After Last Night's Game It's Hard to Imagine the Penguins Losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the Predators
If you're a Nashville native or just so happen to be a Predators fan, last night must've been brutal. The Predators did everything in their power in the first period to shoot themselves in the face and ruin their chances at winning game 1. Not only did they have an awful first period, they followed it up with a pretty dominant performance the rest of the way, and they still couldn't pull out the victory. Not only was it demoralizing, it was a wake up call, the Penguins didn't even play good, and they still won the game 5-3. If you're a Predators fan this has to worry you.
The P.K. Subban goal being overturned was complete horseshit. It was incredibly close, on calls like that I'll always say leave it as it was called on the ice, but they didn't, and as a result the Penguins gained momentum. Soon after on a 5 v 3 power play Evengi Malkin scored on a slap shot that just beat Pekka Rinne glove side. Penguins had a 1-0 lead and all the momentum in the world on their side. About a minute later Conor Sheary scored the biggest goal of his life and then another minute later the Penguins scored again when a shot deflected off a Predators defenseman into the net. Penguins led 3-0 after the first period.
I knew the Predators weren't going to give up. They came this far as an underdog they weren't going to shy away after the most unlucky period of hockey they've ever been apart of. They came out in the second period and dominanted the Penguins in all facets of the game. Seemed like the Predators were in the zone the entire period putting shots on net. Unfortunately, only one of them found the back of the net on a power play. Penguins lead 3-1 after the 2nd period, although it seemed like the Predators had finally settled down, and were going to take control of this series.
In the 3rd period, more of the same out of the Predators as they continued to get looks offensively. The Penguins had under 10 shots on net for the entire game halfway through the final period compared to the Predators who had close to 30. The Predators would score a short handed goal and a goal on the power play to tie the game up at 3 a piece with about 7 minutes left to go in the game. The momentum had completely shifted, the Predators looked as if they were the far superior team, and then the Penguins turned defense to offense, finishing off Nashville. Justin Schultz, crushed a Predators player into the boards, the puck scooted over to Matt Cullen, who then laid it off to Jake Guentzel, who sniped a goal where momma keeps the cookie jar. Penguins would then score on an empty net minutes later and went onto win 5-3.
Many of you might be thinking well it was a tight game, so the Predators definitely have a shot in this series. Well, the Penguins played pretty horrific last night, still they managed to get the job done. That's not a promising sign for the Predators whatsoever. I will say this, if it wasn't for that shit storm of bad breaks in the first period the Predators might have won and they did dominate the rest of the game besides for the last 5 minutes. Maybe there's more hope than I thought for the Preds. Although, I promise you the Penguins will never have less scoring opportunities than they did last night, so the Predators are definitely in some trouble regardless of well they play for stretches last night. History sure isn't on their side either, I believe somewhere around 75% of the time the game 1 winner wins the Stanley Cup. Looks like Pittsburgh is about to repeat. It was a nice story Nashville, but now it's time to go home Cinderella, you're drunk.
Penguins Have Taken over the Eastern Conference Finals and Now Look Destined to Repeat as Stanley Cup Champions
After game 3 in which the Penguins got slaughtered 5-1 by the Senators, Pittsburgh made a change at the goaltender position. The man that helped guide the Penguins to a Stanley Cup last year, returned to the net after Marc Andre-Fleury had a terrible showing in game 3. Matt Murray, had missed the entire postseason with a lower body injury up until the game 4 goalie change. Him returning to net sparked the Penguins, I don't know why or how, but even the rest of the team was just playing better with him on the ice. The proof is in the pudding, last year the Penguins were 15-6 with Matt Murray in goal during the postseason. Outstanding numbers to say the least and now he has only improved those numbers.
The Penguins won game 4 in Ottawa to tie the series back up. The Penguins dominated the game for the most part jumping out to an early 3-0 lead. The Senators refused to just give up as always, making a little comeback, and were threatening late in the third being down by only 1. The Penguins held onto win and were now heading back to Pittsburgh with the series tied at 2 games a piece after their 3-2 victory.
The Penguins in game 5 were ruthless savages that wanted to send a message to the remaining teams in the playoffs. This team finally played the caliber of hockey we all know they're capable of and if they continue to do so none of the remaining teams can take them down. Matt Murray, was a bonafide stud in goal today. The 22 year kid shut out the Senators in the biggest game of the season just a few days after taking over as the starter again. This game was all Penguins from the first period on. Matter of fact, this game was over well before the first period even ended. Olli Maatta scored the first goal of the game about 8 minutes in and that would spark the Penguins offensively. Sidney Crosby, then scored a goal on a power play about 5 minutes later to put the Penguins up 2-0. Boy has Crosby finally come alive in this series after a brutally slow start, something Penguins fans have to be thrilled to see. Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson would then both score goals in the last 5 minutes of the period to put the Penguins up 4-0 after just 20 minutes of hockey. The building was shaking, Penguins looked unstoppable, and the Senators looked dead.
Penguins would score again early into the second period on a goal from Matt Cullen to put them up 5-0. At that point everyone knew this game was over. Not much action happened until early in 3rd period when Phil Kessel scored his 7th goal of the postseason on a power play. Kessel then assisted on a goal later in the period on a power play in which Trevor Daley was the one to bury the puck in the back of the net. Penguins would go on to win 7-0 in a route over the Senators.
Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel all had huge games, I believe they combined for a total of 7 points, which you can't ask for much more out of your superstars at that point. They were wonderful and that's all fine and dandy because after all they are supposed to be wonderful. Guys like Nick Bonino, Carter Rowney, and Bryan Rust were the low key guys that really came through and played amazing for the Penguins in this game. When you can get that kind of production from your second, and even third tier players, that's when a team is extremely scary and that's why the Penguins looked unstoppable today. Having a dominate Matt Murray back in goal is also a huge boost for this team. At this point I can't see the scenario where the Penguins don't repeat as Stanley Cup champions, they're just by far the best team left in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Only team beating the Penguins from here on out is themselves.
Originally, I thought this series was going to be about as fun to watch as paint drying. When is playoff hockey ever boring, never, exactly why I still had to give this series a chance. Boy I'm glad I did too because last night was an absolute thrill ride and I wasn't even emotionally invested in the game. Both teams were getting their chances, but both teams goaltenders were having great games. The result on the scoreboard might've led you to believe this was a boring game, however it was quite the contrary.
Senators goalie Craig Andersen had the game of his life last night, the fact he had to take the loss after an all time performance is a travesty. The Senators defense did the best they could getting in front of shots and blocking them down or deflecting them, but the Penguins offense is elite, shutting them out isn't really an option. They did for almost 3 periods, until Phil Kessel blasted a shot that was toned, but he got rebound, and wasn't going to miss the second time. That was the one lone goal in the game.The Penguins offense was running these sick elaborate plays, you can just tell they are the better, more well put together team. The Senators are just a bunch of gamers and grinders, it's worked for them thus far, so why change it.
Ultimately, the Penguins are the more talented team, however the Senators have 0 quit in them and Karlsson has proven to a problem for everyone this postseason. If Malkin, Kessel, Crosby, and Fleury keep playing like they have then the Penguins should win the Stanley Cup for the second straight year. Although, Senators haven't really trailed much in this series at all, with the next couple games in Ottawa who knows how the rest of this series will play out, so we'll have to see if the home crowd has a big impact on the way the game plays out. Malkin looked like he wanted to fight every player on the Senators by the end of the game, expect this series to get a little more chippy, and these teams to resent each other by the end of game 3. Hopefully we get 5 more of these blood bath games before a winner is determined. I know at least one side winning in this series and that is the fans.
Initially, this Western Conference matchup looked about as boring as most western movies these days, but that's why you never judge a book by it's cover. These two teams do not like each other, James Neal made that known before the game started when he kept skating dangerously close to Ryan Kesler. Early on, it looked like the Predators were going to extend there winning streak to 4 games in the playoffs. They were outplaying the Ducks on every level and the scoreboard was reflecting that early. Ryan Johansen, who had a huge game for the Preds, got out ahead of the defense on a break away, and just beat Gibson glove side for the goal. Predators led 1-0. Minutes later, it's Johansen assisting this time, he passes the puck down to James Neal by goal line extended, and the goalie was being shielded so well by another Predators player that Neal just had a wide open look that he finished with ease. Predators led 2-0 now, and the Ducks playoff collapse was finally upon us.
This isn't the same Ducks team, though, they don't quit like those past Ducks teams did. The Ducks, who have struggled so much on the power play so far this series, finally broke through with a minute to go in the first period when Sami Vatanen blasted slap shot past Rinne that banged off the post into the net for a goal. 2-1 now, as the Ducks close the gap with a huge goal to close out the first period.
They'd carry that momentum into the second period. Not even a minute into the period the Ducks are on the offensive, Rickard Rakell delivers a beautiful pass across the ice to Jakob Silfverberg, who is waiting on the opposite of the net where the goalie isn't, and he puts in the net without an issue. Ducks tie it up at 2 piece as they finally regained the momentum in this series. Silfverberg would then make an awful pass leading to a turnover, Predators then got out on a break away, Viktor Arvidsson faked the shit out of the Ducks goaltender, went for the wrap around goal, which if he connected on would've been an all timer, unfortunately he was stuffed by the post, but Forsberg buried the rebound. Predators regained the lead and all the sudden the Ducks were being the Ducks, again.
The Ducks from there on out basically dominated the game. They'd score two goals in the second period to give themselves a lead. One of them came off a shot that goalie Rinne just couldn't control and it snuck in behind him for a goal. The next one was just an absolute missile by Nick Ritchie to give them the lead. After that the defense just played out of there god damn minds and fought off the Predators attempts at tying this game back up. Predators pulled their goalie in attempt to tie it up one last time, Ducks won the face off then scored on the empty net moments later to seal the game 2 victory. Ducks tie up the series at 1 game a piece and as of right now it looks like either one of these teams may very well advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Tough loss for the Rangers in game 6 last night. Going into the game I was certain they were going to at least extend this series to 7 games. The Rangers when they played to the best of their ability this series they were clearly the better team, only problem was they failed to be consistent throughout. Rangers made costly errors and didn't capitalize on a lot of oppurtunities all series long. Last night, all of that came to the forefront as the Rangers lost in brutal fashion to an Ottawa Senators team that has no business being in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Not even 5 minutes into the game and the Rangers were on the offensive, all the sudden Erik Karlsson blocks a shot takes it down ice the other way, does some sort of shot pass to his teammate that redirects it for a goal. Senators would score again later in the first period on a goal from Mark Stone. After the first period it was 2-0 Senators, Rangers looked pretty terrible, but there was still a ton of hockey to be played.
Second period now, the Rangers still looked a little flat, Senators were getting a lot of chances, fortunately for the Rangers they weren't finishing them. Then, Mikka Zibanejad, who has been a stud this postseason, scored a goal for the Rangers finally getting them on the board. The crowd was alive, it looked like the Rangers were right back in this game, and then Erik Karlsson struck again. Two minutes after Zibanejad scored, Rangers were on the offensive again. All the sudden Karlsson makes a stop, starts skating down the ice, passes it off to his teammate, circles back, his teammate passes it back to him, and he beats hank short side high. Senators answer right back, padding their lead by 2 goals again.
Kreider responded within the first minute of the third period when he scored on a breakaway with his lightning speed. Rangers trailed 3-2 with about 18 minutes left in the game, plenty of time not to just tie, but to win in regulation. The Rangers dominated the last period, seemed like every 90 seconds they'd get a good look on net. The problem was they kept missing oppurtunities. They weren't putting back the rebounds, so many missed chances for them it was hard to watch. The final chance was with about 90 seconds left, they had pulled Hank, and they were crashing the net when Zibanejad caught the puck right next to the net, he tried placing it down and shooting, ultimately just to be denied. Senators would then score soon after on the empty net. Rangers lose 4-2 and are eliminated from playoff contention as the Senators continue to march on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tough loss for Rangers fans, really thought this was the year the Rangers were finally going to come through and get the job done. Once again they come up short however, now they're only getting older, so it seems like the window has closed. They missed a huge opportunity in these playoffs, I mean really, look how perfectly everything was set up for their success, and then they choked it all away. They were clearly the better team in this series which is the sickening part for fans I'm sure. They just so happened to let the best player on the ice beat them and that was Erik Karlsson. Rangers once again fall short of the ultimate goal, is it time to start breaking it down and building something new, or is time to just reload, and try again?
The Capitals are alive and well after game 6. Most of us thought they were dead after game 4, I mean they couldn't even beat the Penguins without Sidney Crosby, how could we expect them to do it with him playing. In game five they came from behind to win after a strong showing in the 3rd period and overtime propelled them to victory. It was at that point that the Capitals finally found their regular season groove in the postseason. I have no idea what happened, but something finally clicked, and now the Washington Capitals have erupted like a dormant volcano.
Tonight, was the Pittsburgh massacre, Caps went into Pittsburgh and slayed the Penguins showing no mercy along the way. It wasn't even a competition, the Capitals were men amongst boys tonight. Fleury who looked dominant all postseason got picked apart by the Capitals offense. Nicklas Backstrom, finally showed up tonight, hopefully this was his coming out party in this series, since it just goes to show how well the Caps do when he does well. T.J. Oshie, kept contributing by setting his teammates up, and he kicked off the scoring when he got the first goal of the game on a power play. Kuznetsov continues to have a huge series, he's been a huge reason for the Capitals success this postseason, seems like he's in on every scoring play. Andre Burkaovsky, the sleeper player of the night came up huge for the Capitals scoring two unassisted goals. For a random player like Burkaovsky to do that is a huge boost for the Caps and it's no wonder why the dominated the scoreboard tonight.
The Penguins showed some fight at the end scoring a couple goals in garbage time, but at that point it was way beyond over already. Do I think the Penguins are in trouble? Most definitley, Capitals are hotter than ever, Capitals also have home ice advantage in game 7, and the Penguins have lost all momentum. It is just one final game to decide it all, though, so anything can happen. If anyone can bounce back from a 5-2 beat down in game 6 it's this Pittsburgh Penguins team. They have championship experience, they're battle tested, and they should never be counted out. The Capitals have choked much worse in the playoffs before, so to rule any opponent they're facing dead before the series is over would be foolish.
I knew the Capitals flipped the switch in the 3rd period of game 5, but boy I had no idea this performance was going to follow it up. If they come out with this same level of play in game 7 the Penguins have no shot, Caps are just too good. If the Capitals play their game in game 7 they should win, especially with their home crowd riding behind them. Will the Penguins pull off the ultimate choke job or will the Capitals fall short once again. It all comes down to a game 7 to decide it all, funny since that's pretty much what everyone thought this series would come down to before it even started. Keep the games coming, Caps-Pens has been amazing hockey, a great series regardless of the outcome.
The Capitals refuse to be eliminated from the playoffs. With their backs against the wall, with the great regular season looking like it's going to be a waste once again, and then the switch finally flipped for the Capitals. The Pittsburgh Penguins were leading in game 5, 2-1. It looked like the Penguins were about to close this game out on the road and advance to the conference finals. They had Sidney Crosby back in the lineup and were rolling, then the third period rolled around, and everything changed.
If the Capitals go on to win the Stanley Cup, when they make the 30 for 30 on "It's the Caps year", they'll go back to this third period as the turning point in the playoff run. The period when the Capitals finally found their regular season groove in the playoffs. The Capitals tied up the game two minutes into the third period when Nicklas Backstrom beat Fleury for a goal. About 5 minutes later the Capitals took the lead when Kuznetsov scored his 5th goal this postseason and gave the Capitals their first lead of the game. The Capitals continued to put pressure on the Penguins even with their lead. Alexander Ovechkin, who said after the game 4 loss that he needed to step up and play better, backed up his words when he gave his team an insurance goal 30 seconds later. His first since game 1 of the series. Capitals lead 4-2, the crowd was elated, and the Caps looked like a totally new team.
The Capitals would continue to keep up the offensive pressure even with a 2 goal lead. Penguins were being aggressive since they faced a 2 goal deficit with little time to spare, so they still got a few good looks on net. Holtby played much better today, so all shot attempts from the second period on were sent away. For the first time all series I felt the Capitals were in complete control. The result would hold up and the Capitals win the game 4-2 to push the series to 3-2. Capitals still have to win another game on the road against the Penguins, which is going to be far from easy. If they play with the aggression, hunger, and precision that they did tonight I believe they can certainly pull it off. If the Capitals win game 6 they'll win the series without a doubt. Game 7 in Washington is bad news for the Penguins, so it's best if they don't let it get that far.
Once again, the New York Rangers find themselves on the sour end of an OT loss after blowing another late lead. Out of all the leads they've blown this postseason this could be the one that proves fatal. Every other time they've managed to bounce back, but this loss was brutal. Fortunately, the Rangers have home ice advance to lean on in game 6, which has helped them regain momentum throughout the playoffs.
The Rangers need their big name stars to start playing like stars if they want to win this series. If it wasn't for the other guys like Jimmy Vesey, Oscar Lindbergh, Mika Zibanejad, and Jesper Fast making big plays for this squad, this series might already be over. Kreider, Nash, Zucc, Stepan, and Stall need to step up in games 6 and 7 if the Rangers are going to advance. Anyone watching this series, no matter who you are rooting for, knows the Rangers are the better overall team and should be entering game 6 at home with a 3-2 series lead. This is the second game they've blow late in the 3rd and then lost in OT, so actually the Rangers should be resting right now awaiting the Capitals or Penguins in the conference finals. A huge opportunity is being missed, now if the Rangers do make it to the next round they'll be just as tired and beat up as the Capitals or Penguins. That's if they even make it to the next round.
Even after this soul crushing defeat I have faith the Rangers will win this series. Erik Karlsson, is clearly the best player in the series even when he's banged up, but overall the Rangers are the better team by far. Game 6 they'll win without a doubt, probably feed off the crowd to a nice blowout win like in games 3 and 4. Game 7 will be the tough one, they should've won today, and still managed to loss, so winning game 7 on the road is going to be a real challenge. Still like the Rangers to win it all this year, I believe it's their year still, however they're making it real tough on themselves. Let's see if the Rangers got any more postseason magic left to win the next two games to advance to the conference finals.
I don't know what it is about this Rangers team, but they seem to enjoy falling behind in their playoff series, looking dead in the water to fans, and then turning it on decimating their opponent. It happened last series with the Montreal Canadiens, now the Rangers are doing the same to Ottawa. The Rangers were down 2-0 in this series after blowing game 2 in brutal fashion. When the Rangers lost in double OT after blowing a 2 goal lead in regulation, I figured that was the fatal blow. This Rangers team apparently isn't the past Rangers teams though, because they're getting it done even after tough losses. The home ice advantage might be what helps.
It seems like every time the Rangers needed a big win this post season they've gotten it at home, and then carried the momentum back on the road. Well, they got a big first win in this series on Tuesday, winning 3-1 controlling for the majority of the game. Tonight, they did the same. The Rangers just looked like the better team, and that's because they are. Lundqvist was unbelievable, he was making saves on point blank shooters, stoning anyone trying to shield and deflect in front of the net, and he shut the Senators out up until the final 5 minutes of the game. At that point the Rangers had a 4 goal lead, so it wasn't a big deal that he got beat short side high in garbage time.
For the Rangers, Tanner Glass was probably player of the game. He had 2 assists and 7 hits, setting the Rangers up offensively, all the while setting the tone defensively, great job on both ends of the ice. He also beat the shit out of some Senators player as regulation was running down, which is always a good look. Oscar Lindberg, was a big piece on the offensive end of the ice tonight with his 2 goals on 3 shots. J.T. Miller also played well adding an assist and couple hits to the stat sheet. Nice to see players other than Staal, McDonaugh Nash, Stepan, Krieder, and Zucc putting in the work, makes them way more effective. The result is a clear indicator of that.
The Rangers can go all the way, I've said that from the get go. With Pittsburgh taking out the Capitals, barring any crazy comeback from Washington, the Rangers will match up with a beat up Penguins squad. It'll be a rematch of last year and you know the Rangers are seeking revenge. With all the injuries to Pittsburgh the Rangers would be the favorite in my opinion going in if Crosby is still out. The Rangers still need two more wins, based off the way the Senators looked at end of this game they're dead. The Rangers are in their head and at this point, I think Ottawa knows the Rangers have them beat. Rangers in 6 then it's off to Pittsburgh, calling it now.
After game 3 when Sidney Crosby left the game with a concussion and the Capitals finally won in OT, the series had looked like it flipped 180 degrees. Without Crosby how were the Penguins, who were already plagued with so many other injuries, supposed to overcome the Capitals that are just a sleeping giant. Well, game 4 showed us all everything we needed to see.
The Penguins were feeding off the home crowd's energy early, they still had the lead in the series, they still had a ton of talent on the ice, and the Capitals were struggling, so not all hope was lost with the devastating Crosby injury. Pittsburgh needed to get out to a lead early and that's exactly what they did. Four minutes into the first period Hornqvist got behind the defense, received a beaut of a pass from Maata, and beat Holtby for the goal, 1-0 Pittsburgh. In the second period Jake Guentzel tried passing the puck to his teammate cutting to the net, however it was off line, but it deflected off the defensemans skate and into the net for 2-0 Pittsburgh lead. Even without Crosby it looked like Penguins were still dominating the series like they have for the entire series with the exception of game 3.
The Capitals would continue to fight. Later in the second period the Caps played the puck off the boards, Kuznetsoz would get it, and blows it past Fleury for the goal, Caps trail 2-1. Still in the second, not even a minute after the goal they had just scored, T.J. Oshie, takes a shot that misses, Schmidt gets the rebound and buries it in the back on the net to tie up the game. It was looking like game 4 was mirroring game 3, except opposite. Caps jumped out to the early 2-0 lead only to blow it within a minute, and then ultimately win the game. Well, the Penguins did just that in game 4. Jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, only to blow it within a minute, and then they ended up winning the game. With the Penguins on the power play, Malkin passed it to Justin Schultz who blasted a goal past Holtby on a one timer giving the Pens a 3-2 lead. They'd hold onto that lead for the rest of the game and now hold a 3-1 series lead.
The 3-1 series lead has been overcome plenty of times, but at this point the Capitals seem dead. Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklaus Backstrom can't be non factors like they were last night. The way Holtby has played all series is completely unacceptable and uncharacteristic. Seems like this whole Caps choking thing is in their heads a lot more than we think because they look like a completely different team in the postseason and it's not a good thing. Definitely time to slam that panic button Caps fans because it's not looking like it's your year.