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WATERLOO… Game six between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals has just ended and I think the only descriptive that will fit here is that the Caps just applied a butt whomping to the Pens to even their series at 3 games apiece going back to the Nations Capital for a seven heaven on Wednesday eve. In fact, by the time you read this, there will have been two seven heavens on Wednesday and they will be the first of the entire tournament thus far. The first round was void of any. In the other series deciding tilt on Wednesday the Edmonton Oilers will be in Orange County to battle the Anaheim Ducks. Like the Caps the Oilers survived an elimination game on Sunday by besting the Ducks 7-1 after a late humiliating defeat in G5. The Ducks scored 3 goals very late to tie in G5 and then won in double OT to put themselves in a position to advance on Sunday with a win. The Oilers had other ideas and put on a clinic versus the Ducks.
On Sunday Nashville beat the STL Blues 3-1 to win their series 4 games to two and advance to the Western Conference Final. As a Wild Card team they are not eligible for Home Ice in the series no matter who wins between the Oiler and Ducks. The Predators are playing some impressive hockey right now and are 8-2 in the tourney at this point. I think the Preds best player so far has to be net minder Pekka Rinne. He has endured some hip problems over the past 2-3 seasons that left many wondering how much he had left to give. It turns out he still has some serious game. He currently leads all net minders still playing in the tourney with a 1.16 GAA. He has allowed the least amount of goals of all starting net minders with 14 allowed in 10 games. And with a SV% of .951, he leads that category as well versus all net minders still in.
Tuesday night will feature the NY Rangers versus the Ottawa Senators in a G6 matchup that could send the Blueshirts home from the tourney with a loss at Madison Square Garden. The Sens won the first 2 games at home, the Rangers followed suit at MSG in Games 3 and 4 and Saturday, in Ottawa in G5, the Sens tied the game late and then got the winner in OT on a Kyle Turris marker about 6 and a half minutes into the extra frame. I could be wrong here but if the Rangers don’t tighten up defensively they could be on the way to summer vay-kay at the end of Tuesday eve. NYR net minder Henrik “The King” Lundqvist has not exactly looked royal for the duration of this series. He looked good at the Garden in G3 and G4, otherwise, yikes! The King needs to tighten it up.
So, the tourney is getting down to the nitty gritty and how will it go? Let me level with you here, my bracket is already shot to H-E-double hockey sticks and pretty much has been since early in the tourney. In R2 I had Nashville over STL, I had the Ducks over the Oilers in 6 games. I had the NYR over the Sens in 5 games! And I had the Pens over the Caps in 7 games. The Preds are moving on, and the other 3 series are up for grabs still. Give me the Oilers to forget how young of a team they are and advance. The NYR haven’t exactly been stellar on home ice this year, but I think they get to a G7 but lose to the Sens and for the Coup de Grace? For the last period of G5 and for all three periods of G6 the Pens looked flat and like they were nearing the end of their journey, the one that had them winning the SC last season. It’s hard to repeat, and I will go out on a limb here, but I think the Caps get over the wall and advance in the East. *DISCLAIMER, don’t do any wagering based on anything I say!
THE NHL NETWORK has been televising a lot of the IIHF World Championship games and they are still in the Prelims so far. I haven’t seen anything ultra-remarkable yet, excepting that a lot of big name veterans from the participating countries weren’t asked or declined invites after their NHL seasons concluded. That’s not to say that there isn’t some big name young players there, but most of the rosters outside of a couple of the Euro clubs are devoid of big name vets. Team USA features 3 Minnesotans in Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Nick Bugstad, and to illustrate what I said earlier, I heard one analyst state that the 26 year old Lee was the oldest player on the USA squad. Team Sweden features two players from the Minnesota Wild in D-man Jonas Brodin and young forward Joel Eriksson Ek and that’s it. I am of the thought that Team USA could compete for a medal, not sure if it would be “Gold” though.
With this tourney going on, IIHF President Rene Fasel told a German newspaper that there is still a chance for NHL participation in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. While I would like that very much, as would many other fans, I think that train has left the station and it isn’t coming back. I wish I could say otherwise, but I can’t. It is still up in the air what kind of rosters the Big six NHL countries might send to the games, but it would represent the thrill of a lifetime for those players that will be chosen. I think it could still be a real good tournament, but lets face it, it won’t be “best on best” and that is a tremendous letdown. Thank you NHL and NHL owners. And no, I will not cut you any slack on this.
AND FINALLY, tonight in the Pens-Caps game I saw at least two vicious checks from behind and this is a dangerous play that I have wanted out of the game for a long time now. The NHL finally got it’s cranium out of it’s hind-end in regard to blind side hits, so what’s the difference between the two? None. The target in either situation does not know the check is coming in the majority of these plays. Wake up NHL before some unlucky player suffers a catastrophic injury that will make us all cringe…. PEACE