Last night the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets joined the Calgary Flames among the teams that have been eliminated from the 2017 playoffs. In the case of Columbus and Calgary, both teams are fairly young with bright futures.
Chicago is a bit of a different case. The Blackhawks aren't old yet, but players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are in their prime while defensemen Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford are edging into their mid-30s. So while Chicago's window of opportunity isn't closing just yet, the back-to-back first round exits the Blackhawks have endured over the last two years are poorly timed. Then again, Chicago's already won the Stanley Cup three times during the Kane/Toews era so while no player or franchise is ever satisfied, they can hardly be criticized for what's happened during this window.
RANGERS 3 CANADIENS 2 (Overtime)
New York leads series 3-2
This is the third time in the series that a game has been decided by just one goal and the second time a contest has gone to overtime. Montreal took the first overtime contest, but with this win the Rangers have captured the last two games. Game 6 will be on Saturday at Madison Square Garden and while you'd think that would give the Rangers the edge, their struggles at home have been an ongoing storyline this season. Still, there's no better way to counter that kind of talk than to win a series in front of your fans.
Mika Zibanejad scored the overtime winner and registered an assist. That gives him three points in five playoff contests.
New York's Jesper Fast scored a shorthanded marker late in the first period. He's found the back of the net in back-to-back games.
Brady Skjei accounted for the Rangers' other goal. The 23-year-old blueliner has two markers and no assists in five postseason contests.
Artturi Lehkonen had a goal and an assist Thursday night. The 21-year-old is up to three points in his first career playoff series.
Carey Price turned aside 33 of 36 Rangers shots. He has a 1.82 GAA and .936 save percentage in the series.
Henrik Lundqvist had another superb game though as he stopped 34 of 36 shots. He has a 1.82 GAA and .944 save percentage in five playoff starts.
PENGUINS 5 BLUE JACKETS 2
Pittsburgh wins series 4-1
The Blue Jackets managed to avoid elimination on Tuesday, but they couldn't manage any more than that. Pittsburgh will now face the winner of the series between the Maple Leafs and Capitals. It's also worth noting that this is the fourth time in the span of five years that Pittsburgh has made it beyond the first round while Columbus hasn't won a playoff series in its franchise's history.
Marc-Andre Fleury deserves a ton of credit for the Penguins' win on Thursday. He was vulnerable in Games 3 and 4, but bounced back in a huge way last night by saving 49 of a staggering 51 shots. He finished the series with a 2.52 GAA and .933 save percentage. He only got into Game 1 because Matt Murray was unavailable due to a lower-body injury, but you have to think that the Penguins will stick with Fleury even if Murray is available for the start of the second round.
By contrast Sergei Bobrovsky could never hold the Penguins. He allowed at least three goals in each game and surrendered five goals on 32 shots in Game 5. His playoff run ended with a 3.88 GAA and .882 save percentage in five starts.
Boone Jenner and William Karlsson netted Columbus' goals on Thursday. This was Karlsson's first playoff series and he contributed two goals and three points.
Evgeni Malkin registered three assists, making this his third straight multi-point game. He has two goals and 11 points in five playoff games. He also became the 36th player to reach 140 career playoff points. Sidney Crosby joined that group on April 14.
Speaking of Crosby, he scored a power-play goal to extend his own point streak to four games. He had two goals and seven points in the first round.
Phil Kessel scored a goal and registered two assists last night. That gives him two goals and eight points in the playoffs.
Bryan Rust netted a pair of goals for the Penguins. He scored four goals in the first round after netting 15 goals in 57 regular season games.
PREDATORS 4 BLACKHAWKS 1
Nashville wins series 4-0
Like many people, I considered Chicago to be the clear favorites coming into this series, which makes the Predators dominance over the Blackhawks all the more impressive. Chicago did hang into a couple of the contests and Game 3 even went to overtime, but that doesn't change the fact that the Predators are cruising into the second round. The Predators will play either St. Louis or Minnesota, depending on the outcome of that series. The Blues are the probable opponent given their 3-1 series lead.
Pekka Rinne was the key to the Predators' sweep. He shutout Chicago entirely in the first two games and limited them to just three goals over the final two contests. In the end he had a 0.70 GAA and .976 save percentage in the first round. A team with a hot goaltender is extraordinarily dangerous in the playoffs, so we'll see how far Rinne can take them.
Corey Crawford stopped 22 of 25 shots on Thursday and overall this series wasn't his best work. He finished with a 2.83 GAA and .902 save percentage in four starts.
Jonathan Toews scored Chicago's only goal on Thursday. He had two points in the first round.
Viktor Arvidsson scored a goal and registered an assist. That brings him up to two goals and four points in the playoffs.
Roman Josi found the back of the net twice. Those were the Predators defenseman's first two goals of the 2017 postseason.
Colton Sissons scored the game-winning goal and registered an assist. That's the first time the 23-year-old has scored the deciding marker in a playoff game.
OILERS 4 SHARKS 3 (Overtime)
Edmonton leads series 3-2
The Oilers deserve a lot of credit for the way they bounced back after suffering a devastating 7-0 loss against San Jose in Game 4. Although the Oilers scored the first goal last night, they still found themselves trailing for most of the game. However, Edmonton out shot San Jose in every period aside from the first and the Oilers had a commanding 14-2 edge in shots in the overtime period in particular.
Oscar Klefbom found the back of the net at 17:14 minutes to tie the game at 3-3 and force overtime. It was the second goal of the series for the Oilers defenseman.
David Desharnais assisted on the game-tying goal and then netted the overtime winner. Those were his first two points of the 2017 playoffs.
Leon Draisaitl and Matt Benning each assisted on two of Edmonton's four goals. For both of those players, it was the first playoff points of their careers.
Mikkel Boedker scored a goal and registered an assist for San Jose. He drew into the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Games 3 and 4.
Martin Jones stopped 44 of 48 shots last night. He had surrendered just five goals in the first four games of the series. This was also by far the most shots he's faced in the 2017 playoffs with the next highest being 36 shots in Game 2.
Cam Talbot kicked out 27 of 30 San Jose shots. That might not be an impressive stat line, but it's a bounce back after he surrendered five goals on 24 shots before being yanked just 32:52 minutes into Game 4.