Around the NHL: Playoffs in full swing

The first five days of playoff hockey are in the books. Here are some things we have learned so far. Chicago is still dangerous, role players can be heroes, Vancouver and Calgary really don't like each other and home ice advantage doesn't seem to mean as much.

Hawks still dangerous

The Chicago Blackhawks seem to find a different gear come playoff time. They were a good team all season and contended in the Central Division. Now that the postseason has started, they once again look like a team no one wants to face. 

After falling behind 3-0 early in game one, they stormed back to claim a 4-3 overtime victory in Nashville. Corey Crawford did not look sharp and was replaced by Scott Darling who proceeded to make 42 saves in shutting out the Predators the rest of the way.

The Hawks went back to Crawford for game two. Nashville got to Crawford early and often as they sent the series to Chicago tied at one a piece on the heels of a 6-2 game two victory.

Coach Joel Quenville decided to go with Darling for game three and it paid off. The rookie netminder made 35 saves in a 4-2 win on Sunday afternoon. Four different Blackhawks scored in the win. 

Game four is Tuesday night in Chicago. A Blackhawks win would put them 3-1 as the best of seven series heads back to Nashville.

Because it's the Playoffs

The Montreal Canadiens lead their best of seven series with the Ottawa Senators 3 games to none after a 2-1 overtime victory on Sunday. 

The Canadiens took care of business at home in games one and two as they came away with a 4-3 and 3-2 overtime victory in those games.

Sunday saw a change to the lineup for the Senators as Craig Anderson replaced Andrew Hammond between the pipes. Overall, Anderson was solid. He made 45 saves on the night but unfortunately for the Senators, they could only get one puck by Carey Price at the other end.

Dale Weise scored both goals for Montreal in Sunday's win. It was the first two goal playoff game of his career.  Weise, known more a s fourth liner, showed good poise in traffic on the tying goal as he caught a floating puck in the slot, dropped it and buried into an empty net.

The overtime winner came on the rush. The Ottawa defense turned the puck over at the Montreal blue line and two passes later Weise was one on one against a Senators defender. He fired a wrist shot past Anderson on the short side for the win.

Montreal can close out the series on Wednesday night.

Bad Blood

Through three games it is very clear the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames are not very friendly. In fact, they down right hate each other right now. Game one was hard hitting, tght checking affair that saw Calgary pull out a 2-1 regulation win in Vancouver.

In game two, Vancouver dictated play and easily skated away with a 4-1 victory to tie the series at one game a piece. The game would feature lots of big hits and pushing and shoving after almost every whistle culminating in what some would consider a line brawl behind Canucks goalie Eddie Lack.

The intensity was present again on Sunday. The two teams went at each other all night. Big hits, fights and speed were the recipe as Calgary skated to a 4-2 win and 2-1 series lead.

It has turned quickly into a series most people would look at and think theses guys play each other in the postseason a lot. Truthfully  The fact is Calgary hasn't been in the playoffs since 2009 while Vancouver has been a postseason regular. What it does show is Calgary is not backing down to the Canucks despite the immense playoff experience throughout the Vancouver lineup.

When is it really home ice advantage?

In six of the eight first round matchups, the team that had home ice advantage lost at least one game. Anaheim and Montreal were the only two teams to "hold serve" in their own back yards. Is it because of parody among the NHL's elite? Is it the mentality of the players? Is it because some arenas are just not as intimidating as they used to be?

Whatever the reason, home ice advantage does not have the same meaning it once did. Keep in mind a game seven in your building is a completely different animal and it's a game you would much rather play at home. 

The six home teams that lost a game already must now win one on the road or the series will not get to a game seven. As the road teams have proven, maybe it's not that big of a deal to do that. 

Bill Minchin is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow Bill on Twitter @wtfd103074





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