St. Louis @ Minnesota – Series tied 1-1 (Game Three at 8PM at XCel Energy Center)
-The Wild outplayed the Blues in Game One, the Blues outplayed the Wild in Game Two, and here we are. Vladimir Tarasenko showed us his ability to take over a game with a hat trick in the second game of the series, but the Wild can’t overreact to his dominance either. He absolutely needs to be accounted for at all times on the rink, but the Blues have the quality depth to beat you in many other ways. Jake Allen became the first Blues rookie to win a playoff game since Curtis Joseph in 1990. He’ll need to continue to be sharp, especially early against a Wild team that is looking to come out of the gate stronger in Game Three after having a poor start in Game Two (Tarasenko had two of his three goals in the opening frame, one of them coming on the power play).
NY Rangers @ Pittsburgh – Series tied 1-1 (Game 3 at 7PM at Consol Energy Center)
-Even though the Rangers were considered to be heavy favorites, I don’t think anyone thought they would sweep the Penguins. Sidney Crosby reappeared in Game Two after being MIA in the first game, and tallied two goals. The Penguins Captain scored both goals from in front of the net. If Sid The Kid is willing to go in to the the dirty areas, then the Rangers blueline needs to remind him why it’s called a dirty area. The Penguins have a great opportunity to take a hold of the series against the 2015 Presidents Trophy recipients tonight. If the Blueshirts want to gain back home ice, they’ll need go find a way to get to Marc Andre Fleury. He’s been making some great saves to keep Pittsburgh in both games.
Anaheim @ Winnipeg – Duck lead 2-0 (Game Three at 9PM at MTS Centre)
-If you’re a Winnipeg hockey fan, you’ve been waiting for a playoff game in The Peg since April 28, 1996. They were eliminated by the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs that year, and could be staring down the same fate in 2015 if they don’t win tonight. The Jets need to play a complete hockey game, and the electric atmosphere tonight can hopefully provide them a boost to play a full three periods. In two consecutive games, the Jets played Anaheim tough through two periods (and even had a lead in both games), but the Ducks were able to elevate their game in the third period to a level that Winnipeg couldn’t. Future Hall of Famer and Ducks & Jets fan favorite Teemu Selanne is expected to be in attendance. He made a name for himself in Winnipeg, but finally won his championship as a Duck.
Oilers Get The Top Pick in the 2015 Draft – I get that Edmonton has had multiple cracks at the first overall pick and haven’t done much with them. I’m not a fan of ineptitude being rewarded either, but stop complaining about it. The Oilers at least tried to play something resembling .500 hockey down the stretch, going 6-8-4 in the months of March & April (including a victory that put a huge dent in the Kings waning playoff aspirations). Buffalo knew they’re consolation prize was Jack Eichel, and they sure played like it (4-11-3 in the months of March & April). Arizona also played like a team wanting to free fall, going 4-13-1 in the last six weeks of the season. Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish has a lot of pieces up front to move to make sorely needed improvements on the blueline and between the pipes. He has a lot of pressure on him to make the right moves and show some visible improvement on the ice. Maybe not at the level of the 2014-15 rival Flames, but a tangible move up in the standings. Otherwise, MacTavish won’t be able to reap the reward of the initial reward of ineptitude.
Kovy-Watch – Now that former NHL winger Ilya Kovalchuk has added the 2015 Gagarin Cup on to his resume (KHL Championship), will the current SKA St. Petersburg star begin exploring options to return to the NHL? There were rumors of him wanting to return to North America earlier in the year, so this could be an interesting story-line to follow as the Spring and Summer go on.