By: Dan Cole| KFAN.com
This past week saw the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs come to an end and moved into the second round with a number of timeless rivalries at hand.
The first round, characterized by upsets, concluded with the second, third and fourth seeds be ousted from the Western Conference, while the second and third seeds from the Eastern Conference bid farewell to their playoff aspirations, as well.
The week began with two game sevens on Monday evening, one between Boston and Toronto and the other between Washington and the New York Rangers.
In the Boston/Toronto matchup, fans saw what has come to be expected from a game seven. The Bruins, down 4-1 halfway through the third period, scored three goals in the final 10 minutes to send the game to overtime, including goals from Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron just 30 seconds apart in the final 90 seconds.
Then, in overtime, Bergeron added to his heroism, netting the game-winner just over six minutes into the period and sending the Bruins to the conference semis. Bergeron, who was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the league this week, had a hand in each of Boston’s last three goals and won 73 percent of his faceoffs on Monday night.
In the Washington/New York matchup, however, fans saw a much less entertaining bout, especially from the Capitals’ perspective. Despite outshooting the Rangers 35-27 on Monday, the Caps failed to show up and surrendered by way of a 5-0 shellacking at Verizon Center.
The loss added to Alexander Ovechkin’s playoff woes, marking the fourth time he has lost a game seven on home ice. In this, his eighth NHL season, Ovechkin still has yet to reach the conference finals.
The second round got underway on Tuesday night. Two original six rivalries are set to face off in the second round, as Chicago and Detroit are matched up in the west, along with Boston and New York in the east. Los Angeles and San Jose are pitted against one another in the west semis, as well, adding to the geographic rivalry of this round.
The Pittsburgh/Ottawa series began on Tuesday night, with the Pens snatching a convincing 4-1 victory. Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz tallied two points apiece for top-seeded Pittsburgh, while goaltender Tomas Vokoun continued to shine in relief of the struggling Marc-Andre Fleury.
Tuesday night’s other game kicked off the Kings/Sharks series with Jonathan Quick picking up his second shutout of the postseason as the Kings prevailed 2-0 to jump ahead in the series. Quick has been stellar thus far in the playoffs, currently owning a 6-2-1 record, .947 save percentage and 1.56 goals against average.
The lone game on Wednesday night was game one between the Blackhawks and Red Wings, a rivalry as old as the league itself. The Hawks had not lost to the Red Wings in seven meetings going into Wednesday, and saw that trend continue at United Center in game one.
Despite being knotted at one goal apiece going into the third period, Chicago was able to net three goals in the final 20 minutes to put the Wings down quietly. Hawks winger Patrick Sharp continued to thrive offensively, potting a goal and adding two assists on Wednesday to give him nine goals in six games this postseason.
The Bruins and Rangers, both fresh off game seven victories, got their second round series underway on Thursday in, once again, dramatic fashion. The rivals played to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation before Bruins forward Brad Marchand tapped home a beautiful odd-man rush setup from Bergeron. Bruins lead the series 1-0.
The Kings built on their series lead over the Sharks on Thursday night with the help of two powerplay goals late in the third period. San Jose, up 3-2 with just three minutes remaining in the game, took two penalties less than 30 seconds apart to give L.A. an extended powerplay. The Kings, who have a 22.7 percent success rate with a man advantage this postseason, capitalized via goals from Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis with over a minute left, resulting in an exciting 4-3 victory and 2-0 series lead.
Pittsburgh and Ottawa are slated for game two of their series on Friday night, followed by Chicago/Detroit and Los Angeles/San Jose on Saturday.
Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - Thursday morning Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher announced that goaltender Niklas Backstrom underwent successful sports hernia surgery today by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia, Pa. Backstrom is expected to be fully recovered for the start of the 2013-14 season.
Bakstrom, who played 42 games for the Wild this season, was pulled just minutes before puck dropped for game 1 of Minnesota's Stanley Cup Playoffs series against Chicago. Backstrom's injury was listed only as lower body as he remained partially available for the Wild through the first round, but upon Minnesota's dismissal from the post season it was diagnosed and announced as a sports hernia.
The 2012-2013 season was the final year of Niklas Backstrom's 4-year contract with the Minnesota Wild. Backstrom will have to take a pay cut to stay with the Wild, but with options behind him remaining thin, odds are he lands back in Minnesota for the 2013-2014 season.
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
St. Paul, MN - As the Minnesota Wild prepared for the NHL lockout to officially end last fall, most of the team's players had their minds firmly fixed on getting in shape and preparing for the expedited season that sat before them. At the same time, Minnesota goalie Josh Harding had a little bit more on his mind.
Diagnosed last fall with Multiple Sclerosis, Josh Harding vowed to his teammates, to his fans and to himself that he was not going to let the prognosis of a debilitating disease end a career that only a year ago appeared to be heading towards it's prime. Six months later, Harding found himself stuck between the pipes starting the first game of the Minnesota Wild's opening round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While the Wild's quest for the cup has officially come to an end, Harding's journey towards winning one of the NHL's prestigious postseason awards is still alive and kicking.
Tuesday morning the National hockey League announced that Harding had been named as one of the three finalists to win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy that honors players who exemplify the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Along with Harding, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Boston's Adam McQuaid were named finalists.
Harding, 28 (6/18/84), went 1-1-0 with a 3.24 goals-against average (GAA), a .863 save percentage (SV%) and one shutout in five regular season games with Minnesota this year and 1-4 with a 2.94 GAA and a .911 SV% in five playoff starts for the Wild. He stopped all 24 shots faced in his first start this season in a 1-0 victory against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 20. Harding was placed on Injured Reserved Feb. 12 and missed 33 games with the Wild as he battles multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed last fall. He was assigned to the Houston Aeros (AHL) on a conditioning assignment April 16 and went 1-1-0, stopping 56-of-61 shots for a 3.00 GAA and .918 SV% in two starts and helped Houston clinch a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs before being recalled by Minnesota on April 22.
Harding went 13-12-4 with a 2.62 GAA, a .917 SV% and two shutouts in 34 appearances (30 starts) in 2011-12 after missing the 2010-11 season with a knee injury suffered Sept. 24, 2010, at St. Louis. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound native of Regina, Sask., has appeared in 122 games (98 starts) with Minnesota in parts of seven NHL seasons, going 42-52-8 with a 2.66 GAA, a .915 SV% and seven shutouts. He was selected by the Wild in the second-round (No. 38 overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) submitted ballots for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The Twin Cities chapter of the PHWA nominated Harding this year. Last year’s winner was Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. The NHL Writers’ Association first presented the trophy in 1968 to commemorate the late Bill Masterton, who played for the Minnesota North Stars and exhibited to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968 as a result of head injuries suffered during a game.
The winner will be announced during the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, with more detail on format to be released at a later date. This marks the first time a member of the Wild has been named a finalist for this award. Wild defenseman Ryan Suter was named a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy on May 7.