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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 11:13 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Scoring first not a winning formula for Flyers

He who scores first usually scores most -- unless one of the team is the Philadelphia Flyers in this year's playoffs.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Goalie - PHI
RECORD: 5-6
GAA: 3.46 | SVP: 0.887
In a League where the team that gets the first goal won more than two-thirds of the time during the regular season, the Flyers managed to lose six times in seven tries this spring after they opened the scoring. That includes all four of its losses to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- the Flyers scored first again on Tuesday but saw their season end with a 3-1 loss in Game 5.

In all, the team that scored first in the Flyers' 11 postseason games won just once -- Philadelphia scored first and beat Pittsburgh in Game 6 to close out their first-round series. The Flyers were 4-0 when they allowed the first goal this spring, but became the first team ever to score first in all four of its losses in one series.
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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 Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 4:53 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Holtby getting plenty of help

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby had to face only 20 shots in the Capitals' 3-2 win in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon. For that, he can thank the other 18 guys in the red sweaters.

While the Rangers managed to get just 20 shots on goal, Holtby's teammates blocked 26 others -- exactly half of New York's total of 52 attempted shots. The Caps did a better job of getting their shots through to the net; Washington attempted just 40 shots, but 26 of them got to Henrik Lundqvist -- and three of them went into the net.

The Rangers blocked just seven shots on Saturday after getting in front of 41 during Game 3. They had blocked 14 in each of the first two games.
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 11:17 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Preds turn into 'gang that couldn't shoot straight'

If the Nashville Predators don't get past the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Semifinals, their inability to capitalize on Grade-A chances in Game 4 will be a big reason.

Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 7-3
GAA: 1.85 | SVP: 0.946
Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was flawless in stopping all 25 Nashville shots that were on net in Friday night's 1-0 win. But the Predators hurt themselves even more by firing shots that were off-target -- Nashville missed the net on 14 shots, including a handful of excellent scoring chances in the second period when the Predators carried the play but couldn't cash in.

No player symbolized Nashville's off-target shooting more than Patrik Hornqvist, who ended the second period having taken eight shots at goal -- and getting none on target. He had three blocked and missed the net on the other five, including three glorious chances that saw him hit a post, fire a shot over the crossbar and push a pass from David Legwand wide of the right post.

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:49 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Brodeur enjoying overtime success this spring

Success in overtime during the playoffs has been one of the few things that has eluded Martin Brodeur during his career -- he entered this year's playoffs with a record of 12 wins and 21 losses. But as he prepares to turn 40 on Sunday, Brodeur is having the most successful overtime spring of his career.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 6-3
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: 0.917
Brodeur got the win Thursday night when Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal gave the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers and a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. It was the fourth time in their last five games that the Devils have gone to OT -- and the third victory, all with Brodeur in goal.

The three overtime wins are the most Brodeur has ever had in a single playoff year. Thursday's win was also Brodeur's first in four playoff overtime games against the Flyers, who beat him in 1995 and 2010 before doing it again in a 4-3 victory on Sunday.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 1:34 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers end OT drought in dramatic style

Maybe what the New York Rangers needed to end their overtime drought was a game for the ages.

Marian Gaborik
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 7
SOG: 23 | +/-: -1
Overtime has never been the New York Rangers' forte -- they entered Wednesday night having won just 31 of 70 playoff games that had gone past regulation and had dropped seven in a row, including two in the first round this year. One more loss would have tied the NHL for consecutive OT losses.

Instead, the Rangers ended their drought with the second-longest victory in franchise history -- no mean feat for a team that began play in 1926. Marian Gaborik's goal at 14:41 of the third overtime gave the Rangers a 2-1 win at Washington in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 10:55 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Flyers defy 'score first and win' trend

Scoring first is usually the best way to win an NHL game. Someone has failed to get the message to the Philadelphia Flyers and their opponents during this year's playoffs.

For the seventh time in the Flyers' eight games, the team that scored first lost. Unfortunately for the Flyers, they opened the scoring against New Jersey on Tuesday, but went home with a 4-1 loss in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

The team that scored first lost all five games in the Flyers' first-round series against Pittsburgh before Philadelphia closed out the Penguins after scoring the first two goals of Game 6. The Devils scored first in the series-opener on Sunday, a 4-3 overtime loss, but dominated the Flyers in Game 2 after rookie Matt Read's early goal put the Flyers ahead.
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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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— Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien after a 3-2 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday to snap a three-game losing streak
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