Tag Archives: Jason Spezza

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 3

Player of the Week: Jakub Voracek

Stealthy good. Not only an apt description of the big Flyers winger’s week (and season), but really of his entire career. Voracek has been one of the best ‘under-the-radar’ players in the league for some time, and this week he was really flying (pun somewhat intended). On a team that finished the week 1-2-0, Voracek was a major bright spot, tallying 2 points in every game. The Kladno, CZE native notched an assist on both Flyers goals in a 6-2 thumping against Anaheim, then tallied 1 & 1 in each of their next two contests (a 5-4 loss to Ottawa and 4-2 victory over Toronto). Oddly, not a single one of his 6 points in those 3 games came on the power play, an area where Voracek usually excels.

Side note: Though Voracek is currently 3rd in points in the entire league (trailing only Tampa’s dynamic duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov), those goals in back to back games were just his 1st and 2nd tallies of the year. He’s 2nd in the league in assists with 14.

Team of the Week: Los Angeles Kings

One of the league’s resident surprises, LA has surged to the top of the standings with a 9-1-1 record, and though they suffered their first regulation loss this week, it wasn’t enough to prevent them earning this recognition.

With 8 players having recorded at least 5 points so far in the young season, and a goaltending duo both boasting sub-2.00 GAAs and >.930 save percentages, the resurgent Kings are getting contributions from seemingly everyone. Dustin Brown has burst back to life after multiple subpar seasons, seemingly flourishing in the system of new coach John Stevens. Anze Kopitar continues to make an argument for being possibly the most undervalued center in the league, and youngster Adrian Kempe has been sublime.

Only a 3-2 loss to Toronto managed to blemish an otherwise-flawless week, as the Kings toppled Ottawa 3-2, Montreal 4-0, and Boston 2-1. A long summer and a fresh face behind the bench may have been just what the doctor ordered for the battle-weary club, and other clubs may need to start worrying about how to deal with a Cup-hungry LA franchise once again.

Game of the Week: Dallas Stars 4 @ Edmonton Oilers 5, Thursday October 26th

I admittedly have an affinity to games decided in extra frames when it comes to this award, but the Stars and Oilers simply put on a barn-burner too good to ignore.

One of those matchups that just looks like it’s going to be fun on paper (two high-octane offenses backed up by less-than-stellar defenses), this tilt certainly delivered. 9 goals (3 on the power play), 67 shots, 56 hits, and even a fight (okay, more of a facial reconstruction on Antoine Roussel by Eric Gryba), this one had plenty of everything.

The opening period started with a bit of a goaltending duel, with Ben Bishop and Cam Talbot both making a handful of quality stops in the opening half of the frame. But as a penalty to Ryan Strome was expiring just past the 11 minute mark, Leon Draisaitl collected a loose puck and fought through a check along the boards to push the puck ahead to the newly-freed Strome, who flicked a no-look backhand from the boards into the middle of the ice, feeding a streaking Connor McDavid in full stride, who proceeded to shelf the puck over the blocker side of Bishop to give the hometown Oilers the 1-0 lead. A see-saw contest would develop from there, as just over 1 minute later opposing captain Jamie Benn would bury a sweet feed from Alex Radulov to knot things up. Patrick Maroon would see a centering attempt turn into a goal after bouncing off the skate of Dallas defender Marc Methot and into the net with just 25 seconds to play in the opening frame, sending the Oil to the locker room with a 2-1 lead.

Radulov and Benn would both tally power-play goals in the 2nd, with a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal splitting the two and sending the game into the 3rd period tied at 3. To break the streak of trading goals, Esa Lindell would bury Dallas’ 3rd PP tally after receiving a sweet cross-ice slap-pass from Jason Spezza just over halfway through the 3rd, giving the Stars their first lead of the night. Unfortunately for the Dallas faithful it would last just shy of 2 minutes, as RNH would net his second of the night to draw even at 4. Then with less than 3 to play, defenseman Matt Benning would give Draisaitl his 3rd assist of the night by burying a one-timer from the point (with a bit of help from the skate of Alexander Radulov) and giving the Oilers the final lead of the game.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Seriously, Golden Knights, about this Twitter campaign to be the next winning goaltender for your franchise? Oscar Dansk is 3-0-0 after being handed the starting job when both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban went down with injuries, and boasts a ridiculous 1.34 GAA and .959 save percentage, along with a shutout.

I’m starting to actually believe anyone wearing goalie equipment could win the Vezina with this team.

 

Speaking of roster vacancies in Vegas, Vadim Shipachyov earned himself a suspension by going all ‘Russian’ on the franchise after being sent down to the AHL. He has supposedly gone AWOL from the Chicago Wolves, and his future with the Golden Knights (and potentially the NHL altogether) is looking pretty well decided.

Alex Ovechkin made headlines off the ice, as the Capitals superstar went out of his way to buy a sweater, coat, and hat for a shirtless homeless man he spotted while walking in Edmonton. Ovie downplayed his actions and attempted to avoid questions about it in interviews, stating that “It was nothing,” following up with “I think if you saw a guy almost naked out there with a cold temperature, I think every human can do something, a coat, a shirt, or whatever.” Autograph hounds throughout the league were seen disrobing and untidying their hair soon after word of Ovie’s actions reached the airwaves*.

*- I assume

Kevin Bieksa successfully utilized a ‘Superman Punch’ in a fight for the 2nd time in his career, with both instances occurring against the Philadelphia Flyers. Radko Gudas was on the receiving end of this most recent entry, while years ago it was Mike Richards. This does beg the question of why you would choose to fight Kevin Bieksa.

The Habs and Rangers had a contest to see who was the least worst, and in fitting fashion, it was an ugly thing. 9 total goals on Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, the former getting the…better?…of the latter, with both teams looking sloppy and discombobulated. I suppose either team can take solace in knowing they are better than Arizona, but I don’t know exactly how much solace can actually be taken from that knowledge.

Can Arizona go an entire season without a victory? I think we should all get behind them in their efforts to set the least enviable record in hockey history. 10 down, 72 to go.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #74- Participation Trophies After One Game (Part II)

Jaromir Jagr signed with the Calgary Flames this week, the regular season started (though the Pittsburgh Penguins might not have been told yet that the games matter now) and former players tend to be GMs in the NHL, the Original Trio confirms. Also, we gave participation trophies without even watching the rest of the season for the second year in a row.

Listen to this week’s podcast on our Libsyn page (and/or on your favorite podcast listening app that snags our RSS Feed).

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

2017 NHL Expansion Draft: Protected Lists

30 of the NHL’s 31 teams submitted their protected lists on Saturday by 5 p.m. ET. The protected lists were made public at 10:30 a.m. ET (originally scheduled for 10 a.m.) on Sunday. Additionally, the available lists of players to choose from were released.

The Vegas Golden Knights will now spend the next few days constructing their roster, with the full reveal set for Wednesday night during the NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

To recap, here’s all of the protected players:

Anaheim Ducks

Forwards: Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette

Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm

Goaltender: John Gibson

Arizona Coyotes

Forwards: Nick Cousins, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder

Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn

Goaltender: Chad Johnson

Boston Bruins

Forwards: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller

Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo

Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen

Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferlund, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan

Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton

Goaltender: Mike Smith

Carolina Hurricanes

Forwards: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen

Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy

Goaltender: Scott Darling

Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews

Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook

Goaltender: Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto

Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov

Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg

Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard

Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky

Dallas Stars

Forwards: Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza

Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell

Goaltender: Ben Bishop

Detroit Red Wings

Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen

Goaltender: Jimmy Howard

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera

Goaltender: Cam Talbot

Florida Panthers

Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck

Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle

Goaltender: James Reimer

Los Angeles Kings

Forwards: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli

Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin

Goaltender: Jonathan Quick

Minnesota Wild

Forwards: Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker

Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter

Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards: Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw

Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber

Goaltender: Carey Price

Nashville Predators

Forwards: Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen

Defensemen: Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne

New Jersey Devils

Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac

Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

New York Islanders

Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares

Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock

Goaltender: Thomas Greiss

New York Rangers

Forwards: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal

Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist

Ottawa Senators

Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris

Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf

Goaltender: Craig Anderson

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards: Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek

Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning

Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin

Defensemen: Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz

Goaltender: Matt Murray

San Jose Sharks

Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney

Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Goaltender: Martin Jones

St. Louis Blues

Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko

Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo

Goaltender: Jake Allen

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos

Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman

Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk

Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly

Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

Vancouver Canucks

Forwards: Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter

Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev

Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

Washington Capitals

Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson

Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov

Goaltender: Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

Forwards: Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler

Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba

Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

Dallas at St. Louis – Game 6 – Early mistakes too much for Blues; Stars force Game 7

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The Stars‘ three first period goals were all they needed to force a Game 7 in Dallas, as they won in St. Louis 3-2.

The Blues didn’t get a shot on goal until almost five minutes into the game, but it was Dallas‘ second shot that stole the show when Mattias Janmark connected on a wrist shot at the 4:53 mark (his second tally of the postseason), assisted by Valeri Nichushkin.  It was a breakaway goal caused by Colton Parayko when his pass from the blue line to the center of the offensive zone was intercepted by Nichushkin, who immediately found a steaking Janmark who had already cleared both St. Louis defensemen to set up a one-on-one with Brian Elliott.  After advancing to approximately the far face-off dot before firing over Elliott’s stick shoulder.

The Stars doubled their lead 20 seconds later, courtesy of Vernon Fiddler, who was assisted by Third Star of the Game Colton Sceviour and Kris Russell (his fourth helper of the playoffs), caused by yet another Blues turnover.  Elliott was attempting to clear the puck, but his dump was intercepted by Russell, who immediately sent the puck back behind goal for Sceviour.  Sceviour had intentions of a wrap-around attempt, but Robert Bortuzzo, playing in his first game of the Western Semis, forced him into a backhanded centering pass that Fiddler redirected past Elliott’s stick shoulder.

The Blues had a great opportunity to get a goal back just past the 10 minute mark, as they fired three different shots that First Star Kari Lehtonen only blocked but did not freeze, but the important thing for the Stars is that none found the back of the net.

Jason Demers committed the first penalty of the night for a hi-stick on Jori Lehtera with 7:59 remaining in the frame.  The Blues certainly applied some pressure, but the Dallas penalty kill stood strong to keep the Notes scoreless.

Troy Brouwer returned the favor with 3:46 remaining with a blatant cross check against Radek Faksa.  Unlike the first power play, this one counted as Jason Spezza connected on a wrister, assisted by Jamie Benn and John Klingberg.  Klingberg made a kick steal on an attempted pass from Dmitrij Jaskin, collected and dumped back towards his offensive zone for Benn.  Benn completed the advance along the near boards under pressure from Jay Bouwmeester… until he fell down, allowing Benn to center the puck for Spezza, who advanced towards Elliott’s crease and scored through traffic over the netminder’s glove.

It was the needle that broke the camel’s back, as Ken Hitchcock pulled Elliott in favor of Jake Allen, earning his first minutes of the 2016 playoffs.  He completed the frame without giving up any goals, leaving the score at 3-0.

Although they trailed on the scoreboard, the Blues actually played a decent period beyond their mistimed mistakes, leading the Stars in shots (nine to seven), face-off wins (57%), takeaways (four to two), giveaways (one to three) and hits (11 to nine).

St. Louis finally got on the board at the 7:29 mark of the second period with a Second Star Alexander Steen wrister, assisted by Bortuzzo and Vladimir Tarasenko.  The left wing’s initial shot was blocked by Demers and eventually sent towards the near boards by Tarasenko where it was collected by Bortuzzo, who immediately fired a slap shot on Lehtonen’s net.  With Lehtonen still collecting himself, Steen collected the rebound and scored on the basically empty net.

It was the lone tally of the back and forth period, leaving the Stars with a 3-1 lead going into the final period.

After 40 minutes, the Blues had a commanding lead in shots on goal (23 to 12) in addition to leading face-off wins (51%), takeaways (nine to six), giveaways (four to five) and hits (19 to 15).

2:41 into the third period, Russell earned a seat in the sin bin for a delay of game penalty, giving the Blues their second power play opportunity of the contest, but just like the first it yielded no goal.

The Notes pulled within a goal at the 8:59 mark when Patrik Berglund scored his third goal of the postseason, assisted by Lehtera and David Backes (his fifth helper of the playoffs).  Backes received a pass from Alex Pietrangelo and then found Lehtera hanging around near Lehtonen’s crease.  Lehtera turned with the puck and passed between his legs to Berglund, who tipped-in his score past the goalie’s right skate.

St. Louis was unable to level in the remaining 11:01, which means these teams will meet one more time in North Texas on Wednesday.

In summary, after a poor first period for the Blues, this was an incredible game by St. Louis, as they fired 37 shots on goal to Dallas‘ 14 (the most they ever had in one period was seven), earned 17 takeaways and threw 21 hits.  Given how well they handled the Stars in the final 40 minutes, it is difficult to tell who carries the momentum into the deciding game.

Lehtonen earns the win after saving 35 of 37 shots faced (94.6%), while Elliott takes the loss, saving four of seven (57.1%).  After coming into the game as relief, Allen saved all seven shots he faced for no decision.

Wednesday’s game at the American Airlines Center will drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, and may be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.

Blues Cruise (to 4-1 Win in Game 5)

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1Ken Hitchcock made one lineup change heading into Game 5 on Saturday afternoon and it paid off for the St. Louis Blues as Dmitrij Jaskin’s second period goal proved to be the game winner en route to the Blues’ 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

Brian Elliott made 27 saves on 28 shots faced (with a .964 SV%) for St. Louis in the win, while Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves on 21 shots against for a .857 SV% in the loss.

Dallas forwards, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves were doubtful for Game 5 and remained scratched prior to puck drop. Ryan Reaves and Steve Ott were healthy scratches for St. Louis as Jaskin was inserted into the lineup. The winner of Game 5 has an all-time series record of 190-53 (78.2%) among teams entering Game 5 tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven game series. With the win on Saturday, the Blues now have a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Monday night at Scottrade Center.

Robby Fabbri opened up the scoring six minutes into the first period with his 2nd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kevin Shattenkirk (7) assisted on the goal that gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead. A little after halfway through the first period the Stars had answered with a goal of their own from Alex Goligoski. Goligoski scored his 4th goal of the postseason with a wrist shot that beat Elliott at 10:58 of the first period and tied the game at 1. Vernon Fiddler (2) and Jason Spezza (8) picked up the primary and secondary assists.

After twenty minutes of play the score was tied 1-1 and Dallas was leading in shots on goal (10-8), faceoff wins (6-4), giveaways (3-1) and takeaways (3-2). The Blues led in hits (12-8) and blocked shots (5-1) after the first period.

Jaskin scored his 1st goal of the playoffs a little over ten minutes into the 2nd period and gave the Blues a 2-1 lead. Jay Bouwmeester (4) and Scottie Upshall (2) assisted on the goal and St. Louis never looked back the rest of the game. Troy Brouwer picked up his 4th of the postseason on a wrist shot that beat Lehtonen and was assisted by Paul Stastny (4) and Fabbri (8) at 17:42 of the period. Brouwer’s goal put the Blues up by two and gave them a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

Leading by two after two, St. Louis also led in shots on goal (19-16), hits (24-23) and blocked shots (12-9). Meanwhile the Stars had an advantage in faceoff wins (17-13), giveaways (7-2) and takeaways (5-2). Through forty minutes of play, there were no penalties called.

CJhyiLmKA string of penalties were called in the third period in what seemed to be pent up penalty calling anger from the refs as David Backes, Brouwer, Mattias Janmark, Fiddler and Shattenkrik were all penalized within ten minutes of one another for minor infractions ranging from holding to slashing to roughing.

Neither team was able to capitalize on any power play that occurred.

With about four minutes left in the third period, Stars head coach, Lindy Ruff signaled for Kari Lehtonen to skate to the bench for an extra attacker. Despite their efforts with an extra skater, Dallas was unable to convert on their last ditch chances. Stastny ruined the fun for Dallas and their fans with an empty net goal at 18:20 of the third period. His 2nd goal of the playoffs gave the Blues a 4-1 lead and was assisted by Jaden Schwartz (7) and Backes (4).

When all was said and done the Blues had won 4-1 and led in hits (29-26), takeaways (7-5) and blocked shots (20-15) after sixty minutes of play. The Stars led in shots on goal (28-22), faceoff wins (30-20) and giveaways (12-6) in the loss. Both teams were 0/2 on the power play.

Game 6 is Monday night at 8 PM EST, live from Scottrade Center in St. Louis, and can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVAS2 in Canada.

Dallas at St. Louis – Game 4 – Eakin’s overtime winner levels the series for the Stars

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First Star of the Game Cody Eakin’s first goal of the playoffs was a big one, as the Stars beat the Blues 3-2 in overtime to level the series at two-all.

Neither team was able to capitalize of their lone man-advantage in the frame, but Vladimir Tarasenko did find the back of the net with a wrister at the 10:17 mark, assisted by Jaden Schwartz.  Schwartz completed a steal by Carl Gunnarsson along the near boards in Dallas‘ offensive zone and was able to find Tarasenko already streaking towards Third Star of the Game Kari Lehtonen’s net.  The winger collected the pass near center ice with no defensemen in his path, allowing him to advance between the dots before going five hole on Lehtonen.

In addition to leading on the scoreboard, the Blues also owned the face-off dot (61%), blocks (three to one), giveaways (none to three) and hits (16 to 10).

Radek Faksa leveled the game 4:05 into the second period, with an assist from… Joel Edmundson (that’s a joke, just in case you were wondering). Edmundson was trying to find a teammate in the neutral zone, but Faksa easily intercepted that pass to advance on Brian Elliott’s crease and score on his five hole.

16 seconds after Faksa’s goal, David Backes found himself in the penalty box for tripping Mattias Janmark.  It proved to be costly, as 53 seconds later Patrick Sharp scored the Stars‘ first power play goal of the series with a quick wrister past Elliott’s right skate.  He was set up by Jamie Benn (his eighth helper of the playoffs) and Jason Spezza.  John Klingberg passed the puck along the blue line to Spezza, who found Benn along the far side of the goal line.  Benn was forced to the top of the crease, but he found a crashing Sharp to take the lead.

Backes earned himself another trip to the penalty box at the 11:11 mark, but he took Kris Russell with him this team, as both were charged with penalties (roughing and slashing, respectively).  The four-on-four circumstances lasted only 1:27 before the Notes earned a four-on-three when Eakin took a seat for slashing Schwartz.

St. Louis converted on that infraction when Paul Stastny scored his first goal of the playoffs, a tip-in on Tarasenko’s initial shot to level the game at two-all.  He was also assisted by Alexander Steen.  Steen took a pass from Tarasenko near the blue line, but quickly returned the puck back to his possession outside the near face-off circle.  Tarasenko fired a wrister right at Stastny’s stick at the top of the crease, which he angled just the right way to get the puck over Lehtonen.

Alex Goligoski sent the Blues right back to the playoffs at the 13:55 mark when he hooked Patrik Berglund, but Steen returned the ice to four-on-four after only 24 seconds when he interfered with Faksa’s advance on the puck.  Dallas was unable to convert on their end of the 24 second power play when Goligoski returned to the ice.

Although an exciting second period, this game certainly needed a third, as the score was two-all after 40 minutes.  St. Louis continued to lead the game in face-off wins (53%), blocks (four to three) and hits (25 to 19).

Unlike the first two periods, there were no goals or penalties committed in the final 20 minutes.  Elliott and Lehtonen deserve credit for forcing overtime, as they both saved all seven shots they faced.  Through regulation, St. Louis continued to lead in face-offs (56%), blocks (seven to four), giveaways (four to six) and hits (34 to 30).

Only 2:58 into overtime, Eakin scored the winner with his first goal of the postseason, assisted by Sharp and Benn.  Benn collected a pass at his defensive blue line and advanced the puck to center ice before passing to Sharp along the far boards.  Eakin received a cross-ice pass at the near face-off dot, which he wristed over Elliott’s glove shoulder to level the series at two-all.

Lehtonen earns the win after saving 24 of the 26 shots he faced (92.3%), while Elliott takes the overtime loss after saving 25 of 28 (89.3%).

With the win, the Stars reclaim home ice for the now effectively three game series.  The important Game 5 will occur Saturday at 1 p.m. eastern in the American Airlines Center, and may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.

Dallas at St. Louis – Game 3 – Steen headlines St. Louis’ 6-1 victory

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Three goals in the second period proved to be too much for the Stars, as St. Louis won 6-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Until approximately the 2:15 mark, the beginning of the game took place almost entirely in the neutral zone before the Blues finally registered a shot on net.  Any momentum they tried getting off those attempts ended though, but it wasn’t due to anything the Stars did – the same pane of glass damaged in Game 7 of the Chicago series proved to be an issue.

In fact, that delay in play actually benefited Dallas, who quickly fired two quick shots following the return to play.  Soon after, they scored the first goal of Game 3 – a Colton Sceviour wrister at the 4:44 mark.  His second tally of the postseason was assisted by Jason Spezza (his sixth helper of the playoffs) and Johnny Oduya.

Fifty-seven seconds later, First Star of the Game Alexander Steen leveled with a wrister of his own, assisted by Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer.

Scottie Upshall committed the first penalty of the night when he hi-sticked Oduya in front of Antti Niemi’s net with 6:52 remaining in the period.  Dallas entered the night 0 for seven on the power play in the Western Semifinals, and once again the Blues completed the kill.

Thirty-seven seconds after completing the kill, Vernon Fiddler and the Stars returned the favor by committing a slashing penalty against Jaden Schwartz, which St. Louis converted not even half a minute later when Third Star David Backes connected on a tip-in to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Second Star Vladimir Tarasenko.

The Stars almost tied the game again with 1:19 remaining in the period when Jason Demers collected the rebound of an Elliott save, but the puck hit the crossbar and did not cross the red line, leaving the Blues with the one-goal differential going into the dressing room.

Not only did St. Louis end the frame with the lead on the scoreboard, but they were also winning the dot (58%), blocked shots (eight to four), takeaways (three to two) and, most importantly for their game, hits (19 to eight).

2:34 after returning to the ice for the second period, Brouwer scored his third goal of these playoffs on a wrister, assisted by Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo (his sixth helper of the postseason).  That tally is the one that chased Niemi, who was replaced by Kari Lehtonen for the remainder of the game.

St. Louis continued the onslaught 1:16 later when Tarasenko scored a wrister assisted by Patrik Berglund and Robby Fabbri (his seventh helper of the playoffs).

Jamie Benn began taking his frustrations out Blues skaters, and was sent to the box after tripping Bouwmeester at the 4:47 mark.  The ensuing power play did not go St. Louis‘ way, so the score remained at 4-1 when Benn returned to the ice.

The Blues returned to the power play at the 8:47 mark when two Stars (Demers and Fiddler) were sent to the box, but it was a five-on-four due to Ryan Reaves also earning two minutes in the sin bin for responding with a roughing penalty of his own against Fiddler.  St. Louis‘ power play fell to one for three in the game as they were unable to score with the advantage.

Those penalties are just one example of how Fiddler and the Stars have been trying to get under Reaves’ skin since he has entered the series.  Known for being an aggressive enforcer, When he entered play, an opposing physical Dallas skater was usually quick to follow, and almost every stoppage was followed by a skirmish along the boards.  Even when Fiddler wasn’t on the ice, Reaves was still a focus for the Stars, hoping for any attempt to get their first power play goal of the series.

Antoine Roussel made his fourth trip to the penalty box in the last two games for a delay of game penalty, and the Blues made sure to make him pay.  Only 10 seconds after the infraction at the 17:53 mark, Steen scored his second goal of the night with a power play wrister to set the score at 5-1, assisted by Tarasenko and Schwartz.

Bouwmeester earned himself a break with 63 seconds remaining in the second period when he tripped Spezza in the corner, but the period ended with the Blues leading 5-1.

After two periods, the Blues still led on shots (26-19), as well as face-offs (59%), blocks (12 to five), takeaways (seven to four) and hits (28-17).

St. Louis killed the remaining 57 seconds of the power play at the beginning of the third period to continue their streak of penalty kills at eight straight over the Stars.

Benn committed the first penalty of the final period at the 9:07 mark when he cross checked Pietrangelo, and the Blues followed suit 3:35 later when Colton Parayko was caught roughing Radek Faksa.  Dallas ended their power play 41 seconds early when Cody Eakin hooked Shattenkirk.  After all of that, neither team altered the 5-1 score.

Reaves finally got tired of the Stars late in the third and scrapped with Curtis McKenzie with three minutes to go.  After his bout, he blew a kiss to the Dallas bench before heading to the dressing room, probably not making many friends in the process.

Backes’ fifth goal of the playoffs and second of the game was a shorthanded wrister, due to a Brouwer slash against Faksa, with 1:54 remaining in the game to seal the deal at 6-1.  He was assisted by Carl Gunnarsson.

Elliott earns the win after saving 25 of the 26 shots he faced (96.2%), while Niemi takes the loss, saving nine of 12 (75%).  The goaltending questions continue for Dallas, as Niemi’s replacement saved 24 of 27 (88.9%) for no decision.

After taking a 2-1 lead in the series, the Blues will once again host the Stars Thursday at 8 p.m. eastern.  That contest can be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.

Dallas Ends Minnesota’s Season in Game 6

The Dallas Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild by the score of 5-4 to win the series and advance into the next round. Jamie Benn had a strong game as he posted a goal and 2 assists leading his team into the next round. Minnesota’s four-goal third period wasn’t enough to beat the Stars and keep their season alive. Unknown-2

Coming into game 6, it was a question of who would get the start for Dallas, as Antti Niemi lost game 5. The Stars went back to Kari Lehtonen, who started games 1-3. The game started with rough stuff and it was not a surprise as the penalties started to fly. Five minutes into the game, Dallas found themselves on a 5-on-3 and it only took a little bit before they had the breakthrough.

John Klingberg’s one-timer from the point beat Devan Dubnyk on the powerplay. Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza picked up the assists on Klingberg’s first goal of the playoffs. Dallas wasn’t done there, however, as three minutes later Jason Spezza converted a rebound off a Patrick Eaves slapshot.

Things seemed to slow down a little bit, but questions were being asked of Minnesota and people were wondering if they were going to show up. With just under two minutes left in the 1st period, Patrick Sharp scored 2-on-1 as he lasered the puck past Devan Dubnyk, putting the Stars up 3-0 going into the break. Jamie Benn picked up his second assist of the night along with Cody Eakin on the Sharp goal. CJhyiLmK

The 2nd period was little more balanced and Minnesota seemed to get more into the game. Dallas also seemed content on defending a 3-goal lead. Minnesota got a powerplay as Vernon Fiddler took a tripping penalty. Minnesota didn’t get anything going from it. Then the boos started coming from the Minnesota fans as the home team didn’t look a threat. It got worse for the fans as Jamie Benn got his 4th of the playoff, as he sniped one past Dubnyk with just under 30 seconds left in the period. Patrick Sharp picked up his second point of the night on the assist along with Jason Spezza picking up his 3rd point.

The 3rd period saw goals on goals on goals. After a holding penalty on Dallas, Minnesota got their first goal of the game as Jared Sprugeon jammed one past Lehtonen to spark his team. 16 seconds after the goal, Jonas Brodin scored on a backhand to really get the place rocking. This forced Dallas to take a timeout and try to regroup.

 Minnesota wasn’t done there, though, as 4 minutes later, Jared Spurgeon scored his second powerplay goal of the game after a high sticking call on Stephen Johns. Dallas was able to slow the scoring down and get one of their own as Alex Golgoski bounced one off 3 Minnesota players and past Devan Dubnky. However, Minnesota wouldn’t go away, as Jason Pominville scored his 4th of the playoffs to cut the lead back down to 1 goal. Minnesota pulled Dubnyk for the extra attacker and they began throwing the kitchen sink at the Stars. Dallas was able to hold on for the win, thus winning the series.

Dallas will play the winner of Chicago and St. Louis in the conference semi-finals.

Dallas Bounces Back to take Game 4

The Dallas Stars beat the Minnesota Wild in game 4 of the playoffs. The special teams were the story of the night as Dallas went 2/2 on the powerplay and Minnesota went 0/2. Antti Niemi got his first start of the playoffs and had a strong night stopping 28 out of 30 shots. Jason Spezza had the game winning goal on the night and also picked up an assist in the game as well. Jason Pominville found the net in a losing effort, he now has 3 goals in the past 2 games. Unknown-2

The first period saw Minnesota trying to capitalize on the momentum from Game 3. They got an early power play chance that didn’t lead to anything Antti Niemi couldn’t turn aside. It was a typical playoff game, as the physical play was very apparent. The period finished goalless with Dallas having a slight advantage on shots 10-9.  

The 2nd period saw Minnesota break the scoreless game when Jason Pominville scored his 3rd of the playoffs off a rebound. Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula picked up assists on the goal. Ales Hemsky was able to draw the Stars level on the power play. Hemksy hammered a slap shot by Dubnyk to score his first playoff goal since 2006, and Jason Demers and Kris Russell picked up the assist on the power play goal. The game didn’t stay level for long as Charlie Coyle scored on a breakaway a minute later. Niemi was in a bad positon on this goal and Coyle found the empty net on the backhand.  

Dallas had another answer on the power play when Patrick Eaves picked up his second of the playoffs off a Kris Russell shot. Russell and Jason Spezza registered the assists on the goal and this seemed to spark Spezza. With a minute left in the period, Spezza deflected the puck off his skate by Dubnyk for the Stars’ first lead of the game. Jason Demers picked up his second assist of the night, with Jamie Benn picking up the other assist for his first point of the night.    CJhyiLmK

The 3rd period saw Minnesota trying to level the game on an all-out attack. Dallas had changed their game plan as well as they were just trying to get the puck deep in the offensive zone to kill time. Minnesota was pushing hard for the goal to bring them level and like usual they began double shifting Ryan Suter in hope he could spark the team. As the game went on eventually Minnesota had no choice but to pull Dubnyk for the extra attacker. To make matters worse for the Stars, Antonie Roussel took a 4 minute minor for high sticking. Dallas was luckily able to see of the final minute and half with a 6-4 situation. Thus giving Dallas a 3-1 lead in the series.

The next game will be Friday at 9:30 back in Dallas, Texas at the American Airlines Center. Dallas has the chance to finish the series on home ice.

Benn and the Stars take Game 1

The Dallas Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild Friday night by the score of 4-0. The Stars were led by their captain Jamie Benn, who had a goal and two assists. The Wild couldn’t get any offense going without ThomasUnknown-2 Vanek and Zach Parise in Game 1. The Stars were also without Tyler Seguin, but that didn’t seem to stop the offense.

The game started with big hits from both sides, but it didn’t seem to translate to the scoreboard. Both teams also exchanged power plays, although both Devan Dubnyk and Kari Lehetonen seemed up to the task, keeping a shutout through 20 minutes. Dallas had the clear advantage however, as they outshot Minnesota 14-2.  

The second period saw the first goal of the game as Dallas capitalized on a turnover when Radek Faksa scored from the high slot with an assist from Ales Hemsky. Later in the period we saw the 2nd goal of the game as Jason Spezza sniped one over Dubnyk’s shoulder. Patrick Eaves and Jamie Benn got assists on the goal. Lehetonen seemed very confident as Minnesota tried to get some offense going as he made some great saves. CJhyiLmK

The third period saw Dallas pull away as Eaves scored a power play goal assisted by Spezza and Jamie Benn. This had secured the victory with just over 5 minutes remaining in the game. The Wild took a page out of Patrick Roy’s playbook and pulled their goalie for their extra attacker with 4:40 left in the game. It was only a few moments later when Jamie Benn stole the puck and buried into the empty net and completing his 3 point night.

Dallas showed why they are the best team in the west this year as they controlled the game from start to finish. Both teams couldn’t get their power play going as Minnesota went 0-2 and Dallas went 1-6. As this series goes on, the Wild need to take less penalties if they want a chance in this one.