Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Playoffs, Day 18: May Day? No, mayday

Two teams were frantically sending out distress signals and hitting the panic button. Neither survived its disaster.

The guy who scripted USA-Canada gold also wrote Boston-Philly Game 1
When Sidney Crosby scored in overtime to give Canada the gold medal, that started a lot of "Hollywood wouldn't accept that kind of script" jokes.

Now Americans - or at least Bostonians - can enjoy the same scenario.

Playing his first game since Matt Cooke leveled him back in March, Marc Savard capped an incredible overtime period by Boston with a wicked slap shot that beat Brian Boucher with six minutes left to give the Bruins a 5-4 victory over Philadelphia in Game 1.

And good lord did Boston make a push in overtime, particularly in the first two minutes. Boucher was stellar, making five good-to-"holy crap" caliber saves in the early going. One he shouldn't have made; Daniel Paille had about 65 percent of one side of the net to shoot at but fired it at the 35 percent that Boucher had covered.

But that might've been the Bruins' best and longest offensive stretch of the season - unless you want to count their three shorthanded goals on one penalty kill near the end of the regular season. We'll call it their best even-strength offensive push.

Tuukka Rask wasn't as busy but also came up with two big time saves, one on Scott Hartnell and another on Daniel Carcillo's breakaway four and a half minutes into the extra frame.

Boucher made another fabulous save on Michael Ryder eight minutes in that I thought would've found the back of the net. Then Boucher made a mistake. With a chance to freeze the play, he instead played the puck and turned it over. That led to an extended shift in the attacking zone for Boston. A few seconds later, there was a delayed penalty coming up on Philadelphia, but Savard unleashed his shot, getting the bouncing puck to settle just in time for the winner.

The Bruins winning almost seemed inevitable the way they were dictating the pace in overtime. The Flyers were swarmed under and it was a matter of time until Boston scored.

Overtime came as a result of Philadelphia erasing a two-goal deficit, tying it at 4-4 on a Daniel Briere goal that made me nearly jump out of my seat and say "What a goal!" Briere's outstanding effort that started, admittedly, off a bad play he made in his own zone that he attoned for, came with 3:22 remaining in regulation.

Four minutes earlier, Mike Richards converted a rebound on the power play after Chris Pronger - who also scored - goaded veteran Mark Recchi into taking a bad penalty. Richards finished with three points.

Boston held a two-goal lead three times. The Bruins led 2-0 on goals by Steve Begin and Patrice Bergeron before Ryan Parent got the Flyers on the board. Miroslav Satan scored on the power play to make it 3-1, a play that featured differing opinions. Pierre McGuire thought there was interference on Boston, as did Philadelphia. Eddie Olczyk did not think so, as did Boston.

Pronger's goal made it 3-2 before David Krejci restored the two-goal advantage early in the fourth before Philadelphia's comeback. Boucher ended with 41 saves.

Rask stopped 32 shots and Dennis Wideman posted three assists for the Bruins.

It's good for Boston that Savard is back, because Marco Sturm suffered an injury on his first shift of the game and did not return. Sturm led the Bruins with 22 goals.

Chicago misfire opens door for Vancouver, which kicks it in
Every team has bad games, be they road or at home. Man did Chicago ever have a bad one.

Vancouver scored the first five goals of the game and stunned the Chicago crowd en route to a 5-1 victory over a surprisingly lifeless Blackhawks team.

In hindsight, the sign that might've indicated Chicago would be in for a rough night came when Patrick Kane shanked a shot with lots of net to shoot at early in the game. It was so bad, Kane stared up at the ceiling and put his hands on his head, even though play was still going on.

Instead, the Canucks scored first on Christian Ehrhoff's shot that eluded Antti Niemi. The margin grew when Mason Raymond blistered a juicy rebound past Niemi with 11 seconds remaining in the period. Roberto Luongo (36 saves) also made several key stops early.

Vancouver rode that momentum into a goal in the opening minute of the second period, when Henrik Sedin one-timed a shot past Niemi following a furious scramble around the Chicago cage. When Kyle Wellwood pushed a rebound into the net just before it came off its moorings for a power play goal and a 4-0 lead, I expected a goaltending switch to Cristobal Huet.

It didn't come, and a nice effort by Vancouver's grinders swelled the lead to five. Jannik Hansen and Rick Rypien out-worked and out-muscled Chicago's defensemen to push the puck up ice, and Rypien's cross-ice feed was deflected in by Michael Grabner. Niemi remained in the net until the start of the third period.

The Blackhawks finally woke up in the final frame, thanks to some silliness by Vancouver, which granted Chicago a 5-on-3 advantage. Kane broke the shutout bid and the Blackhawks showed plenty of energy until taking a penalty midway through the period, but it was far too little, far too late.

Ryan Kesler had two assists. Raymond and Ehrhoff each finished with two points.

Stat of the night
1978 - The last time Philadelphia and Boston met in the playoffs.

Quote of the night
"I thought maybe my head - something's wrong here. I thought it was a treat for somebody. So, thanks for giving it back."
Savard, who threw his stick into the crowd after scoring the winner, only to find it returned to the ice during a postgame curtain call

Exchange of the night
Pierre McGuire, to Mike Milbury, before overtime of Boston-Philadelphia: "If Philadelphia wins, who scores?"
Milbury: "Uh... Richards."
McGuire: "If Boston wins, who scores?"
Milbury: "Why don't you make a prediction? Make a fool out of yourself. You're good at that."

Those last two lines were collectively the single greatest thing Milbury has ever contributed during his time on Earth. Seriously.

The "What did he just say?" (plural) of the night
Keith Jones: "Chicago looks scared, and that's a scary thing for the Blackhawks."

Thanks, Keith.

Brian Engblom: "Where is Ben Eager, who's not even playing tonight?"

I guess Eager is a healthy scratch tonight. Thanks, Brian.

This is why I don't watch intermission segments.

Sunday predictions
Montreal 3, Pittsburgh 2
Detroit 4, San Jose 2

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