Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Playoffs, Day 13: Some move on, one lives on

OK, so I was wrong. I'll be proven right in Game 7 though; that'll be no contest.

Czechoslovakia, Finland > Buffalo
Our second Participation Trophy, and another hearty "thanks for playing, fellas" goes to the Buffalo Sabres.

David Krejci scored twice and Miro the Hero Satan netted the eventual winning goal late as Boston eliminated third-seeded Buffalo, 4-3, to win the series in six games. A potential date with Pittsburgh in the second round looms, and won't headline and story writers have a blast with that, particularly a) if Marc Savard returns, and b) if the Bruins win.

For the first time in the series, the Bruins scored the game's opening goal. Unlike the Sabres, the Bruins made that lead hold up. Krejci got things going on the power play, then set up Mark Recchi's goal on the man-advantage early in the second period for a 2-0 lead.

Patrick Kaleta cracked Tuukka Rask (27 saves) before Krejci netted another goal in the third period. That was canceled out in just 22 seconds after Michael Ryder made a beautiful pass to set up Nathan Gerbe's goal.

The problem is, Ryder plays for Boston and Gerbe for Buffalo.

The score remained 3-2 until Satan showed some nice hands after receiving a pass near the Buffalo cage and slid the puck into an open net for a 4-2 advantage. That seemed to seal Boston's spot in the second round until Thomas Vanek - playing just his third playoff game due to injuries - scored with Ryan Miller pulled for an extra attacker.

That would be all for the Sabres though, who follow New Jersey as a horribly disappointing playoff performer. I don't buy the "they killed themselves trying to get the two-seed" argument as a reason for their failures. Pittsburgh killed itself (or not, maybe that was the Penguins' problem) trying to win the Atlantic Division but got through the first round.

Buffalo lost because the Vanek injury left the team bereft of offensive talent, there was no support from the blue line, Miller was tired, Rask was good, and Boston's key performers stepped up, unlike Buffalo's. Oh, and the Sabres power play was 0-for-19 in the series. Yikes.

Halak gives new meaning to "standing on his head"
As far as phenomenal goaltending displays in the postseason go, Jaroslav Halak's Game 6 showing might not be matched this year. He was that good. And he had to be, because the Montreal shell started about 9:09 into the game.

Halak made an incredible 53 saves, quite a few of the "holy sh--!" variety, and Mike Cammalleri scored twice as Montreal forced a Game 7 after a 4-1 victory over Washington. The Capitals will host the Game 7 on Wednesday. Halak set a franchise-record for saves in a regulation playoff game, bettering Ken Dryden's mark of 49 set in 1971.

I could talk about how the Canadiens got a fast start when Cammalleri scored 7:30 into the game for the opening goal and again 1:39 later for the all-important 2-0 lead, but this game was all Halak. At least, after Cammalleri's brace.

Washington peppered Halak mercilessly and Montreal just could not get the puck past its blue line. Shots in the first period favored Washington, 18-10, but after that, talk about one-sided. The Capitals fired 36 shots on Halak in the final two periods, including 22 in the third period. In contrast, the Canadiens mustered just 12 during that time, a number that includes a mere three in the second period.

Fortunately for Montreal, one of those shots was a goal by Maxim Lapierre just over four minutes into the third period and another was Tomas Plekanec's empty netter. Cammalleri finished with three points.

Five players registered at least six shots for Washington, led by Joe Corvo's 10. It wasn't until Mike Green (six SOG) fired a shot-pass that got past Halak and was deflected in by Eric Fehr with 4:50 remaining that the Capitals finally scored. After that, however, the Caps got only two more shots on goal.

Montreal's penalty killing voided all six Washington power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 1:14 on which the Capitals didn't record a shot on goal.

The funny thing from this game is there were three diving calls, all against Montreal. I didn't see a replay of the third, but I thought the other two were legit. Lapierre received two of the diving calls, and only once on those three situations did a Washington player receive a penalty.

Chicago moves on after weirdest game of postseason
We've had some very exciting games in the postseason. We've had some weird endings (See Boyle, Dan, Game 3.) I don't think we'll see a game as weird as Game 6 between Chicago and Nashville.

The teams combined for seven goals in the first period, exchanged long stretches of shorthanded time, but nothing else was scored until there was no goalie on the ice in Chicago's 5-3 victory that earned the Blackhawks a series win in six games. Chicago will face Vancouver in a rematch of last year's second round series.

Here's how the zaniness went down in this wild one. The first seven goals were scored in under 13 minutes in the first period, but none until 6:38 into the game. That's when Duncan Keith put Chicago ahead. Shea Weber tied the score 2:02 later. The Blackhawks went back ahead 64 seconds later when Brent Seabrook's dump-in deflected off Patrick Kane's toe at center ice and into a vacated net. It was 3-1 after Patrick Sharp's goal 2:09 later.

Jason Arnott woke up for Nashville with a power play goal a few minutes later, and the Predators tied it on Arnott's second with 55 seconds left in the first period. Just when momentum was back on Nashville's side, Jerred Smithson took a holding penalty with 38 seconds left, and it took Chicago all of seven seconds for Jonathan Toews to put in a rebound for a 4-3 Chicago lead.

In the second period, Chicago was given five straight power plays, including a double minor, but failed to score on any of those 10 minutes of man-advantage time. Not surprisingly, the Blackhawks held a 16-4 shots advantage in the second period, a fact the Chicago play by play guy mentioned with shock, apparently forgetting the 10 MINUTES OF POWER PLAY TIME the Blackhawks had.

It was Nashville's turn in the third period, though to a lesser extent. The Predators received three power plays in under five minutes, though none resulted in a 5-on-3, but a power play that had scored just once all series once again could not come through. Nashville was 1-for-27 in the series, getting five man-advantages in each game except the first.

Antti Niemi finished with 25 saves, 15 coming in the third period when the Blackhawks had only three shots. One was John Madden's empty net goal with eight seconds left. Toews and Sharp each had two assists in addition to scoring, and Marian Hossa - who probably should've been suspended - posted three helpers.

Stats of the night
19:40 - Time Boston led in its series out of the first 327:41 until Krejci's first goal.

94 - Shots attempted by Washington. Apart from the 54 on goal, 23 were blocked and 17 missed. Hal Gill blocked five shots for Montreal.

36 - Time, in seconds, that former Wild and current Canadiens defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron played in even-strength situations. The defensive liability logged only 5:31 of total ice time, 4:55 coming on the power play.

Quote of the night
"SNOWBALL ONE, HELL ZERO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
NESN play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards, apparently describing Boston's chances of advancing in the playoffs at the end of the Bruins victory. I really don't know if I like him or not. He's such a dope, but he's so far over the top that it's almost just comical and not annoying.

Tuesday prediction
Detroit 4, Phoenix 2

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