The Rangers and Blackhawks advance to their respective Conference Finals. Notes on Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Henrik Lundqvist, Erik Haula, Corey Crawford and more.
RANGERS GET PAST PENGUINS
The Pittsburgh Penguins carried the play, outshooting the New York Rangers 36-20, but Henrik Lundqvist stopped 35 shots en route to the Rangers' 2-1 win Game Seven.
Rallying the Rangers from a 3-1 series deficit, Lundqvist stopped 102 of 105 shots (97.1 SV%) over the final three games to lead the comeback and if Lundvist was stonewalling the Penguins, that results in a lack of production from Pittsburgh's big scorers.
No one comes under the spotlight, for anything, more than Sidney Crosby and, after being held scoreless in the final three games, he ended the series with one goal and two assists. It's one thing to have dominant possession numbers -- and Crosby did, on for 62.6% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts in the series -- because that increases the probability of success, but in the one time that this series was played, the production ultimately wasn't there and Crosby takes the heat for that.
Losing out in the second round of the playoffs comes as disappointmentto the Penguins and will likely result in changes. LW Jussi Jokinen scored seven goals in 13 playoff games, C Evgeni Malkin had six (with a team-leading 14 points) in the playoffs and C Brandon Sutter added five; the rest of the Penguins roster combined for 15, which included one for Crosby, two for James Neal and three for Chris Kunitz.
G Marc-Andre Fleury, who has taken the brunt of the criticism for the Penguins' previous playoff exits, can't take much fault in this season's ouster. In 13 postseason games, Fleury stopped 346 of 378 shots (.915 SV%), his best postseason since 2007-2008.
Standing in contrast to Crosby, Rangers C Brad Richards, the Rangers' high-priced centre, finished the series with two goals and one assist, but his second goal was the game-winning goal in Game Seven.
This was a team effort from the Rangers, though. Derick Brassard was the team's leading scorer in the series, with four points, and the yet that was enough for the Rangers to advance. It's almost shocking because the Rangers are moving on despite a remarkable lack of production from their top offensive threats. Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan combined for one goal and four assists, yet the Blueshirts still managed to get through.
Now, the Rangers await the winner of Game Seven between Montreal and Boston for the Eastern Conference Final and they'll go into that series with some talented players that are due to produce, which isn't altogether a bad situation. After all, if they're going to be unsustainable in one direction, it might as well be on the under-performance side of things, because it stands to reason that the Rangers should get more from players that typically produce more offensively.
That the Rangers got past Pittsburgh with minimal contributions from their best players, which means all the more credit is due to the rest of the team.
In a tightly-contested series, the Chicago Blackhawks took advantage of a fortuitous bounce in overtime of Game Six to beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1, taking the series four games to two.
Blackhawks D Brent Seabrook dumped the puck into the Minnesota zone, harmlessly, but it caromed off the glass and in front of the Wild net, where RW Patrick Kane made quick move to his backhand before tucking the puck under the bar, ending the series.
It was lucky bounce for Seabrook who, along with partner Duncan Keith, assisted on the series-winning goal on a night in which they were shredded at even strength, bested in the possession game while primarily facing the Wild line of Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle.
RW Marian Hossa (1 G, 8 A) and LW Bryan Bickell (4 G, 2 A) led the Blackhawks offensively against the Wild, and G Corey Crawford was strong, stopping 150 of 162 shots (.926 SV%).
Minnesota's leading scorer in the series was third-line rookie C Erik Haula, who scored the Wild's only goal in Game Six and finished with three goals and two assists. Haula finished the regular season with seven points in seven games, as he filled in for an injured Mikael Granlund, and 14 points in 20 (regular season plus playoff) games at the end of the year, as well as a 56.9% Corsi in the playoffs, ought to raise expectations for what role he may be able to play in his second NHL season.
While Koivu's line had their moments in the series, it was ultimately a tough series for him, as he finished with one assist in six games, after scoring six points against Colorado in Round One.
Wild G Ilya Bryzgalov, pressed into action due to Darcy Kuemper's latest injury, struggled in the first couple games of the series, allowing seven goals on 42 shots (.833 SV%), but was better over the last four games, stopping 88 of 94 shots (.936 SV%).
Minnesota is likely looking at some changes in the offseason, but they do so from a place of optimism. They made progress this year, gave the Blackhawks all they could handle, and will have plenty of cap space available to them this summer.
Chicago now has time to prepare for the Western Conference Final, against the winner of the Anaheim-Los Angeles series, for a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the past five seasons. With some luck, they might get injured RW Andrew Shaw back from injury at some point in the next round.
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.