Ducks v Kings: All Ice Is Home Ice
The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings are finally meeting for the first time in NHL playoff history, and it's turned into a crazy series with every game resulting in a road win so far.
However, with their arenas only 30 miles apart and fans who know their way around cyberspace, the crowd reactions provide no clues as to which arena any of the games are being played.
The Kings, who performed so well on the road on the way to their Stanley Cup win in 2012, won the first two games at the Honda Center, 3-2 and 3-1. The first was an overtime victory, as Marian Gaborik tied the game with seven seconds to go and then won it in overtime. Jonathan Quick made 36 saves in Game 2 and everyone outside SoCal thought the Kings had a stranglehold on the series.
The Ducks, however, would have none of it. They stormed back and took the next two games, 3-2 and 2-0, at Staples Center. Anaheim used three goalies in those games. Coach Bruce Boudreau shocked everyone by playing rookie John Gibson last night on a moment's notice, and the 20-year-old was splendid in his first every playoff appearance, pitching a shutout while stopping 28 shots.
Gibson had a short stint at the Pond earlier this season, and won his first games then, too. The Ducks have also used another rookie Frederik Anderson in the series -- a leg injury ruled him out of last night's action -- so it's anyone's guess who will be in net on Monday night for Game 5 back at the Staples Center.
The rest of the quarterfinal series have had their own intrigue, as they're all close heading into the latter stages. The other Western pairing is totally different than the Cali matchup; the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild are tied at two with each team holding serve on their home ice. The defending champion Blackhawks were stymied in Minnesota by goalie Ilya Bryzgalof, who shut them out 4-0 in Game 3 and stopped 18 shots in a 4-2 win in Game 4. Game 5 is back in Chicago tonight.
The two Eastern favorites, Boston and Pittsburgh, can clinch on the road in their next games. The Penguins blew a chance to win at home on Friday night. The Rangers, after learning that Marty St Louis' mother had passed away, welcomed him back before the game and then beat the Pens, 5-1.
Tonight, it will be another emotional game for St Louis and his teammates as the Rangers try build on Mothers' Day to force a Game 7.
The Boston Bruins and Montréal Canadiens despise each other. They've had decades to perfect the animosity, and they've done well at it. This series has shown it and is now 3-2, Boston. The Habs could have swept the first two in Boston but the Bruins scored four goals in the third period to take a 5-3 decision in Game 2. Boston also had to go to overtime to win Game 4 with the game's only goal being registered by rookie Matt Fraser. After winning at home, 4-2, last night, the B's can advance if they can win in Montréal on Monday. As usual, the atmosphere will be -- how do they say? -- très fou in La Belle Province.
We're almost down to the Final Four in hockey. The playoffs have been riveting so far, with the usual assortment of twists, turns, and overtime battles. The balance of the playoffs figures to be the same.