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.
After an exhausting triple-overtime loss to Chicago Tuesday, the Nashville Predators were down 3-1 in their first-round series against a Hawks squad comprised of big-game players. Sure, they’d be playing before a supportive home crowd Thursday, but even the best fans on the planet aren’t going to beat Jonathan Toews & Co. The Preds needed a statement game of their own, and that’s what they got in a dominant 5-2 victory that included a hat trick from star rookie Filip Forsberg and a one-goal, two-point performance from winger James Neal.
Athough it wasn’t easy, that part will be a park’s walk compared to what lies ahead next: Game 6 Saturday night in Chicago, where rabid fans at the United Center will be pains in their ear, and Hawks players very likely will be pains in their rear. The Predators were unable to beat the Hawks in Chicago in both regular-season attempts and in Games 3 and 4, and one of the deepest Hawks teams in modern history is known for bending and not breaking.
A win is a win, but make no mistake: the pressure is all on Nashville now. They’ve got an appointment in the viper’s pit, and there’s enough snakes populating it to give their season a quick and painful demise. Read more
The Chicago Blackhawks fell 5-2 to the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of their first-round series Thursday night, but if there’s any solace to be taken for the Hawks, it’s that star winger Patrick Kane is looking like himself again – as evidenced by an astonishing spin-o-rama-style, backhanded assist on Kris Versteeg’s goal late in the third period.
The Hawks were trailing the host Preds 4-1 with five minutes left in the third period when Kane took the puck deep in Nashville’s zone, only to stop, spin and fire a backhanded pass to Versteeg, who slapped it past Predators goalie Pekka Rinne for his first goal of the 2015 post-season and Kane’s fourth assist: Read more
Heading into the playoffs, the one area of concern about the Tampa Bay Lightning was that starting goalie Ben Bishop may not be experienced enough in the post-season to thrive, and the rest of the team would pay the price if he struggled. And it wasn’t an ill-founded concern: although he deserves all kinds of credit for posting a 40-13-5 regular-season mark this year, the reality is the 28-year-old Bishop had just a single game’s worth of experience at the professional hockey level – and it came in the American League in 2011. So when Bishop batted a puck into his own net late in the second period of Game 4 of the Bolts’ first-round series against Detroit (a series the Lightning trailed the Red Wings in two games to one) a massive upset not only was continuing to materialize, but enter its late stages.
However, in a span of one minute and 17 seconds in the third period, Tampa Bay – specifically, blossoming star center Tyler Johnson, who scored his third goal of the playoffs at 14:34, then assisted on Ondrej Palat’s game-tying goal at 15:51 – erased all the trouble signs with a pair of goals to send a shocked Wings squad into overtime. And only 2:25 into the extra frame, Johnson scored his second of the night to win it and even up the series at two games apiece.
Don’t count out the Lightning just yet. In fact, with the series shifting back to Tampa Bay for Game 5 Saturday and again for a potential Game 7 Wednesday, it’s probably safer if you count them in. The rapid emergence of the 24-year-old Johnson as a game-changer nearing the level of teammate Steven Stamkos (who, incredibly, is still looking for his first goal of the series) is an incredibly positive harbinger of what could be to come for the Bolts the rest of this post-season and the playoffs to come. Read more
It didn’t take long for former Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to find a new job, as multiple reports indicate the Edmonton Oilers will announce they’ve hired him to be a part of their management team. Read more
Ben Bishop hasn’t been having the best post-season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and his troubles continued Thursday in Game 4 of the Bolts’ first-round series against Detroit when he batted a shot from Red Wings winger Joakim Andersson into his own net.
Leading the Lightning 2-1 in their series heading into Game 4, the Wings were already up 1-0 Thursday in Detroit when Bishop deflected Andersson’s snap shot with his glove late in the second period and tried to bat the puck away with his stick. Unfortunately for Bishop, the puck went off his crossbar, and when he stretched back to try and stop it from crossing the goal line – you guessed it – he pushed it just enough to cross the goal line: Read more
After the St. Louis Blues fell meekly to the Central Division rival Wild in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series, the sense of doom looming around the franchise was unmistakeable. Without a strong effort in Game 4 Wednesday in Minnesota, the Blues would be down three games to one in the series. And if it got to that stage, it would be a matter of days until they were eliminated and significant change within the organization commenced.
Well, they may still get to that stage. But the Blues did in fact respond in Game 4 by more or less wiping the mat with the Wild, whose defensive presence vanished in a 6-1 rout by the visiting team. St. Louis received excellent performances from a slew of players who had yet to make their mark on the series, including star winger Vladimir Tarasenko (who had two goals), Kevin Shattenkirk (three points), captain David Backes (one goal and two points) and Patrik Berglund (one goal and two points). Six Blues players had their first point of the series in Game 4, and the road win halted a nine-game playoff losing streak that dated back three years. This wasn’t quite an exorcism, but it sure felt like a second chance. Read more
The St. Louis Blues have been searching for a post-season game-breaker on offense for many years now, and although they’ve had some scoring issues in the first three games of their series against Minnesota, star winger Vladmir Tarasenko stepped up in a meaningful way Wednesday in Game 4 with a two-goal performance against the Wild that included a dazzling breakaway goal.
Tarasenko’s first of the night (and fourth of the post-season) in Minnesota came 6:59 into the first period, when he tipped in a shot from blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk to give St. Louis a 2-0 advantage:
But Tarasenko’s second of the game was a true thing of beauty. After teammate Jori Lehtera found him with a brilliant pass from the Blues zone to the Wild’s blueline, Tarasenko broke free from Wild defenders Matt Dumba and Jordan Leopold, then undresses goalie Devan Dubnyk with a famous deke he’s used before: Read more
With a mountainous task before them heading into Game 4 of their first-round playoff showdown against Montreal, the Ottawa Senators understood there was no room for error against a Canadiens team that made the most of its chances to go up 3-0 in the series. And Wednesday night at Canadian Tire Centre, that’s just what the Sens did, putting a lid on Montreal’s offense, getting a terrific showing from veteran goalie Craig Anderson, and shutting out the Habs 1-0 to stave off elimination for at least one more game. They were as next-to-flawless as it gets, and that’s the good news. They’re capable of putting together a complete and airtight 60 minutes of post-season hockey.
The not-so-good news? They’re probably going to have to be just as mistake-free the rest of the series if they’re to win it, because it wasn’t as if the Canadiens were that far off in Game 4, either. Montreal didn’t have their best game, but they’re also able to play the perfect game the Sens played against them Wednesday. And that just has to happen once in the next three games to send Ottawa home for the summer. Read more