Pregame Skate: St. Louis fights for its season
It's not an elimination game for the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night in Los Angeles, but it might as well be. A loss will put them in a 3-0 hole, and that's nearly impossible to climb out of.
We saw Nashville face a must-win game in a similar situation on Wednesday night and respond with one of its best efforts of the playoffs to get back into its second round series against Phoenix. Can we expect a similar effort and result from the Blues on Thursday night? That might very well depend on whether or not defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is able to return to the lineup.
Their series with the Kings shifts back to Los Angeles with the Blues facing a 2-0 deficit, having been thoroughly outplayed in each of the first two games. The Blues haven't been able to find an answer for Anze Kopitar, finally getting a stage to display his ability as one of the games best players, or Dustin Brown as he's made an impact in every possible situation (even strength, shorthanded, etc). Not having Pietrangelo for much of the series has been a huge blow, as they've been outscored 7-2 since he was injured late in the second period of Game 1. That's probably not a coincidence.
The Blues' Game 2 performance was pretty much a dud right from the start, not only falling down in a 4-0 hole in the first period, but also finishing the night 0-for-9 on the power play (recording just 13 shots on those nine power plays) and allowing yet another shorthanded goal.
The Blues were the best defensive team in the NHL during the regular season, but so far they've been no match for the Kings forwards, a deeper group than they've been given credit for being this season and haven't been able to generate any sustained pressure in the Los Angeles end of the ice.
That has to change in Game 3, or this will end being a shorter series than we expected.
7:30 ET, Philadelphia at New Jersey: For the first time this postseason the Flyers offense was completely shut down in Game 2 as the Devils went right at them and played their best game of the playoffs in a 4-1 win on Tuesday night. It was also one of the worst games the Flyers played, with a noticeable lack of effort in certain defensive situations.
One of the most interesting developments in this series (if not the entire postseason) is the two sides of Flyers forward Danny Briere.
On one hand, he's pretty much being put into the Hall of Fame for his goal-scoring ability, especially in big situations (like overtime of Game 1). But he's also been one of the biggest defensive sieves of any player in the playoffs (good read on the subject from a Flyers perspective here), and it might even be starting to outweigh what he's done for Philadelphia from an offensive perspective. No player in the playoffs to this point has been on the ice for more goals against during 5-on-5 play than Briere, and he's had the luxury of his coach, Peter Laviolette, rarely putting him in defensive situations.
Flyers games have been must-see TV in these playoffs. Every game is exciting and high-scoring, and Briere has been a big reason why. Not only for his offense, but also his (lack of) defense.
Can the Devils find a way to take advantage of it again on Thursday?
Your daily miscellany
- The best of the NHL playoffs on Wednesday, including Ryan McDonagh's marathon effort.
- One more look at Briere's recent shortcomings defensively. [SB Nation]
- Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson, acquired in the Jeff Carter trade before the trade deadline, has been named the captain of Team USA for the World Championships. [Columbus Dispatch]
- Back to McDonagh for a minute: Matt Hendricks lined him up and delivered the biggest hit of the night on Wednesday during one of the overtime periods. It was also a clean hit, and it even led to Washington's best scoring chance of the overtime, and it ended up just missing.
That's how close Washington came to winning.
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