Sat May 25 11:51pm EDT
No. 1 Star: Andrew Shaw, Chicago Blackhawks
Shaw got a little chat from Michal Handzus telling him that calming down would be beneficial for the Blackhawks. It worked and Shaw scored twice in Game 5 as Chicago downed the Detroit Red Wings 4-1, forcing a Game 6. His first goal snapped a 1-1 tie and came 3:31 after Danny Cleary evened things up:
No. 2 Star: Gregory Campbell, Boston Bruins
The Bruins' "Merlot Line" has stepped up for them all series and they in Game 5 they led the way during Boston's 3-1 win to eliminate the New York Rangers. Campbell scored twice, the go-ahead goal midway through the second period and then the empty-netter to seal things. Campbell, along with Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille, combined for 10 points in the series.
No. 3 Star: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Toews scored his first goal of the playoffs to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead. Just as important, he finished with zero penalty minutes and led all Chicago forwards in time on-ice with 20:33.
Sat May 25 11:11pm EDT
The Detroit Red Wings couldn't escape. Two times. Two penalty kills. Twice they were unable to clear the puck out of their own zone, allowing the Chicago Blackhawks to capitalize and stay alive for at least one more game. Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews took advantage and scored power play goals in the second period as Chicago beat Detroit 4-1, staving off elimination and forcing a Game 6 Monday night.
"We had to play desperate," said Shaw to NBC Sports Network's Pierre McGuire afterward.
Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader cancelled out a power play opportunity after retaliating on Dave Bolland early in the second period. Detroit was able keep Chicago off the board during that 4-on-4 time, but later in the period, he was back in the box after cross-checking Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks would make him pay with their third goal of the game, coming off the stick of captain Toews:
The goal was Toews' first of the playoffs and a nice comeback from his Game 5 meltdown where he took three consecutive penalties in a 5:34 span. That was part of a bigger storyline of the Blackhawks' getting frustrated by not only the Red Wings, but by some of the calls on the ice.
"You can't change a call when it happens," Shaw said. "You have to move forward. Our PK (4-for-4 in Game 5) has been unbelievable, they've been helping up out all series. [The coaching staff] let us know if we stay out of the box we'll get more offensive chances and we created the win here."
Aside from getting the captain going, the Blackhawks were able to solve Jimmy Howard, who allowed only two goals in Detroit's three straight wins leading up to Game 5. Head coach Joel Quenneville also reunited Brent Seabrook with Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya on the blue line. Toews skated with Patricks Kane and Sharp. The moves paid off.
It was a shakeup within the Blackhawks' roster that needed to happen. It woke them up for one game. What about for Game 6?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
Sat May 25 08:52pm EDT
The door opened for Torey Krug thanks to injuries to the Boston Bruins' defense corps and it's going to be impossible for head coach Claude Julien to take him out of the lineup now. Krug scored his third power play goal of the series to open the scoring in for the Bruins and Gregory Campbell broke the tie 10 minutes later as Boston eliminated the New York Rangers Saturday night in five games with a 3-1 victory.
Joining Krug on the unsung heroes list for the Bruins were Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, better known as the "Merlot Line" for the jersey color they wear at practice. The trio that makeup the Bruins' fourth line contributed to what ended up as the winning goal 13:41 into the second period when Rangers defenseman Roman Hamrlik had two turnovers in a matter of moments, leading to Campbell pouncing on a look puck in front of Henrik Lundqvist:
"We learned two years ago that depth comes into play," Campbell told NBC Sport Network's Brian Engblom afterward. "And the further you go into the playoffs, the better the teams are and the higher the level the teams, the more you have to rely on everybody."
Campbell would add his second of the night with an empty net tally with 51 seconds to go in the game.
Ten points from the fourth line. Four goals from a rookie defenseman. Contributions from everyone. That's why the Bruins are set to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final beginning sometime next week.
Now, after the trade deadline when both teams made moves to improve their rosters, we have the Conference Final many expected.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
Sat May 25 03:42pm EDT
A long, long time ago, in the halcyon days of 2010 (when the planet Jupiter was destroyed due to international tensions, according to the film, 2010, which I assume is a historical documentary), the Boston Bruins took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in Round 2 of the NHL playoffs.
But then they lost Game 4. And Game 5. Game 6? Oh, you'd better believe they lost it.
And then, just when the Bruins thought they couldn't lose any more games, they remembered there was a Game 7 -- but by then it was too late, and they had lost it. With that, the Bruins became just the third team to drop a series after winning the first three games.
You probably remember this story, either because it was just three years ago or because it's been coming up a lot this week, what with Boston having taken another commanding 3-0 series lead, this time over the New York Rangers, and then losing Game 4.
Frankly, with 2010 in mind, losing this series seems even more impossible now. These collapses happen about once every 30 years. I think of it like being hit by lightning or bird poop. It's unlikely to happen a first time, let alone a second time so soon after, at that. Once you've been struck, be it by bird excrement or a massive electrical discharge from the sky, that has to be it, no? Consider yourself scratched off the universe's hit list.
But on the other hand, as unlikely as it is to happen, this one time, it happened. And now, every time the Bruins take a 3-0 series lead, they'll be haunted by the ghosts of 2010, at least in media reports, until they close this thing out.
Considering the Rangers are the ones with their backs against the wall, you'd have to think they're going to be the more motivated team in Game 5, and Game 6, if it comes to that. But the Bruins have only to look to 2010 for extra motivation, and really, they don't have to look at all, since reporters will bring 2010 to them. The longer they let the Rangers hang around in this series, the longer they'll have to hear about that unfortunate event.
The Stanley Cup is motivation enough, of course, but if they need any more, it's this: a loss in Game 5 means two extra days and perhaps more, of talking about a moment they'd rather not relive.
Want everyone to shut up about it? Win on Saturday.
Sat May 25 03:05pm EDT
(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers who hated them the most. Here’s Andrew Berkshire of Habs Eyes On The Prize and Mike Obrand. Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
By Andrew Berkshire and Mike Obrand
Hello and welcome as we bid adieu to the most blissfully unaware and naval-gazing organization in pro sports, the 2012-13 Ottawa Shenatorsh.
The reaction around most of the NHL when the news came out that the Sens were eliminated was a mildly confused “There’s a team in Ottawa?”
Yes, my friends, there is a team there, although Canada’s Phoenix Coyotes aren’t really located in Ottawa, they play in Kanata, which is actually quite far away from Ottawa.
When awarded an expansion NHL franchise on Dec. 6, 1990, the Senators faced an extreme uphill battle to create a fanbase in an area dominated by both Leafs and Habs fans. 20 years after their first NHL season in 1992-93, Ottawa remains a city dominated by Habs and Leafs fans. Perhaps that’s why the franchise and fanbase has such a hilarious inferiority complex.
To make matters worse for the desperately reaching fanbase, the Senators have completely failed to create a team identity outside of being generally boring to watch for their entire history. This is especially troublesome when their division has four other teams with strong identities.
The Montreal Canadiens: Small and skilled
The Boston Bruins: Big and physical
The Toronto Maple Leafs: Terrible at hockey
The Buffalo Sabres: Annoying cheap shot artists
The Senators had an opportunity to give themselves an identity early on in their history, with five straight top-three picks, which netted them the most hated player in franchise history, the most well-known bust in NHL history, another huge bust with a mullet, a player who’s best known for having his eye carved out by another Ottawa Senator, and Chris Phillips.
Not exactly a glorious start to a franchise, and probably why one of the most notable players in the team’s history is Chris Neil.
Sat May 25 11:58am EDT
Throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’ll be spotlighting unsung heroes around the postseason on a weekly basis.
He plays about eight minutes a night, yet his impact is more palpable than players with twice his ice time. He’s the most physically intimidating player on the Boston Bruins not named Zdeno Chara. Once in a while, he even gets offensive.
He’s Shawn Thornton, and together with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell he’s playing on the most underrated line in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They skate hard, hit harder and possess the puck in the offensive zone better than some of their opponents’ top lines do.
They’re the “Merlot Line”, because of “the cranberry Bruins jerseys they don in practice,” according to Joe Haggerty.
Both Paille and Campbell have been seen as something more than fourth liners in their careers, but Thornton’s had to work hard to break the stigma that he’s just a brawler who barely warrants a roster spot.
“He’s not a high-end skill player,” Coach Claude Julien told the Boston Globe. “But he still has enough skill so you can use him and play him. That’s the thing that, as a coach, I’ve always liked of our enforcer. He’s one of those guys who can settle things down when things get out of hand, but he’s able to play. I don’t like having a guy sit on the bench playing 2-3 minutes and just utilizing him in those [fighting] situations. Thorny’s fit the bill extremely well.”
Fri May 24 11:50pm EDT
No. 1 Star: James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins
It was epic Neal time in Pittsburgh as the winger scored thrice in the Penguins' 6-2 rout of the Senators, leading his club into the third round of the 2013 postseason. Enjoy this clip of all three goals, unless you're a Senators fan, in which case, maybe just skip ahead:
No. 2 Star: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Letang was all over the ice, setting up the Penguins' second goal from behind the net, scoring the eventual game-winner, and adding another assist on Neal's hat trick goal. With three points on the night, Letang finished the series with 10 points. He's a defenceman.
Fri May 24 10:57pm EDT
Canada, you may want to sit down.
The Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the Eastern Conference finals Friday, eliminating the Ottawa Senators -- the last remaining Canadian team -- with a decisive 6-2 victory in Game 5.
With that, an American club will win the Stanley Cup for the 19th straight season. Now comes the annual Canadian tradition where the country shifts from counting Canadian teams in contention to Canadian players on American teams.
The Senators made a slight improvement in Game 5, holding the Penguins to fewer goals than in their previous game. Unfortunately, it was just one fewer, and that's not nearly enough when they allowed 7 the last time around.
This game was a lot like Game 4, come to think of it: All Pittsburgh, and not all that close.
Fri May 24 05:28pm EDT
The Phoenix Coyotes are used to difficult offseasons, but this one looked even trickier. On top of looking for an owner, as usual, the club ran the risk of looking for a new General Manager and head coach as well, as the contracts of both Dave Tippett and Don Maloney were set to expire on June 30.
There was some talk that neither would receive a new deal until the Coyotes had found an owner. But with the draft and free agency coming up, and Maloney being exactly the sort of guy you want to have around for that stuff, the NHL did what a good ownership group does, and took the steps to retain their guy.
On Friday, the Coyotes announced a long-term contract extension with Maloney. From their release:
"We are very pleased that Don has agreed to sign a long-term contract extension with the Coyotes," said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. "Since joining the team in 2007, Don has done an outstanding job managing his team and building a competitive roster that has produced on the ice, even given less than ideal circumstances off the ice. The NHL remains committed to securing the Coyotes' future in Glendale under new ownership, and we believe Don's long-term agreement evidences that he is equally committed."
[...] "I am grateful to continue working for this franchise," said Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney. "We have a strong core of talented people, both on and off the ice, who are committed to building a championship team and a first class organization. I would like to thank NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly for their tremendous support these past few years."
So weird to see Bettman and Daly in this release. This situation is ridiculous.
That part aside, it's tough to disagree with the move. As James Mirtle points out, over the last four years, the Coyotes' record of 156-96-42 makes them the eighth-best team in the NHL. That's definitely extension-worthy, especially under the circumstances.
Maloney is basically a wartime GM. He's acquitted himself nicely and done his part to keep Phoenix competitive in a dire, dire situation. And really, he was the best candidate for Phoenix anyway, since he's the only guy with four years experience GMing a team without an owner.
Fri May 24 04:57pm EDT
Entering Game 5 Friday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to do something they've yet to accomplish under head coach Dan Bylsma: close out a playoff series on home ice.
"I'm aware," Bylsma told reporters Friday about that little blip on his NHL resume.
Since Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien in Feb. 2009, the Penguins have had six chances to initiate a handshake line on the ice at Mellon Arena and CONSOL Energy Center, and six times they've failed. Up 3-1 in their series versus the Ottawa Senators, the Penguins are also a win away from advancing past the second round for the first time since that 2008-09 season; one that ended with the franchise's third Stanley Cup.
"Our team knows exactly how important this opportunity is to get the fourth win and try to do that here as soon as possible and not look at this being three more games," said Bylsma after Friday's morning skate. "We have one game right in front of us and it's important to have that mentality and mindset for us tonight."
But as Senators head coach Paul MacLean declared during his only post-Game 4 statement, his team is going to Pittsburgh and coming to play. And like the New York Rangers, Ottawa can only follow the cliche and take it one game at a time.