Dobber here. I’m running a little UFC ‘pick’em’ pool in the forum – have some fun and throw your hat in the ring here!
First Ramblings for me in several months, so hi again everyone!
Three games were on the slate for Friday evening, and although all were of vital importance – what playoff game isn't? – none had series clinching potential.
The big story in the Flyers/Rangers match-up was Steve Mason finally starting in net. How do I think he did overall?
Actually, he was sensational in getting his – believe it or not – first ever NHL playoff win. And Mason's great game was made all the more impressive with defensive stalwart Niklas Grossmann having left the game with an injury, bringing the Flyers down to five d-men.
Do I think the Flyers would've been winning the series had Mason started the previous three games? Maybe, maybe not. Mason arrived at game four with pressure, but insulated pressure – that is, if he played poorly, it wouldn't have been looked upon as his fault since he was hurt and there was the series deficit already hanging over his head.
What's key for the Flyers is even if they lose this series, Mason allows them not to focus their summer on figuring out who'll be their #1 in the fall. Not a bad consolation prize.
Brayden Schenn looked very good as well, but he baffles me overall. No way would I have figured on him being just a 0.5 points per game guy by now. Sure, he's still only 22 but I worry that he might never make the leap.
As for New York, once again it strikes me like they're falling victim to not playing to their fullest potential, probably at least in part because they feel like Henrik Lundqvist can just win games for them. Some teams rally around great goalies, others use them as a crutch.
Fun (or not fun, if you’re a Rangers fan) fact – in this game New York’s shots total went down each period. Not good.
I was also surprised to hear them announce during the game that Dan Girardi – he of the seven hits and five blocked shots – was playing in his 68th playoff game, tying him with Adam Graves. Of course Graves managed that total in only five playoff seasons, while Girardi is already in his seventh playoff campaign. That further underscores the failings of the Rangers come playoff time in recent years.
I'm not sure what to make of the Chicago vs. St. Louis series overall (game 5 was tied at the end of regulation as I'm posting this), other than neither squad looking dominant for the short or long term. During the broadcast I was reminded that the two teams sent the most players to Sochi, so a seven game series is the last thing they want. But don't you feel like we're headed there?
A bit of a step down game from Vladimir Tarasenko, although it was interesting to see that he was on PP1. Nice gig, if he can keep it. Tarasenko is beyond where I expected him to be at this point in his career, although the fact that he missed a chunk of games in both his two seasons scares me a bit. Let's just hope this Russian Tank doesn't run out of gas like the last one.
And Kevin Shattenkirk has been an offensive machine, especially on the PP, where prior to Friday (which saw the Blackhawks take only three minor penalties) he was averaging 5:27 per game to put himself tied for second among all defensemen (tied with Ryan McDonagh, who played 6:24 with the man advantage on Friday, but behind Matt Niskanen's 5:37).
If Shattenkirk ever found a way to have a second half as productive as his first half (this year it was 36 points through January, nine points from February onward), he'd be amazing. But for two years it's been first half Dr. Jeckyll, second half Mr. Hyde.
Nice also to see David Backes return to the ice. Of course he's not 100%, but you wouldn't know it from his seven hits by the end of regulation, which were ahead of his pace (5.5) from the first two games.