Two playoff games tonight. Lots of hockey on TV. Really, could this night be any better for a hockey fan? I started the night watching the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins battling the struggling Montreal Canadiens. I'll talk a little about this game later, but I had to leave midway through the game for Games One and Two of the best-of-three playoff series for the last team I play on. It's chilly outside right now, but I never seem to notice the cold when I'm on the ice. These were good games, and I really have to applaud both teams as these games were battles right down the the final whistle. Add in a pinch of drama, some late-period heroics, and you've got yourself a playoff series! Let's get cracking on this late edition of the blog.
- Pittsburgh vs. Montreal was pretty much a snore-fest tonight. A couple of decent plays, but nothing that stood out in the first two periods that I saw. Fleury and Price both whiffed on a couple of easy saves, players not named Malkin can't play alongside Crosby, Saku Koivu is a black hole on the Montreal roster, and Mathieu Schneider scored his first goal for the Canadiens. Honestly, first star goes to the zamboni driver. The ice looked good. Oh, and Pittsburgh won the game 5-4. Montreal's woes continue.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in a shootout by a 4-3 score. This game featured a battle between former Team Canada World Junior goaltenders as Steve Mason defended the twine for Columbus while Justin Pogge backed the Leafs. With the win, Columbus head coach Ken Hitchcock recorded his 500th NHL win, and the Blue Jackets moved into sixth place in the Western Conference. Playoffs, anyone?
- After spending nearly two years out of hockey due to injuries, it's nice to Steve Sullivan lighting the lamp again for Nashville. He scored his first two goals of the season against Detroit last night in a 6-2 loss, and added his third of the campaign against St. Louis tonight in a 2-1 loss. If only Nashville could get him a win when he scores, the night would be perfect.
- Scary incident last night as the AHL's Albany River Rats' team bus slid off an icy highway in Massachusetts, causing the bus to roll. It is suspected that the icy conditions combined with traveling speed may have been the major factors in the crash. Players Nicolas Blanchard, Joe Jensen, Casey Borer, and Jonathan Paiement, along with radio broadcaster John Hennessy, were admitted to the Berkshire Medical Center for treatment. My thoughts and prayers to these five men on a speedy recovery. No one was seriously hurt, but you never want to see anyone hurt either. Good luck, gentlemen. May your returns to the ice and broadcast booth be speedy and successful.
- Game One of the playoffs for us tonight saw us play poorly defensively. It may have been a combination of having guys there that missed a few games late in the season when we got onto a streak, but being down 6-3 with three minutes to go is never good. Except we scored. And scored again. So with less than 10 seconds, we needed an offensive zone faceoff with the goalie pulled. Which we got. Which ended up on my stick. Which ended up in the back of the net. With three seconds to play, we tied the game 6-6. There's no overtime in these games (which seems weird), so they went straight to the shootout. Which we won 1-0. Insane? You bet. So that set the stage for Game Two...
- And we were down 3-1 with six minutes to play. Cue the comeback, right? We scored, but the Motley Crew came right back to make it 4-2. I potted another from the blueline - where did I find this insane scoring touch all of a sudden? - to make it 4-3. However, their goalie stood on his head for the last five minutes, denying us time and again. When the final whistle blew, we were on the wrong side of the 4-3 score. Letdown? A little. But that sets up a pivotal Game Three on Saturday. Win, and we're in the final. Lose, and that's all she wrote on a successful season. We know what we have to do.
Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!