2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Montreal Tampa Bay Rd2 featured Francois Lacasse

MontrealTampaBayH2hRd2

WHAT WE LEARNED IN ROUND 1:

CANADIENS: Montreal stormed out to a 3-0 series lead in the first round against Ottawa before eventually eliminating the Senators in six games. They didn’t cruise to victory, but did show the ability to win tightly contested, nearly error-proof games – they were 3-1 in one-goal decisions – and got the excellence in net they’ve come to expect from superstar Carey Price.

LIGHTNING: The Bolts proved they could win with next to no offense from superstar center Steven Stamkos, who didn’t score once against Detroit and finished the first round with three points. Youngster Tyler Johnson carried much of the load on the scoresheet, amassing a league-best six goals in seven games. But Tampa Bay was pushed to the brink of elimination and was down 3-2 in the series before holding the Red Wings to just two goals in the final two games. They’re far from a perfect team. Read more

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild

Jonathan Toews and Mikael Granlund (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Blackhawks vs Wild H2H Rd2

WHAT WE LEARNED IN ROUND 1:

CHICAGO: The expectations, as they have been for the last several seasons, are high in Chicago, but these are a different brand of Blackhawks than years prior. The old Blackhawks used to beat teams with high-powered offense and stingy defense, getting ahead early and riding their talent to victory. This time around, the Blackhawks have had to rely on their ability to fight back when trailing, as they erased two- and three-goal deficits in their first-round series against the Nashville Predators and somehow skated away with victories. While the ability is still present offensively, Chicago is going to need to shore up some of their defensive woes if they want to get by Minnesota. In the first round, the Blackhawks averaged more shots against per 60 minutes than any other team still standing in the post-season.

MINNESOTA: When this Wild team has control of the puck, it’s almost impossible to get it back. Because of that – and because of the play of Devan Dubnyk – beating the Minnesota Wild seems nearly impossible right now. After going on a magical run to make the post-season, Minnesota snuffed out St. Louis, the Western Conference’s second best team, in the first round and now they move on to a Blackhawks squad that they defeated in both games following Dubnyk’s arrival. Their offense hasn’t quite clicked yet, but Zach Parise and company are stepping up when it matters most. The continued emergence of secondary scorers Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter bodes well for the Wild. Read more

Why the Calgary Flames are Canada’s team

The Flames salute their fans after winning Game 3. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The argument comes every post-season about which team – be it a Canadian club or not – is actually “Canada’s team.” While some will cheer for whichever Canadian teams are left standing, others base their fandom on wanting to see an underdog fight through and win the Cup. There’s one other way, though: by breaking down the rosters by nationality.

Using the rosters teams have iced during the post-season, we broke down not only which team is Canada’s club, but which are the most representative of other nations. So, while it’s not a perfect science, what it serves to point out is which teams best represent the hockey-playing nations. It also adds a bit of a twist to some of the second-round matchups.

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Canadian clubs help NHL post big ratings in first round of playoffs

Jared Clinton
Brendan Gallagher (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Thanks to the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets, the NHL saw a first-round boost in their TV ratings of almost 40 percent over last season.

According to The Canadian Press‘ Bill Brioux, Canadian ratings company Numeris revealed the ratings numbers for the first round of the 2015 post-season and the increase was significant. Compared to last year, the NHL’s ratings are up 36 percent from last season’s first round when Montreal was the only Canadian team in the running. Read more

Watch and listen to Alex Ovechkin taunt Henrik Lundqvist after first goal of second-round series

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin has one of the biggest personalities in hockey. Be it a huge goal celebration or a ridiculous post-game interview, Ovechkin usually doesn’t go too long between news-making clips that are worth a laugh. In Game 1 of the second-round series between the Capitals and Rangers, the first period wasn’t even over before Ovechkin made his mark with a huge goal and an even better taunt of New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

During the first intermission of Thursday’s Game 1, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out that if you listened closely to Ovechkin’s first shift post-game-opening goal you could hear very clearly that Ovechkin was using a bit of gamesmanship to get under the skin of Lundqvist. Less than a minute after he had found the back of the net, Ovechkin skated past the Rangers’ net and let Lundqvist know that he was going to be firing shots at him for the duration of the series: Read more

Ducks demolish Flames in Game 1 of what could be seriously short second-round series

Sami Vatanen, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

We know and expect when we rise every day that certain things won’t go exactly right in life. Every trip you’ve ever made to get your driver’s license renewed, for instance. Or the season-to-season development of the TV show Heroes, for other instance. Or your daily commute to work. We understand and accept someone or something will be the equivalent of the dolt driver doing parade speed in the passing lane of our lives, and we muddle through it to get where we want to be.

Then there’s the kind of night Calgary had against Anaheim in Game 1 of their second-round NHL playoff series Thursday. To call the Ducks’ 6-1 win over the Flames a defeat seems charitable in a way that cries out for a tax credit. Read more

Kyle Palmieri starts Ducks’ Game 1 goal rush with outstanding no-look setup pass

Adam Proteau
Anaheim's Kyle Palmieri (foreground) looks back as teammate Matt Beleskey scores the first goal of Game 1 against Calgary Thursday. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks’ offense is normally powered by star forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but in Game 1 of their second-round series against Calgary Thursday, winger Kyle Palmieri got things started with an outstanding no-look pass to Matt Beleskey for the first goal of the game.

The teams had just passed the halfway mark of the first period in Anaheim when Palmieri corralled a puck off the end boards and almost instantly flipped it behind him to Beleskey, who was directly in front of Calgary’s net and promptly scored his first of the playoffs: Read more

Caps steal Game 1, beat Rangers thanks to last-second goal after controversial hit

Capitals winger Joel Ward celebrates his game-winning goal late in the third period to beat the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 1 of their second-round series. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers won all four of their first-round games against Pittsburgh by a 2-1 score – the same score that was registered Thursday night in Game 1 of their second-round series against Washington. Unfortunately for them, the Blueshirts wound up on the wrong end of that score after Capitals star Alex Ovechkin made a fantastic pass to set up a Joel Ward goal with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation – and on the same play as Nicklas Backstrom’s controversial hit on Dan Boyle.

The Rangers didn’t play a poor game – they outshot the Caps 12-7 in the opening frame and had some decent scoring chances – but Washington took Game 1′s first lead at Madison Square Garden on a laser-like wrist shot from Ovechkin late in the first period and held it until after the 15-minute mark of the third. That’s when a Kevin Hayes shot deflected off New York’s Jesper Fast to thwart Braden Holtby’s shutout attempt and tie the score at a goal apiece. From there, it appeared the teams were headed to overtime. Instead, this happened: Read more