Every hockey writer who was getting ready to talk about Alexander Radulov’s tough first game back might have to hold down the “Backspace” button now. Radulov pounced on a loose puck to score a goal in his return to the NHL, cutting the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lead to 4-1. (The Penguins eventually won 5-1.)
Granted, a goal doesn’t change everything, and Radulov hasn’t been a smash success otherwise. Let’s be fair to Radulov, though. He might be jet-lagged and the Penguins have just been a locomotive of sorts, although Nashville has had its fair share of promising chances.
Radulov has that goal – coming on his only shot so far – and a -2 rating in 9:56 of ice time. So yeah, it hasn’t been all great (but it’s not over yet). That’s his first NHL goal since March 20, 2008.
Interestingly enough, it almost looked like Sidney Crosby found the net for the first time in his second comeback of the season just moments before the Radulov goal. Instead, Chris Kunitz got the tally as the puck actually deflected off of a Predators’ skate.
There’s plenty of time for Crosby and Radulov to add to their games, but Nashville might want to up its pace if it wants to make a game of a contest that is currently 4-1 heading into the second intermission.
In every series of every sport, people will tell you that each and every game is pivotal. Some will tell you the first game of the series is most important, some will tell you Game 3 is the most important, and everyone will tell you Game 7 is the most important. Aside from the obvious Game 7, Game 5 has proven to be one of the most pivotal games in the Stanley Cup Final over the years. If past trends continue to hold over the next few nights, officials in Vancouver might want to start preparing Robson St. for the biggest party this side of the 2010 Olympics.
The Stanley Cup Final has been tied 2-2 on 21 separate occasions. Of those 21 series, the team that lost Game 5 has only come back to win the series six times. Having a 71% chance might not be a great percentage for a quiz in school; but every fan in the league would jump at a 71% chance to win the Stanley Cup. After Roberto Luongo’s 1-0 shutout in Game 5, those are exactly the odds Canucks fans are looking at today.
Obviously, if the series was already over the Canucks wouldn’t have been forced to jump on the 2,500 mile charter plane this morning. The old adage in hockey is the final game is always the toughest to win. After blowing a 3-0 lead in the first round, no one should have to remind anyone that in Vancouver’s locker room.
Only 6 out of 21 teams coming back may sound daunting, but that’s actually the good news for the Bruins. Some more good news is that even though it has only happened six times in NHL history, it has happened three times in the last decade. The 2001 Colorado Avalanche, 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning, and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins were all about to survive a pivotal Game 5 loss to come back and win the series in seven. Boston Bruins can take solace in the fact that it has happened before—and it has been happening fairly frequently in recent years.
Now for the bad news. Of the six teams who were able to come back after losing Game 5, only the 1971 Montreal Canadiens and the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins were able to come back and win Game 7 on the road. Since the Montreal Canadiens were the first team to accomplish the feat in 1950, only five other teams have done it in 61 years.
Stats never tell the entire story—but often times they tell a part of the story we wouldn’t otherwise know. There’s no reason the Bruins can’t come back to win Game 6 and 7 to win the Cup. They’ve been extremely competitive in their three losses and took the Canucks behind the woodshed in both games at TD Garden. Stranger things have happened. But with history as it is, I’d much rather have Vancouver’s odds.
After five months watching the New Jersey Devils flop, flourish and then finally return to reality, Zach Parise seems like he’s finally ready to return to action against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. That’s the word from various sources, including Tom Gulitti.
The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres only need one point each to mathematically eliminate the Devils from playoff contention, so this comeback is really about proving that Parise’s injury rehab was successful. He won’t play for the Devils in tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, so instead he must wait nervously for his first contest since October 30, 2010.
Parise discussed the fact that he would rather play a few games – even if they aren’t relevant to a playoff run – rather than wait through an 11 month absence from NHL action. He told Gulitti that he’s anxious about getting back on the ice but wants the peace of mind that might come with playing some regular shifts.
Parise expects to be nervous.
“I already kind of am,” he said. “I definitely will be. I guess it’s kind off like the first game of the year all over again type of thing. So, yeah, (he’ll be) a little nervous. That’s for sure.”
Parise repeated today that he felt it was better to come back and play now—even if the team has only five games left—than wait until next season..
“Just for my own peace of mind I wanted to come back to play games,” he said. “I’d rather have that first game this year than waiting until next season. Eleven months without playing a game is a long time and whether it’s five games or two games, I’d rather play a couple before the summer started.”