Winners and Losers of the NHL Playoff Weekend
What a difference a week can make in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Last Sunday night, the Boston Bruins had blown a 3-1 lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they were coming home to host a seventh game in their first-round playoff series.
In Game 7, with less than 11 minutes to go in the third period, the Bruins were down by three goals on their home ice. Then they miraculously tied the game and won it in overtime.
They have now built a 2-0 series lead in their conference semifinal matchup with the New York Rangers, and a team that was on life support is now thriving in the postseason.
The Bruins were certainly winners this weekend. Here's a look at this weekend's winners and losers.
Winners: San Jose Sharks
Few teams had a more difficult assignment than the San Jose Sharks Saturday night. While Game 3 was in the Shark Tank in San Jose, the streaking Los Angeles Kings had won six playoff games in a row.
The last of those was a 4-3 victory over the Sharks in Game 2 in which the Kings had trailed by a goal in the late going but managed to score the tying and winning goals within seconds of each other.
Facing a team like the defending Stanley Cup champions is a daunting task, but the Sharks took the first step with a 2-1 victory in overtime in Game 3.
Logan Couture, who fell heavily into the boards and appeared to injure his left ankle in the second period, was the hero Saturday night. He returned to the game, took a slick pass from Patrick Marleau in the extra session, and beat goalie Jonathan Quick with a shot to the top corner.
The Sharks are now back in the series and proved they could skate with the Kings for 60-plus minutes. That's a huge confidence boost for Todd McLellan's team.
Loser: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL during the regular season and Jonathan Toews was the team's captain and best player.
He can do it all for head coach Joel Quenneville. He is an outstanding defensive player, he excels at faceoffs, and he is one of the best clutch scorers in the game. If the Blackhawks need a goal late in the game, it's a given that Toews will be on the ice and either produce a good scoring attempt for himself or set up a teammate.
However, Toews has yet to score in Chicago's first seven playoff games. In Game 2 of the conference semifinal series against the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks barely seemed to show up in dropping a 4-1 decision Saturday afternoon.
Toews was outplayed by Henrik Zetterberg and is going to have to pick up his play considerably in a series that is tied 1-1.
Winner: Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
After the miracle of their Game 7 comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs, head coach Claude Julien has had to deal with the absences of Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden due to injury.
The Bruins activated young stud defenseman Dougie Hamilton and rookie Matt Bartkowski, and also called up Torey Krug for defensive enforcement. In the first game of the series, Krug's slap shot beat New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist and tied the game at 2-2 in the third period. The Bruins would win the game in overtime.
In Game 2, the Krug did it again. He took a pass in his skates from Nathan Horton, kicked it to his forehand and blasted another by Lundqvist in the first period to give Boston the early lead.
In the second period, Krug took another pass in his skates from defense partner Adam McQuaid. He steadied the puck and fired another shot toward goal. The Rangers defense blocked the shot, but Gregory Campbell picked up the rebound and backhanded to the roof of the net for another goal.
The Bruins would win the game, 5-2, and take a 2-0 lead in the series. Much of that is due to Krug's stellar and surprising performance.
Losers: New York Rangers
The New York Rangers endured an up-and-down regular season, but they blanked the Washington Capitals in Games 6 and 7 to win the first-round series. The clinching win was a 5-0 triumph, and it may have been the Rangers' best game of the season.
They were and are expected to give the Boston Bruins all they could handle in the conference semifinals. They may still do it, but they have fallen in a huge hole after dropping the first two games of the series.
First, the Rangers were dominated in overtime and eventually lost a 3-2 decision when Brad Marchand tucked a pass from Patrice Bergeron between the legs of Henrik Lundqvist.
In Game 2, the Rangers were out-skated, outworked and outplayed by the Bruins, who recorded a 5-2 victory. Any time Lundqvist gives up five goals, it's huge news. That's the most goals he's given up in any game—regular season or playoff—this year.
Winner: Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings have no business being on the same ice with the Presidents' Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks.
The Red Wings didn't clinch a playoff spot until the final days of the regular season, and the Blackhawks swept the season series, 4-0.
They upset the Anaheim Ducks in the first round as the No. 7 seed in seven games. However, they were beaten soundly by the Blackhawks, 4-1, in the series opener.
When the two teams met in Game 2 Saturday, it looked like the two teams had switched uniforms. The Red Wings dominated the final two periods in recording their own 4-1 triumph.
Head coach Mike Babcock not only got his team to believe it could compete with Chicago, he also devised a sound defensive strategy to quiet the Blackhawks attack, which his team followed to the letter.
Babcock is a superb coach and he was at his best in Game 2 against the heavily favored Blackhawks.
Loser: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
It was not a shocker that the San Jose Sharks were able to escape with a home-ice victory on in the third game. It was, however, surprising that the Kings were out-skated from start to finish by the Sharks. None of the Kings' big names skated with any urgency or effort.
Star Anze Kopitar was rendered nearly invisible by the Sharks defense. Kopitar had only two shots on goal, and it seemed like he was off the ice for long stretches.
Rookie Tyler Toffoli scored the only goal for Los Angeles, and for one of the few times in his recent postseason career, Kopitar was just another guy.
If the Kings are going to resume their defense of the Stanley Cup, Kopitar must start playing dominant hockey once again.
Winners: Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators were seconds away from going down 3-0 in the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but there was no way that head coach Paul MacLean's team was about to give up, shorthanded or not.
Despite a late penalty on Erik Karlsson, the Senators worked their best play of the night with 29 seconds to go. Milan Michalek had the puck on his stick, and he spotted Daniel Alfredsson streaking toward the Pittsburgh net. Michalek put the puck on Alfredsson's blade, and he deflected it up and in for the game-tying goal.
It was bedlam in Ottawa as the Sens pushed the game to overtime. However, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the way, Ottawa certainly had a long ways to go.
The Penguins had chance after chance in overtime, but they couldn't beat goalie Craig Anderson. Then, in the second overtime, an alert Colin Greening backhanded a loose puck by Tomas Vokoun. The Senators won 2-1, and now trail by that same margin in the series.
The Sens are alive and kicking, if not well. The Penguins have far more firepower, but the Senators go into Game 4 knowing they can tie the series with another home victory.
Loser: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins will think about all their wasted opportunities in the third period and the overtimes in their double-overtime loss.
However, the Sens never would have won the game if Malkin had taken care of his defensive responsibilities in the final minute.
If Malkin had stayed with Daniel Alfredsson, it would have made it much more difficult for the 40-year-old veteran to score the tying goal.
Malkin was looking at the puck and not at Alfredsson. He should have stayed with his check, but he turned his head, and it cost his team in a big way.