Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Around the Rinks: Game Seven(s), Roli is Clutch, Jumbo Joe

Down to the Wire

Get ready for another big night of NHL playoff action on Tuesday!

A day after the Tampa Bay Lightning forced a game seven against the Penguins in Pittsburgh and the San Jose Sharks got a big goal from their captain in a series clinching win over the LA Kings, we’ve got a pair of Game Sevens to look forward to. First up, it’s the Sabres in Philly, followed by the Canucks looking to avoid a total collapse when they host the Blackhawks.

Also on Tuesday night: the Habs can take it the distance with a win over the Bruins, which would give us the most seven-game series’ since the 1995 playoffs!

So, who will join Detroit, Washington, Nashville and SJ in the second round?

It’s a tense time in Vancouver at the moment, with the team on the verge of either a “phew, that was close” moment or a monumental collapse at the hands of a bitter rival. The Presidents Trophy winners led this series 3-0 before losing 7-2, 5-0 and then 4-3 in overtime on the weekend!

I’m not sure if Canucks GM Mike Gillis was trying to add fuel to the fire on Monday or if he was inadvertently providing his players with another “it’s not our fault” excuse, but he certainly grabbed some headlines ahead of the deciding game!

Speaking to the media, Gillis implied that there hasn’t been a “level playing field” in this series and that the referees seem to be favoring the defending Stanley Cup champions (via ESPN):

“I thought we played our best game of the series last night. I felt that if it would have been a level playing field, we would have won the game…We’re going to be very hard-pressed to win hockey games if throughout an entire series when the score is tight, they get 75 percent more power plays than we do. And that’s just the reality. That’s the facts we’re facing.”

The Hawks actually have enjoyed a pretty significant edge in power plays during the series, with 27 to Vancouver’s 16, but are we really supposed to believe that there’s some kind of conspiracy here against the Canucks? Couldn’t it just be that they’ve played undisciplined hockey against a team that tends to really get on their nerves?

The fact of the matter is that Vancouver has blown a 3-0 series lead and they now have one last chance to redeem themselves. I’d personally prefer to see the Blackhawks come all the way back to win this one, and I’m expecting a very hard fought game seven!

As for Buffalo and Philadelphia, I’m going to predict a Flyers win, though with their goaltending situation anything can happen! If the Sabres do pull it out, I hope it’s Tyler Ennis with another big game winner.

Holy Moly Roli

When everything is on the line, Dwayne Roloson is the man.

The 41-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning netminder improved to 5-0 when his team is staring down the end of their season, backstopping the Bolts to a 4-2 win on Monday night. The former Oiler made 27 stops, but none were more important than these three (starting at the 40-second mark):

It was a busy night for Roloson, who also had to stop a penalty shot in the second period…well, kind of:

Poor guy – can you think of a more embarrassing situation? He’ll probably never hear the end of that one!

Crowning Moment

The San Jose Sharks punched their ticket to the second round with a 4-3 overtime win over the LA Kings on Monday night to take the Battle of California in six games.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton capped off the victory 2:22 into the extra session, batting a loose puck past LA’s Jonathan Quick to seal the deal. The best part of the whole thing though was his Fleury-esque celebration:

Here’s what Thornton had to say afterwards (via TSN):

“I didn’t know what to do – usually I’m on the other end, I like to pass the puck, and so I really didn’t know what to do. The ice was pretty slick, so I really didn’t know what I was doing!”


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