Adam Proteau, currently the brand's columnist/writer, has worked for The Hockey News since 2002 and won the Professional Hockey Writers' award for best column in 2006. He also won the Esso Medal of Achievement for most improved player as a 13-year-old at the 'A' level in 1985, but he's less proud of that.
Over the course of 82 regular-season games this season, the St. Louis Blues established themselves as a very difficult hockey team to beat. What they’ve yet to establish themselves as, though, is a team with the ability to do some serious damage in the playoffs. And after Game 1 of their first-round series against Minnesota Thursday ended in a 4-2 win for the Wild, they’ve still got a lot left to prove in order to be taken seriously at this time of year.
In a game that will not be remembered as one of the most entertaining playoff matchups in NHL history, the Blues managed to get just 21 shots – including only four in the second period – on Minnesota ace Devan Dubnyk, who let in two of them for a paltry (for him, anyway) .905 save percentage on the night. But despite pressing numerous times during the first period, St. Louis didn’t register its first goal until 7:12 of the third frame on Jaden Schwartz’s goal. By that stage of the game, they were already down 2-0 thanks to rookie Matt Dumba’s second period power play goal and Jason Zucker’s first-period marker – and after Schwartz’s goal, there was no difference-maker who stepped up for the Blues to tie it late and force overtime. (Sure, Alex Steen scored with 59 seconds left in regulation, but his goal came 14 seconds after Mikael Granlund scored an empty-net goal to make it 3-1 Wild; Minnesota promptly scored another empty-netter – this one, from Jason Pominville – to ice the victory for the visitors and erase St. Louis’ home ice advantage.)
Following Granlund’s goal, the sounds of discontent could be heard in pockets of Scottrade Center, and who could blame Blues fans for the now-familiar sense of unease? Read more
At this time last year, defenseman Matt Dumba was in the WHL playoffs with the Portland Winterhawks, who eventually won that league’s Western Conference championship for the fourth consecutive season. The 20-year-old may not get that far in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild this season, but in his first career playoff game Thursday night, Dumba made a lifetime memory for himself with his first playoff goal – a rocket slap shot from the blueline that beat Blues goalie Jake Allen and gave his team a 2-0 lead on the road.
The Wild were on the power play early in the second period when Dumba one-timed a pass from Jared Spurgeon past Allen, who was screened on the play by Minnesota forwards Nino Niederreiter and Chris Stewart…and Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo: Read more
The injury-depleted Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the biggest underdogs of any team entering the 2014-15 NHL playoffs, particularly after they finished the season 3-5-2 and barely managed to claim the final Eastern Conference wild card berth to set up a date with the league’s No. 1 regular-season team, the New York Rangers. And when the Blueshirts scored a goal just 28 seconds into the first period Thursday night, went up 2-0 late in the opening frame, and outshot the Pens 13-5 enterng it looked as if a rout was on.
It didn’t turn out that way, as the Pens gathered themselves from the second period on and made a game of it, cutting New York’s lead to 2-1 six minutes into the second and keeping the Rangers off the scoresheet for the rest of the night at Madison Square Garden. But there are two reasons why Pittsburgh didn’t find a way to win Game 1: firstly, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were unable to produce any offense, something necessary for this team to win; and secondly, they’re playing the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup – a squad that requires only the briefest of breakdowns to take advantage of before clamping down on defense.
Pittsburgh needs to play four virtually perfect games in order to win this series, and their slow start and sloppy first period was more than enough for the Blueshirts to beat them. Read more
Not many hockey pundits, professional or otherwise, were giving the Pittsburgh Penguins much of a chance to win their first-round series with the New York Rangers. And after the Pens gave up the first goal of the series just 28 seconds into Game 1 Thursday night, there are probably more people who feel that way.
Without injured veteran defensemen Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff in the lineup, the Penguins’ defense corps was projected to be a weakness, and it didn’t take long after the opening faceoff before it had a catastrophic defensive breakdown. That came in two parts: the first, when Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed a massive rebound on Rick Nash’s slap shot from the blueline; and, more importantly, when Pens d-man Paul Martin allowed Derick Brassard to blow by him and snap a shot past Fleury to make it 1-0 for the home team before the game was a half-minute old: Read more
In the New York Islanders’ 4-1 Game 1 victory over Washington Wednesday, superstar center and Hart Trophy candidate John Tavares had just one assist. That could be interpreted by some as an ominous harbinger of what’s to come for them against the Capitals and throughout the rest of the post-season. But the opposite is true. The fact the Isles got big games from youngsters such as sophomore centers Brock Nelson (who had the first and last goal of the night) and Ryan Strome, and veteran wingers Josh Bailey (one goal and two points) and Kyle Okposo (one assist) means there’s less pressure on Tavares to shoulder the entire load. And that can only be good news for their playoff hopes this year. Read more
New York Islanders center Ryan Strome was playing his first NHL playoff game Wednesday against the Washington Capitals – and the 21-year-old wasn’t showing any nerves when he scored his first career playoff goal (and the game-winner) on a sweet wrist shot in traffic that caught the upper corner of the Capitals’ net.
Strome, who scored 17 goals and 50 points in his sophomore regular season, grabbed the puck off a faceoff won by Isles star John Tavares early in the second period in Washington, and wasted no time ripping it over Holtby’s right shoulder and just under the crossbar to make it 2-1 for the visitors: Read more
You know that, no matter what else happens in every Stanley Cup tournament, there will always be at least one controversy related to NHL officiating. If it’s not a personal relationship between a referee and a particular player some fans and media focus on, it’s a debatable call that earns the ire of the public (and often, the team on the wrong end of the call). And it didn’t take very long at all for that officiating controversy to take place in the 2015 post-season: in the second period of Game 1 of Montreal’s first-round series against Ottawa Wednesday night, Canadiens star defenseman P.K. Subban was assessed a five-minute major penalty for slashing and a game misconduct.
The ejection of Subban enraged Habs fans, especially after Sens phenom Mark Stone – who, after being slashed by Subban on the penalized play, writhed around in great pain and left the game – returned to action a few minutes later. But if you think Subban was wronged to be given so harsh a penalty, don’t blame the officials. Blame the league and its philosophy of basing punishments on injury and thus encouraging players to embellish.
To be certain, Subban’s slash of Stone’s arm was (a) a two-hander; (b) vicious; and (c) could easily have caused serious damage to him: Read more
The Ottawa Senators entered Game 1 of their first-round playoff showdown with Montreal Wednesday knowing it would be extremely difficult to score on star goalie Carey Price. But they’ll have a much easier go of things if Canadiens players score goals on their own net – as Habs defenseman Andrei Markov did in the first period to give the Senators the first goal of the series.
Senators captain Erik Karlsson dumped the puck into Montreal’s zone a little more than 12 minutes into the opening frame, and after it bounced off the end boards and back toward the net, Markov delicately attempted to push the puck toward Price, presumably to get a whistle and stop the action. Instead, the veteran blueliner pushed the puck between Price’s legs: Read more