NHL Week in Review (April 19-25)

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The first round of the playoffs is just about over as the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, and New York Rangers have punched their ticket to the second round.

There were plenty of disappointments as teams that came into the playoffs looking unbeatable quickly realized they were not at the level they needed to be in order to compete in the playoffs.

The Winnipeg Jets seemed like they were the team to beat heading into the playoffs with almost an entire country behind them but the Ducks were too much for them.

The Jets were eliminated in a sweep as they couldn’t keep up with the Western Conference champion.

The Jets were not the only team that went into Game 4 with a chance to go home before they even got a win.

The Ottawa Senators were in the same boat against the Montreal Canadiens who had gone through the first three games beating their regional rivals.

The Sens then went into Game 4 in front of their home crowd looking to at least save face and not become the second team to be swept.

They were able to take the fourth game and stave off elimination and then did it all again in Game 5 to get that much closer to winning the series not just staying alive.

The two wins while facing elimination were a great demonstration of the grit that made the Sens a playoff team but the wins also had a lot to do with a move made for Game 3 of the series.

After two games where the Sens saw one of their saving graces for the playoffs fall short the Sens made a change.

Heading into the playoffs Andrew Hammond began a great run that helped the Sens earn their spot.

In the first two games he failed to keep that run going allowing seven goals in the two games.

The losses in the first two games were not entirely on Hammond but after those two games the damage to the psyche of the Sens and of the young goaltender was done.

The Sens head coach Dave Cameron decided that it was time for Craig Anderson to enter the series.

Hammond had earned his first start of the season after an injury to Anderson and kept it with his play but it was time for the old starter to take over.

In his first game he didn’t get the win but a 47 save performance was a sign that the tide might be turning with Anderson in net.

He followed that game up with a 28 save shutout in Game 4 and a 45-save 1-goal win in Game 5.

The change in net for the Sens changed the series and although the Sens still need to get through two games to move on the change highlighted one of the most important parts of the NHL playoffs.

The Sens were not the only team that looked to another goaltender to change their series. The Chicago Blackhawks looked to Scott Darling in Game 3 after two shaky games by Corey Crawford, one of which Darling saved coming off of the bench.

The change helped the Blackhawks to a 3-1 series lead after starting the first two games 1-1, although Crawford did come back in Game 6 to lead the Blackhawks to the series win.

The Vancouver Canucks turned to Ryan Miller after going down 3-1 against the Calgary Flames with Eddie Lack in net and extended the series to six games with their old starter in net.

The fact is that goaltending can be the most important part of a playoff run and some teams take a while to find that hot goalie.

That’s not every team though as, aside from the Senators, the Eastern teams have never changed their goaltender.

Finding that hot goaltender can be the difference between an early exit and a true run at the Stanley Cup.

Goaltenders like Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist, and Pekka Rinne are the goalies that are the best bets to have great postseasons but more often than not a goalie emerges out of nowhere to establish themselves as the solid backstop that their team needs.

So far goalies like Jaroslav Halak, Federik Anderson, and Jonas Hiller have all shown signs of great runs but no goalie has truly stood out as unbeatable.

There are still more games to come though and as the pressure gets bigger with the start of the new round goalies will take on a bigger role and eventually one will emerge.

Whether it is an established goalie or a new face remains to be seen as the playoffs move on and the action only gets more exciting.

(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

New Regime in Edmonton
The Edmonton Oilers are going to work quickly this off-season as they prepare for what could be a great year after winning the draft lottery as they hired former Boston GM Peter Chiarelli as their new GM whose first action will be to make the easiest pick in the NHL Draft since Crosby

The Last Game?
The New York Islanders are playing for more than a Stanley Cup this year as they will move to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season and with Game 6 in the books they may have just seen the last game at Nassau Coliseum unless they can take Game 7 and move on to another round

Weber Done for Playoffs
The Nashville Predators have always prided themselves on their great defence but the anchor of that defence won’t see the ice anytime soon as Shea Weber was injured in the first round and will miss the rest of the playoffs for Nashville


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