goals on 17 shots, Dubnyk has simply bounced right back with two solid performances that have ended the Central Division-winning Blues’ playoff run after only six contests.
Dubnyk turned aside 30 of 31 shots to earn a 4-1 victory this afternoon. By contrast Blues netminder Jake Allen was yanked after allowing two soft goals.
One of those markers was scored by Zach Parise and the Wild’s star forward was also able to net his third of the series early in the final period to give Minnesota a much-needed two-goal cushion:
With that, St. Louis has now endured three straight first-round exits. To the Blues’ credit, they have been dealt tough opponents off the bat. In the previous two years they were eliminated by Los Angeles and Chicago. Minnesota was arguably another unlucky draw for them as the Wild have been one of the best teams in the league since acquiring Dubnyk on January 14.
At the same time, that’s not much of an excuse for St. Louis. For years the Blues have had depth and an outstanding defensive core and with the rise of Vladimir Tarasenko, they have some star power up front too. It’s been enough for them to excel in the regular season, but it hasn’t mattered once the playoffs start.
It might be enough to bring the end of the Ken Hitchcock era. Whether or not that happens, the Blues will certainly need to do some serious self-evaluation.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild will challenge Chicago for the third straight season. The Wild lost the last two series, but this might be a case where the third time’s the charm.
Pascal Dupuis last played on Nov. 15 because of blood clots. He’s made it clear that he intends to play again, but with the Penguins’ playoff run over, he’s waiting to find out what the future holds.
“Well, if you ask me, I thought I was going to play again this year,” Dupuis said when asked if he would return next season. “I’m going to say I’m going to play next year, but it’s not up to me right now.”
The period of time he was scheduled to be on blood thinners is coming to an end. Once that’s done, he can undergo testing to determine if he has a blood disorder.
The good news is that he’s been on the ice a lot lately and has been feeling great. He was even thinking that he might have been able to play in the Stanley Cup Final had Pittsburgh gotten that far.
The Penguins were missing a number of key players by the time the playoffs started and while their battered defense was certainly a primary topic, missing Dupuis hurt them significantly as well. He’s versatile winger that’s capable of playing on one of the Penguins’ top two lines.
You can watch his full cleanout day press conference below:
The St. Louis Blues made a statement in their 6-1 win in Game 4, but the Minnesota Wild were not discouraged. Even after the Blues got off to an early lead, Minnesota persevered tonight to earn a 4-1 victory.
Vladimir Tarasenko opened this game by scoring his sixth goal of the first round and the Blues outshot Minnesota 12-3 in the opening period. However, thanks to a hard shot from Marco Scandella that Blues goaltender Jake Allen just couldn’t contain, the contest was tied going into the first intermission.
Minnesota took control from there with Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu, and Charlie Coyle each finding the back of the net.
After an outing he would probably like to forget on Wednesday, Vezina Trophy nominee Devan Dubnyk bounced right back tonight with 36 saves. He was the key factor in the WIld’s run to the playoffs and how far they go in the postseason will be dependent in large part by his play. If he has more games like this ahead of him, then St. Louis is in a lot of trouble.
As it is, Game 6 in Minnesota has become a must-win contest for the Blues. Although it’s of small consolation, St. Louis can take some comfort in knowing that the home team has lost three of five games in this series.
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