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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:23 pm 
The Rangers and Blackhawks advance to their respective Conference Finals. Notes on Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Henrik Lundqvist, Erik Haula, Corey Crawford and more. RANGERS GET PAST PENGUINS The Pittsburgh Penguins carried the play, outshooting the New York Rangers 36-20, but Henrik Lundqvist stopped 35 shots en route to the Rangers 2-1 win Game Seven. Rallying the Rangers from a 3-1 series deficit, Lundqvist stopped 102 of 105 shots (97.1 SV%) over the final three games to lead the comeback and if Lundvist was stonewalling the Penguins, that results in a lack of production from Pittsburghs big scorers. No one comes under the spotlight, for anything, more than Sidney Crosby and, after being held scoreless in the final three games, he ended the series with one goal and two assists. Its one thing to have dominant possession numbers -- and Crosby did, on for 62.6% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts in the series -- because that increases the probability of success, but in the one time that this series was played, the production ultimately wasnt there and Crosby takes the heat for that. Losing out in the second round of the playoffs comes as disappointmentto the Penguins and will likely result in changes. LW Jussi Jokinen scored seven goals in 13 playoff games, C Evgeni Malkin had six (with a team-leading 14 points) in the playoffs and C Brandon Sutter added five; the rest of the Penguins roster combined for 15, which included one for Crosby, two for James Neal and three for Chris Kunitz. G Marc-Andre Fleury, who has taken the brunt of the criticism for the Penguins previous playoff exits, cant take much fault in this seasons ouster. In 13 postseason games, Fleury stopped 346 of 378 shots (.915 SV%), his best postseason since 2007-2008. Standing in contrast to Crosby, Rangers C Brad Richards, the Rangers high-priced centre, finished the series with two goals and one assist, but his second goal was the game-winning goal in Game Seven. This was a team effort from the Rangers, though. Derick Brassard was the teams leading scorer in the series, with four points, and the yet that was enough for the Rangers to advance. Its almost shocking because the Rangers are moving on despite a remarkable lack of production from their top offensive threats. Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan combined for one goal and four assists, yet the Blueshirts still managed to get through. Now, the Rangers await the winner of Game Seven between Montreal and Boston for the Eastern Conference Final and theyll go into that series with some talented players that are due to produce, which isnt altogether a bad situation. After all, if theyre going to be unsustainable in one direction, it might as well be on the under-performance side of things, because it stands to reason that the Rangers should get more from players that typically produce more offensively. That the Rangers got past Pittsburgh with minimal contributions from their best players, which means all the more credit is due to the rest of the team. BLACKHAWKS ADVANCE In a tightly-contested series, the Chicago Blackhawks took advantage of a fortuitous bounce in overtime of Game Six to beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1, taking the series four games to two. Blackhawks D Brent Seabrook dumped the puck into the Minnesota zone, harmlessly, but it caromed off the glass and in front of the Wild net, where RW Patrick Kane made quick move to his backhand before tucking the puck under the bar, ending the series. It was lucky bounce for Seabrook who, along with partner Duncan Keith, assisted on the series-winning goal on a night in which they were shredded at even strength, bested in the possession game while primarily facing the Wild line of Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle. RW Marian Hossa (1 G, 8 A) and LW Bryan Bickell (4 G, 2 A) led the Blackhawks offensively against the Wild, and G Corey Crawford was strong, stopping 150 of 162 shots (.926 SV%). Minnesotas leading scorer in the series was third-line rookie C Erik Haula, who scored the Wilds only goal in Game Six and finished with three goals and two assists. Haula finished the regular season with seven points in seven games, as he filled in for an injured Mikael Granlund, and 14 points in 20 (regular season plus playoff) games at the end of the year, as well as a 56.9% Corsi in the playoffs, ought to raise expectations for what role he may be able to play in his second NHL season. While Koivus line had their moments in the series, it was ultimately a tough series for him, as he finished with one assist in six games, after scoring six points against Colorado in Round One. Wild G Ilya Bryzgalov, pressed into action due to Darcy Kuempers latest injury, struggled in the first couple games of the series, allowing seven goals on 42 shots (.833 SV%), but was better over the last four games, stopping 88 of 94 shots (.936 SV%). Minnesota is likely looking at some changes in the offseason, but they do so from a place of optimism. They made progress this year, gave the Blackhawks all they could handle, and will have plenty of cap space available to them this summer. Chicago now has time to prepare for the Western Conference Final, against the winner of the Anaheim-Los Angeles series, for a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the past five seasons. With some luck, they might get injured RW Andrew Shaw back from injury at some point in the next round. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Cheap Michigan Jerseys Authentic . The roster changes have been constant and continuous since late last year, but even with their 46-man roster set for the start of the season, the banged-up Bombers will be kicking off Week 1 with a handful of fresh faces and back-ups in the starting lineup. Cheap Michigan Gear . -- Chicago manager Darold Butler has a message for the Windy City. http://www.cheapmichiganjerseys.com/?tag=michigan-taylor-lewan-college-jersey . -- John Fox will coach the Denver Broncos from the sideline and not the booth upon his return Sunday five weeks after heart surgery. Denard Robinson College Jersey . Signs of a turnaround have emerged in this series at Minnesota. Brian Roberts had three doubles and a triple for the first four-extra-base-hit game of his 14-year career, and the Yankees used their bullpen to preserve a 6-5 win over the Twins on Friday. Khaleke Hudson College Jersey . The International Ice Hockey Federation says Pavlovs avoided a two-year sanction because he acted "without significant negligence in failing to verify the safety of the supplements he was taking.The Formations Missing five players who would ordinarily be in the starting lineup, Toronto FCs squad depth was tested against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. No Jermain Defoe and no Michael Bradley meant that two of the leagues premier players were unavailable for Toronto, providing Dwayne De Rosario and Kyle Bekker with opportunities to fill in. Tactically, head coach Ryan Nelsen again chose to employ his favoured 4-4-2 formation. The Colorado Rapids lined up with two changes to their 4-4-2 diamond midfield lineup that was successful against the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend; Kamani Hill was replaced by former TFC midfielder, Nick LaBrocca, and Edson Buddle replaced Deshorn Brown up top. The Game This game was a big test for Toronto FC, given the quality and quantity of players that were unavailable. But despite losing the game 1-0 to an Edson Buddle goal, TFC acquitted themselves quite well. Defensively, the back four looked as solid as it ever has. Bradley Orr slotted into Doneil Henrys position and looked comfortable and composed alongside Steven Caldwell, who was excellent. Mark Bloom had another very solid game at right fullback, reaffirming Ryan Nelsens belief that he can be the solution for that position. With the signings of Defoe and Bradley getting all of the headlines this offseason, the acquisition of Justin Morrow flew under the radar. However, one could argue that his performances have been a big factor in TFCs solid start to the season. No longer do opponents view Torontos left flank as a free runway for opposing wingers and fullbacks to cross the ball at will. Morrow is shutting things down nicely, and while he doesnt have the same desire to get forward as his predecessor, Ashtone Morgan, Morrow does what all good defenders should do first - defend. In midfield, there were concerns that the absence of Bradley - who has been behind everything good that TFC has done to start the season - would have a dramatic impact on Torontos ability to compete against a slick Colorado side. Those concerns were alleviated by the performance of Canadian international, Kyle Bekker. Drafted third overall last season, Bekkers rookie year was not what he would have hoped. He struggled to find playing time, and in Ryan Nelsens opinion, had a tough time making the transition from college soccer star to reliable professional. Bekkers performances over the last two games (he started alongside Bradley in TFCs 2-0 win over Columbus the previous week) will go some way towards convincing Nelsen that Bekkers professional career is ready to take off. The midfielders passing was crisp and precise, and his positional awareness and defensive work - while not his strongest assets - were much improved over last season. One of Bekkers strengths is his set piece delivery, and on two occasions he rattled the woodwork with direct free kicks. Bekkers first effort in the 76th minute struck the base of the right post, and was just inches away from opening the scoring. The game turned little more than a minute later, as Colorado scored the only goal of the game. Toronto was solid defensively throughout the game, but got caught by a well-delivered ball to the back post for Dillon Serna. The youngster mis-hit a strike across goal, and the ensuing scramble saw the ball land at the feet of 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year, Dillon Powers, just inside the penalty area. At this stage, Toronto was well positioned to deal with Powers. There was lateral pressure coming from both Bekker and Issey Nakajima-Farran, with Mark Bloom directly in front. But Powers bumbled the ball past the challenge of Bloom, clearing room for a shot on goal.dddddddddddd As a defender, one must prioritize threats on goal. The nearest defender must close down anyone with time and space to shoot inside the penalty area. The other defenders must then adjust to cover the next immediate threats. Steven Caldwell read the situation well, and as his momentum was in the direction of Powers, Caldwell left Edson Buddle to block the shot from Powers. It was a calculated risk from Caldwell, but it was the correct decision. Edson Buddle did what all good strikers do - he created space for himself in the penalty area by simply holding his run outside the six-yard box. The covering defender, Bradley Orr, is in the correct defensive position, as he also had to be able to intercept a ball across the six-yard box to Deshorn Brown, who was lurking at the far post. Buddle knew that if Powers could cut the ball back, he would have a shot on goal. When Powers cut back was successful, Orr immediately attempted to block Buddles shot - as did TFC goalkeeper, Julio Cesar - but Buddles effort slid under the keeper and into the back of the net. Apart from Bloom getting beaten by Powers just inside the penalty area, TFC defended this situation exactly as they should have. Unfortunately on this occasion, Colorados quality inside the penalty area was simply too good. I have been impressed with Colorado over the last two games, including a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps last week. José Mari looks like a fantastic addition to their midfield, and they move the ball around very well. They can over-narrow their midfield diamond at times, and exploiting the resulting space in wide areas will certainly be a key feature to focus on for any future opponents. The Positives Kyle Bekker put in a very solid performance, which will do his confidence a world of good. If he can continue to improve his positional awareness and general defensive responsibility, he will be a very valuable asset in Nelsens rejuvenated squad. The back four looked comfortable for most of the game - no mean feat, as Buddle and Gabriel Torres (as well as substitute, Deshorn Brown) offer a stern test. There were concerns going into the season about TFCs depth at centre back, but Bradley Orr proved that, while not his preferred position, he is more than capable of providing a solid alternative if the situation arises. The Negatives Perhaps it can be put down to unfamiliarity, but the partnership of Dwayne De Rosario and Gilberto didnt click. De Rosario is usually very tidy in possession, but far too often conceded the ball or gave it away through miscommunication with teammates. Writh options up font currently few and far between, this is a partnership that Nelsen will need to work if TFC is to be competitive in the absence of Jermain Defoe. The playing surface was infinitely better than it was back in March, when TFC defeated DC United in their home opener. (Credit to the BMO Field ground staff for working miracles during Torontos harsh weather.) But it still didnt lend itself to a slick, free-flowing passing game - something that both teams will prefer when the surface undoubtedly improves. The Star Man Few would argue that Bekker is deserving of a mention (which he is), but for me, Steven Caldwell put in an outstanding effort at the back. His distribution was precise, his positional awareness was superb, and time and time again he snuffed out dangerous situations before they could develop into goal scoring situations for Colorado. 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