With three difference games we saw three ways to win. The Bruins came back to win a tight game on the strength of their defense. The Capitals reminded the hockey world they scored more than anyone in the regular season and led from the word go.  The Kings on the other-other hand decided to put on a special teams exhibition that just dared the officials to change the man count on ice.

5) Judging by the way the two teams played,  one would have to say the Bruins won this emotional battle with themselves. Sobotka get’s his first NHL fight, Wideman gets his first NHL playoff goal, and Bergeron get’s his first playoff Game Winner. The Sabres were in no way flat, but the Bruins had that extra it that it took to get the job done.

4) In a word, yes the Kings best can outplay the cream of the Canucks crop, but not without some bench support from Handzus and a pair of truly commanding special teams.

3) Pretty much.  While the Caps started and ended the game with the same guy shading the blue paint, the Habs had to embrace the man they have derided and ridiculed for little reason for the past two years.

2) Sorta, they did however skip showing part of a fight for no other reason than incompetence. But hey, they didn’t make the same mistake twice (in a row)!

1)  Only the war room in Toronto. On a goal that had nothing to indicate a distinct kicking motion the boffins and brain trust took roughly twice as long as the last lockout to make the wrong call.

The third period saw the hockey soup that is made out of grit & gristle, meat & madness, precision & patience and a touch of the grace of the hockey gods boil over. Andrew Ference got his face clawed by Rivet in a move reminicient of Mike Komisareks attack on Matt Hunwick, Vladimir Sobotka was jumped by Sekera and held his own in his first NHL fight against a much larger opponent.

The Bruins penalty kill was again perfect and robbed the Buffalo squad of any hope of momentum. Most importantly, the Boston Bruins who struggled at home kept their chins up and gutted out a win at home after going down to a team who can call on the services of the man who clearly deserves the Vezina, and the towering rookie sensation and probable Calder claimant Tyler Myers.

Almost 80 total hits on the night with Chara and Sobotka leading with six a piece,  Dennis Wideman had one of his best games in a Bruins uniform earning notches points on both goals.  Patrice Bergeron snapped his own scoring drought, and together Bergeron, Wideman, Rask and Vladimir Sobotka lead the Bruins to a 2-1 win and a 2-1 series advantage.

Bruins squandered a power play that had the whole unit of Bergeron, Krejci, Recchi, Chara and Hunwick play the full two minutes.

Sobotka drew a second penalty just moments later,  he’s playing for a contract next year and he know’s it. He may not end up here in Boston next year with the logjam of highly regarded prospects, in addition to Bergeron, Krejci and Savard, but if he plays this well the rest of the playoffs he’ll likely be playing in the NHL next year even if it is in a different teams uniform.

Sturm turned a powerplay int a holding the stick when he pressed someone stick into his stomach with his arm.

Bruins had great effort for most of the first twelve to fourteen minutes and then made some silly plays with Sturm and Ference getting caught retaliating.

The Bruins need to simply do what brought them to the dance in the third period:  Skate hard, hit smart and hard, and put the puck on net.

After Wideman’s earlier indications that he started the season injured (he wasn’t skating well, even for him) and that he’d had about the worst season of his career, some thought it was time to forgive and forget.  I think that he, Ryder and several others still have a lot of work to catch up on.

Early in the first period the Bruin’s put Miller under siege, and had little to show for it. When Mike Grier scores on a cross crease high glove shot, the Bruins were knocked back on their heels for most of the remainder of the period.  Sobotka started the turnaround by laying waste to Tyler Ennis, then setting up Wideman for his first career NHL playoff goal, and the tying goal.

A nice little scrum involving Paul Gaustad of the Sabres and the much smaller, very scrappy Andrew Ference brought the noise back from the Garden crowd.

Stats:

After 1, Sobotka & Chara lead the Bruins with 3 hits each, Tim Kennedy has 3 for Buffalo.  Boychuck leads the Bruins with 8:40 of ice time.

Today’s 5 Up questions to be answered.

5) Which team will rally around their injured player better. The Sabres who just lost Vanek or the Boston Bruins who got to see Marc Savard skate for the first time since Matt Cooke tried to take his head off? Will these injuries be a factor or is the psychoemotional forge already hot enough?

4) Can Kopitar, Doughty and Quick keep the Sedin’s and Luongo from earning their time in the sun?

3) Will the tale of two creases that has been center stage in the Montreal Washington series continue to overshadow the rest of the drama?

2) Can Versus keep from posting the wrong scores and logos during intermissions and updates?

1) Will anyone show less urgency than yesterdays Devils?

This morning I asked five questions, now its time for the answers.

5) Meh, the Chicago vs Predators game was second best on the day. Despite the low score the Sharks vs Avalanche game was amazing. Everything else was a letdown.  The New Jersey Devils looked like someone had shoved Martin Brodeur out there with a supporting cast of high school players.  Best game of the day goes to the Coyotes and the Wings who at least played like it was  the playoffs.  The Coyotes lost captain Shane Doan to an ever more mystery shrouded injury and rallied to put the Wings half way to pasture.

4) Apparently the answer is no.  Pittsburgh led by three at one point and nearly got out of town with the score that way.  The Black Hawks had two goals in a shutout against the low octane Predators, but the game was tight. And the Colorado – San Jose game ended 1-0 in overtime.

3) Nope.

2) It appears that not only are Chicago’s young legs still willing and able, that Anti Niemi wants his name next to a couple more zero’s on his next contract.

1) Well, Anti Niemi did a solid job smothering 23 Nashville shots, but Craig Anderson stuck his fork in the Conn-Smythe steak and said 50 shots stopped.

Five quick thoughts on the action to come.

5) Will any of today’s five games live up to the playoff experience so far? We’ve had sixty plus minutes of balls to the wall action in each game and I don’t know how you top the back and forth flow of goals, hits and high tempo.

4) Will today be the day we see a blowout? Will one of the big guns in New Jersey, Chicago or Pittsburgh take to the ice and take over the game?

3) Does today mark our first visit to double overtime? We’ve had reasonably brief extra periods thus far, could we see a game hit triple overtime?

2) Did Chicago wear themselves down in the regular season or do they still have enough juice to overcome their division rivals?

1) Who’s moving their name to center stage on the post season awards list? Does Doughty dominate on D, will Ilya B or Ilya K be the guy talked about all day?

One certainty:
No sports post season can match the NHL for intensity.

A quick look at the playoff brackets might convince you that you know the answer to the title question. And while it is more than likely there will be fundamental changes to the structure of both the Capaital’s and the Sharks if they get knocked out before the conference finals, you’d be wrong to think they will back slide the furthest.

Boston with all its injuries (Savard, Stuart, Seidenberg) who had that huge drop from missing the Presidents Trophy last year by such a small margin, to clawing their way into sixth this year will be another year older, but will probably enter the season with Hall or Seguin on the roster and possible former first rounders Caron and Colbourne. If all goes well Ryder & Wideman will be wearing someone else’s uniform next year, and the three missing men will be back and contributing their impressive weight.

For the Habs who many (myself included) wrote off as a proof of Gainey’s senility with a roster crowded with Umpaloompa’s and hasbeens, just making the playoffs is something to be proud of. The fact that they started the second season by snapping an eight game post season slide against the powerhouse Capitals is enormous.

The Avalanche, Coyotes and Kings were not expected to make the playoffs and many predicted two of them as lottery bound. With the youth and lack of playoff experience here, despite the heart, hustle and skill they can all wait another season or even two to learn how to win playoff hockey.

Some people will point to the defending champion Penguins and their prom dates the last two years the Wings and say surely they have the most to lose. Nope, as great as the Wings I don’t think they have the depth. They were in 9th place not long ago and have been largely carried by several aging veterans and surprise sensation Jimmy Howard. The Penguins are in part victims of their own success, and partly their leadership failed to replace the shutdown defensive pair that helped propel them to the Cup a year ago. The Penguins still have great core, and the Wings leadership know how to build.

To my mind the Devils have to go out and make it to the Conference finals this year if the sword of Damoclese isn’t to descend on everyone outside the owners office. Like the Sharks the Devils have been almost there for so long, and have added a gun slinger to their lineup. Of all the teams in the east, I suspect only the Flyers will get a sounder scrubbing if they fail.

But the team that has the most to lose isn’t someone who’s been a perennial favorite, isn’t a team with questionable coaching, or prima donnas in the locker room its the Chicago Blackhawks. The team will be a very different beast next year. For next season they have 14 players signed and come up to $57.566 million. They quite literally have nowhere to move. They will start trading as soon as they can, both at the draft and right up to the start of the new season. Being that close to the salary cap something has got to give. If the team on the ice today wants a cup there is literally no “next year”. We could quite possibly see core guys including Kane and Toews moved to make room. Hossa and Sharp are almost certainly gone. If the Black Hawks fail, they don’t just lose a game or a series, they don’t simply let slip a place in history, they give up a team that is good enough to hoist the Cup and shatter the dream of a whole city.

The Senators have outworked, out chanced, out skated, out smarted and completely dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby through two periods had only attempted one shot and that was blocked. Fluery allowed five goals and five goal scores to light the lamp.  The effort for most of the Penguins was seriously lacking and the Senators looked like the playoff veterans all night. Jarkko Ruuttu managed to stay disciplined the whole night.

What this series comes down to is a contrast between the main strength of the Senators in defense, and the offense of the Penguins, the defenses are pretty similar with but it should be noted that Crosby did not score a single of his fifty-one goals against the Senators and that trend continued tonight. Goaltending is about even between the two teams with the season series having shown both teams goalies can have very bad nights.

Senators win 5-4 over last season Stanley Cup Champions, but the Penguins only showed up for about ten minutes of the game. Senator’s lead the series 1-0.