Stanley Cup's Second Round Taking Shape
So far, so good for the Stanley Cup favorites' brigade.
The two top teams in each conference have advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs.
New York was again led by goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who gave up only eight goals in five games, four of which came in the Game 2 loss.
The Rangers are now awaiting the winner of the Washington-Islanders series and that won't be decided until Monday. The Isles won an emotional 3-1 crunchfest on Saturday to force a Game 7.
It's been virtually unnoticed all season, but physically, the Caps have the brawniest roster in the NHL. Toss in the fact that the Isles don't mind that sort of game and that these two have a distant-but-still-chippy playoff history to boot, and it's no surprise that this play was the pivotal point in Game 6, and depending on what happens Monday, the series:
Anaheim, the top seed in the West, trailed the first three games in the third period against upstart Winnipeg but rallied in each time to prevail and go up, three games to none. The Ducks then closed out the series with a 5-2 road win and will now face the surprising Calgary Flames in the second round.
Corey Perry, who -- as opposed to Katy Perry -- is not tolerant to sharks, had seven points in the four games for Anaheim, including a harvest in Game 1. Meanwhile, Frederik Andersen won all four games in net.
The youthfully exuberant Flames upset Vancouver in six games, led by forward Jiri Hudler and the inevitable Johnny Hockey, with help from Karri Ramo, who came in for goalie Jonas Hiller and stopped the Canucks in the decider. Vancouver had taken an early 3-0 lead but blew it.
It seems like every year, the Chicago Blackhawks figure out a way to advance, and they did it again, defeating Nashville in six games.
And yes, this team's nickname originated from a WWII fighter squadron, which honored a famous chieftan. Headline writers sometimes shorten it to Hawks, but it's not recommended to get frisky with any other variation. Unless, of course, you're a clueless TV station in the Second City:
Tenacious captain Jonathan Toews and blueliner Duncan Keith led Chicago in scoring and minutes, respectively, and goalie Scott Darling carried them early while Corey Crawford struggled. But Crawford came on in Game 6 after a Nashville squad without Shea Weber jumped to a 3-1 lead. Crawford kept the Predators off the scoreboard the rest of the way, and the Blackhawks advance to face the winner of the St.Louis- Minnesota series, whicn the Wild lead 3-2.
The drama continues today. Montréal led Ottawa three games to none, but the Senators have won the last two and are back home this evening. Craig Anderson has come off the bench to allow only three goals in three games, and until a Game 5 blowout by the Sens, each game had been decided by one goal, with two going into overtime.
The Habs-Sens winner gets either Detroit or Tampa Bay. The Red Wings can advance at home with a win on Monday. The Wings are coming off a 4-0 win on the road as goalie Petr Mrazek has replaced Jimmy Howard in goal and has been fantastic with a 1.92 goals against average.
Finally, St Louis and Minnesota are hard at it, with the Wild holding a 3-2 advantage. Unless the Blues can notch another win in St Paul today, they'll be heading to the first tee prematurely yet again, perennially frustrated in their quest to return to the Stanley Cup finals since their first three years of existence.
That was a premeditated fluke, of course, back when the NHL expanded by six teams and plopped them all in the same divison. They had no chance.