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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 11:11 PM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kreider is the toast of the town

Three weeks after leading Boston College to the NCAA championship, Chris Kreider is the toast of New York.

Kreider signed with the Rangers after BC's title game victory on April 7, and he's one of the big reasons New York beat Ottawa in the first round and leads Washington 1-0 in the second. In his six games as a pro, Kreider has a pair of game-winning goals -- including the winner in Saturday's 3-1 victory against the Caps -- making him the first Rangers rookie to get more than one in the same year since Mike Allison in 1981 to get more than one.

Kreider, the first player since John Byce in 1990 to go directly from winning an NCAA championship into the playoffs, had the winning goal and an assist in the Rangers' 3-2 win in Game 6 against Ottawa, then did the same thing on Saturday against the Caps. The 20-year-old is the youngest Ranger to score a playoff goal since Niklas Sundstrom in 1996; he's just the third player ever to score a playoff goal for New York before playing in a regular-season game for the Rangers.
Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 1:45 AM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Parade of overtime games continues

We've moved past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the deluge of overtime games shows no signs of abating.

After 16 of the 48 games in the conference quarterfinals went past regulation, the conference semis started out the same way, with Phoenix needing an extra 14:04 to beat Nashville 4-3 on Friday night in the opener of their Western Conference Semifinal series.

It was the first OT game of the playoffs for Nashville, the only team to make it to the second round without playing one. The Coyotes more than made up for it -- Phoenix tied a playoff record by going into overtime in each of its first five games against Chicago and set a Stanley Cup record by going past regulation for the sixth time in their seven games.
Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 1:58 AM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

No place like home for Rangers

If the New York Rangers have to play a Game 7, there's nowhere else they'd rather play it than Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers rode the benefits of playing in front of their home fans to a 2-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Playing the deciding game at MSG was their reward for finishing first in the Eastern Conference -- and they'll have the same reward for as far as they go in the playoffs.

The Rangers are now 4-5 all-time in Game 7s -- 4-0 at the Garden and 0-5 on the road. The victory against the Senators was their first in a Game 7 since they held off Vancouver to win the 1994 Final. The other two Game 7 wins both came against New Jersey -- they won 8-4 in the opening round in 1992 and 2-1 in double overtime in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.

Ottawa has yet to find a way to win Game 7. The Senators have gone to a seventh game five times but have yet to win one -- in fact, they've scored just six goals in the five games.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 4-2-0
GAA: 2.06 | SVP: 0.922
Marty comes through -- Playoff overtime has never been Martin Brodeur's strong suit, but he came through in back-to-back games when the New Jersey Devils needed him most.

Brodeur made 43 saves before Adam Henrique's goal 3:47 into the second overtime gave New Jersey a 3-2 win at Florida in Game 7 on Thursday night. Brodeur and the Devils also won Game 6 in OT, giving him overtime wins in back-to-back games for the first time beating Toronto in Games 2 and 3 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Despite the two wins against Florida, Brodeur is still just 14-21 in overtime during the playoffs.

The winningest regular-season goaltender in NHL history now has won six of his 10 decisions in Game 7 -- he's 3-2 on the road and at home. Brodeur has split the two Game 7s that went into overtime; he lost to the New York Rangers in double overtime in the Eastern Conference Finals 18 years ago.

The Game 7 win against Florida came about 20 minutes after Thursday night turned into Friday morning -- and April 27 is the 20th anniversary of Brodeur's first Stanley Cup Playoff game, an 8-5 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their first-round series in 1992.

Fitting conclusion
-- It was appropriate that the first round of the playoffs ended with the longest game of the record 16 contests to go into overtime.

Adam Henrique
Center - NJD
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 10 | +/-: 1
Henrique's goal at 23:47 of overtime concluded an opening round that saw exactly one-third of the 48 games played go past regulation. It's the most OT games ever in the opening round -- and puts the NHL on track to break the record of 28 overtime games in a single playoff year, set in 1993.

Of the eight series in the conference quarterfinals, only one -- Detroit-Nashville -- didn't have at least one overtime game. Phoenix and Chicago tied a record when they went to extra time in each of the first five games, and the Washington-Boston series had four OT contests.

That the visiting Devils won Thursday night shouldn't have come as a surprise. Road teams won 12 of the 16 overtime games -- and all three that went into a second extra period.

20 and counting -- The departure of the Senators means that the Stanley Cup will be staying south of the 49th parallel again. Not since the Montreal Canadiens beat Los Angeles in 1993 has a Canadian-based team taken home the Cup. This is the first year since 1996 that the final eight in the playoffs don't include a Canadian team.

Ottawa's loss also kept another streak intact. Since the current playoff format was adopted for the 1993-94 season, we haven't had both No. 8 seeds win. Los Angeles became the 12th No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed by eliminating Vancouver, but the Senators came up a goal short in their effort to oust the Rangers, the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

First-round review -- No sweeps. Three seven-game series. Domination by visiting teams. Such was the first round of this year's playoffs.

For the second time in three years, all eight conference quarterfinals went more than four games. Three -- all in the West -- were decided in five games. Two others went six games and three Eastern Conference series went to the limit, the second time that's happened in as many years.

The Vancouver Canucks became the 10th top seed in a conference to fail to get out of the first round when Los Angeles beat them in five games. Boston became the second straight defending champ to be knocked out in the first round when it lost to Washington.

The trend of road teams dominating the opening round continued -- the guys in the white sweaters won 30 of the 48 games, the third year in a row visiting teams have won more than they've lost in the first round. None of the eight winning teams was perfect at home.
Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 11:33 PM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Caps and Bruins finish off a series to remember

It will go down as the tightest series in NHL history -- and for the Boston Bruins, one of the most disappointing.

Braden Holtby
Goalie - WSH
RECORD: 4-3-0
GAA: 2.00 | SVP: 0.940
Boston's reign as Stanley Cup champs came to a stunning end Wednesday night when Joel Ward scored 2:57 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 victory in Game 7, sending the Caps onto the second round and the Bruins home for the summer.

It's the first seven-game series in Stanley Cup history in which every game was decided by a single goal -- no other series had had more than five one-goal games. For all but a 2:54 span late in the second period of Game 5, neither team led by more than one goal at any point in the seven games -- meaning that for 427:34 of the 430:28 played in the series, the teams were tied or separated by one goal. 
Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:59 PM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Plenty of overtime again this spring

If playoff overtime is your thing, this year's opening round has been a moveable feast.

New Jersey's 3-2 victory against Florida on Tuesday marked the 14th time in 45 games so far during this spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs that the teams were unable to decide matters in the regulation 60 minutes. That equals the number of first-round overtime games a year ago, which ended with 22 of the 89 games being decided in OT. It's also the same number of first-round overtimes as 1993, which ended with a record 28 games going into OT.

Extra time has not been kind to home teams this spring. The Devils became only the fourth home team in the 14 OT games to win when Travis Zajac scored at 5:39 of the first overtime. 
Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:28 AM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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.
Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 11:26 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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
Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 1:06 AM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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 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
Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 12:43 AM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Penguins one step closer to making history

The Pittsburgh Penguins had never won a Game 5 in a series when they trailed 3-0 until they beat Philadelphia 3-2 on Friday night. They're hoping for some more firsts in the next few days.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 8
SOG: 10 | +/-: 0
Now that they've won two games after losing the first three games of a series, they'll try to pull even on Sunday (noon ET; NBC, CBC). If they do, they'll get a chance to become only the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0.

Including Pittsburgh and Vancouver this year, 170 teams have lost the first three games in a best-of-seven series. The Penguins are just the 15th to get as far as a sixth game -- Vancouver will try to do it against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 1:51 AM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Another line in the record book for Brodeur

Martin Brodeur took over another line in the NHL record book on Thursday night.

The NHL's all-time regular-season leader in wins and shutouts added the record for most Stanley Cup shutouts to his Hall of Fame resume by stopping all 26 Florida shots in New Jersey's 4-0 victory in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Shutout No. 24 broke a tie with Patrick Roy that had existed since Brodeur blanked Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was just his fourth in the last nine years since a 3-0 victory against Anaheim in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. That shutout was the last of seven he had while leading the Devils to their third championship in nine years.
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Quote of the Day

It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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