The Rangers take the series lead, again; the Blackhawks blow away the Blues and the Ducks stage a miraculous comeback to oust the Stars. Notes on Couturier, Keith, Seabrook, Miller, Daley, Seguin and more.
RANGERS DOUBLE UP FLYERS
The New York Rangers got goals from some less likely sources -- including Marc Staal, Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle, into an empty net -- to win Game Five over the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, givng the Blueshirts a 3-2 series lead.
The other Rangers goal-scorer was Brad Richards, and it came off a goal-mouth scramble that netted J.T. Miller and assist. Miller, the 21-year-old who was a first-round pick in 2011, has 10 points in 56 career games with the Rangers, but had 43 points in 41 AHL games this season and joined a line with Richards and Carl Hagelin.
New York's line of Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis controlled play. Aside from setting up Staal's game-opening goal, the trio was on for more than 70% of 5-on-5 shot attempts, mostly against the Flyers line of Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jason Akeson. Couturier and Read are the Flyers forwards playing the most in this series and Couturier hasn't recorded a single point. Yes, he's a responsible checking centre, but it's tough to run a forward out for more than 100 minutes in five games and get no points out of that ice-time investment.
Inserted into the Flyers' lineup for an injured Nicklas Grossman, Hal Gill had a rough game, involved in two Rangers goals against, and it was a hard situation in which to place a guy who had played two games since Christmas.
The series heads back to Philadelphia for Game Six and the Flyers have to find a way to generate better results in a hurry. The Blueshirts hold a possession edge and have the better goaltender.
BYE BYE BLUES
Tied 1-1 going into the third period of Game Six, the Chicago Blackhawks erupted for four goals to pull away from the St. Louis Blues, finishing off the series.
Blackhawks D Duncan Keith led the way offensively, tallying a goal and three assists, and with Keith on the ice, the Blackhawks held a 20-13 (60.6%) edge in shot attempts. With Keith off the ice, the 5-on-5 shot attempts favoured St. Louis 32-16 (66.7%).
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was the pace-setter in the series, scoring three goals and seven points, with all of his goals counting as game-winners. Seabrook, who only played in three games due to his suspension, finished the series with six points and Keith's big Game Six gave him seven points for the series as well.
For the Blues, there is going to be a lot of reflection because this is a team that expected to last longer than one round in the postseason, but this result shouldn't raise major concerns. They played the Blackhawks very evenly, with four of the six games in the series going to overtime, and had to play two of the games without their No. 1 centre. Considering the late run of injuries that led to the Blues losing six straight to end the regular season, setting up this matchup, it's also fair to wonder if the Blues could have fared better with fewer health concerns.
The Blues held a '>slight possession edge in the series, but got the second-best goaltending results. Chicago's Corey Crawford stopped 201 of 215 shots (.935 SV%) while Blues G Ryan Miller, after getting torched for five goals on 26 shots in the series finale, stopped 166 of 185 (.897 SV%).
Could the Blues use an upgrade or two? Sure, maybe a centre to help Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, or a premier finisher for the top line that could allow T.J. Oshie or Alexander Steen to slide to the second line. In the end, the Blues were a really good team that played well, but not quite well enough to knock off the defending champs, who are legitimate Cup contenders again this year. There is no shame in losing to this Blackhawks team.
The Blackhawks will now wait for the winner of the Colorado-Minnesota series and Chicago will be favoured against either one..
FALLING STARS Just when it looked like the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks would be headed back to Anaheim for Game Seven -- with the Stars holding a 4-2 lead late in the third period -- a goal-mouth scramble resulted in coincidental roughing penalties to Dallas' Alex Chiasson and Anaheim's Andrew Cogliano.
16 seconds later, Nick Bonino tied the game. Then, with 24 seconds left, Devante Smith-Pelly pounced on a loose puck and buried it for the tying goal. 2:47 into overtime, Bonino scored again, giving the Ducks a dramatic 5-4 win in Game Six, allowing the Ducks to escape with a series victory not so long after it appeared that the series was surely going the distance.
Bonino and Smith-Pelly each had a pair of goals for Anaheim, while Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne each delivered a pair of assists. Selanne played 14:08 and had five shots on goal, both marking highs for him in a series that saw him made a healthy scratch.
That the Ducks won a series in which they yanked starting goaltender Frederik Andersen twice shows just how back-and-forth it was. Andersen was pulled from Game Six after allowing four goals on 12 shots, leaving him with an .892 save percentage in the series; the kind of play that could leave virtually-exiled veteran Jonas Hiller an opportunity to start at some point in Round Two. Hiller stopped all 12 shots he faced after relieving Andersen.
The Stars were led in Game Six, and for good portions of the series, by their top defence tandem of Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski. Daley had two goals and an assist Sunday, while Goligoski added two assists. They combined for nine points in the series and were both on for more than 58% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts when they were on the ice.
Stars C Tyler Seguin could have used some more reward for what was relatively impressive play. He was on the ice for 61.8% of 5-on-5 shot attempts and had 29 shots on goal in six games, yet mustered one goal and three points.
There was a real opportunity for the Stars to take this series, but needed a more decisive advantage in goal, particularly with Andersen running hot and cold. In the Dallas net, Kari Lehtonen stopped 146 of 165 shots (.885%) and, as it turns out, that was only a save or two short of what the Stars needed to push this series to the limit.
Even though the Stars won the possession battle, they couldn't slow down Anaheim's otherwordly 5-on-5, score close shooting percentage (12.7% in Round One).
Now, the Ducks wait for the winner of the Sharks and Kings which will, in either case, present a daunting matchup. But, after the way the Ducks won Game Six, let 'em celebrate a bit first.