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.
RED WINGS/PREDATORS, GAME 3: PREDATORS 3, RED WINGS 2 (PREDATORS LEAD SERIES 2-1)
THN’s Take: It’s safe to call the Detroit/Nashville Western Conference quarter-final “the bizarro series.” In all three games, the better team has lost. The Wings were far superior in Game 3 at home, outshooting the Preds 43-22 and utterly dominating puck possession. A seemingly undisciplined spear by Johan Franzen on David Legwand (who was sitting on the Nashville bench) midway through the game actually ignited the Wings, who showed a ton of pushback the rest of the way after falling behind early. But alas, Detroit’s best effort wasn’t good enough, particularly because Preds goalie Pekka Rinne stood on his head for the second half of the game.
If the glass is half empty for the Wings, they’re in big trouble. Even a dominant effort at home, where Detroit was unstoppable this season, wasn’t enough to win. If the glass is half full, Detroit has been the better team twice in three games. Nashville can’t cross its fingers and expect Rinne to steal every win going forward. It once again relied on scoring from its blueline – how about that Kevin Klein breakaway goal? – but its lack of a go-to scorer up front could come back to bite it when the going gets tough later in this series.
1. Pekka Rinne – The towering Finnish netminder easily could’ve been a goat after he was caught napping when Pavel Datsyuk stripped Roman Josi behind Nashville’s net for Detroit’s first goal, but he redeemed himself in the second half of the game by being the one and only reason the Preds held on to win. He made a number of difficult saves at key moments.
2. Pavel Datsyuk – The nifty goal, in which he deftly picked Josi’s pocket, was vintage Datsyuk. The superstar center had the puck on a string all day long and generated lots of chances.
3. Henrik Zetterberg – No Shea Weber? Sorry, but the Preds allowed 43 shots on net – and nine of them came from Hank Zetterberg. He was strong as an ox on the puck today. It seemed no one could knock him off it.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: If Rinne’s game slips at all, the Preds’ need for an elite scorer up front will become much more noticeable. Alexander Radulov, the Kontinental League star, was supposed to be that, but hasn’t been so far in the series. His two assists are empty. He hasn’t threatened enough to score goals and Game 3 (one shot) was no exception.
FLYERS/PENGUINS, GAME 3: FLYERS 8, PENGUINS 4 (FLYERS LEAD SERIES 3-0)
THN’s Take: The Pens and Flyers have treated us to a true throwback series, but is it the 1970s or 1980s we’re experiencing? The series got ugly – really ugly – in Game 3, with cheap shots and misconducts galore, harkening back to the ’70s, but the wild offense and brutal goaltending at both ends was very ’80s.
The big surprise here – despite the Flyers’ tough reputation, it was the Penguins who lost their cool time and again in Game 3. Kris Letang was ejected and while we should expect to see the blueliner for Game 4, Arron Asham and James Neal may both wind up meeting with Brendan Shanahan after dishing out dirty hits on Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, respectively.
The Pens – not to mention the countless poolies and prognosticators who picked them to win the Stanley Cup – are in pure panic mode and it showed Sunday in their horrifically undisciplined play. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury’s goaltending was awful; they let the Flyers – and the fans – get into their heads; and their superstars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, were non-factors. The question now is: do the Pens have anything left in the tank? Or is this a completely broken team? Pittsburgh has its back to the wall down 3-0 entering Game 4, but if any team could find a way to rally from such a big series deficit, it’s the team with (supposedly) the two best players in the world.
1. Danny Briere – He did his damage early in the game, but was a crucial contributor nonetheless. Briere has become the Claude Lemieux of his generation – not because he’s a dirty player, but because he takes his game to new heights in the playoffs. Give the little guy 101 points in 100 career post-season contests.
2. James Neal – Even though he took it too far with his indefensible blindside hit on Couturier, Neal was the only Penguin to show any fight in his game, tallying two goals, three points, a plus-2 rating and 10 shots. Someone else may have to step up in Game 4 if Neal is suspended.
3. Claude Giroux – He did it all and notched a Gordie Howe hat trick in Game 3. Not only did he make a splash on the scoresheet, he did a great job getting under Crosby’s skin.
The Black Hole: Penguins were lined up out the door in the race for “Black Hole” status, but Fleury was the day’s biggest goat. At the other end, Ilya Bryzgalov did everything in his power to keep Pittsburgh in the game, allowing multiple softies, but Fleury was just as bad. He was hung out to dry by his frantic ‘D’ plenty, but couldn’t come up with a game-changing stop. Goaltending was supposed to be Pittsburgh’s major edge in this series and it simply hasn’t been.
– Matt Larkin
PANTHERS/DEVILS, GAME 2: PANTHERS 4, DEVILS 2 (SERIES TIED 1-1)
THN’s Take: The last time the Florida Panthers won a playoff game, Stephen Weiss had all his teeth and was two weeks removed from blowing out the candles on his 14th birthday. The last time Weiss scored a point in the playoffs, he was playing for the American League’s Chicago Wolves during the NHL lockout.
The fact that both those ignominious streaks are now history, 12 days after Weiss turned 29, can be attributed to the fact that Weiss and his Panther teammates gained an enormous amount of playoff maturity in the past 48 hours. In Game 1 against the New Jersey Devils Friday night, the Panthers reacted like an alligator in the headlights to open the playoffs and found themselves down 3-0 by the 15-minute mark of the first period.
But in Game 2 Sunday night, it was a much more composed, much less just-happy-to-be-there group that showed up, led by Weiss and his two power play goals. The only hiccup came early in the third period when they allowed the Devils back in the game, but pulled it together for a 4-2 victory that leaves them in excellent shape heading to Newark for Games 3 and 4.
Still, this is a series that is searching for an identity. The first period of Game 2 had all the makings of a typical Devils-Panthers snoozefest, with the shots 4-3 in favor of the Panthers in the first period and neither team registering a shot for the final 12 minutes and 28 seconds. But both teams began to use their speed, particularly through a neutral zone that can become mired in mud when you’re dealing with these two teams.
And Game 2 was marked by a couple of oddities. The first was that apparently there was a total of 102 hits in the game – 52 by the Devils and 50 by the Panthers. That’s largely because whoever keeps track of hits in Florida evidently records one every time two players cross paths on the ice. There was a time when Robert Svehla of the Panthers would lead the league in hits every year and routinely record 10 or more a game at home.
The other oddity was Devils coach Peter DeBoer juggling his lines, moving rookie Adam Henrique back to the top line with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk and moving Travis Zajac down to the third line with Alex Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson. The move produced two goals in 74 seconds, one by Zajac and the other by Kovalchuk, the latter being the first of the series for the Devils top line. But when the Devils were pressing for a goal later in the third, Zajac had been reunited with Parise and Kovalchuk. Speaking of Kovalchuk, he has played 15:07 of the 15:49 the Devils have been on the power play in this series and hasn’t recorded a power play point yet.
1. Stephen Weiss – The Panthers offensive leader scored the first two playoff goals of his career from almost the identical spot on the ice on the power play.
2. Brian Campbell – Campbell and partner Jason Garrison went head-to-head with Kovalchuk and Parise and were highly effective, with Campbell also contributing an assist.
3. Jose Theodore – He stopped 23 shots and while not many of them were dangerous, he was solid and dependable when called upon.
The Black Hole: Parise isn’t playing badly, in fact quite the opposite, but he’s got to start burying some of his shots. He has led all players on both teams with six shots in each of Game 1 and 2 and has been held off the scoresheet.
– Ken Campbell
KINGS/CANUCKS, GAME 3: KINGS 1, CANUCKS 0 (KINGS LEAD SERIES 3-0)
THN’s Take: Well, the decision to start Cory Schneider achieved about as much in terms of gaining momentum in this series as could have been expected: and that’s none at all.
Don’t get us wrong, Schneider played a brilliant game. Sure, he wasn’t tested too much, but he did make a number of nice saves. And the loss in no way can be blamed on him. But that’s the point: the same thing was being said about Roberto Luongo after Games 1 and 2.
Last year it made sense to turn to Schneider against the Blackhawks in Game 6. Luongo had been pulled twice in the two games prior and the Canucks still had a Game 7 to fall back on if the test didn’t work out. That move was about confidence: the Hawks were clearly in Luongo’s head and a shakeup was necessary.
But this time? You couldn’t have asked for much more from Luongo in the first two games of this series – it was defensive lapses and an inability to score that sunk Vancouver, not the goaltending. While Schneider played well, the same problems plagued the Canucks in Game 3.
Where do the Canucks go from here? Who starts Game 4? Whoever it is, he’ll be the guy the team will live or die by the rest of the way. For that reason alone it should be Luongo who starts Game 4 and should have been Luongo who started Game 3.
But it won’t matter who starts if Vancouver doesn’t figure out how to score again.
The decision to start Schneider in Game 3 didn’t have an impact on the series, but it was the only card coach Alain Vigneault had to shake up a team in a hole. With it played, the Canucks have nowhere else to turn and are facing the harsh, devastating reality of a quick first round exit.
1. Jonathan Quick – It took the Kings more than 12 minutes to record their first shot of the game and Vancouver controlled the offense most of the way. Quick must be giving Canucks shooters visions of Tim Thomas.
2. Dustin Brown – Recorded a team-high six shots and four hits and was again the clutch scorer. Continues to prove himself an irreplaceable part of this Kings team.
3. Cory Schneider – Props to Schneider, who came into a must-win game and went through long stretches of inactivity, but made the big saves when needed.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: In a game like this your stars need to come through and Henrik Sedin’s one measly shot on goal just didn’t cut it. We have to assume the Dustin Brown hit didn’t impact him that much, since he returned to the game, but if Henrik is in any trouble, the Canucks are, too. Honorable mention in this category goes to Alex Edler, who needs to be better and took a costly delay of game penalty with less than two minutes left in regulation.
– Rory Boylen