Posts Tagged ‘Boston’
The NHL postseason is here.
How will the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs shake out? Is this the year the Toronto Maple Leafs end their championship drought? Can the Pittsburgh Penguins repeat? Will the Chicago Blackhawks keep their decade-long dynasty going? Keep reading to find out.
Last week, two teams that probably shouldn’t have ended up in the NCAA Tournament were on the cusp of making the Frozen Four. I picked both of them to get bounced in their opening game, so I was intrigued to see if they would prove me wrong and make it to Tampa.
In the end, Ferris State and Minnesota-Duluth got eliminated in the regional final and I ended up picking three of the Frozen Four participants correctly. (One of these years I’m going to get all four.) Ferris was the team I was particularly focused on because I didn’t think they had a chance in hell of winning the WCHA Final Five. Thanks to the goaltending of Darren Smith, the Bulldogs managed to take out top-seeded Michigan Tech and last year’s winner, Minnesota State, on consecutive nights to earn the automatic bid. Ferris was placed in the West Regional against No. 1 seed St. Cloud State, where it caught the Huskies sleeping and outlasted them in overtime.
After watching that happen on TV, I was perplexed. I had seen the Bulldogs play twice in person and they didn’t look sharp at all. Where was all this coming from? Confusing as it was, I was convinced Ferris would get exposed, and it came at the hands of Denver. Ferris kept it close, but the Pioneers plowed through the Bulldogs and fired six goals past Smith to move on to Tampa.
The other Bulldogs squad’s fate had been determined the day before. Duluth visited Michigan’s Upper Peninsula back in January and frankly, the Dogs didn’t look anything like I expected. They were supposed to win the NCHC this season and be a lock for the Frozen Four, but ended up coming significantly short of that. Still, Duluth ended up getting an at-large spot in the NCAAs and upset defending champion Providence in double overtime out in Worcester (Mass.). However, Duluth fell behind Boston College 3-0 in the regional final and its rally in the third period came up short. So now the Eagles will be moving on to Florida where they won the national title in 2012.
The other two regionals played out as expected. Quinnipiac rolled past RIT and shut down UMass Lowell to win the East and make their first FF since 2013. Down in Cincinnati, North Dakota crushed Northeastern (a team that somehow became a popular pick by national columnists), and contained Michigan’s top-ranked offense to make its third straight trip to the Frozen Four. So in the end, two NCHC rivals, a traditional Hockey East powerhouse, and a rising ECAC contender will get a second Spring Break and be heading to Florida.
Just like last season, this weekend portends some compelling storylines.
The first thing Peter Chiarelli, the Boston Bruins’ general manager, told Dennis Seidenberg when the defenseman signed his four-year contract extension in October was not “watch your right ACL, bud.”
The first thing Chiarelli said to Seidenberg was “we’re not going to announce it until tomorrow, OK?” We know because it’s right here at the eight-minute mark:
The Bruins-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Final matchup has storylines galore. It’s an Original Six matchup, the first games between an Eastern and Western Conference team all year, and pits the season-long favorite from the West against the gritty underdogs from the East.
Here’s a look at how the two teams got here, how they stack up, and what to watch for.
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The NHL season has reached its most exciting point, down to the final two teams. This year’s Stanley Cup Finals can already be called a success on many levels. It involves two Original Six teams (last time this occurred: 1979), lots of superstars and two rabid fanbases, which should provide a big ratings boost for NBC.
Chicago and Boston have traveled similar paths on their way to the Finals. Both have had a blowout series win, a series that went seven games, and one series that required a dramatic comeback. The Blackhawks and Bruins are also two of the three most recent Cup winners and have struggled in the playoffs after winning the title before breaking through again this year.
The matchup most expected for the Eastern Conference finals came to fruition as the time zone’s deepest squads, Pittsburgh and Boston, clash with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals on the line.
Much like the East, the Western Conference finals between Chicago and Los Angeles should be awesome to watch.
Here’s how they stack up, and who we think will reach the Finals:
In the first round, we predicted six of the eight series correctly. The two we were most unsure about were the two incorrect picks – no surprise at all that New York or Los Angeles won.
Now that the second round is here, the picture becomes a little more clear. Only one of the four series will go the full seven games. Which will it be, and who will move on?
The playoffs have been interesting so far. Some teams have surprised me. Others haven’t at all.
The biggest surprise was the play of the New York Islanders. I thought Pittsburgh would wipe the floor with the Isles and that they should feel lucky if they pick up one game in the series. New York ended up staying with the Penguins in almost every game, and lost two heartbreakers at home in overtime. I never thought I’d say this, but the Islanders look as if they are finally turning things around. (Just in time for their move to Brooklyn!)
Another surprise was the performance of the Minnesota Wild. I’m not surprised that they lost to Chicago, but because they got bounced in only five games. Losing their top goaltender didn’t help, but Minnesota’s offense was stagnant the whole series. The Wild also looked terrible in Game 4 as they got shut out at home and handed the Blackhawks all the momentum in the series. Nevertheless, Minnesota looks stable and if they can add another scorer and fix their inconsistency in the net, they should be a force next season.
Speaking of net consistency, here’s Vancouver. The Canucks’ first-round sweep didn’t surprise me at all. They looked flat-out awful against the Sharks. Roberto Luongo started the first two games in net and didn’t look that bad, but then he was pulled for Cory Schneider, who wasn’t an improvement. Vancouver needs to fix its goaltending problem next season, or else they can kiss their fading Stanley Cup hopes goodbye.
Anyway, we’ve said goodbye to eight teams and are now off to the Conference Semifinals. Here are my predictions for the second round.
What were you doing on this day 37 years ago?
If you were the Toronto Maple Leafs’ statistician, you were scrounging through the NHL record books to find out who had the record for the most points in a single game. (The answer prior to Feb. 7, 1976: Maurice Richard, with 8.)
Darryl Sittler scored 10 in the Leafs’ 11-4 win over the Boston Bruins that night, a record that is virtually unassailable. Consider that when Sam Gagner scored eight points in a single game for the Oilers last season, it was the most by any player since the 1980s.
Sittler had six goals and four assists in the game. To put that in perspective, Scott Gomez had 11 points – two goals and nine assists – all of last season. Link Gaetz had six goals in his entire NHL career.
Enjoy the ultimate goalie’s nightmare: