Three more series wrapped up over the past 4 days. There were some goalie duels, some barn burners, and some follies. Let's get to the action.
The Jets sent the Wild to the links on Friday night with an impressive 4-0 route. Dubnyk faced ten shots in the first and allowed four. He got caught leaning badly on the first goal but the last three were all flukey or impressive deflections. Alex Stalock took the crease to start the second and stopped 15 of 16 including a few impressive stops. The Jets didn't need all five goals, in fact, they needed only one as Hellebyuck followed up his Game 3 30 save shutout with an equally impressive encore (thank you, thank you, you're far too kind). I mentioned in the preview that Hellebyuck has a chance to follow up a great season with a great postseason and put himself into the top tier of goaltenders and he definitely seems well down that path. The Jets look scary and Hellebyuck is a large reason why.
Michael Neuvirth got the start in Game 5 and was able to top Matt Murray and get the win. I don't think I'd consider the first goal an RVH fail so much as Neuvirth just didn't get across and get his skate to the post. Jake Guentzel put one through the wickets later in the second but that was all the Pens were able to muster on Neuvirth who stopped 30 of 32 in the win.
Murray regressed a bit compared to his recent play, giving us a vintage glove hand whiff and putting out some dangerous rebounds - including one that cost him on the second goal. The third goal hit a Penguin shinpad in the final minutes and went over his glove. Murray seemed to overreact and got opened up but that is a real difficult save either way.
It took less than three minutes for the Flyers to strike in Game 6, stuffing home the puck during a scramble that started after a puck slipped through Murray's legs. That set the stage for a high scoring affair that saw Matt Murray and Michael Neuvirth combine to stop just 41 of 53 shots. They allowed 12 combine goals and somehow neither was taken out despite some pretty ugly goals. Neuvirth hung a juciy rebound out in front of Sidney Crosby then let Carl Haglan take advantage of poor RVH play. Murray paddled down for some reason on the third goal then let some guy named Scott Laughton beat him short side from the top of the circles. The Flyers answered by hanging Neuvirth out to dry on the Pens' third goal then Neuvirth got holy on the fourth. The Flyers hung him out again on the fifth then Jake Gretzky/Guentzel smacked a knuckle-puck through his five hole to make it 6-4. The seventh goal would have been a tough save but Neuvirth took himself completely out of position by going into a paddle-down for reasons I just cannot compute. Murray got jealous and decided to whif on a glove save (I swear, every time he tries to make a glove save up high it looks like there is a glitch in NHL 18 that needs to be fixed) and the rebound got knocked home to make it 7-5. That was finally the end of the massacre. Murray and Neuvirth combined to allow 12 goals and somehow Jake Guentzel scored all 12. What a nightmare.
The Leafs were able to get one by Rask 7 minutes and 43 seconds into the 1st period of Game 4 but Rask stopped the next 28 shots in a row to get the win. Rask is moving very well and staying patient and on his feet more than usual which has led to his success in this series and through the season. On the other side, it took Boston 43 seconds and one shot to put one by Anderson who had a rough go of it in Game 4. The first goal caught him shortside through traffic but he over-committed on the second, leaving himself no chance to get over to the pass across. The Bruins have been the better team in the series but even when the Leafs have had momentum and opportunities, Rask has come up with the stops to keep his team ahead. Something that Anderson just hasn't been able to do.
The Bruins started off Game 5 swarming but it was the Leafs who cashed in twice in the first period. Meanwhile, Freddy was doing this. They went halvsies on four goals in the second which included some weird bounces, defensive lapses, and even two RVH fails. All the while, Freddy was still doing things like this. And this. But also this. Oh, Freddy, you're over-reliance on the RVH is alarming. The 4th goal chased Rask and NikolaiKhabibulinimeanAnton Khubodin came in to hold down the fort and stop the final 8 shots.
To say that Cory Schneider was lights out in Game 5 would be a compliment to darkness. Schneider stopped 35 of 37 including 13 for 13 against the Lightning Power Play. The first goal somehow made it through with a small village standing in front of Schneider. The second looked like he whiffed on a sinker puck from the top of the circles. The Devils were shorthanded for 8 of the final 15 minutes of the second period and took another penalty that started at the third period puck drop. Schneider held off all five penalties. The Lightning Power Play (which hit at 23.9% in the regular season) was 3-4 when Kinkaid was in net in the first two games of the series. In the final three, they went 2 for 15. Schneider even channeled his inner Martin Brodeur with a ridiculous stack-the-pads glove save. Schneider's heroics, much like Jonathan Quick's, may go unsung in many circles. Not this one.
While Schneider was holding off a small army, Vasilevskiy was holding the fort on the other end of the ice. Vasilevskiy stopped 26 of 27 and made some great stops, including this stretching toe save in a one-goal game with the Devils swarming looking to tie the game and change momentum (I pulled my groin just watching it). He was great for most of the series and went toe-to-toe with Schneider and never allowed the Devils to gain the much needed momentum an underdog needs to pull off an upset.
Bernier's lower body injury kept him out of the net in Game 5 and Andrew Hammond got what was only his second start of the season. He certainly got some puck marks on his white Bauer pads in this one as he stopped 44 of 45, dueling with Pekka Rinne until the final whistle. He did leave a few rebounds out there and it cost him on the loan goal but a really impressive showing from Hammond allowed the Avs to steal one in Nashville.
Rinne was sharp early, turning away some good scoring chances to keep the game scoreless into the second period. He was able to keep it that way until the third period when an incredible play from Nathan MacKinnon tied the game. A tough rebound cost him the lead and the Preds had to head back to Colorado.
Rinne must have heard about these cool things called "shutouts" a bunch of the goalies were getting and wanted to get in on the action. He didn't have a ton of work but he stopped all 22 in Game 6 and looked sharp when called upon. Hammond didn't have as good of a go at it. He played over-aggressive, holy at times, and left a bunch of rebounds out in front. The Predators are definitely the better team - they outshot the Avs 37-22, but Rinne was definitely a class above Bernier and Hammond the entire series. He will have to do battle with a red-hot Connor Hellebyuck who finished off his series against the Wild with two straight shutouts.
Holtby was a living breathing wall while stopping 23 of 24 in Game 4. He was moving well, controlling rebounds, and dictating the game in front of him in a way that few goaltenders can. Even when he gave up a rebound, he was calm on his recoveries and left nothing to chance.
I love the way Bobrovsky battles for every puck, but watch the difference between the way he reacts to a rebound compared to Holtby. On the second goal, Bobrovsky made two incredible saves, but if he had just controlled his rebound on the first shot from the point, he wouldn't have needed to make those saves at all. On the other hand, I think the Capitals should find a new strategy on breakaways. Maybe the should just stop and wait for the rest of the players to catch up because I'm pretty sure Bobrovsky has stopped every breakaway the Caps have thrown at him and made it look easy while doing so.
Game 5 gave us the third overtime game in the series and the first that the Capitals were able to take. Holtby started out rough after he let one slip through on a short-handed chance (keep your eyes on the puck kids!) but tightened up and stopped 34 of the next 36 shots against, including some incredible stops in regulation and overtime.
Bobrovsky put together a vintage Bobs performance, coming up with some great saves (smell the glove!) and also letting in a few he'd want back. Overall he stopped 25 of 29 and is getting severely out-dueled by Braden Holtby