The rituals begin.
Start with an Islanders bit: Radek Martinek scored two goals against Russia in the Czech Hockey Games, essentially a warmup for the upcoming World Championships in Slovakia. In that write-up Marti raves about playing with some of his Czech mates again, which might or might not lead you to think about that sports.ru report that Martinek will play in the KHL next year. [UPDATE: Martinek hath texteth Katie Strang that the report is not true.]
That report is carefully worded ("according to information available to"..."one of the Russian top clubs"), so my suspicion meter is in the orange if not red. But Martinek has not been re-signed, while fellow pending UFA's Matt Moulson, P.A. Parenteau and Al Montoya were, so...
In other Islanders-related news, there was more CHL prospect action (WebBard is under the weather, so he had to punt those weekly updated to me). But first I have to marvel at another excellent weekend of NHL playoffs.
The Amazing Blackhawks-Canucks Series
From 3-0 to 3-3. Roberto Luongo lit up in Games 4 and 5...then not even started for Game 6?! Cory Schneider playing well in Game 6 except for some poor puckhandling plays that led to goals. ... The Canucks taking a lead in the first minute of the third at 4-on-4, only to give up a penalty shot which Michael Frolik scores -- and Schneider gets injured, putting Luongo back into the fire?! Hawks win in OT, on a rebound Luongo was in poor position to handle?!
[Update: Sounds like Schneider just got cramps.]
You can't write scripts like that. A week ago it looked like this would be the first series to end. Now it's one of the last. It also sets up two Game 7's on Tuesday, which is absolute heaven. God I love the first round of the NHL playoffs.
(Aside: Awesome to see David Bolland play so well and get in the diving Sedins' kitchen. Bolland destroyed Dan Hamhuis on a check that led to a Hawks goal, which was completely righteous and in accordance with the propehcies because Hamhuis -- who has had career-threatening concussion troubles himself -- took liberties with Bolland's head earlier in this series, as Bolland was coming back from ... a concussion. I swear, these players.)
VIDEO OT Winner: Marian Hossa can make some nice plays.
Speaking of goalie-go-rounds: For some reason the Flyers started Michael Leighton for this one, and for some reason Leighton took one period to show them why that was a mistake. After two (arguably three) ugly goals, Brian Boucher was back in net to start the second. Cue another Flyers comeback, cue OT.
Brutal loss for Buffalo, who had a chance to clinch at home in Game 6. Now they have the other Game 7 Tuesday in Philadelphia. They took injury hits throughout, including a Mike Richards hit from behind on Tim Connolly that Lindy Ruff said rules Connolly out for Game 7 (probably with a concussion, you'd think, though there are claims of shoulder). Will Richards miss that one, too, or does Colie's Wheel not suspend captains for Game 7's?
To add to the theater for this one, Ruff said Derek Roy will be coming back for Game 7 after being out since December. Ruff was pretty ticked in his postgame comments and clearly hopes Richards will be suspended. Ryan Miller was ticked, too, saying: "RIchards says we've been getting away with murder. What does that make what he got away with out there? Mass murder?" Lots of talk about hits the league's trying to eliminate.
The Rangers are Done. Teehee, the Tears.
That is all.
There was a goal in all 19 periods (including OT) of the Anaheim-Nashville series. Old men like Teemu Selanne and Jason Blake scored a bunch (Blake doing his run-from-the-crowd fistpump, natch). It was high scoring throughout, as Anaheim tried to jar Nashville from its disciplined game into run-and-gun. In the end, the Ducks' Hiller-less goaltending was probably never going to be enough.
But it was a great series of one team with very dangerous top 3/top 6 going against another team that's all about balance and anonymous depth. [On the Forecheck celebrates the Preds' first-ever playoff series win | The Anaheim Calling folks do an honorable post-series tradition]
- Meanwhile, the Lightning forced a Game 6 by pounding the Penguins with the Pens' worst playoff home loss in franchise history. Many of us enjoyed that -- and the shameless Pens announcers -- a little too much.
- The Bruins won in double OT to set up tonight's Game 6 in Montreal. That rivalry just keeps adding chapters.
Antti Niemi gave up three goals on four shots. Jonathan Quick gave up one goal on 52 shots. Why again did the Sharks, after playing the goalie market well last summer and forcing Nabokov to wander, did they do an about face and sign the average Niemi to a pricey long deal? I suppose he's resilient. They'll need him to be.
Islanders Prospects in the CHL Playoffs
Kirill Kabanov scored once in an OT loss in Game 1 and then got the only Lewiston goal as the Maineiacs fell to Saint John 4-1 in Game 2; they now trail 2-0. Kirill's team gets home games for Games 3 and 4 Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Kabanov has 18 points (7-11) in 13 playoff games.
In a rematch of last year's series, Nino Niederreiter's Portland WInterhawks are facing Spokane (this time without Islanders pick-turned-Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon). After being shutout in Game 1, Portland evened the series at 1-1 with a 2-1 victory in Game 2. Nino didn't feature in the scoring.
* * *
Two Game 7's Tuesday, but first two Game 6's tonight. Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay go at it in the early game, followed by Battle of California action in the late one. It's opium for the hockey fan.