One Timers

NHL Playoffs Roundup: Tuesday’s Bests and Worsts

(Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

The defending champs are on the ropes, the Anaheim Ducks have new life and a pair of Russians are dominating the NHL playoffs as we hit the one-week mark of the postseason.

Here are Tuesday’s bests and worsts.

Three stars:

1. Nikita Kucherov, F, Tampa Bay: Two goals, assist in win over Detroit
2. Vladimir Tarasenko, F, St. Louis: Two goals, assist in win over Chicago
3. Frederik Anderson, G, Anaheim Ducks: 27-save shutout in win over Nashville

Best game: St. Louis 4, Chicago 3

The Blackhawks-Blues series is white-knuckle hockey. Every game has been a one-goal game and every game has featured dramatic turning points and terrific action.

As many have noted, this series feels like a Stanley Cup Final in the first round and that stands to reason. St. Louis and Chicago finished with the third and fifth-best records in the NHL — exhibit A for those who argue for a more equitable playoff system.

The Hawks lost 10 players off last season’s Stanley Cup champion squad and that, as much as anything is why St. Louis has closed the gap and likely surpassed the Hawks, at least for this season. Oh yeah, they also have the otherworldly talents of Vladimir Tarasenko.

Best individual performance: Kuchy, Kuchy, Ku

Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov scored the first goal of the game on Tuesday against Detroit — the third time he has done that in four games of this series. Tampa Bay has won all three of those games.

Kucherov added another goal and an assist on Ondrej Palat’s game winner. He leads the NHL with 10 multi-point playoff games the last two seasons.

Best visual: Dylan Larkin’s near miss

Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin came oh, so close to giving the Red Wings a late, 3-2 lead and possibly tying this series. The Joe Louis Arena crowd erupted after this shot, but the puck hit the far post and skirted the crossbar before hitting Larkin and falling harmlessly behind the net.

Best stat: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

The most elite players in the history of the game average a point or slightly better per game in the playoffs. The great Vlad? He has 13 goals in 17 playoff games after a two-goal night in St. Louis’ huge, Game-4 win over Chicago that gave the Blues a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to St. Louis.

Best display of classlessness: Andrew Shaw, Chicago

Because Artemi Panarin reached his offensive bonuses, the Hawks may be forced to cut ties with super-pest Andrew Shaw this offseason. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Shaw’s behavior on Tuesday after a third-period penalty overshadowed the Monday debacle in Philadelphia for a night. Watch this GIF and read Shaw’s lips. That sure looks like a homophobic slur, and that’s just disgusting.

Best secondary scoring: Anaheim Ducks

You’ll always hear coaches tout the importance of this element. Man, did the Ducks need it in Nashville. Already in a 2-0 series hole, Anaheim got goals from Rickard Rakell, Jamie McGinn and Chris Stewart to pull within a win of the Predators.

Worst imbalance: Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa has nine goals from the Alex Killorn-Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov line in its series with Detroit. Everyone else has two goals combined. That could cost the Bolts down the line if it doesn’t change.

Worst call: Corey Crawford creates a power play

A little past the midpoint of the second period, St. Louis forward Robby Fabbri took a shot on goal and was forced into Crawford by Chicago captain Jonathan Toews as he went for a rebound attempt. Crawford took exception to it, pursued Fabbri into the corner, dropped the gloves and started a melee.

Naturally, penalties were assessed, a power play was earned and Chicago scored on that ensuing power play when Duncan Keith knocked in a rebound.

Wait, what?

All Crawford got was a roughing call while Fabbri was whistled for a dubious goaltender interference penalty. St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo both took roughing penalties while Chicago’s Andrew Ladd took the same.

To put this simply, there was no way Chicago should have emerged with a power play when Crawford clearly instigated the entire mess. Fortunately for St. Louis, it was able to battle through the calls and rally to win the game.

Best call: No goal

It’s incredible how many key coach’s challenges there have been already in this postseason — in seemingly every series — but the review got this offside call right on what would have been the Rangers’ and the game’s first goal.

In Game 2, Derick Brassard scored a key goal on which replays showed he dragged his back foot just long enough to stay onside. There have also been close reviews in the Islanders-Panthers, Blackhawks-Blues, Wild-Stars and Red Wings-Lightning series.

Best better-late-than-never-switch: Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau

After dropping the first two games at home, Boudreau switched goalies from John Gibson to Frederik Andersen and Andersen rewarded him with a shutout. Many wondered why Andersen didn’t start the postseason in the first place. If the Ducks can’t rally in this series, those cries will be even louder.

Best overlooked performance: Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay

You remember Drouin, right? He was demoted to the AHL, his agent, Allan Walsh, demanded a trade, GM Steve Yzerman said no and then Steven Stamkos was lost for the postseason with a blood clot, necessitating Drouin’s recall.

All he did Tuesday was record three assists, including primaries on the final two goals, in a 3-2 win in Detroit.

Best quote: Chicago coach, Joel Quenneville

“We gotta reboot tomorrow, go to St. Louis, get excited. No pressure. Try to win one game and come back here for Game 6.”

Best thing to look forward to Wednesday: A Washington sweep

Following the Philadelphia Flyers’ antics on the ice, and their fans’ antics off the ice on Monday, there aren’t many hockey fans rooting for a Flyers rally. We’ll stop short of saying the Flyers deserve to be swept, but nobody outside that city’s fan base will shed a tear if it happens.

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