Rene Bourque leads NHL with three playoff goals
If you had to guess the leading goal scorer in the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs through the first three games, I'm guessing Rene Bourque wouldn't be in the first 20 names that come to mind. Alas, here we are, as the former Wisconsin men's hockey player has three goals in the first three games for the Montreal Canadiens.
Bourque, who played for the Badgers from 2000-04 had just nine goals in 63 regular season games this season for the Canadiens and was even a healthy scratch for a few games down the stretch, making his three goals in three games to start the postseason even more surprising.
The resurgence of Bourque has propelled the Canadiens out to a 3-0 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bourque was quiet in the series opener, but busted through for two goals in game two, including a highlight-reel tally after he split through the Lightning defense.
Bourque's goal in game three on Sunday came just 11 seconds into the contest after he received a home-run pass from P.K. Subban and went in on Tampa Bay goaltender Anders Lindback and was able to fire a shot short-side for the early lead that set the tone for Montreal.
The Canadiens will attempt the sweep over the Lighting in game four Tuesday at 6 p.m CT (NHL Network).
Pavelski notches four points in two games
Joe Pavelski is having a career year after registering 41 goals in the regular season, becoming just the second former Badger to score 40 goals in an NHL season (Dany Heatley did it twice #50in07).
Pavelski's pace hasn't slowed in the playoffs, as he has a goal and three assists in two games for the Sharks as they have taken a 2-0 lead over their California rival, the Los Angeles Kings.
The Plover, Wis., native had a beautiful goal Sunday night as he entered the zone against Kings' goaltender Jonathan Quick with no defenders in sight, which, let's be honest, just isn't fair.
Pavelski had a pretty nasty assist on a Joe Thornton goal later in the period when he drew the eyeballs of Quick and the Kings' defense to him and then sent a backdoor feed to Thornton, who capped the Sharks' scoring with their seventh goal of the night.
The Sharks now lead the series 2-0 with game three in Los Angeles Tuesday at 9 p.m. CT (NBC Sports Network).
Brendan Smith probably shouldn't fight Zdeno Chara
The Detroit/Boston series was one of the most highly anticipated series this postseason with two Original Six teams matching up in the playoffs for the first time since Detroit made the move over to the Eastern Conference.
One of the underlying story lines of the series is the Smith brothers opposing each other. Brendan, who played at Wisconsin, is a defenseman for the Red Wings, while Riley, who played at Miami, plays forward for the Bruins.
While the two brothers haven't had much of an issue with each other through two games, Brendan has taken up a bit of a rivalry with Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara. Chara was penalized in game one for boarding Smith from behind and the pair got heated again in game two.
Thankfully for Brendan the linesman came to the former Wisconsin defenseman's rescue. I'm not the smartest guy in the room at all times, but even I know a fight between the 6'9 Chara and the 6'1 Smith was probably not one Smith was going to have the advantage in.
The Red Wings and Bruins are tied 1-1 after two games with the series heading back Detroit for game three Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CT (NBC Sports Network).
McDonagh, Stepan lead Rangers against Philly
After the New York Rangers traded captain Ryan Callahan at the deadline for Martin St. Louis, it was widely speculated former Wisconsin captain Ryan McDonagh would be the next player to don the "C" for the blueshirts next season.
While that is still likely the case, another former Badger has asserted himself as part of the leadership core in the New York dressing room. Derek Stepan has a goal and an assist in two playoff games as the boys of Broadway look to get past the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.
"I think he's a young guy on our team who's real bright," Rangers' coach Alain Vigneault told the New York Daily News. "He can analyze things - in my estimation - the right way, and as he gets more experience and more confident in himself, I think he's going to assume a bigger role within that group and within our team."
Stepan was named to Team USA for the Olympics but played in just one game in Sochi. Since that time Stepan has been one of the best forwards in the NHL, scoring seven goals and adding 15 assists for 22 points in New York's final 23 games to lead the Rangers in scoring after the Olympic break.
With the Rangers up by a goal in game one, Stepan was able to thrust a dagger in the Flyers with a power-play goal that was started by McDonagh. Stepan also added an assist in a game two loss when he set up St. Louis just four minutes into the first period.
The Rangers/Flyers series is tied 1-1 with game three coming back to Philadelphia Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT (CNBC).
Heatley back in the lineup for the Minnesota Wild
After being a healthy scratch in games one and two of the Minnesota Wild's first-round series, Dany Heatley has been inserted into the lineup for game three vs. the Colorado Avalanche. That game takes place Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, with puck drop at 6 p.m. CT on Fox Sports North locally and the NHL Network nationally.
Heatley will be the eighth former Badger to skate in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. A ninth, Brian Elliott, has been the backup goaltender to Ryan Miller with the St. Louis Blues for the first two games of their series vs. the Chicago Blackhawks (St. Louis leads 2-0).
Drafted second overall in the 2000 NHL Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, Heatley isn't the player he was when he scored 50 goals in back-to-back seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07. That said, Heatley has more playoff points (15 goals, 42 assists) in his career than any player on Minnesota's roster. With the Wild down 2-0 to the Avalanche, head coach Mike Yeo is hoping his veteran winger can add another dimension to the roster.
Heatley: "you always want to be in there. It's a big game, so I'm excited to get going." #mnwild— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) April 21, 2014
Suter is still one of the best defensemen in the NHL
While the Wild trail the Avalanche 2-0, it's not because of All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter. The former UW blueliner has a goal and an assist through two games and, as always, leads the Wild in time on ice in the playoffs, averaging over 29 minutes per game.
Suter has a Corsi percentage of 60.3 percent through the first two games, which is obviously good. The Wild have generated 47 shots when Suter has been in the ice, compared to 31 against. Suter and his defensive partner, Jonas Brodin, are the only two Wild defensemen above 50 percent Corsi (Clayton Stoner is at 50 percent exactly).
Expect to see Suter on the ice tonight a lot as always, most likely focused on matching up with guys like Nathan MacKinnon who have exposed some of the younger Minnesota defensemen so far this series.
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