Best of April 21: Craig Anderson shuts out Rangers, Blackhawks win in OT
There were five playoff games on Saturday, here's the best from them all. Of course it includes another OT game between the Blackhawks and Rangers.
Can we just go ahead and nominate the Blackhawks and Coyotes for best series of the first round? It doesn't really matter how it turns out from here, five overtimes in five games? That's just remarkable, and entertaining.
Just like they did in Game 2, the Blackhawks overcame a deficit in the third period -- albeit not in the final 10 seconds -- to force overtime and won it from there. First it was a Nick Leddy goal to finally notch one against Mike Smith with 10:45 remaining in the third period. The 'Hawks had some glorious chances, but overtime came our way. Shocking, I know.
But the overtime didn't take long. Jonathan Toews, the captain and Mr. Clutch that he is, scored right after a faceoff with a terrific shot on Mike Smith, beating him barely to the far post and keeping the Blackhawks alive to fight another day. It was a terrific shot that beat the goalie who has been so hard to beat for Chicago all series long.
Part of the reason he's been so tough is the system that the Coyotes play. They make life a bit easier for a goaltender most of the time. That's not to take away from Smith, just ask the Blackhawks about how good he has been, but goalies succeed under Dave Tippet.
Still, despite that style which can lead to less-than thrilling television, these games have all been exciting, if for no other reason than the drama that is extra time in the postseason. There's a reason why people talk it up like the greatest thing since sliced bread. These teams are delivering us a whole loaf.
There will now be a Game 6 in Chicago on Monday, with the Coyotes taking their second stab at winning the franchise's first playoff series since 1987.
So, who's up for another overtime period on Monday?
Craig Anderson is playing every bit as good as his counterpart for the Rangers and potential Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist. In fact, he might be playing better. Without Anderson, there's no telling if the Senators would even have a Game 6 coming their way.
Because the Sens weren't able to find many answers for Lundqvist, the pressure was on Anderson to keep them in the game, and boy did he ever. The Rangers fired 41 shots on goal against Anderson and not one of them found the back of the net. He has held the Rangers to two goals or less in each of the past four games with this being his first clean sheet.
Anderson was soo good he set a Senators playoff record for most saves in a shutout. What a night.
He has been the biggest reason why the Senators are headed home with the chance to take out the No. 1 seed in Game 6.
I was ready to name Viktor Stalberg the biggest (and thus, best ... bigger is always better right?) goat of the night until the Blackhawks came back and won the game. He was having one forgettable game, taking four minors for tripping, slashing, interference and roughing. To steal a term from baseball, that's a Golden Sombrero.
Instead, I'm going to nominate ... Devils coach Peter DeBoer? Well admittedly that nomination isn't coming from me, but it comes from Steve Chernoski of NJ.com who points out that DeBoer is being outcoached by the man that replaced him in Florida, Kevin Dineen. Read the argument for yourself.
I'm a sucker for deflections, especially ones like this gem from David Perron.
The St. Louis Blues found themselves trailing the San Jose Sharks 1-0 more than half way through the third period in Game 5 when Jamie Langenbrunner got them on the board for the tie. Then, 45 seconds later, Alex Pietrangelo fired a puck toward the net and Perron got his stick on it to redirect it toward the net. It was going wide.
That's always impressive.
This wasn't the best game that Braden Holtby has had in this series, but that doesn't mean he still didn't have his moments.
Like this one on Tyler Seguin, who was sitting on the doorstep ready to pounce. Holtby though showed incredible athleticism to deny him.
That fits the old "kick save and a beauty!" tag, now doesn't it?
Here is a pretty amazing statistic from the first round of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, courtesy of Japers' Rink, a blog covering the Capitals.
So the only higher seed in the East that has a lead in its first round series finished with eight fewer points than the team the lead.— JapersRink (@JapersRink) April 22, 2012
The point? It's good to be an underdog in the East.
For the fifth consecutive time to open up their best-of-7 series, the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes needed overtime to settle things. They only needed less than three minutes of it, but nonetheless they needed OT.
It's remarkable how even the series has been, really. With the fifth straight overtime game, the teams tied an NHL record that has stood by itself since 1951 with five straight OT games to start a playoff series. That's amazing. Too bad the games have been so late for a good portion of the country, they have given us the best treat in sports: playoff OT.
Photo: Getty Images
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