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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 2:22 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Coyotes take another giant step

On March 18, the Phoenix Coyotes weren't even among the top eight teams in the Western Conference.

Less than two months later, they are one of its last two teams standing.

Shane Doan
Right Wing - PHX
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 35 | +/-: 5
With Monday night's 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators at Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history. Phoenix will face the Los Angeles Kings in Round 3, as those squads will battle in a best-of-seven series to determine who will represent the Western Conference in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.

"We've been pretty business-like the whole time, and we're excited for this win," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who appeared in his 50th postseason game Monday night. "It means a lot to our group to keep going. But it's only halfway. We've got to find a way to win four more games and regroup again."
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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 12:18 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings finally head back to Conference Finals

Jonathan Quick's remarkable season will continue in the 2012 Western Conference Finals.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 8-1-0
GAA: 1.55 | SVP: 0.949
Quick, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy after notching a League-high 10 shutouts, helped the Los Angeles Kings complete a sweep of the St. Louis Blues with Sunday's 3-1 win at the Staples Center. With Quick leading the charge, the Kings are headed to the conference finals for the first time in almost 20 years.

Not since 1993 has Los Angeles made it this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Sunday's victory, the Kings also became the first team to eliminate the top two seeds in a conference since the NHL adopted the format prior to the 1993-94 season.

Quick is 8-1 this postseason and has stopped 260 of 274 shots for a .949 save percentage. With his help, the Kings killed off all 17 power plays the Blues received in the series.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 1:31 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Ovechkin makes most of few minutes

One would assume that Alex Ovechkin would be among the leaders in ice time for the Washington Capitals, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But Caps coach Dale Hunter limited his superstar's ice time in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Monday night, and Washington skated away with a 3-2 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 36 | +/-: -1
Ovechkin, who led Washington with 65 points (38 goals, 27 assists) during the regular season, was on the ice for just 13 minutes and 36 seconds Monday night, just two days after receiving more than 21 minutes in Game 1. Nonetheless, Ovechkin made the most of his limited ice time in Game 2 and scored what proved to be the game-winner via the power play with 7:27 left in regulation.

The 13:36 of ice time Ovechkin played Monday night were the fewest in his NHL postseason career. It was also the fewest in his NHL career in a game -- excluding ejections or injuries. Ovechkin has played fewer than 17 minutes in three of Washington's last five games.

"I feel good. You have to suck it up and use time what Dale is giving to me," Ovechkin said. "First period, two periods I didn't play a lot and I have a couple opportunities I didn't use it. In third, two power plays -- I think on first power play we move well and on second one finally it goes in.

"It's most important thing right now guys just win the series and win the game. If you gonna talk about my game time and all that kind of stuff, it's not a season – it's the playoffs. How I said before, you have to suck it up and play for team."

Not so shorthanded -- Most teams try to stay out of the penalty box. But the Los Angeles Kings seem to do well even when they're whistled for an infraction.

Anze Kopitar
Center - LAK
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 22 | +/-: 7
Not only did the Kings kill all nine St. Louis power plays Monday night, they also received a shorthanded goal from Anze Kopitar in a 5-2 win against the Blues in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal series at the Scottrade Center.

Kings captain Dustin Brown picked up an assist on Kopitar's tally, giving him four shorthanded points this postseason. It's the most any player has had in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since Detroit center Henrik  Zetterberg had five points in 2008.

"It's good to see that emotional investment from Dustin, right? Good to see, and good for him," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Hey, it's what I said before the series. We need him to have a good series."

St. Louis has already allowed two shorthanded goals in this series. The Blues surrendered three shorthanded tallies during the regular season.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:47 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Playoffs are Briere's time to shine

There are certain players who simply step up their game at this time of year. Danny Briere is at -- or at least near the very top -- of that list.

Danny Briere
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 10
SOG: 18 | +/-: -2
Just moments after having an overtime goal waved off, Briere scored the 46th goal of his postseason career to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.

Briere -- who scored twice Sunday afternoon -- now has 106 points in 104 playoff games. He is now tied with Claude Giroux for the playoff lead with seven goals, and ranks second behind only Giroux with 10 points.

His overtime tally was his 14th goal on his last 18 playoff games. He now has 36 goals and 69 points in 64 postseason contests with Philadelphia.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:28 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers prepare for ninth Game 7

"The World's Most Famous Arena" will be hosting its fourth Game 7 on Thursday night.

Thanks to the work of youngsters such as Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider -- along with world-class goaltender Henrik Lundqvist -- the Blueshirts managed to stave off elimination Monday night and force a seventh game with a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

The victory means the Rangers will be participating in their ninth Game 7 in franchise history, and the fourth to be played at Madison Square Garden. It will also be the first Game 7 on Broadway since the Rangers won their only Stanley Cup championship in the last six decades, when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in a dramatic seventh game in 1994.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 11:26 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Road teams continue to reign supreme in OT

The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is still ongoing, but there have already been 13 games that have gone past regulation.

So far, that has been bad news for the home teams.

The visiting squad won both games that required overtime on Sunday, as Boston's Tyler Seguin and Jarret Stoll of Los Angeles lit the lamp in the extra session. With the victories, the road team is now 10-3 in overtime games this postseason.

Los Angeles won a playoff series for the first time in 11 years and became just the 10th team that finished eighth in the conference to eliminate a No. 1 seed since the National Hockey League adopted the format in 1993-94, and the sixth to upset a Presidents' Trophy winner. Vancouver finished the 2011-12 regular season with an NHL-best 111 points.

The Canucks lost all three games they hosted at Rogers Arena and have been ousted in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 2-4-0
GAA: 4.63 | SVP: 0.834
Nothing special -- The subpar goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury certainly is a big reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins' season has ended prematurely. But perhaps an ever bigger reason is special teams.

The Philadelphia Flyers set a new franchise record with 12 power-play goals in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Pens, which ended with Sunday's 5-1 decision at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers finished the series 12-for-23 with the man advantage, an astonishing 52.2 percent.

Pittsburgh's penalty kill ranked third in the League during the regular season with a success rate of 87.8 percent. But for these six games against its arch nemesis, it was nowhere to be found.

It's now 8-8 -- Sunday marked the 16th playoff game between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins.

And, after Seguin scored 3:17 into overtime, each team has now won eight games.

This is the third time in history the Caps and Bruins have faced each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the teams will need a Game 7 to determine the winner. Alex Ovechkin erased a 3-2 deficit late in the third period Sunday, but Seguin -- who is only 20 years old -- won it for Boston early in the extra session.

Seguin led the Bruins during the regular season with 29 goals and 67 points, but was scoreless in the playoffs until notching two points on Sunday.

Wednesday marks the fifth Game 7 for Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and the first for Washington's Braden Holtby. Thomas is 3-2 with a 2.04 goals-against average in Game 7s.

It will be the 10th Game 7 for Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. He has won five of nine in his career.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 1:06 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Blues advance for first time in a decade

Not since 2002 had the St. Louis Blues advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But on Saturday night, Ken Hitchcock's club changed all that.

Going up against a team that had reached the Western Conference Final the last two years, the Blues disposed of the San Jose Sharks in five games with Saturday's 3-1 win at the Scottrade Center. Including the regular season, the Blues won eight of nine against the San Jose.

In those nine games, the Sharks scored a total of 11 goals.

Jamie Langenbrunner, David Perron and Andy McDonald scored for the Blues, who were 6-7 when Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne behind the bench. St. Louis also entered the season having not qualified for the postseason since 2009.

Special teams played a huge role in the series, as the Blues killed 15 of San Jose's 17 power plays. The Sharks went 0-for-2 with the man advantage Saturday night.

Craig Anderson
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 3-2-0
GAA: 1.79 | SVP: 0.943
Anderson does it again -- Craig Anderson was spectacular again for the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.

The Ottawa Senators goaltender made several phenomenal saves to lead his team to a 2-0 win against the top-seeded New York Rangers in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. Anderson, who finished with 41 saves, lowered his goals-against average to 1.79. Through the first five games of the series, Anderson is boasting a .943 save percentage.

The Rangers have scored only three goals in the past three games, including a 1-0 victory in Game 3. Anderson, meanwhile, improved to 8-1-1 lifetime at MSG.

Since the Blueshirts took a 2-0 lead in the first period of Game 4, Anderson has gone 116 minutes, 32 seconds without allowing a goal.

Theodore bounces back -- Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen had complete faith that goaltender Jose Theodore would respond after allowing three goals in the first 6:16 against the New Jersey in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal last Tuesday.

All Theodore did Saturday night was stop all 30 shots he faced for his second career postseason shutout as the Panthers moved within a win of the second round with a 3-0 victory at the BankAtlantic Center.

It's been 16 years since Florida has won a playoff series, but Theodore's ability to respond has the Devils on the brink of elimination when the series resumes Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.

Theodore went eight years in between postseason shutouts -- his first one came back on April 19, 2004, when the Montreal Canadiens blanked the Boston Bruins in a 2-0 win.

Dennis Seidenberg
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 11 | +/-: 2
Struggling to score -- Goals have been hard to come by for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

When Dennis Seidenberg beat Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby at 17:21 of the second period on Saturday afternoon, it was the Boston Bruins' first goal in 84 minutes, 9 seconds. Rich Peverley had Boston's lone goal in the opening period of Thursday night's 2-1 loss.

The Bruins' lack of offense is a huge reason why the club is playing with its season on the line Sunday afternoon, when the series shifts back to Washington.

Make it five -- For the first time in 61 years, a playoff series has opened with five consecutive overtime games.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes reached an extra session for a fifth time Saturday night, as Nick Leddy erased a 1-0 deficit midway through the third period before captain Jonathan Toews won it in overtime as the Hawks staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory at Jobing.com Arena.

Saturday night marked the first time a series opened with five straight overtime games since the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs battled in the 1951 Stanley Cup Final.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:01 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Three straight overtimes for Coyotes, Blackhawks

When it comes to the Western Conference Quarterfinal between the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks, 60 minutes just haven't been enough.

Mikkel Boedker
Right Wing - PHX
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 9 | +/-: 2
After a wild third period, the clubs played overtime for a third straight game Tuesday night before Mikkel Boedker gave the Coyotes a 2-1 series lead when he beat Corey Crawford from a sharp angle at 13:15 in a 3-2 win at the United Center.

Overtime was needed again after the teams traded three goals during a 65-second span in the third period. Michael Frolik gave Chicago a 2-1 lead almost immediately after Rostislav Klesla had tied it for Phoenix, but Ray Whitney evened things up again for the Coyotes just 32 seconds later.

The victory has Phoenix halfway towards its first postseason series victory in 25 years. In 1987, the Winnipeg Jets ousted the Calgary Flames in six games.
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Can Kings complete improbable sweep?

It's happened only eight times in 19 years, but the Los Angeles Kings are a solid 60-minute effort away from becoming No. 9.

Thanks to a 41-save performance from Jonathan Quick and another tremendous effort from team captain Dustin Brown, the Kings -- who haven't won a playoff series since 2001 -- took a 3-0 lead on the Vancouver Canucks in their Western Conference Quarterfinal with a 1-0 win at the Staples Center on Sunday night.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 3-0-0
GAA: 1.33 | SVP: 0.965
Only eight teams that finished eighth in the conference have managed to knock off a No. 1 seed since the National Hockey League adopted the format in 1993. But the Kings, who didn't even know they were playing the Canucks until the final night of the regular season, can eliminate the Canucks with another victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Vancouver's special teams have struggled in this series, as the Canucks clearly miss injured winger Daniel Sedin. Vancouver went 0-for-4 on the power play Sunday night and is now 0-for-14 in the series.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, treated its fans to something they hadn't seen in quite some time -- a playoff victory on home ice. With Sunday's win, the Kings snapped a five-game playoff skid at Staples Center.

A long time coming -- Fifteen years since their last playoff victory, the Florida Panthers had reason to celebrate after Sunday's 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at the BankAtlantic Center.

When Tomas Fleischmann scored an empty-net goal in the game's final second, it sealed Florida's first postseason win since a 3-0 triumph against the New York Rangers on April 17, 1997 -- a span of 5,478 days.

Sunday's win didn't come easily for the Panthers. The club held a 3-0 lead, but the Devils scored twice in the third period and nearly tied it with just under 10 seconds to go before Fleischmann's tally helped Florida even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

It's probably a good thing Florida won Sunday, too -- New Jersey is 10-0 all-time when it wins the first two games of a playoff series.

Fleury of goals
-- What's happened to Marc-Andre Fleury?

Marc-Andre Fleury
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 0-3-0
GAA: 6.34 | SVP: 0.798
Easily one of the top goaltenders in the League during the regular season, the Pittsburgh Penguins' netminder has struggled mightily against the Philadelphia Flyers and was pulled after allowing six goals on 28 shots in the first two periods of Sunday's 8-4 loss at Wells Fargo Center.

Fleury won 42 games during the regular season while boasting a 2.36 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. But, in three appearances in the playoffs, he has a 6.34 GAA and .798 save percentage.

Seventh time's a charm -- The Nashville Predators finally won a playoff game at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday.

After going winless in their first six postseason games in Detroit, the Predators squeaked out a 3-2 victory against the Red Wings in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Nashville now has a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series, with Game 4 to be played in Motown on Tuesday.

The Preds also finally experienced some success on the power play against the Wings. Nashville was 0-for-12 with the man advantage in the series before captain Shea Weber found the back of the net 2:48 into Sunday's contest.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 7:16 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers' Meszaros out 6-8 weeks

When the Philadelphia Flyers open the postseason next month, it appears they'll be without another one of their top defenseman.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced Monday that Andrej Meszaros will undergo surgery to remove a small disc fragment in his lower back on Wednesday and will be out 6-8 weeks. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Alex Vaccaro at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

Meszaros, 26, has 7 goals, 18 assists and a plus-6 rating in 62 games this season. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound blueliner hasn't played since March 1 against the New York Islanders, when he had a goal and two assists.

Philadelphia is also without Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) for the remainder of the season. Pavel Kubina (upper body) and Andreas Lilja (throat) are day-to-day.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh