Tag: elimination games


Discuss: Blues smother Sharks 3-1, win first series since 2002


For some, the major storyline will be that this could very well be the end of an era for the San Jose Sharks. If you ask the St. Louis Blues, it might the beginning of their own run of excellence. For the first time in 10 years, the Blues won a playoff series after grinding out a 3-1 win to take the series 4-1.

  • First things first: how good are the Blues, in your eyes? With the Vancouver Canucks possibly out of the mix, are they the new favorite in the West?
  • Did Ken Hitchcock out-coach Todd McLellan?
  • Conversely, was it more about the Sharks’ stars failing (Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski went without a point in five games) or was it more about just how strong the Blues’ defense really is?
  • OK, I might as well get this out of the way: is it time to “blow up” the Sharks? If your answer is “Yes,” then be specific.
  • Should Brian Elliott be strongly in place as the Blues’ No. 1 guy?
  • Will a potential long layoff hurt the Blues?
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Claude Julien looks to improve his Boston record in elimination games tonight against Guy Boucher

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six
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One of the more curious angles on tonight’s Game 7 between Boston and Tampa Bay centers upon the head coaches. While both Guy Boucher and Claude Julien have had their hands full with trying to strategize ways to beat each other’s teams they’ve each got different histories when it comes to handling things when their team’s season is on the line.

During his tenure in Boston, Julien has a record that’s stellar against the team he used to coach for in Montreal but against others it’s not quite so good. Overall he’s 5-3 in elimination games with the Bruins but he’s gone 3-1 against the Habs in two different playoff rounds. In 2008 his Bruins rallied from down 3-1 to force a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs only to lose 5-0 in Game 7. This year, Boston knocked off Montreal in Game 7 to advance to the second round. We’re sure Boston fans would like to forget Julien’s record in Montreal coaching in elimination games as he went 3-1 that season with all three coming against the Bruins as the Canadiens rallied from down 3-1 in the series to beat Boston that year. Those Habs were then swept out by Philadelphia in the next round.

In 2009, the Bruins again rallied from down 3-1 to force a Game 7 against Carolina in the second round only to see series nemesis Scott Walker beat them in double overtime to knock the Bruins out of the playoffs. Last year we all remember the Bruins blowing a 3-0 series lead against Philadelphia and then a 3-0 lead in Game 7 to the Flyers before losing the game and series.

For Guy Boucher, his only record comes this year and the Lightning have been more than resilient as they rallied from down 3-1 against Pittsburgh to take that series in seven games and then won Game 6 against Boston in this round to give Boucher a nice 4-0 record in elimination games. It’s not much of a history for him, but if nothing else the Lightning have found numerous ways to win including a 1-0 shutout of Pittsburgh in Game 7 this year and an 8-2 win in Game 5 of that series.

Julien has the experience in these situations but Boucher’s ability to get his team to adapt styles when needed makes him more of the wild card. We essentially know what we’ll get out of Boston if they’re on their best game (and they should be) being tough defense, physical play, and quick counter-attack when they get the opportunity, especially when trying to take advantage of Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 defense. The Bruins have had more than a few 2-on-1 situations develop with varied success.

Tampa Bay will figure out ways to slow down the game if they get a lead at all. We saw it happen against an offensively stricken Penguins team in round one and similar play against the Capitals in Game 4 of their sweep in the second round. Boucher’s smart but he knows when it’s time to really buckle things down if they get in front. One way or another either Julien will get to shake off some gut wrenching Game 7 defeats in the past and provide himself with a new legacy to look ahead to or Guy Boucher will make even more fans wonder aloud about why he’s not a finalist for coach of the year.

Examining Ryan Miller’s track record in playoff elimination games

Buffalo Sabres v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Five

For many casual American sports fans, Ryan Miller became a borderline household name when he nearly carried the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Even though he “settled” for a better-than-expected silver medal, Miller captivated budding hockey fans and went on to have a great NHL season in 2010-11, earning his first career Vezina Trophy in the process.

So there’s no doubt that Miller is considered elite on just about every level, but he still can add to his legacy by putting together another deep playoff run. Last season’s first round loss to the Boston Bruins was a bit of a disappointment, so I figured it might be interesting to take a glance at how the 30-year-old player has done in playoff elimination games.

(Keep in mind that there might be an empty-net goal here or there, but for the most part, final scores are fairly indicative of his/the team’s performances.)

2005-06 run: Fourth-seed Buffalo Sabres

First round: Miller allows one goal against the fifth seeded Philadelphia Flyers, giving Buffalo a 4-2 series win. (1-0)

Second round: Miller helps Buffalo take a 3-0 series lead over the first seed Ottawa Senators. After a 2-1 loss, Miller helps the Sabres win the series with a 3-2 overtime win. (2-1)

Third round: The Sabres ended up losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes (second seed) in a great seven-game series. Buffalo won Game 6 but fell to the Canes in Game 7. (3-2)*

Miller finishes the 05-06 playoff run with a 3-2 record in elimination games.

2006-07 run: First-seed Sabres

First round: Miller only needs one game to close out the eighth-seeded Islanders as Buffalo wins Game 5 4-3. (4-2)

Second round: Once again, Miller and the Sabres close out their opponent in the first opportunity, thanks to a 5-4 win against the sixth-seed Rangers in Game 6. (5-2)

Third round: The fourth-seeded Senators ripped through the East that year, beating Buffalo in five tidy games. They knocked Miller and the Sabres out in their second chance thanks to a 3-2 OT win. (6-3)

Miller finishes 06-07 run with a nice 6-3 record in elimination games.

The Sabres didn’t make the playoffs in the 07-08 or 08-09 seasons.

2009-10 run: Third-seed Sabres

First round: Down 3-1, the Sabres managed to fight off elimination once. The Bruins knocked them off 4-3 in Game 6, though. (7-4)

So, overall, Miller in 7-4 in elimination games.*

Update: That 7-4 record comes with little-to-no low moments. Even in games the Sabres lost, Miller never allowed more than four goals. No doubt about it, he’s a trustworthy goalkeeper in big games.

He frequently puts together great performances and hasn’t had a profoundly awful one (at least on paper?). The takeaway from that is pretty simple: the Flyers need to outplay the Sabres because Miller is unlikely to make it easy for them with a bunch of soft goals.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the next two games are guaranteed to follow that trend. As we’ve seen with these sometimes bizarre playoffs, a lot of strange things can happen.

That being said, don’t blame Buffalo if they feel very comfortable in an area of serious uncertainty for their first round opponents. Chances are, if someone lets the Sabres down, it probably won’t be their franchise goalie.

* – Thanks to commenter Chris Ostrander for clarification about a couple late series results for the Sabres.