The Penguins eliminated the Islanders, Red Wings and Ducks prepare for Game Seven, Bruins struggle against stubborn Leafs, Capitals hope to eliminate Rangers, and more.
TRIBLIVE.COM/NEWSDAY: Brooks Orpik’s overtime goal lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to 4-3 victory over the plucky NY Islanders to win their best-of-seven conference quarterfinal series four games to two.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins owe that win to Tomas Vokoun, who stole this game for his club. The Islanders dominated the game and would’ve easily won it if not for Vokoun. The Penguins will face the Ottawa Senators in the next round, and you can bet Sens coach Paul MacLean took note of how the Islanders speed gave the Penguins fits. Except for Games One and Five, the Penguins struggled against the Isles, who exposed their defensive weaknesses. I no longer consider the Penguins a sure thing to win the East this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is one of those series where it’s a shame one of these teams has to be eliminated. It’s been a see-saw struggle, and I confess I’m surprised by how the Red Wings – a team in transition – has hung in there against the Ducks. Looking forward to a great game.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS/WASHINGTON POST: The NY Rangers look for a jolt of offense to stave off elimination, while the Washington Capitals hope for a strong start on Rangers home ice. The Capitals lead the series 3-2 and can wrap things up with a win tonight.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers acquired Rick Nash last summer to bolster their offense, but the trade weakened their depth. They addressed that problem by trading Marian Gaborik for character players, but now they’re right back to where they were last spring, when offense became an issue as the playoffs rolled on.
BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins inconsistent play against the Toronto Maple Leafs cost them a chance to end the series in Game Five, giving the Leafs an opportunity to push this series to the full seven games with a win tonight in Game Six in Toronto.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: More on the Leafs in “Canadian Corner”. As for the Bruins, I still expect their experience and depth will carry them through this series, but the inconsistency they’ve displayed against the Leafs doesn’t bode well for a long playoff run.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The LA Kings may have won their conference quarterfinal over St. Louis, but they feel they have room for improvement. They await either the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks in the next round.
STLTODAY.COM: It’s been revealed St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and goalie Jaroslav Halak had a heated argument outside the club’s dressing room in Los Angeles the morning of Game Four of their series against the Kings. It was triggered by Halak being late for a team meeting before their game-day skate, and escalated to where Halak complained about his playing time after returning from a groin injury. Hitchcock downplayed the incident as an internal matter, while Halak was unavailable for comment.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been some expectation the Blues could shop Halak or Brian Elliott, especially with Jake Allen waiting in the wings. Halak has one season remaining on his contract and lost the starter’s role in the playoffs to Elliott. It’ll be interesting to see if he seeks a trade, or if this incident forces the Blues to shop him this summer.
CHICAGO DAILY HERALD: The Chicago Blackhawks defense will be tested in their next series against either the Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Wings beat the Ducks tonight, they’ll face the Blackhawks, If they lose, the ‘Hawks meet the Sharks.
STARTRIBUNE.COM/TWINCITIES.COM: Jim Souhan and Tom Powers aren’t buying the attempt by Minnesota Wild management to put a positive spin on a disappointing season following the Wild’s recent playoff elimination by the Chicago Blackhawks. Both pundits pointed to the club’s late-season collapse, barely making the playoffs, as an indication this team needs improvement. Both pundits considered this season a failure.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Harsh criticism, and spot-on. Yes, the Wild made the playoffs largely thanks to last summer’s acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and management didn’t sit still at the trade deadline, making a big move by trading for Jason Pominville. Yes, they’ve got promising talent in their lineup, and yes, they did improve statistically compared to last season. The fact remains, however, the Wild suffered another late-season collapse akin to last season’s, and only made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. Had this been a 52-game schedule, I doubt the Wild could’ve held off the surging Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for a playoff spot.
MERCURYNEWS.COM: Mark Purdy believes San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan has earned job security.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rallying the Sharks to overcome their mid-season inconsistency to clinch a playoff berth, then sweeping the Vancouver Canucks has silenced McLellan’s critics.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Young Sabres centers Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson need to improve their defensive games.