Cullen: Predators advance; OT keeps Flyers, Blackhawks alive

Scott Cullen
4/25/2011 9:25:24 AM
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Nashville's moving to the second round for the first time, while the Blackhawks and Flyers force Game Sevens.

The Flyers rolled the dice on Michael Leighton as their starter in Game Six and the Sabres chased him from the net with three goals on eight shots.  Brian Boucher came on in relief, as the Flyers tried to mount a comeback from a 3-1 deficit and the big guns came out firing.

Philadelphia outshot Buffalo 49-33 for the game, but Buffalo welcomed Boucher by firing 18 shots at him in the second period.

Danny Briere paced the Flyers attack with two goals, but Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino and Mike Richards all had two points apiece.  Defenceman Kimmo Timonen was a game-high plus-3 for the Flyers.

Buffalo got a pair of first period power play goals from Thomas Vanek, giving him five goals for the series.  Tyler Myers contributed three assists and Marc-Andre Gragnani added a couple of helpers as well.  Myers had one three-assist game during the 2010-2011 regular season.

Sabres centre Tim Connolly was knocked out of the game by Richards, who received a boarding penalty, leaving Connolly's status in doubt for Game Seven.  Buffalo may counter that potential loss, however, by inserting Derek Roy into the lineup.  Roy hasn't played since December 23, but was the Sabres' leading scorer at that time with 35 points in 35 games.

The Flyers inserted Chris Pronger into their lineup for Game Six and he played only 4:33, all of it on the power play.  He still has a broken hand, but Pronger doesn't figure to play less in Game Seven, with the series shifting back to Philadelphia.

It would figure that, in the Predators' first playoff series win, that clinching game would bring a star performance from a young winger who had eight goals in 102 regular season games.

22-year-old Nick Spaling scored two goals for Nashville, a feat he actually accomplished twice during the regular season so, when he scores, he scores in bunches. 

Jordin Tootoo added a pair of assists for the Predators, giving him five points in the series.  Considering his ice time (11:59 per game) Tootoo was, unexpectedly, the most efficient points-per-minute scorer for Nashville in Round One.

With the series on the line, Nashville got a shutdown checking performance from the line of David Legwand, Joel Ward and Matt Halischuk who, along with the top defence pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, locked up the Ducks' number one line, limiting Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan to a total of eight shots on net in Game Six. 

Ryan was the only one on the Ducks' top line to register a point, but it was an assist with the Ducks' second power play unit on Jason Blake's goal.

Anaheim got the kind of production they would expect from their best players throughout the series -- five forwards scored a point-per-game or better -- but couldn't get contributions from the third and fourth lines and the goaltending couldn't keep up its late-season pace.  Ray Emery, who had a 2.28 goals against average and .926 save percentage in ten regular season contests, slipped to 3.20 and .897 against Nashville.

It's not always the case that the team with superior depth wins out, but looking at the Predators' lineup, with 13 players scoring at least three points in the series, that seems to have been the difference in this series.

The Canucks now have one game to turn around their momentum and avoid an epic collapse.

After the Blackhawks shelled the Canucks in Games Four and Five, to the tune of 12-2, there seemed to be some element of panic by having rookie Cory Schneider start in net for Game Six and it came with mixed results -- some nice saves, some costly turnovers -- before Schneider had to leave the game with an apparent leg injury after Michael Frolik tied the game at three with a penalty shot goal early in the third period.

Roberto Luongo stepped in and faced a dozen shots, including just one in the last 17 minutes of the third period.  On Ben Smith's winning goal, in overtime, Luongo lost his footing and was face down in the crease, not nearly in the position that he'd have liked to handle the rebound opportunity.

Alex Burrows had a strong game for the Canucks, contributing to all of Vancouver's offence with a goal and two assists, but Vancouver's top line was once again stymied.  The Sedins and Mikael Samuelsson were each minus-2 on the night.

The Sedins have combined for three points (two goals by Daniel, one assist by Henrik) and a minus-13 rating in the last three games.  If they're not productive players in Game Seven, this series will be a tough one for their reputations (already maligned, like Luongo, for lack of sustained playoff success) to shake.

On the other side of the face-off dot, Dave Bolland continues to make a name for himself as a clutch playoff performer, putting up two points and a plus-2 rating as his line -- with wingers Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik -- got the better of the Sedins and Samuelsson.

Canucks defenceman Sami Salo played just 2:07 before suffering what looked like a leg injury in the first period, leaving Kevin Bieksa to log a game-high 36:33on the Vancouver blueline.

What should be additionally troubling to Vancouver is that they are being pushed to the limit by the Blackhawks even though Chicago's leading scorer in the regular season, Jonathan Toews continues to struggle.  He was minus-2 in Game Six and has three assists and a minus-4 rating in the series.

There does seem to be some neutralizing when Toews matches up against Ryan Kesler, as 41-goal man Kesler has yet to score in the series (he has three assists), but Kesler is on the plus side of the ledger at plus-2.  If either Toews or Kesler can get loose in Game Seven, that could be the difference.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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