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Tag:2011 NHL Playoffs
Posted on: April 29, 2011 9:56 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 10:33 pm
 

Chalk one up for 'underdog' Lightning

All Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher wanted to tell everybody about this series is that it’s his team that’s the underdog, David to the Capitals’ Goliath. Classic mind games being played by a rookie head coach.

"If they don't win, it's a failure," Boucher said before Game 1. "It's Goliath against David. That's what it is. We'd better get our slingshots ready."

Not sure anybody’s buying it. I’m certainly not. The Bolts have players, they have talent, and they seem to have finally solved their goalie riddle with the ageless wonder Dwayne Roloson . Let us remind you the Lightning, despite being the fifth seed, only finished four points behind Washington this season.

Hardly the stuff of fairy tales.

He wasn't willing to concede much after the game, either.

"We won the game, but there's going to be a lot of work ahead. And we know that team is going to come out flying next game and take it to us, like they did the rest of the teams," Boucher said.

But if the Lightning are David, then – to mix classic stories – they might be the little engine that could. And we really do mean little.

The team not only boasts diminutive Hart finalist Martin St. Louis -- 5-feet-8 off skates -- but had to play the majority of Game 1 short, with just 10 forwards. That’s because Simon Gagne left early in the first period and didn’t return after a hard fall to the ice after a hit from Scott Hannan . The Bolts later took a loss to the blue line when Pavel Kubina left and didn't come back.

"We were going through a lot of short shifts, 15-20 second-shifts. It was very exhausting for our guys," Boucher said. "Especially with back-to-back games coming up at home on Tuesday and Wednesday, it's going to be tough."

It didn’t matter. Tampa Bay was good enough -- and a little lucky -- to win its fourth game in a row, taking a 1-0 lead on the Capitals.  It was also the Lightning’s fourth consecutive road playoff win. Not too shabby.

The luck, you ask? Check out Steve Downie's goal . It qualifies in the fluke variety. With the Lightning catching the Caps on a line change, Downie chased down a puck to the right of the cage and just tried to backhand it across the crease, but the pass was intercepted by Hannan. That's when fortune struck as the puck redirected right on goal and over the shoulder of Michal Neuvirth for the game-tying score.

But Boucher is right about one thing. There is a ton of pressure on the Capitals to win. Bruce Boudreau’s future behind the bench could be on the line with Washington’s run this year.

The fans in Verizon Center know it, too. On more than one occasion the locals showed their restlessness, jeering the Caps with boos both at the end of the second period and during an anemic third-period power play.

Boudreau wasn't too pleased with how his team played either, intimating they returned to the style of hockey they went away from this season.

"You can't play river hockey. That's how we played. You can't revert back to an older day."

The pressure will only mount after this.

We’ll let Boucher use whatever tactics he wants. If it gets to the Capitals and their fans, all the better. Let’s just say if he insists on calling his team David, then let's concede that slingshot is filled with something stronger than stones.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: April 29, 2011 7:42 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 10:05 pm
 

Lightning's Gagne helped off ice after hard fall

In what has become an all-too common occurence in the playoffs, we had another scary moment in the first period in Washington.

With the puck in the corner, Simon Gagne was checked into the boards by Capitals defenseman Scott Hannan, whose hit lifted Gagne off his skates. The hit itself into the boards wasn't the issue, it was the fall as Gagne came down and smacked his head on the ice, staying down for a few minutes.

The stretcher was brought out but eventually Gagne got up with help and skated off the ice. It's worth noting that on his way toward the bench, Hannan came over and gave Gagne an encouragement tap.

Tampa Bay entered the game with only 11 forwards suited up for Game 1, going with seven defensemen. Well, Gagne is surely done for the night, so the Lightning will have to endure longer shifts and more ice time.

If Gagne was concussed -- and it's hard to imagine he wasn't after seeing him on the ice -- it could keep him out for the rest of the postseason. He has a history of concussions, taking one in 2007 while with the Flyers.

Gagne scored 17 goals and had 23 assists this season for Tampa Bay, his first. In the first-round win over the Penguins, he had two goals and five assists with a plus-2.

UPDATE (7:50 p.m.): The Lightning say Gagne is alert and being evaluated by the team doctors. At this point, his status is undetermined.

UPDATE (8:20 p.m.): A team spokesperson says Gagne will not return for the rest of Game 1.

-- Brian Stubits


Posted on: April 29, 2011 6:07 am
Edited on: April 30, 2011 2:50 am
 

Preview: No. 2 Sharks vs. No. 3 Red Wings


Full NHL brackets, schedule 

The San Jose Sharks, a franchise celebrating their 20th season in existence, often see their postseasons run through Hockeytown USA. This is their fifth postseason meeting overall and the second consecutive season the clubs have met in the second round. (The Sharks advanced in five games a season ago.) The teams have split the four playoff series overall, which stretches back to the Sharks’ seven-game upset of the Wings in 1994. But San Jose coach Todd McLellan, a former assistant with the Wings, asked not to read much into the prologue. 

“One of our biggest jobs as a coaching staff is to separate last year from this year,” McLellan told reporters this week. “We are a very different team when you look at our goaltending, the blue line and the forwards we’ll be using. That lineup will definitely be different. The circumstances are different. If we reach too far back to those experiences last year in that playoff series, we’ll be trailing before we know it.” 

Here’s the breakdown: 

Forwards: After sweeping the Phoenix Coyotes, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and his coaching staff have experimented with different lines in practice. It’s a luxury --- now that Henrik Zetterberg , who missed the first round with a lower-body injury, is healthy --- rather than a necessity. The Wings will also have the services of playoff beast Johan Franzen, who missed the final game of the first round with an ankle injury. Pavel Datsyuk, who had injury woes of his own in the regular season, was a force in the first round with six points (two goals, four assists). Sharks captain Joe Thornton may have shed – or maybe at least shrunk --- the notion he’s an underperformer in the playoffs. He scored in OT of Game 6 as the Sharks clinched the series against the Los Angeles Kings. Hardnosed Ryane Clowe led the Sharks in scoring (seven points) in the first round. The Sharks have also gotten decent secondary scoring from Kyle Wellwood and Torrey Mitchell among others.

Edge: Sharks

Defense: Nicklas Lidstrom is, well, still Niclkas Lidstrom. This is his 19th season in the league and it might not just be a coincidence this is the Wings 20th consecutive season in the playoffs. Now that defensive partner Brian Rafalski is healthy, they’ll be the best 1-2 combo in the series. San Jose will counter with Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle. But the most productive pairing of the first round was Niclas Wallin and Ian White. White, who missed a game with a concussion, still managed to lead all Sharks defenders in scoring with five points. 

Edge: Red Wings

Goalies: Jimmy Howard was in net last season as a rookie when the Wings fell to the Sharks. Now, he doesn’t have the luxury of a tested backup since Chris Osgood is done for the year after hernia surgery. He stopped .915 percent of the shots he saw in the first round. After letting Evgeni Nabokov walk last offseason, the Sharks signed Antti Niemi. He hasn’t been on top of his game ---and nowhere close where he was when he led the Chicago Blackhawks to the title a season ago --  but he has the faith of McLellan. Niemi was yanked twice in the first round and finished the series with a horrid goals-against average (3.99) and mediocre save percentage (.863). On the plus side, Antero Niittymaki was solid in relief. 

Edge: Sharks

Special teams: The Wings had a success rate of 26.7 percent in the first round, the second-best rate among teams who made it to the second round. Detroit, however, struggled on the kill. The Wings allowed six goals on 18 shorthanded opportunities for a 66.7 kill percentage, the worst of the 16 playoff teams.  Maybe the Wings’ PK is just what the Sharks need to kick start their moribund power play. San Jose scored only twice in 23 trips to the power play (8.7 percent). San Jose got better after a shaky start on the kill against the Kings as the series progressed, highlighted by a five-minute kill that stretched from the end of regulation and into OT in Game 6. 

Edge: Red Wings 

Prediction: The Sharks are still (barely) in the stage where they are a year more experienced rather than just a year older. Niemi should be able to rebound from his shaky first-round performance and the Sharks will eventually break out of their power play malaise. The Sharks should win this in six.

No. 2 San Jose vs. No. 3 Detroit - Series tied, 0-0
Date Site Time/Result
April 29 at SJ 10 p.m.  
May 1 at SJ 3 p.m.  
May 4 at DET 8 p.m.  
May 6 at DET 7 p.m.  
* May 8 at SJ 8 p.m.  
* May 10 at DET TBA  
* May 12 at SJ TBA  


-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 29, 2011 6:01 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 1:59 pm
 

Preview: No. 1 Capitals vs. No. 5 Lightning


Full NHL brackets, schedule
The six-game grudge match that was these two teams’ battle for the Southeast Division has been extended. (The Caps won four of those meetings in the regular season.) The Lightning fumbled the division after a wobble down the stretch, not that it matters now. Tampa Bay advanced after a 1-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 on Wednesday. The Lightning arrived in Washington at 3 a.m. Thursday, not giving them a whole lot of downtime. The Caps enter as the more rested team since they advanced past the New York Rangers in five games on Saturday.  

“It should be interesting going up against a team in your own division,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters on Thursday. “It got pretty good there at the end of the (of the regular season) because both teams were vying for first place. . . . I think it’s going to take another step.”

Here’s the breakdown: 

Forwards: Neither team is lacking here, especially on the top couple lines. Martin St. Louis, a former Hart Trophy winner, was announced as a finalist for the NHL MVP on Thursday. He had 99 points in the regular season and compiled eight points (four goals, four assists) in the first round. Simon Gagne, acquired by first-year GM Steve Yzerman last offseason, and Steve Downie have averaged a point per game so far in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin (three goals, three assists) doesn’t show any sign of the undisclosed injury that kept him out of a handful of games at the end of the regular season. Almost as important to the Caps’ postseason fortunes is the inspired play of Alexander Semin (three goals, assist), who was a ghost in previous postseasons. It will be interesting to see what a one-week break will mean to Nicklas Backstrom. He injured his thumb last month and had one point (an assist) in the first round. If he’s not right, look to see more of deadline acquisition Jason Arnott.

Edge: Capitals 

Defenseman: If the Lightning showed anything as they stormed back from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round is that they can hold a lead. Only one defenseman (Victor Hedman, minus-4) is negative in the plus-minus category. Eric Brewer, a former high first-round selection knocked at his previous stops for not living up to his potential, has a goal and four assists this postseason. The Caps received a scare when a shot sent screws flying off of the helmet of Mike Green, who missed the final 20 games of the regular season with concussion-like symptoms. He went to the dressing room, but returned to the bench and is ready to go in this series. He enters second on the Caps in points (five). 

Edge: Lightning 

Goalies: Dwayne Roloson, 41, obviously has plenty left. Including his Game 7 shutout, he allowed only four goals over the final three games in the first round. He was 2-1-1 against the Caps with a 1.21 goals-against average after he joined the Lightning via a January trade with the New York Islanders. The Caps did have some success against Roloson this season, probably not so coincidentally after Washington agitator Matt Hendricks made contact with Roloson in a 5-2 Caps win on Feb. 4. On the other side of the experience scale is Caps rookie Michal Neuvirth. While he didn’t have to be spectacular against a hobbled New York Rangers team with few offensive weapons, the 23-year-old Czech did post a 1.38 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. 

Edge: Lightning 

Special teams: The Lightning have the best power play percentage (29.6) of the teams left in the playoffs, led by St. Louis (three goals). Much of those numbers were built in Game 5 as the Lightning scored on four of their six 5-on-4 opportunities.  The Lightning also scored as many goals as they allowed (one) in 35 shorthanded situations en route to a 97.1 kill percentage. The Caps, who had middle-of-the-pack power play in the regular season, had a slightly better percentage (18.8 percent) in the first round. Washington has the best PK percentage (85.6) of the eight teams left in the postseason. 

Edge: Capitals

Prediction: Boudreau has never taken the Caps past the second round and he goes against a first-year coach (Guy Boucher) who has the Lightning back in the playoffs for the first time in four years. I think this could be the year the Caps break through to the conference finals, but the Lightning --- even if they are coming off a long series --- won’t go quietly. I say Caps in six games. 

No. 1 Washington vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay - Series tied, 0-0
Date Site Time/Result
April 29 at WAS 7 p.m.  
May 1 at WAS 7 p.m.  
May 3 at TB TBA  
May 4 at TB 7 p.m.  
* May 7 at WAS 12:30 p.m.  
* May 9 at TB TBA  
* May 11 at WAS TBA  


-- A.J. Perez
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Posted on: April 28, 2011 3:03 pm
 

Octopus thrower enters not-guilty plea

The Detroit Red Wings fan who was arrested after he tossed an octopus on the ice pleaded not guilty and asked for a jury trial earlier this week. 

Charlie Graves, a resident of Farmington, Mich., was arrested at Game 1 of the first-round series against the Phoenix Coyotes on April 13 after he tossed the octopus onto the ice, a tradition for Detroit playoff games that stretches back decades. He was fined $500 fine and was charged with disorderly conduct.

Police said afterward that the NHL had requested them to clamp down on octopi tossers.

A defiant Graves, who was in court on Tuesday, explained to WDIV-TV why he pleaded not guilty:

"It is a 50-something-odd-year tradition," Graves said. "I feel the city of Detroit takes pride in their tradition, and if the (NHL) commissioner thinks we are going to go down without a fight, he is wrong."

Graves said he will fight the charge in support of the tradition. .

"I pleaded not guilty, of course," Graves said. "I'm going to fight for this tradition. And so, I have to come back in July for a trial, and I'll be lawyered up."

-- A.J. Perez
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com