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NHL Quick Hits: Game Three – Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

May 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The Tampa Bay Lightning are just one win away from closing the book on the Washington Capitals season as they were able to come away with a 4-3 victory Tuesday night, taking a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. In front of a sold out crowd at home, the Lightning were able to score two goals within 24 seconds of each other, one of them being the game winner by Ryan Malone.

Give Credit or Lightning Shall Strike You: Could anyone have predicted what has occurred in this series so far? The Lightning took the first two games on the road and all but sealed the deal against the Capitals on Tuesday night. The same team that was written off after they gave away their Southeast Division title in the final week of the season have looked like different group of players, playing with more heart than any team still competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

When they were called underdogs in the quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins and were down 3-1 in the series, the “unthinkable” happened. They came back to force a game seven and eliminated the Penguins on the road. The same team that hasn’t been given enough recognition throughout the entire season has won six straight playoff games and is one game away from sweeping the Eastern Conference’s “elite team”. So the question is still there; when will this team be given its dues? Maybe when they hoist the Stanley Cup above their heads, perhaps then they will be recognized as a team that everyone overlooked.

Capitals Powerplay Woes Continue: One major reason why the Capitals have struggled all throughout this series against the Lightning is due to the failure of their powerplay. After the first three games, the Capitals are a horrendous 1-for-16 with the man advantage, their only goal coming in Tuesday night’s game on a TWO-man advantage. The powerplay has looked dreadful, but the performance in game three was a train wreck. Even with the goal on the score sheet, nothing looked right on the ice. Players were missing shots taken at the net by at least six feet, there were several instances of wrong positioning on the point and when they did have chances, a team with born-bred scorers, did everything but score. They had to rely on a 5-on-3 to score and only did so after Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson left a juicy rebound for Alexander Ovechkin to put in. If this team has any chance of making a comeback, they better score a goal on every man advantage that is given to them.

Steven “The Real Deal” Stamkos: With the league surrounding superstars like Ovechkin and the Penguins Sidney Crosby a lot of attention is not given to others players who are on the same, if not, a higher level of talent. I can say that the Steven Stamkos of the Lightning, will be the best player in the league within a year or two. He excels at every aspect of the game and tonight was just another example. Several times throughout the game, Stamkos has turned a play that looked dead from the start into a scoring opportunity. He crashes the net, shows his physicality and illustrates an extreme level of talent that few can.

Tonight, with one flick of the wrist he sent a blistering shot from in between the circles past Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth before anyone could even blink. Not only did he tie the game, but he provided a spark for his team and the lead would be theirs just seconds later. Stamkos is a diamond in the rough when it comes to talent in the NHL and with 45 goals and 46 assists in the regular season, he is no surprise. This Lightning team is led by many veterans including Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Malone, but Stamkos demonstrates just how important youth can be on a team that is on the verge of a championship.

Capital Collapse: At one point in the third period, the Capitals looked set to make their mark in the series, up two goals with less than a period remaining and the momentum was fully fledged in their favor. Twenty-four seconds later, the Lightning struck twice to take a one goal lead. First, on a goal by Stamkos and then after a frenzy in front of the net, Malone was able to put the puck past Neuvirth. It just goes to show you how every second of the game makes a difference and in less than half a minute, the Capitals went from being comeback contenders to scheduling their tee-times at the local country club.

Game Three Top Performers: Tampa Bay Lightning / Stamkos – 1 goal, 4 shots on net, 17:40 time on ice

Washington Capitals / Ovechkin – 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots on net, 24:27 time on ice

What’s Next: Game four, the second back-to-back game will take place on Wednesday night in Tampa Bay. With a win, the Lightning look to return to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since their Stanley Cup run in 2004. Like last season, the Capitals are in a must win situation and will have to come back from three games down no matter what. I wouldn’t say that it is impossible, the Philadelphia Flyers were able to accomplish the improbable feat last season against the Boston Bruins. But this Capitals team is not functioning on any cylinders and they are going to have to do some real soul searching if they want to even pull out one game in this series instead of getting completely embarrassed.

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Categories: NHL

Game Seven Heaven – NHL Playoffs

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Just when you thought the NHL playoffs couldn’t get more exciting, we are thrown into four scenarios that are facing a final game seven showdown. (Three are definite, while the Boston/Montreal series is still to be determined, game six is tonight).

A seven game series is not completely uncommon in the playoffs, but having half of the match-ups in the first round come down to the final game is something that hockey enthusiasts dream of.

If this is just a taste of what is next for the NHL playoffs, I cannot imagine what is in store for the later rounds. Hopefully they will be just as exhilarating as the opening series have been.

Buffalo Sabres vs. Philadelphia Flyers

The series turned ugly last game when Flyers captain Mike Richards blindsided Sabres center Tim Connolly headfirst into the boards, causing him to leave the game. Sabres players, coaches and fans were irate when no action was taken against Richards. The momentum swung to the Flyers as they were able to come back from a 3rd period deficit and push the series to a seventh game after an OT goal on Buffalo’s home ice. The final game will be decided in Philadelphia and while many would think that they have the advantage playing at home, 8 out of the last 10 game-sevens, ended with the AWAY team claiming victory.

The Sabres will also get back their top scorer in Derek Roy who hasn’t played since December, suffering from a torn quadricep. For the Flyers, the goaltender carousel continues to turn as a starter for game seven has yet to be named. They have used three different goaltenders in the series and cannot find the support that they have been searching for in the pipes. The exact problem that occurred throughout the season was not solved and progressed right into the playoffs. So who will take the series tonight in the “City of Brotherly Love”? Ryan Miller comes up huge, Derek Roy scores and the Sabres walk away with a huge upset against the Flyers.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks

The youngest captain in the NHL, Jonathan Toews, has been a crucial piece to the Blackhawks comeback in the series.

Coming into the playoffs, the Canucks had everything going for them. They finished with most points in the NHL, their defensemen were returning from injury, goaltender Roberto Luongo was playing great in net and the playoffs arrived just in time. The bad news? The Canucks were paired up against the Chicago Blackhawks, not only the defending Stanley Cup champions, but the same team that knocked them out of playoff contention two years in a row. To make matters worse for the Canucks, they had a three games to zero lead in the series and completely fell flat. Luongo looks like a piece of swiss-cheese in net, they can’t seem to put the puck in the net and the Stanley Cup champs, are looking more and more unlike the eighth place team that limped into the postseason.

Even on the road, how can you pick against the Hawks? I say it every year, it doesn’t matter about seeding, always fear the defending champs. They know what it is like to hoist the most prized possession in all of sports and even down in the dirt, they were able to get back up and put up a fight. If the Canucks can’t pull this out, the city of Vancouver will be flooded with tears for the third straight year and the Hawks will  be their newly acclaimed rival. Even though I would love to see a comeback for the young guns like Kane and Toews, the Canucks will edge this one out.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Even without superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, the Penguins have been able to keep pace in the Eastern Conference. Like the Hawks, the Lightning were able to avoid elimination in game six at home and push the series to single-deciding game. Martin St.Louis is playing the top notch hockey (4 goals, 4 assists) and the Lightning seem to be as fired up as anyone.

The Penguins have put together some ugly wins, but nonetheless came away with exactly that, a win. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been inconsistent, solid in the net one night and the next, can’t stop a puck the size of a soccer ball. This game will hinge on the powerplay of the Penguins, who ranked 25th during the season and have only one powerplay goal in the playoffs. If Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson can put on a show like he did last game, the game will be one-sided. Young sensation Steven Stamkos will be a huge factor in this game as the Lightning advance and send the Penguins packing.

Categories: NHL