Blue Jackets prevent Pens sweep, Rangers even series with Habs and Sharks go off
Columbus got its first win of the postseason, New York snapped its home losing streak and San Jose exploded offensively
One more game.
The Columbus Blue Jackets ensured Tuesday would not be their elimination night over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. And the New York Rangers took a similar step forward, refusing to let the Montreal Canadiens threaten their own exit from the postseason with a 2-1 decision to even up the other Eastern Conference heavyweight.
Concerns still abound in Columbus, though -- almost as much as goals in San Jose on Tuesday night.
Here, we take a look at some of the big points from another day of first-round action:
Sergei Bobrovsky needs to fix Columbus' playoff defense (and fast)
Entering Tuesday, the Blue Jackets probably couldn't have even been labeled a. Because falling behind 3-0 in their first-round series indicated they'd virtually already hit rock bottom.
Things have been much better on the offensive side of things in Columbus' last two matchups with Pittsburgh. After Tuesday's five-goal outing, in fact, the Blue Jackets have piled on nine in their last two after scoring just two goals in the opening pair of series showdowns. But Bobrovksy, rightfully heralded as an elite presence in the net after the regular season, has seen 16 shots go for goal in this series alone, including three Tuesday that undid a 3-0 lead by the Blue Jackets.
Columbus' problems shouldn't all be tossed atop Bobrovsky's shoulders, as these postseason hiccups on defense have been apparent in just about every Blue Jackets playoff game in franchise history -- the team has never given up fewer than three goals in post-regular-season bouts. But if they aren't fixed immediately (and they almost cost Columbus what initially looked like an easy win Tuesday), they will be the nail in the Blue Jackets' anticipated coffin.
Trying new things helped the Rangers find new results at home
Giving defensemen Nick Holdman and Pavel Buchnevich some more time on the ice, starting aggressive and managing the puck afterward, then tightening up for the waning minutes of play, New York finally found a way to prevent another dose of late Habs heroics and, more importantly, snap its home playoff losing streak. It's about time.
For the Rangers, of course, execution is probably just as big a factor as experimenting with a new line or two. But good on Alain Vigneault for making the necessary tweaks ahead of Game 4 and before it was too late.
What this N.Y. win really does, though, is keep alive the thing we're all expecting -- a seven-game series.
The Sharks, who are not done yet, absolutely exploded offensively
For a guy that was absolutely destroyed by an Edmonton Oilers hit early in the series, Logan Couture sure had a pretty stroke to kick things off for the San Jose Sharks in Tuesday's Game 4 showdown, which saw Peter DeBoer's club go for a whopping seven (that's a touchdown and extra point in football terms, if you're keeping score):
Couture's shot was just the start of the playoffs' biggest scoring spree of the year. Here is Joe Pavelski, whose second-period deflection-turned-goal gave the Sharks a 6-0 advantage and had the San Jose crowd chanting, "We want seven!" as the Oilers were left without an answer:
San Jose is a fascinating playoff team in that it entered the postseason coming off a near-horrendous close to the regular season, not to mention a slide right out of the Pacific Division throne. And the Sharks aren't exactly known for their depth as much as their top-line talent, something that has potentially fueled their deficit to Connor McDavid and the Oilers. But this is another series, after Tuesday's 7-0 Sharks blowout, that could come down to the wire.
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