Game of the Night - #7 San Jose Sharks at #2 St. Louis Blues, Game 1, 7:30 Eastern, CNBC & TSN
The Game of the Night features five ex-Avs with two skaters on each side of the red line and the fifth being a net minder. Each team boasts one guy who has bolstered his team (Kevin Shattenkirk, Daniel Winnik) and one guy whose contributions aren't quite as stellar (Chris Stewart, T.J. Galiardi). And then of course the Blues has that guy who's got a serious bid on that Vezina Trophy thingee (Brian Elliott). The Blues swept the season series with the Sharks, a team that was supposed to be good, but got to their traditional choking a bit early. However, the Sharks have a lot of guys on the team who fought together in the playoffs last year and have been in playoff mode for a month now, which could serve them with momentum coming into tonight's game. The Blues, on the other hand, had their playoff appearance wrapped up ages ago, with the only real question being those banners in the rafters.
Antti Niemi will, of course, backstop the Sharks (2.42 GAA, .915 save percentage). The problem of deciding which goaltender to put in net was made for Blues' coach Ken Hitchcock as Elliott has been nursing an upper body injury, giving Jaroslav Halak the start. Unfortunately, Halak's stats don't quite match up to Elliott's league leading 1.56 GAA and .940 save percentage. That slouch Halak is only sporting a 1.97 GAA and .926 save percentage. Slacker.
Players to watch
San Jose: T.J. Galiardi. Will the Spartacus inspired Galliardicus return for the playoffs, or will it be the guy who has seen his ice time cut repeatedly over the season?
St. Louis: David Perron. He's scored five goals in his last six games.
|MAR 3, 2012||STL @ SJS||STL, 3 - 1|
|FEB 12, 2012||SJS @ STL||STL, 3 - 0|
|DEC 10, 2011||SJS @ STL||STL, 1 - 0|
|OCT 15, 2011||STL @ SJS||STL, 4 - 2|
The "You Think They Don't Have a Chance But They Do" Game - #8 Ottawa Senators at #1 New York Rangers, Game 1, 7:00 Eastern, NHL Network & CBC
A quick glance at the numbers would make you think Ottawa is going to go down in Vancouver-esque flames, but you really need to look more closely. Ottawa took the season series with the Rangers, winning 3 games to 1 and outscoring the Eastern Conference Champs 14 to 8. In their lone win, the Rangers kept the Senators scoreless on the power play, which will be one of the keys to winning this series.
Players to watch:
Ottawa: Erik Karlsson. The defenseman recorded 78 points in 81 games this season. Holy PMD Batman!
Rangers: Gaborich. Linemates Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik have combined to score 20 goals and 28 assists over the last month of the season.
The "lolz, You Need Him Now" Game - #7 Washington Capitals at #2 Boston Bruins, Game 1, 7:30 Eastern, NBC Sports & CBC
The big story for the Caps in the playoffs is goaltending. It will be the third time in the past four years that Washington will play a rookie goalie in the playoffs. First, it was Semyon Varlamov. I think you might know him but he's kind of obscure and totally sucks and stuff so maybe not. Then there was Michal Neuvirth. And now they turn to Braden Holtby. "Who?" you say. That guy who's played 11 NHL games, that's who! The Caps do have the season series on their side at 3-1, but two of those wins were by one goal and the other by two. The Bruins, on the other hand, won their game decidedly 4-1. Drinking game: slam one home every time someone on Twitter makes a joke about Tim Thomas and the government. (Be sure to have 911 on speed dial.)
Players to watch:
Boston: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. That line was the third most productive line in the league at even strength.
Capitals: Alex Ovechkin. Despite a lackluster performance most of the season, the guy turned it on at the end, recording 10 goals in the final 13 games.
The "Will Chia Stay Up to Watch This?" Game - #6 Chicago Blackhawks at #3 Phoenix Coyotes, Game 1, 10:00 Eastern, NBC Sports & TSN
Talk about an argument against division leaders automatically getting those top three spots. Despite ending the season with more wins (45 to 42) and points (101 to 97), the Hawks lose out on home ice advantage because the entire Pacific Division crapped the bed, giving the meh Coyotes the third seed. Chicago ranks fourth in the league for goals scored and points earned at home. However, Desert Dogs did take 3 of the 4 meetings between the teams this season, netting 13 goals to Chicago's 6. Phoenix has a secret weapon, too, someone the Avalanche know all too well.
Players to watch:
Phoenix: Mike Smith. Secret weapon, indeed, Smith has been nothing short of phenomenal in net for the Yotes. He allowed only 2 goals in the final 6 games of the season, leading his team to a 9-1-3 record down the stretch.
Chicago: Patrick Kane. 20-Cent scored 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games and has this thing about producing in the playoffs: 48 points in 45 games.
Team SBN sites for those who are so inclined:
Fear the Fin – San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Game Time – St. Louis Blues
Silver Seven – Ottawa Senators
Blueshirt Banter – New York Rangers
Japers’ Rink – Washington Capitals (solid site, btw)
Stanley Cup of Chowder – Boston Bruins
Second City Hockey – Chicago Blackhawks
Five for Howling – Phoenix Coyotes