Three Game Sevens provide thrilling moments and three heartbroken teams. Notes on Carcillo, Mason, Heatley, Niederreiter, Kopitar, Thornton and more.
RANGERS GET PAST FLYERS
One night after getting soundly beaten by the Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Rangers bounced back with a 2-1 win in Game Seven, giving the Blueshirts the victory in the first-round series.
With the series on the line, it wasn't the big names getting the job done. The Rangers' first goal came from Daniel Carcillo, back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for a couple games. Carcillo, who had four goals and an assist in 57 regular season games, picked up two goals in three games for the series.
The Blueshirts' other goal in Game Seven was provided by Benoit Pouliot, who contributed two goals and four points in the series.
New York's third defence pairing -- John Moore and Kevin Klein -- were on for more than 70% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts in Game Six and Seven. They were getting chewed up early in the series, but were much more effetive later in the series.
Philadelphia's only goal of the deciding game came from rookie RW Jason Akeson, his second of the series.
G Steve Mason was terrific for the Flyers, stopping 31 of 33 shots in Game Seven, giving him a .939 save percentage for the series. Tough to end up on the losing side with those numbers, but Mason didn't appear until Game Three because he was recovering from a concussion suffered late in the season.
For all the trials he has endured throughout his career, this has been the best year of Mason's career and if the 25-year-old has found a new level of play, then that's a win for the franchise going forward. Of course, we'll only have some idea if this improvement is legit when we see how Mason plays next season.
In the end, the Rangers held the puck possession edge and, even though he didn't score a goal in the series, Rick Nash was at the forefront of driving play. The Rangers deserved their win, though the strong goaltending performance by Mason made it a close series.
The Rangers move on and ought to have a fair chance against a Pittsburgh team that tends to rely on their high-end talent to carry the day.
Despite losing their starting goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, to what looked like a knee (and possibly head) injury and facing a deficit four different times in Game Seven, the Minnesota Wild ultimately prevailed with a 5-4 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche.
Perhaps the most remarkable story for the Wild in Game Seven -- well, aside from G Ilya Bryzgalov getting credit for the win after stopping one shot -- is that Minnesota's offence was driven by the supporting cast. Kyle Brodziak, Dany Heatley and Nino Niederreiter each had three points, with Niederreiter's second goal of the game counting as the game-winner in overtime.
Heatley, whose career has been on a steep decline in Minnesota and was scratched early in the series, finished the series with five points for the Wild, while Brodziak, also a healthy scratch, finished with five points in the series. Those are valuable contributions from players that might not be expeccted to do all that much.
The tying goal, which forced overtime, was buried by D Jared Spurgeon, from Niederreiter and Brodziak, with just 2:27 remaining in the third period.
Colorado didn't get that same contribution from the supporting cast. Paul Stastny, who scored in Game Seven, finished with 10 points, tied with rookie Nathan MacKinnon and Wild LW Zach Parise for the playoff scoring lead.
Avalanche veteran winger Maxime Talbot had a rough go in the possession game. With Talbot on the ice at 5-on-5, the Avs had 49 shot attempts for and 113 against with Talbot on the ice (30.8%). Without Talbot on the ice, the Avalanche had 45.3% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts -- not great, but clearly better.
This series had the most lopsided possession stats of any first-round series, with the Wild getting 61.3% of unblocked shot attempts when the score was close (within a goal in first two periods, tied in the third). The Avalanche, as they had all season, relied too much on G Semyon Varlamov, who had an ordinary game at the worst possible time.
Now the Wild get to increase their level of difficulty in Round Two, facing the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Facing a three-games-to-none deficit, the Los Angeles Kings chipped away at the San Jose Sharks' lead and, by the time Game Seven arrived Wednesday night, there was little doubt that the Kings could complete the improbable comeback. This doesn't mean it was a sure thing -- the Sharks scored first in Game Seven -- but the Kings were poised to make this rare comeback.
Then D Drew Doughty tied the game, and C Anze Kopitar gave the Kings the lead, then it was Tyler Toffoli and the outcome was become evident. With a pair of points, Kopitar moved into a tie for the playoff scoring lead, with 10 points. Toffoli (57.4 Corsi%) and Doughty (54.8 Corsi%) had the best possession stats on the Kings. Another Kings rookie, in addition to Toffoli, LW Tanner Pearson, picked up a goal and an assist in the clinching game.
Blowing a 3-0 series lead will hit the Sharks hard. They were, undeniably, a Stanley Cup contender stuck with a very difficult first-round opponent. The main criticism will fall on C Joe Thornton and LW Patrick Marleau because it always does, but also because they've been around a while, through all the previous disappointments.
Shut out in the deciding game, Thornton finished the series with three points in seven games, while Marleau led the Sharks with seven points.
On the other hand, the Sharks' fourth line ran into trouble. There were times when their physical play seemed to be helpful but, in the bigger picture, they weren't effective. LW Raffi Torres, for example, was one for 41 shot attempts for and 69 against (37.3%). With Torres off the ice, the Sharks got 50.7% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts.
On the Kings' fourth line, by comparison, they frequently had C Mike Richards running with the fourth line and Richards had eight shots on goal in Game Seven.
The difference in the series, between two dominant possession teams, was expected to be in goal and that's how it turned out. Jonathan Quick got lit up early, but he stopped 130 of 135 shots (.963 SV%) in the final four games to lead the Kings' comeback.
While the Sharks ponder this crushing defeat, the Kings move on to take on Anaheim, a good rivalry series, though one in which the Kings, a superior possesion team with a more experienced goaltender, should be favoured.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.