Tonight there are 4 Canadian teams playing and they are going to do it, head to head. With the East showcasing Ottawa and Montreal and the West, Calgary and Vancouver, you can bet that sparks will fly as these opponents have long histories of rivalries and animosity that will spill over onto the ice. Watch out for high scores and really great scoring chances with desperate plays to score. One of these two games will most likely go into overtime.
Montreal at Ottawa, MTL leads series 2-0
With the last loss in overtime, the Sens have their necks in a vice. Canadiens got winner from Alex Galchenyuk to beat Sens in game two at the Bell centre. It was a hard fought battle where Ottawa fought back to tie the game 2-2 late in the third period, but the Habs were just too strong. Now a change needs to be made to get the Sens back in the series. So their goaltender, Andrew Hammond who they playfully call ‘the Hamburgler’ will take a seat and veteran Craig Anderson will start for the Senators in Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference playoff series.
Sens Coach Dave Cameron called it a “coach’s decision” to put in Anderson as the series switches to Ottawa, the emotional hub of the Canadian Tire Centre, which should be abuzz with tension after the pair of losses they suffered with Andrew Hammond in goal. Another strategy change is to insert tough veteran Chris Neil into the third line in place of Alex Chiasson. Neil hasn’t played a game since Feb. 14 so this is a fresh opportunity for him to make an impact. Cameron told media after his team’s 4-3 and 3-2 defeats to Montreal, “I thought the team, top to bottom, could have done better. That fact that your other goalie is a proven NHL goalie goes into the decision too.”
Hammond got the nickname Hamburgler for his amazing play in the Senators late-season run for a playoff spot. The previously unheard of goaltender went 20-1-2 down the stretch to set a new NHL record for a first time goalie. In comparison, Anderson has played only four times since Jan. 21, and his record is only 1-2-1. This could be a critical move that could win them the game or it could prove to be a huge mistake, not allowing their star player a chance to rebound.
Hammond’s disappointment was obvious in his voice, even as he told media all the right things about understanding the decision of putting the team first. “Personally, it’s disappointing,” he said. “You want to play every game; every goaltender wants to play every game. But all you can do at this point is be ready and support everything the team’s doing right now.”
“I fully support the team’s decision, it’s too crucial of a juncture of the season to not have anyone pulling on the same rope,” Hammond said. “I’m not frustrated. There’s no point in getting frustrated right now. It’s not going to help anything. All I can do is rally with the team and, most importantly, we need a win.” We think the Sens can get the win tonight.
Our Pick: Sens over Habs
Vancouver at Calgary, series tied 1-1
Nothing is more exciting in the playoffs than a tried and tested rivraly that has all the colours and sounds of a team at battle. That fight got a little too literal on Friday night when Calgary coach Bob Hartley got fined $50,000 by the NHL for his role in the line brawl that took place, late in the Flames’ 4-1 loss in Vancouver. The brawl resulted in 132 minutes in penalties total for both teams, including six game misconducts, three of which went to Calgary’s enforcer Deryk Engelland. The NHL also said the game misconduct assessed to Engelland for instigating a fight in the last 5 minutes of regulation had been rescinded, so luckily he will not be suspended for Sunday’s Game 3 and might play tonight.
Hartley post-game, delivered a one-liner to media on the incident. “I thought Engy looked like Andre the Giant in my younger days,” Hartley said, harkening back to the golden age of pro wrestling. “I’ve rarely seen this two guys on one, but it seemed like it was an OK situation.” The NHL didn’t think it was OK and that’s why he was fined.
But it seems the Flames dodged a bullet in the aftermath of those shenanigans that has their best-of-seven opening-round Stanley Cup playoff series tied at one win apiece. Engelland told media post-game nonchalantly, “It’s a playoff game — emotions run high. Our forwards are in there, they’ve got five guys, the d-men come in, and it’s a scrum. Things escalated — it’s hockey, that’s how it goes — and you’ve got to protect yourself.”
Tonight the Flames and the Canucks will renew more pleasantries, and it remains to be seen whether the fighting spirit and fire will carryover.
Hartley said pre-game today, “They’re going to come in to win, and we’re going to go to win. The outcomes of games, what goes on into a game … you never know. At the same time, it takes one hit to start something, or a scrum, and emotions run high. Seven games — it’s not an ideal situation to create friends.”
With all that said, you can liteally bet on both teams bonding over the drama, and in the playoffs when you’re looking to gel, that never hurts. Vancouver will be ready too after snapping a seven-game losing streak at home in the playoffs dating back to the 2011 Stanley Cup final. Canucks’ Daniel Sedin and Chris Higgins snapped long playoff goal droughts and Eddie Lack made 22 saves to pick up the first post-season victory of his career. If they pick up steam, they might be very hard to stop. You can bet on this being a highly offensive and heated affair.
Our Pick: Flames over Canucks, 6 plus goals