Five Series Even After Game 2

Friday night, Saturday night and Saturday evening provided seven more tasty first-round tilts in the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs. If there is a regret here, it’s that these games are ill timed and they often overlap with one another, forcing the starry-eyed viewer to make difficult decisions. Or to risk thumb injury in a vain attempt to catch as much of all games as possible. Tivo is a great help, but there is still the problem of having only 24 hours in the day.

Today’s games are staggered a bit (1 p.m., 6, 8 and 9:30), which should help maximize viewing.

Detroit and Calgary went at it in Game 2 of their series on Sunday afternoon, with the Wings prevailing 3-1. Five of the other eight series are even at 1-1 with only Detroit, Anaheim and the New York Rangers holding the commanding 2-0 lead. The series scene will now shift to the other city in all eight series. In Sunday’s later action, Anaheim visits Minnesota, the Sens and Pens shift to Pittsburgh and Vancouver visits Dallas.

The Flames barely showed up for their Game 1 duel with Detroit, and they failed to reassert themselves today. The Flames are a better team than they showed in the two games in Detroit, and they’ll need to start proving that back at the Saddledome in order to avoid a quick exit.

Checking winger Jeff Friesen (torso) and defenseman Robyn Regehr (knee) returned to the Flames’ lineup today but their impact was minimal. Friesen has a lot of playoff experience, and Regehr is a key cog in Calgary’s strong and diverse blueline corps.

Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Valtteri Filppula scored in each of the first two games for Detroit. Only the netminding heroics of Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff have kept the first two games reasonably respectable. The Wings have outshot the Flames 97-35 in the first two games of the series.

Dallas rebounded well from a potentially demoralizing four-overtime defeat in Game 1. Stars netminder Marty Turco authored a 2-0 shutout, ex-Cap Jeff Halpern got the game-winner with a goal in the game’s first minute and Joel Lundqvist added an insurance tally in the first minute of the second. Halpern also made a key shot block while killing a penalty in a crucial late-game situation.

Dallas displayed a stifling defense and excellent penalty killing. The Stars never let the Canucks establish a forecheck; never gave them anything to feel good about. Vancouver has lost the last four playoffs series in which it won Game 1.

The Stars and Canucks will face-off on Sunday just six hours after the start of an NBA game pitting the Mavericks and the Spurs. That could make for some interesting ice conditions.

The Canucks missed center Ryan Kesler, who was a key factor in Vancouver’s Game 1 win. After missing much of the season with a hip injury, Kesler returned to action ahead of schedule only to suffer a broken finger while blocking a shot in Game 1, his first game in nearly three months. Kesler is now expected to be sidelined for 4-5 weeks.

With a pair of one-goal wins, Anaheim has taken control of its series with the Wild, but the change in venue could have a bigger effect on this series that in most.

The Wild is 0-for-10 with the extra man in this series, and it is 3-for-34 on the power play against the Ducks this season. Minnesota’s vaunted defense has been strong, allowing just two even strength goals in the first two games, but the Wild has been unable to get anything going offensively against the bigger, hard-checking Ducks. Minnesota has managed just three goals in two games, and it must now hope its home crowds can help it get back into the series.

The home sheet should help, too. The Wild was second in the league in home power play efficiency (23.8%) while it was 27th (13.2%) with the extra man on the road.

Then again, the Ducks were the league’s second best team in terms of road penalty killing (86.7%). And Anaheim is on quite a penalty killing roll at the moment, too. Dating back to the regular season, the Ducks have killed off 32 straight shorthanded situations without incident.

Like Dallas, Nashville rebounded from a multiple-overtime loss in Game 1. The Preds put a 5-2 hurting on San Jose in Game 2, and this series has quickly become nasty and therefore, interesting. Predators rookie Alexander Radulov was ejected from Friday’s Game 2 after he plastered the Sharks’ Steve Bernier into the boards from behind.

A great deal of nastiness ensued in the final seconds of that contest, and Sharks coach Ron Wilson fanned the flame a bit with his terse “I have no comment” postgame “press conference.” Those two teams will get together for Game 3 on Monday in San Jose, and the two days of cooling off time might not be enough to diffuse the volatile emotions both clubs are feeling now.

The Preds won Game 2 despite San Jose’s utter dominance (41-of-59, 69%) in the faceoff circle.

In the East, the New York Islanders got a huge lift from the return of goaltender Rick DiPietro. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller had an ordinary night in the cage, and was vulnerable through the five-hole. The Isles took an improbable first period lead, but watched as Buffalo rebounded to even the score at 2-2 early in the third. Rather than fold up and disappear, the Isles remained focused and they got the game-winner on Marc-Andre Bergeron’s power play point blast.

DiPietro did the rest, making a huge save on Buffalo blueliner Brian Campbell in a one-on-one situation late in the third. Whether the Isles can hang around and make life difficult for the Sabres remains to be seen, but the series most figured would end in a sweep will not. Game 3 is Monday on Long Island.

Pittsburgh also showed some Game 2 reslience. Ottawa’s strong defense made life difficult for the high-powered Pens for the first 40 minutes of Game 2. The Sens held a 25-10 lead in shots on goal after 40 minutes, and the only Pittsburgh goal came on a first period power play. Up 2-1 after two, Ottawa was 20 minutes away from a 2-0 series lead.

It wasn’t to be. Gary Roberts evened things up on an early third period power play. Even after the Sens retook the lead on Chris Kelly’s goal, Pittsburgh battled back. The Ottawa defense that was so strong for the first 40 minutes made two key errors and the Pens exploited both.

Roberts made a great play on a forecheck behind the Ottawa net to take control of the puck, and Maxime Ouellet made a great play to find Jordan Staal unattended in front. Staal calmly fired home his second goal in as many games.

Just over two minutes later, Sidney Crosby also fired home his second goal in as many games. Allowed to cruise to the corner of the Sens crease all alone, Crosby one-timed a shot off the shaft of his stick after a strong feed from veteran Mark Recchi. Ottawa’s oddly timed defensive vacation enabled the Penguins to come back and put a whole new paint job on this series.

Pittsburgh turned the tables in the face-off circle, taking 59% in the game with Crosby (11 of 14, 78%) and Ouellet (19 of 29, 65%) leading the way.

The Sens allowed 128 goals in first 41 regular season games and just 94 in the final 41. The tight defense that characterized the Sens’ second half of the season was absent in the third period of Saturday’s game. Pittsburgh adjusted its lines, and now the Sens must adjust to that adjustment. The chess match is on.

On Sunday the two teams will play the second of back-to-back games as the series shifts to Pittsburgh. The young Pens may now have a slight advantage in this one.

The Atlanta Thrashers were unable to give their fans a victory on home ice in the first two games of their first-ever playoff series. Now they’ll have to win at least one of the next two on the road just to have a chance to win another at home. The New York Rangers eked out a 2-1 win in Game 2 over the Thrashers, scoring one fluky goal and one pretty goal.

Rangers agitator Sean Avery continues to agitate, and it’s priceless watching him frustrate Bob Hartley’s boys. Atlanta has a short collective fuse, and they lost their cool at the end of Saturday’s Game 2. Predictably, Thrasher defenseman Andy Sutton planted New York’s Matt Cullen on his ass at the buzzer in regulation. He loves to make the useless hit, and loves to find a victim like Cullen who is five inches shorter and 45 pounds light than he. This one was beyond useless with the face-off coming in the neutral zone and four seconds left. Sutton got a charging call at the 20-minute mark for his efforts. Way to pad the PIM total.

Atlanta will now have two days off to think about its predicament. The Thrashers and Rangers will play Games 3 and 4 on back-to-back nights at Madison Square Garden in New York. Game 3 is on Tuesday and it’s a must win for Atlanta if the Thrashers hope to send the series back south again.

Those of us who have witnessed Lightning coach John Tortorella’s postgame pyrotechnics and his propensity to blame his netminders for the Lightning’s misfortunes were surprised to see this quote from the Bolts’ coach in the wake of Tampa Bay’s Game 1 loss at New Jersey:

“Holm played OK. He’s going to play better,” said Tortorella, referring to goaltender Johan Holmqvist. “This was his first game. He’s going to be better the next game.”

Torts was right. Holmqvist was better, and his improvement had a lot to with Tampa Bay evening the series at 1-1 in Saturday’s Game 2. The Lightning’s top offensive players have been excellent; Martin St. Louis netted the tying goal late in the second and Vincent Lecavalier scored what would prove to be the game-winner early in the third. The Lightning was able to send the series back to Florida all tied up.

This one is starting to get interesting, too.

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9 Comments on “Five Series Even After Game 2”

  1. odessa steps Says:

    Is Detroit this good or is Calgary just halfway to their tee times?

    If they are going to put Sean Avery on NBC, could he at least bring Elisha Cuthbert with him or did they split when he left LA LA Land?

  2. dumpnchase Says:

    I think it might be both. I probably underrated the Wings a bit in picking the Flames to win. My reasoning was this. The Flames play in one of the toughest and most competitive divisions in the league. Detroit annually fattens up on the heavy divisional schedule. The Wings went 16-3-5 in their 24 games against Chicago, Columbus and St. Louis this season. Detroit averaged 3.5 goals per game in the 24 games against the aforementioned three Central Division foes, and just 2.9 per game against the rest of the league in the other 58 games. I thought that was significant, and I still do. But Calgary has taken a couple games off, except for Kipper.

    And yeah, Avery coulda brought his squeeze with him.

  3. odessa steps Says:

    As a longtime Wings fan (shhh), every year is either feast or famine — long cup run or embarassing first-round upset. I’ve learned not to believe in them until they’ve at least won a round. :>

    Best news today is that VS is showing the CBC feed of the Van/Dallas game. CBC is also streaming both Coaches Corner and Behind the Mask on their website and same-day to boot. they already have the segments from today up there.

  4. GoBucks9 Says:

    There was a point during the regular season that I thought the league outlawed a good facewash! Good to see some of the nastyness come back into the game – that said I wish there wasn’t a stretcher brought out every few games.

  5. beakyred Says:

    😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈

  6. Mike L Says:

    What’s also interesting is that the folks at USA Hockey must be pinching themselves with a Buffalo/Islander match-up in round 1. They know that either DiPietro or Miller will be available for the Worlds in Moscow later this month and they’ll be in game shape…

    Ditto for Team Canada, who know they’ll be able to have Turco or Luongo on their roster. (Of course, that’s a moot point if Tampa upsets New Jersey as Brodeur would be their first choice…)

  7. dumpnchase Says:

    I wouldn’t count on DiPietro being at the Worlds. Because of the length and amount of his NHL contract, the amount needed to pay his insurance for the Worlds is very prohibitive, and likely more than USA Hockey will be willing to pony up.

  8. Mike L Says:

    He may not go, but I’m sure if the Isles lose, he’ll be invited…

    I’d agree with you, except that when I look at DiPietro’s mask and see all of the USA symbols on it, I have a feeling he’d accept and find a way to make it work. They announced 18 of the 24 players for Team USA today, and only 2 goaltenders, so I think they’re holding one slot for the loser of the Buf-NYI series…

  9. dumpnchase Says:

    The roster I’ve got has three goalies: Robert Esche, John Grahame and Boston College’s Cory Schneider. I think USA Hockey has moved on.

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