2010 NHL playoffs: Upsets galore on opening night

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The first night of playoff hockey did not disappoint. Three upsets
out of four and all games were decided by one goal, in a night that had
plenty of hitting, skill, goaltending prowess and even a snake thrown
out on the ice.

Sens4.jpgPittsburgh Penguins 4, Ottawa Senators 5
Senators lead series 1-0.

This was NOT the game that
showcased great goaltending. Marc-Ander Fleury looked unsure of himself
and was nowhere near the confident goaltender that took his team to the
Stanley Cup finals the past two seasons, and was spraying rebounds all
over the ice. You have to hand to the Senators, however; they were able
to contain and frustrate the Penguins for much of the game, and it
wasn’t until the score was nearly out of reach that the Crosby and the
Pens woke up. Yet everytime that the Penguins would score, the Senators
would answer right back. The Penguins now face questions of
inconsistency and suddenly fragile goaltender in net, while the Senators
continue to build confidence.

Next game: Friday, Apr. 16;
7:00 p.m. EDT

New Jersey Devils 1, Philadelphia
Flyers 2
Flyers lead series 1-0

This wasn’t
exactly the knock down, dragged out brawl I half-expected it to be; in
fact, the Flyers and Devils had the least amount of hits total out of
all four games. The Devils were just completely disinterested to showing
any intensity in the game, and when they had a chance in the third
period to seriously close the gap on the 2-0 deficit with a four-minute
power play, mustered hardly any attack at all.

The Devils were
outworked in front of their own net and Martin Brodeur allowed two goals
on just 14 shots. Still, plenty of credit goes to the Flyers, who were
lead by a solid performance in net by Brian Boucher and showed
confidence in themselves and each other for 60 minutes.

Next
game: Friday, Apr. 16; 7:30 p.m. EDT

San Jose Sharks
1, Colorado Avalanche 2
Avalanche lead series 1-0

Uh
oh…can you see the wagons circling? The Sharks entered the postseason
with nothing but questions about how they would perform in the playoffs
— once again — and nothing from the game tonight did much to quell
those fears. You have to hand it to Colorado, however, who’s confidence,
speed and stamina outlasted the top seed in the West, while Craig
Anderson once again proved why he
was perhaps the best free agent signing of the season
.

Not
all is lost. Evgeni Nabokov was great, and it’s just one game. Sharks
fans can all calm down. For a day at least.

Next game: Friday,
Apr. 16; 10:30 p.m. EDT

Wings.jpgPhoenix Coyotes 3, Detroit Red Wings 2 Coyotes
lead series 1-0

As expected, this was the game of the night.
The atmosphere at Jobing.com Arena was absolutely electric, and the
Phoenix Coyotes overcame an early 2-1 deficit to take out the much more
experienced Red Wings. It was exactly Dave Tippett hockey; the Coyotes
allowed 40 shots on goal and have the brilliance of Ilya Bryzgalov to
thank for the victory. But in the end, it was the team approach by the
Coyotes and and every player on the ice selling out to preserve the lead
that netted one heck of a victory.

On the other side, the Red
Wings were outworked and outhustled by the Coyotes for the final 40
minutes of the game, and only Pavel Datsyuk showed any true life for the
Red Wings down the stretch.

There is still plenty of hockey to
be played, and the Coyotes cannot become too elated based on one win.
But for the Coyotes fans and the franchise, what a tremendous night.

Next
game: Friday, Apr. 16, 10:00 p.m. EDT

NY governor says pro teams can resume training

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says teams in his state can return to their facilities for training after a pause of more than two months.

”Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference Sunday.

The New York City area was one of the hardest-hit parts of the U.S. by the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 deaths and new infections in the state have been trending downward.

Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are discussing the resumption of their seasons with their players’ unions.

”I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena – do it! Do it!” Cuomo said. ”Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

WCHA’s Alabama-Huntsville cuts hockey program

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Alabama-Huntsville is dropping men’s hockey and men’s and women’s tennis as part of budget cuts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

School officials said athletes in those sports who want to join another team’s roster will be released without penalty and free to transfer immediately. If they choose to stay, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of their academic careers.

Alabama-Huntsville was one of the only southern schools to have a men’s hockey varsity program. The Chargers won Division II national titles in 1996 and 1998 and were Division II runners-up in 1994 and 1997 before making the move to the Division I level for the 1998-99 season.

Men’s hockey had been the lone Division I sport for Alabama-Huntsville. It competes at the Division II level in all other sports.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

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Canada’s NHL teams have offered season-ticket holders rebate or refund options in acknowledgment that no more 2019-20 regular-season games will be played in front of fans in their respective buildings.

In a four-day span May 13-16, all seven teams contacted their season-ticket bases with options and, in some cases, deadlines to make a decision, according to The Canadian Press.

“It has become increasingly apparent, that any possibility will not include any further games being played this season in front of fans at Bell MTS Place,” the Winnipeg Jets said in an email.

That admission may seem anticlimactic given leagues and teams around the world are either playing in empty stadiums, or trying to figure out a way to just resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But season-ticket money is a key element of NHL business. Clubs are loathe to part with it.

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money.

Toronto Maple Leafs season-ticket holders had to declare they wanted their money back by Victoria Day or a credit would be applied to their accounts.

Their Montreal Canadiens counterparts had to make a decision by Friday, while the Vancouver Canucks’ deadline is June 3.

NHLPA board approves 24-team, return-to play-format

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We have our first step towards resuming the 2019-20 season with the approval of the return-to-play format by the NHLPA Executive Board.

The 31 NHL team representatives voted and a majority gave the thumbs up to the 24-team, conference-based proposal.

According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, the vote was 29-2 in favor.

Now the plan moves on to the Board of Governors for their approval.

From the NHLPA:

The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.

If the BOG green lights it, the next steps would include figuring out proper safety protocols for all involved and how the hub city plan would work, among numerous other details.

Based on points percentage at the time of the March 12 NHL pause, the top four teams in each conference (Boston, Tampa, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas, Dallas) will receive a first-round bye. Round 1 will feature eight play-in matchups in a best-of-five series.

As the play-in round takes place, the eight conference leaders could potentially take part in a mini tournament that will determine the seeding for Round 2. Reseeding after the play-in round is another topic likely to be discussed.

Here’s what it might end up looking like:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Bruins
• Lightning
• Capitals
• Flyers

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Penguins
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Canadiens

(6) Hurricanes
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Rangers

(7) Islanders
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Panthers

(8) Maple Leafs
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Blue Jackets

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Blues
• Avalanche
• Golden Knights
• Stars

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Oilers
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Blackhawks

(6) Predators
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Coyotes

(7) Canucks
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Wild

(8) Flames
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Jets

Games would be played without fans with teams based in hub cities potentially located in both the U.S. and Canada. Columbus, Las Vegas, and Edmonton are a few of the cities that have shown interested in playing host to playoff games.

Since the 24-team format entered the rumor mill, it’s received a mixed reaction from players.

“Twenty-four teams sounds like a lot of teams to me,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson told Mike Tirico on Thursday. “You have to make sure there is some level playing field in terms of intensity…So while 24 teams sounds like a lot, maybe due to logistics, that makes the most sense.”

“I will say that when it comes to the format I think it is almost impossible to make everyone happy … the situation is what it is,” Lars Eller of the Capitals said via the Washington Post. “It is far from perfect. We are going to manage the best we can and I do think we will come together and find a solution regarding that. It is not going to be easy.”

Kris Letang told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that Penguins players voted “yes” on the proposal citing “greater good for everyone.”

“At the end of the day, nobody gets exactly what they want,” Letang said. “But, we all want what is best for hockey and to continue to grow the game.”

MORE:
Predators’ Duchene: ‘You don’t want to have a COVID Cup’
Our Line Starts podcast: Evaluating fairness of 24-team NHL playoff

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.