NHL: review of the weekend action
As the race for the Stanley Cup hots up, every game is taking on additional meaning with everything to play for in round two of the conference match-ups. We have already seen some stunning upsets, including league runaways the Tampa Bay Lightning being humbled in the first round of the playoffs in a clean sweep.
This has opened up the doors for some more unfancied teams to be able to go on and win it, with the likes of the Boston Bruins being tipped for the top spot in terms of the sports betting odds. Now that the Calgary Flames are also out, teams in both the East and the West will face an easier passage to the final.
Alongside the Bruins, the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues are now being tipped to go all the way, but only one of these sides actually won at the weekend, so there are plenty of twists and turns still to come in the next few weeks. Now, we look back at the ties from the weekend and see where it is likely to go from here.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins
With Boston already one ahead in the series, many were expecting them to prevail on home soil to march into a healthy lead just two games in. However, Columbus had other ideas, and took the game into overtime before sealing a 3-2 victory to level the tie.
Having already stunned Tampa Bay, Boston will have known that this was not going to be a walkover by any stretch, and in winning their first game, they at least showed that they have more determination than the league-toppers.
Columbus shocked everyone in the NHL by nailing that clean sweep, and they now have their eyes on a higher prize. Boston started with home advantage for the first two games but failed to make it count, and they will now have to win in Columbus to keep their favourites tag and remain in the competition.
Matt Duchene was the hero for the Blue Jackets after his winning goal in the second period of overtime sealed their vital victory and drew them level with the Bruins. However, they had more than one person to thank, and their goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made an incredible point-blank save to keep out a shot from Patrice Bergeron.
Bobrovsky kept out 29 shots in total, and an impressive ten of these came in overtime, when Boston went all in on assaulting the opposition goal to try to win the game. However, none of them paid off.
With the next two games in Columbus, we could well see them topple the current favourite as well.
Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues
In another game in which the home side was the sports betting favourite, the Dallas Stars ground out an impressive win on the road to tie their series at one apiece. The Stars knew that if they won this game before welcoming their opponents back to Dallas, they would put themselves in a great position, and they wasted little time in putting this into action, flying into a 3-1 lead in the first quarter.
Ben Bishop was one of the key players for Dallas, saving 32 shots and allowing his side to concentrate on scoring when it mattered. At the other end, Roope Hintz smashed in two goals to help his team to build up a lead that they never relinquished.
The Blues had won three in a row before this game, which ended 4-2, and they will now have to pick themselves back up in a tricky couple of games on the road in midweek, knowing that they will surely have to win at least one to stand any chance of making it into the next round.
Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks
In the first game of the other Western duel, second favourites San Jose made good use of their home advantage compared to the other teams left in the draw, as they drew first blood against Colorado.
San Jose will already have had tired legs from a gruelling first series that went right to the wire, so coasting to a fairly easy 5-2 win will have been just the tonic they needed. The Sharks kept their season on track by dominating from the start against the Avalanche.
The key moment in the game was a penalty kill for San Jose, and after they stopped Colorado from building up any momentum, they then went all in and grabbed three goals in a flurry during the second period, which allowed them to put some distance between themselves and their opponents.
San Jose were 2-1 down when they killed the first of two penalties, and went on to lead from there, after being given the initiative from a Joe Thornton goal. Having finished the first series later than the others, the Sharks will face a bit more of a fixture pile-up as the NHL makes sure that the schedule runs smoothly. This means that they will have to keep their legs as fresh as possible, whereas Colorado dispatched the Calgary Flames inside just five games, and have had a few more days rest. This could well prove pivotal when this series comes down the home stretch.
Words: Danielle Nixon