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CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-18-15

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Finals

QMJHL-4 Quebec Remparts 1 @ QMJHL-1 Rimouski Oceanic 2 (2OT)
Rimouski wins best-of-7 series, 4-3

W Adam Erne, QUE: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 7 SOG, 1/8 FO, 0 Hits
Playoff totals: 22 GP, 21-9-30, +18, 17 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Rimouski won the President’s Cup as QMJHL champions with a 2-1 double-overtime win Monday night. The game was wide open and tense and both teams had dozens of chances to win the game in a scoreless third period and first overtime. The Nics finally took advantage of a penalty taken when a Rimouski player got behind the Quebec defense and was hauled down.

Adam Erne finished with 21 goals in 22 playoff games and was second in playoff scoring to Halifax’s Nikolaj Ehlers (Jets). Despite not being on the winning side, Erne won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the playoff MVP -- a huge honor.

Both teams will go to the Memorial Cup tournament in Quebec City, hosted by the Remparts, starting next week.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-18-15 Lightning at Rangers

Manufactured smack down.

Eastern Conference Finals
Game Two

TB-6
NYR-2

Series Tied 1-1

Ben Bishop remains my #1 story of the playoffs, allowing just 2 goals on 37 shots for the victory. With all due respect to Tyler Johnson, Bishop's carrying this team on his back right now. He's erasing copious amounts of defensive mistakes in front of him and giving the Lightning an opportunity to win every single night, like he did again here in Game Two. His stop with the left pad on Fast at 3-2 in the Third Period may not have only been a game saver, but a series saver, too.

First Period
5:38 TB Johnson (9), (Killorn)(SH)
8:50 NYR Kreider (6), (St. Louis, Boyle)(PP)
11:15 TB Johnson (10), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)

Second Period
8:17 TB Johnson (11), (Palat, Kucherov)
14:17 NYR Stepan (5), (St. Louis, Boyle)(PP)

Third Period
3:09 TB Killorn (4), (Hedman, Filppula)
6:28 TB Stamkos (4), (Coburn, Kucherov)(PP)
17:58 TB Killorn (5), (Garrison, Filppula)(PP)

Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars. Ben Bishop's my guy in this playoff run, but there's little doubt that if the Lightning go all the way Johnson will win the Conn Smyth. His hat trick tonight puts him 1 goal shy of the Lightning record for goals in a playoff season, and we're sitting at Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals. Bishop, Johnson, and the Lightning PK have been the reason the Lightning have gotten this far, but the suddenly white hot PP may be what puts them over the top. They were 3/6 tonight and continue to flirt with 50% with the man advantage over the last 7-8 games. I don't know how the team loses a series with the power play clicking at this level, given they led the league in goals during the regular season with nothing resembling a PP from November on.

With all that said, this game was tighter than the score indicates. The Lightning matched the Rangers' effort level tonight, unlike Game One, and produced the chances they needed to win. But, they still made a large sackful of turnovers and mistakes that could've ended in catastrophe were it not for Bishop's ongoing excellence. Jon Cooper and his staff will look at the tape and have plenty to clean up, but I feel pretty safe in saying the Lightning just played their 2 worst games of the series and they only lost Game One 2-1 and they eventually blew out NY in Game Two 6-2. Game Three will be a lot more tight checking, so the Lightning need to refocus going home to Tampa in good position with everything reduced to a 5 game series with the Lightning holding home ice advantage.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 12:49. He had a goal on a 2-on-1 and took his eye off the puck trying to one time it into the open side. He didn't have the anxious moments on defense he had in the Montreal series, and having him in the lineup in a 7 D alignment provides the team an assertive pace pusher and scrambles the forward lines enough to make it harder for a team that likes to play matchup as much as the Rangers do.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-17-15

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Finals

QMJHL-1 Rimouski Oceanic 5 @ QMJHL-4 Quebec Remparts 4 (OT)
Best-of-7 series tied, 3-3

W Adam Erne, QUE: 2-0-2, E, 2 PIM, 4 SOG, 3/5 FO, 3 Hits, *Second Star*
Playoff totals: 21 GP, 21-9-30, +18, 17 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Quebec had leads of 2-0 after one period of play and 4-2 after two periods, but couldn’t hang on to win the QMJHL championship after regulation. They had another chance in overtime, but Rimouski scored on their 40th shot of the game to force a Game 7 Monday in Rimouski. Quebec had just 18 shots on goal in Game 6. With four goals in his last two games, Erne is back to a goal-per-game pace in the playoffs. His second goal of the game gave the Remparts a 4-1 lead midway through the second period. Rimouski scored the game-tying goal with 1:01 left on the clock. Jan Kostalek (Jets) scored the game-winning goal.

NHL Playoff Game Day: 5-16-15 Lightning at Rangers

Little things cost the Lightning again...

Eastern Conference Finals
Game One

TB-1
NYR-2

New York Leads the Series 1-0

Ben Bishop continues to sparkle, allowing just 2 goals on 30 shots for the loss. I can't fault Ben on two greasy goals, one of which was a puck deflected off a body in front. He game the Lightning every opportunity to win the game while the team figured out an approach that would work against the Rangers.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
19:47 NYR Stepan (4), (Kreider, McDonagh)

Third Period
6:45 TB Palat (4), (Johnson, Hedman)(PP)
17:35 NYR Moore (1), (Hayes, Brassard)

Ondrej Palat was the game's third star.

The Rangers probably deserved the win today, given the overall run of play, but the Lightning did a lot of good things and put themselves in position to steal Game One. They weathered a very spirited First Period by New York with the Rangers coming out flying, largely on the strength of Bishop's goaltending. Then, with fatigue slowly starting to creep in for New York and nerves wearing off in the Second Period, the team started to slowly turn the momentum until a little disaster struck late in the period. Steven Stamkos failed to pay the price to take a couple of extra strides to get the red line and get the puck deep late, and the Rangers took the resulting turnover and eventually cashed on a greasy goal that hit traffic in front and found Stepan at the side of Bishop's cage. The Lightning really came on in the Third Period, drawing 3 PP's from The Rangers, but in a game that tight it just takes a bounce to lose. Kevin Hayes threw a sharp angle shot off Moore in front of the net and in, and the Lightning find themselves down 1-0 in the series.

If you're a glass half empty person, you'll note that the third pairing of Carle/Sustr (particularly Carle) is the most glaring weak spot on the team right now. It's bad. The Lightning had a high amount of turnovers in the game, some of which were the result of the Rangers flying on the forecheck to start the game, but there were a ton of really stupid unforced errors, too. And, Carle seemed to be at the heart of a lot of those unforced errors. Also, the team had nothing resembling support from the bottom two lines with Boyle a late scratch and Marchessault a liability in this contest. Namestnikov also showed a lot of jitters and withered a bit in the big moments, like a 2-on-1 he meekly centered right into a sprawled Rangers defender in the Third Period. It's not like the coaches have a ton of choices, though. They either bite the bullet and give Drouin a chance or they don't.

Glass half full, it looks like the Stamkos line is going to be able to do some business in this series and the PP cashed in again. The Lightning also won the faceoff battle, at least on paper, even with Boyle out. And, Bishop. Enough said.

Game Two is going to be very big. The Lightning found some things that worked in the Third Period and I expect a big push from them to try to even up the series before it shifts back to Tampa.

Jonathan Marchessault had 2 shots in 11:40. He looked like a deer in headlights to me in the First Period, with some cringe-worthy turnovers. He settled down as things went along, but I'm just not sure this is a series that suits his game. He and Namestnikov (6:52 of IT), in particular, may need to draw out for Game Two. Obviously, you hope Boyle can go in Game Two and then Cooper will need to decide whether to go with 7 D or maybe try Drouin again. Some tinkering definitely needs to happen on the third pair and bottom two lines, though, because they were glaring liabilities, at times.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-15-15

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Finals

QMJHL-4 Quebec Remparts 3 @ QMJHL-1 Rimouski Oceanic 2 (OT)
Quebec leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

W Adam Erne, QUE: 2-0-2, +1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG, 9/21 FO, 3 Hits, *Second Star*
Playoff totals: 20 GP, 19-9-28, +18, 15 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Adam Erne scored the game-opening goal in the first period, then again in the second half of the third period to force overtime, which the Remparts won 10 seconds in, 3-2. Road teams are now 5-0 in the Finals. The Remparts can claim the championship at home on Sunday. Erne pulled within three points of Nikolaj Ehlers (Jets) of Halifax for the playoff scoring lead. Erne’s 19 goals are six more than anyone else.

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