Tag: game recaps

Pekka Rinne, Bobby Ryan

Pekka Rinne, Mike Fisher help Predators dismantle Ducks 4-1

The Nashville Predators gave up a pretty nice package to acquire two-way center Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators, but they’ll be glad they did it if Mr. Carrie Underwood keeps belting out great tunes. Fisher scored two goals and one assist while Pekka Rinne stopped 27 out of 28 shots to power the Predators to a dominant Game 1 road win against the Anaheim Ducks.

Nashville 4, Anaheim 1; Predators lead 1-0

As red-hot as the Ducks came into the playoffs, the Predators seem like an especially tough matchup for Anaheim. Nashville has strong goaltending, a stingy defense and a nice group of low-profile, versatile forwards.

Even if this win was somewhat predictable, the actual one-sided nature of the outcome was a bit startling.

Shea Weber began the scoring, Steve Sullivan made it 2-0 and then Fisher took over with two more goals. Teemu Selanne did what he does best by scoring on the power play midway through the third period, but by then it was just about preserving some dignity.

Dan Ellis had a rough game against his former team, getting pulled early in the third period after allowing four goals on only 24 shots. Ray Emery actually filled in for Ellis, stopping all six shots in relief. Is this a sign Emery could step in full-time if needed?

Rinne didn’t get a shutout like Marc-Andre Fleury or Roberto Luongo tonight, but he was still impressive against the Ducks. It was a relatively “easy” win for Nashville, but chances are good that they haven’t seen the best of Anaheim just yet.

Roberto Luongo blanks Blackhawks, Vancouver wins 2-0

Roberto Luongo
1 Comment

When people talk about the greatest success of the greatest regular season in Vancouver Canucks franchise history, they usually point to the Sedin twins (especially Daniel Sedin) and possible Selke Trophy winner Ryan Kesler.

One player who surprisingly slips under the radar a bit is goalie Roberto Luongo. The big Canucks goalie suffered through a tough campaign last year, but he bounced back in a big way without the weight of being a captain on his shoulders. Luongo didn’t just lead the league in wins with 38 (largely a team-based stat), he also produced an excellent 92.8 save percentage.

If his contributions to Vancouver’s best-ever season weren’t clear enough, he provided a compelling example of how great he’s been, standing on his head to stop all 32 of the Chicago Blackhawks’ shots tonight.

Vancouver 2, Chicago 0; Canucks lead 1-0

At one point in this game, it seemed like Luongo’s performance wouldn’t be that important. The Canucks galloped to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period as Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen, which obviously ended up being all the goals Vancouver needed.

That’s not to say that Chicago’s attack was totally impotent, despite the score. While the Blackhawks received plenty of luck in getting into the playoffs in the first place, they didn’t get many lucky bounces in this game, as their shots hit at least four posts in the game.

Corey Crawford couldn’t earn the win, but the ‘Hawks rookie kept his team in the game by stopping 31 out of 33 shots. He made some big saves especially once the score was 2-0, giving Chicago at least a shot at a comeback.

It was not to be, though, as Vancouver got their first win out of the way. It was an intense and entertaining game, as the Canucks took the physical part of the game to the Blackhawks by out-hitting them 47 to 21. That’s a wise strategy since Chicago faced an exhausting stretch run to make the playoffs and tend to lean heavily on their best players with little help from depth guys.

The Canucks are still three wins away from getting this deep dish pizza-sized monkey off their backs, but Luongo & Co. look hungry to do just that.

Alexes Semin and Ovechkin briefly silence critics as Capitals beat Rangers 2-1 in OT

Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin
1 Comment

Almost anyone eager to criticize the Washington Capitals for their playoff troubles will blame their defense, goaltending and two star Russian wingers: Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin.

Whether it’s their carefree attitudes, perceived lack of production* or the simple sports writing formula of “Team doesn’t win = player is a choker,” there are many hockey people who revel in the “failures” of Semin and Ovechkin. Those people probably weren’t very happy with the results of Game 1, as Ovechkin tied the game up in the third period while Semin scored the overtime game-winner and assisted on Ovechkin’s tally as well.

Washington 2, NY Rangers 1 (OT); Capitals lead 1-0

This was the tight-checking, rugged defensive game that some assumed would be too much for Washington. Anyone who’s been following this team during the 2010-11 season (rather than leaning on outdated opinions) would know that they’ve grown quite a bit in that area, something they showed by grinding out a tough win against a resilient team.

The first two periods went without a goal as Henrik Lundqvist and Michal Neuvirth kept both teams off the board. Matt Gilroy finally gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead about two minutes into the third period, followed by that video-reviewed Ovechkin goal at the 13:44 mark. The game then went into overtime, putting greater pressure on the Capitals.

It looked like that pressure would increase that much more as the two teams slugged it out deep into the first (and only) overtime period, but Semin scored a resounding goal with about a minute and a half left to win it for Washington. Marc Staal is a great defensive defenseman, but he coughed up the puck to Jason Arnott, who made a nice play to keep the puck in the Rangers’ zone before setting up Semin’s winner.

Lundqvist made 33 saves in the game, often frustrating the Capitals shooters with his world-class netminding, but it wasn’t enough. Neuvirth had a comparatively easy night, passing his first test as Washington’s No. 1 goalie by stopping 24 out of 25 shots.

Obviously, it’s erroneous to judge an entire two month playoff schedule by one night of action, but Wednesday’s game does force the question: is it time to take Semin and Ovechkin seriously? If they keep it up, their detractors will have to eat some playoff crow.

* Semin has 26 points in 29 career playoff games, while Ovechkin has a whopping 41 in 29. They might not have blemish-free games, but calling them chokers seems downright silly.

Marc-Andre Fleury shuts out Tampa Bay’s offense to give Pittsburgh 1-0 series lead

Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One

With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out during the 2010-11 regular season, Marc-Andre Fleury ended up earning the Pittsburgh Penguins’ team MVP award. If the plucky Penguins want to go anywhere in this year’s playoffs, they will need world-class goaltending from the man they call “Flower.”

If his 32-save shutout in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning is any indication, that goal will be quite attainable. Fleury turned aside all of the pucks the Bolts’ impressive offense sent his way to power Pittsburgh to a 3-0 win and 1-0 series lead.

Pittsburgh 3, Tampa Bay 0; Penguins lead 1-0

The first two periods went without a single score despite 28 shots from Pittsburgh (including 18 in the second) and 21 from Tampa Bay. Alexei Kovalev scored his first playoff goal for the Penguins since 2001 in the third period, finishing a chance set up by James Neal after the Lightning seemingly got away with a tripping penalty.

Penguins fans barely had a chance to catch their breath as Arron Asham made it 2-0 just 18 seconds later after lobotomizing Bolts goalie Dwayne Roloson with a wrap-around move. Chris Kunitz eventually sealed it up at 3-0 with an empty-net goal.

Fleury stole the spotlight with some highlight reel saves and that 32-save shutout, but Roloson kept Tampa Bay in the game. The aging veteran stopped 37 out of 39 Penguins shots, yet it wasn’t enough to help the Lightning in their first playoff contest since 2007.

No doubt about it, Tampa Bay needs more from its best players. Both Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis had -2 ratings, while Steven Stamkos only managed one shot on goal.

The natural question is: how will the mostly-unproven Lightning react to this loss? Conversely, one also must ask if the Penguins can win with such a small margin of error as the postseason goes along. Pittsburgh went 0-for-6 on the power play, while Tampa Bay couldn’t cash in on their only power play opportunity.

In the grand scheme of things, Game 1 went Pittsburgh’s way. It was a grinding, defensive contest with great defense yet with plenty of shots on goal. Can Fleury keep this up and will the Penguins keep the Bolts’ PP off the ice enough to win three more games? We’ll have to wait and see, but so far, so good.

Detroit’s stars overpower Phoenix 4-2, giving Red Wings 1-0 series lead

Coyotes Red Wings Hockey
1 Comment

In last year’s playoffs, the Phoenix Coyotes used home ice advantage and physicality to give the Detroit Red Wings a tough fight in their first round series. Ultimately, the Red Wings’ star power prevailed, especially in a dominant seventh game.

The Red Wings played Game 1 at home this time around, and despite a slow start, Detroit’s high-end talent proved too much for Phoenix once again. The Red Wings won 4-2 to take a 1-0 series lead.

Detroit 4, Phoenix 2; Red Wings lead series 1-0

Kyle Turris gave the Coyotes a surprising 1-0 lead just 2:16 into the game and the stingy Phoenix defense managed to hold the lead through the first period. Things fell apart for Dave Tippett’s team in the second period, though, as Detroit’s stars scored three goals. The Red Wings notched four unanswered goals overall before the Coyotes scored to make it 4-2.

Pavel Datsyuk was his typically dazzling self, scoring Detroit’s first goal and frequently showing off his elite dangling abilities. Johan Franzen had a goal and assist in the game, continuing his role as one of those players who elevates his play when the postseason begins. (Unless it’s just a coincidence, as stats bloggers might argue.) Brian Rafalski capped that three-goal second period on the power play while Jiri Hudler made a heads up play on a nice Drew Miller pass to make it 4-1 in the third. Radim Vrbata scored Phoenix’s second and final tally.

Ilya Bryzgalov probably can’t be handed much of the blame, allowing those four goals on 36 shots. Jimmy Howard stopped 26 out of 28 shots to earn another playoff win against the ‘Yotes.

Even without Henrik Zetterberg (the leading scorer for Detroit this season), the Red Wings clearly tower over the Coyotes in terms of marquee talent. Phoenix will need even more from their impending free agent goalie Bryzgalov and much tighter defense if they hope to make this another epic series.

If not, they might have nothing to think about but their ownership issues by early next week.