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Cullen: Sens Alive, Devils Not So Much

Scott Cullen
4/23/2010 8:34:01 AM
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It was a night for shutouts, with three in four games, a Triple-OT nailbiter in the game of the night and the Devils are the first playoff team to book tee times.

BACK TO THE NATION'S CAPITAL
People often play the "Who you got?" game for overtimes in the NHL playoffs and I can't imagine anyone outside of his family picking Matt Carkner to keep the Senators alive with a goal in Triple-OT.  Two goals in 81 regular season games doesn't breed offensive expectations.

Nevertheless, Carkner did keep the Senators alive and they head home for Game Six.

Cory Clouston's decision to start Pascal Leclaire in goal was a good one -- perhaps a great one -- as he stopped 56 of 59 shots.

Despite a turnover that led directly to Pittsburgh's third goal, Senators rookie D Erik Karlsson had a strong game, picking up a couple of assists and leading the Senators with 40:38 of ice time.  He now has six points in the series.   

Jason Spezza and Matt Cullen were both effective at times up front for the Sens, but the biggest positive for the Senators has been the development of Peter Regin, who scored the tying goal midway through the third period and was dangerous in the hunt for the winner.

Sidney Crosby's line, with Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, combined for 23 shots on goal, scoring two.  

DEVILS WENT DOWN TO PHILLY
Philadelphia ended the Devils' season, perhaps earlier than expected, as Claude Giroux rose to the occasion with a pair of goals.

Losing at home, with the Flyers missing missing Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne is a real indictment of this Devils team.

The Devils' power play was 0-for-9 in the clinching game, going 4-for-32 (12.5%) in the series, while the Flyers finished the series 8-for-29 (27.6%) with the man advantage. 

Brian Boucher quieted the doubters -- myself included -- stopping 28 shots for the shutout and, generally, outplaying Martin Brodeur in the series.  The last time Boucher had a shutout with at least 28 saves?  November 12, 2006 vs. Columbus.

Too many Devils forwards didn't produce.  Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner, Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson combined for four points and No. 1 defenceman Paul Martin had no points and a minus-2 rating in the series.

Ilya Kovalchuk, who led the Devils with six points in the series and seven shots on goal in Game five, took a major risk turning down the reported $100-million-plus contract offer from the Atlanta Thrashers. 

Now, after the Devils were 13-9-5 (that's 13 wins in 27 games) with him in the regular season, before losing in five games to the Flyers, how does a team justify making that kind of offer? 

Maybe it happens anyway, but the calculated gamble may end up netting the Russian superstar less when he signs on the dotted line after July 1.

LIFE OF BRIAN
The return of Brian Campbell, even in a part-time role (he played only 14:04), helped the Blackhawks on the back end.  While Campbell's ice time was managed, it was strange to see that he only got 22 seconds on the power play; that seemed to be an area where his skills would be most needed.

The Blackhawks only went with five defencemen, playing Dustin Byfuglien up front, and resulting in Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Sopel and Duncan Keith all playing more than 24 minutes in the game.

In any case, Patrick Sharp buried a pair, his first two of the series, and Jonathan Toews had one and one to lead the Blackhawks offensively.

Bryan Bickell, called up from the AHL, played more than incumbent power forwards Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien, and got an assist on Toews' goal.

Antti Niemi notched the shutout for Chicago, his second of the series, stopping all 33 shots.  Can he stop the "on again, off again" trend in Game Five?

The Predators' power play was 0-for-5, making it 0-for-17 in the series.  Not a huge surprise, given that they were 1-for-32 (3.1%) in the last 11 games of the regular season, but still tough to figure how a power play that has the heavy shots of Shea Weber and Jason Arnott at its disposal can be 1-for-its-last-49.

SECONDARY SHARKS
The Sharks decided to shake up their lines and it seemed to work in a 5-0 win.  They might as well since Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley have been AWOL (even if Marleau and Heatley combined for the fifth goal, on the PP).

Joe Pavelski, who scored again, has been part of the Sharks' scoring leadership -- along with Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi -- in the series.  The Sharks also got three goals from rookies. Logan Couture sniped two, while Dwight Helminen added one.

San Jose has a 24-13 advantage in power plays throughout the series but, given the Sharks' puck possession, that doesn't seem like a number that grossly favours the Sharks.

Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson got a break, late in the game, when the Avs put in Peter Budaj to mop up. 

Anderson has faced 207 shots in the first five games and, even after last night, owns an impressive .937 save percentage.  He's given the Avs a fighting chance, which is more than might have been expected, given how Colorado finished the regular season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.




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