The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN’s take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there’s the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn’t get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
FLYERS/PENGUINS, GAME 6: FLYERS 5, PENGUINS 1 (FLYERS WIN SERIES 4-2)
THN’s Take: The defensive zone sloppiness that plagued Pittsburgh throughout its first-round series against the underdog Flyers ultimately proved to be its downfall, as Philadelphia took advantage of a rabid home crowd and the erratic (to be kind) play of Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and eliminated Sidney Crosby & Co. in six games with a 5-1 win.
For the first game of their post-season showdown, the team that scored first eventually emerged with a victory. And that goal came just 32 seconds into Game 6, when Flyers star center Claude Giroux followed up a big hit on Crosby by ripping a laser-like snap shot on Fleury’s short side. But even if you found a way not to blame Fleury on the first or second Philly goal, there was no way he could avoid blame for Erik Gustafsson’s soft and backbreaking goal that put the visitors up 3-0. And even when Evgeni Malkin got the Pens on the scoreboard midway through the second period, Fleury allowed a goal to Daniel Briere 34 seconds later to deflate Pittsburgh’s competitive tires once again. In the end, he stopped just 18 of 22 shots in the final game.
Still, the series loss doesn’t fall solely on Fleury’s shoulders. The Penguins impression of an NHL-caliber defensive game fell embarrassingly short in most of the series and Pittsburgh’s dynamic duo of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while decent enough in point production (they combined for six goals and 16 points), failed to match the intensity of the star Flyers forwards and didn’t get close to the same secondary scoring support Philly did. In that regard, Pittsburgh sorely missed foot soldier types Mike Rupp and Max Talbot.
But with all that said, you have to give credit to Giroux, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and, yes, beleaguered goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. The Penguins’ sloppiness was nearly matched by Philadelphia – from this day forward, NHL coaches will watch video of this series as if it were The Blair Witch Project – but the Flyers were opportunistic, resilient and come out of the series relatively healthy. If they can tighten their defensive game up while continuing to get consistently dangerous performances from Giroux and a supporting cast dotted with productive veterans (including Briere and Jaromir Jagr, who combined for six goals and 15 points), they’re going to be very tough to beat.
1. Claude Giroux – After setting a physical and offensively-aggressive tone from the first puck drop, Giroux went on to play more minutes than any other Flyers forward (24:48) and more penalty kill time (5:53) than any player on either team other than Philly defenseman Braydon Coburn (6:49). The 24-year-old finished the game with a goal and three points and finished the series with six goals and 14 points, setting a new team record for points in a series in the process. Giroux made this team his own in the regular season, but now, with every playoff game, he’s building his legend.
2. Braydon Coburn – The Flyers haven’t missed Chris Pronger because of the yeoman’s work done by Coburn, who led all players with 30 shifts and 29:27 of ice time. He also chipped in an assist and a plus-2 on the day, which is just the kind of line Pronger produced in big games. They’ll need him to be just as good in Round 2.
3. Erik Gustafsson – Philly was without defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, but the 23-year-old Gustafsson stepped up big time, playing 22:09 (his previous time-on-ice high in the series was 17:15 in Game 4), leading all players in blocks (seven) and finishing the afternoon tied with Matt Carle as a game-best plus-3. Can’t ask for much more than that from a rookie who played just 30 regular-season NHL games before being thrown into this wild series.
The Black Hole: Marc-Andre Fleury. Again, it isn’t true to say Fleury was the reason Pittsburgh lost Game 6 or the series. Indeed, one look at Game 6’s blocked shot totals – which saw the Flyers post 40 blocks while the Pens blocked only 14 – tells you which team wanted it more. But Fleury seemed absolutely helpless most nights and his horrific statistics (including a 4.63 goals-against average and .834 save percentage in the series) were accurate representations of his inability to steal a game.
Regardless of how poorly the team played in front of him, the 27-year-old did serious damage to a reputation he improved with a Stanley Cup win in 2009. Perhaps it was because he equaled a career high by playing a whopping 67 regular season games, but from this point on, Fleury will be watched like a hawk by fans, media and management. Expect GM Ray Shero to use the little salary cap room he has available this summer on a veteran backup the team believes in more than Brent Johnson.
– Adam Proteau
BRUINS/CAPITALS, GAME 6: BRUINS 4, CAPITALS 3 (OT) (SERIES TIED 3-3)
THN’s Take: The big boys finally came out to play for the Bruins. After putting up a pathetic three points (all assists) between them in the first five games, Boston’s big four up front – Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin – broke through in Game 6 with two goals and seven points. Seguin, the super sophomore of the regular season, had been stuffed all series by the Capitals. His stat line read nothing but goose eggs coming into the game, despite firing a series-high 20 shots. But he busted out of his post-season funk in a big way with a pair of points, including the overtime winner.
The storyline of the series switched up for Game 6. Washington had taken a 3-2 series lead on Boston using terrific goaltending and timely goals, but it was the Bruins who got the better of both Sunday afternoon. Tim Thomas was stellar in net, stopping 36 of 39 shots and outplaying his younger counterpart Braden Holtby, who still put in another solid game. (The B’s are 2-0 when outshot by the Caps, but are just 1-3 when outshooting them.)
Every game has been decided by one goal, so expect the same in Game 7. Scoring first has been huge, with the team getting the initial goal winning five of the six games.
1. Tyler Seguin – The second-year jinx seemed to finally catch up to him in the playoffs, but he shook it off at least for one game to lead Boston to its fourth Game 7 in its past five playoff series.
2. Tim Thomas – The wily vet looked every bit like his sensational if unorthodox self from last spring.
3. Roman Hamrlik – The veteran defenseman steadied the Capitals in their own zone and provided an offensive bonus with a pair of assists.
The Black Hole: Alexander Semin. He’d been having a solid series with three goals before being blanked in Game 6 and posting a minus-2. His hooking penalty in the first led to the Bruins second goal.
– Ronnie Shuker
KINGS/CANUCKS, GAME 5: KINGS 2, CANUCKS 1 (OT) (KINGS WIN SERIES 4-1)
THN’s Take: The problem with falling down 3-0 in a series: there’s absolutely no margin for error. Even if you play a strong game, as the Canucks did in Game 5, a single missed assignment, a hit post or a blown tire can ruin your season. The Canucks gave a valiant effort at home, setting a physical tone early and generating some high-quality chances against Jonathan Quick, but a few make-or-break moments went the “break” route.
Moment No. 1: With the Canucks leading 1-0 in the second and pushing hard for insurance, Quick made a massive breakaway save on Daniel Sedin, who was in the midst of a strong game and seeking his second goal of the night.
Moment No. 2: Early in the third period, Drew Doughty circled Vancouver’s net, looking for a man in front. Of the four Canucks standing around the crease, none of them picked up Brad Richardson, who chopped the tying goal past Cory Schneider.
Moment No. 3: Dan Hamhuis fell/was tripped – your fanhood will determine your interpretation – while skating the puck out of Vancouver’s zone early in overtime. Jarret Stoll scooped up the loose biscuit and roofed a short-side laser to clinch the series.
All three of those moments could’ve gone Vancouver’s way – but didn’t. And because the Canucks dug themselves a 3-0 series hole, they simply had to play mistake-free hockey four games in a row, something only three teams have ever done after losing three straight to open a series. Being less than perfect wasn’t good enough for Vancouver to extend its season.
While the Kings, armed with two legit scoring lines and the world’s hottest goalie, look like a team no one wants to face in round two, the Canucks enter an off-season full of questions. Will Alain Vigneault remain their coach? And will Schneider be the team’s unquestioned starter in goal next October?
1. Jarret Stoll – Stoll doesn’t just get first-star status for the OT winner. He was a monster in all facets of the game, winning 63 percent of his faceoffs and dishing out a game-high seven hits.
2. Jonathan Quick – Quick’s numbers speak for themselves – but don’t even fully do him justice. It’s not just that he posts eye-popping save percentages, as he did in Game 5. He also makes saves in crucial moments. A 2-1 victory highlighted by a game-changing stop was the kind of performance he’s given all year and a big reason why he belongs in the Hart Trophy discussion.
3. Cory Schneider – It hurts to be beaten short-side like Schneider was, but Stoll’s shot was a dandy. Schneider was poised and steady for virtually the whole game and made a pair of difficult pad saves early in overtime. He probably overplayed just one puck all night, when he chased Doughty before Richardson converted the centering pass on the tying goal.
The Black Hole: Alex Edler went from toast of the town, All-Star Game selection and Norris Trophy hopeful to shrinking violet in a span of a few months. He had all the confidence of a 14-year-old boy on his first day of high school in Game 5 and backed away from Richardson instead of getting in his way on the Kings’ first goal. Edler is too good and too young not to bounce back from this series, but it’ll be a long summer for the stoic Swede.
– Matt Larkin