Lisbon seems to have Madrid on the ropes

Southern Conference

Berlin leads Milan 2-1 – The home team has won each of the first three games. The middle game was close, going to overtime with Berlin winning on a key goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

 

Game 1 (Berlin 4, Milan 0) – Eighteen minor penalties in the first game of the series gave the match a staccato feel, but Vadim Shipachyov and Andrey Bykov of Berlin seemed to love the tempo. Shipachyov made nice passes that led to the first two of three first-period goals and he scored a shorthanded goal in the second period to make it 4-0.  Bykov also scored a goal and had three assists. Jimmy Howard started in goal for the Smurfs and earned a 22-save shutout. During the regular season, Howard played in just 16 games for the Smurfs, with Calvin Pickard getting most of the assignments.

Game 2 (Berlin 5, Berlin 4) – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who scored 3 points in Game 1, scored 2 points in the second game, but none was more important than the low wrist shot he took 23 seconds into overtime. The shot eluded sliding defenseman  Luca Sbisa and goalie Andrew Hammond and caused the German crowd to jump out of their seats to celebrate a sudden victory. Milan had an upset in the works when teenager Matthew Tkachuk scored in the third period, but Derek Ryan slammed in a rebound to tie the game with 1:27 left and send it into overtime.

Game 3 (Milan 3, Berlin 0) – Berlin Coach Adam Oates made a bad decision and paid for it dearly. He chose to replace superstar fourth-line center Erik Forssell with youngster Christian Dvorak. The team lost and may never recover. The Guerriero also had something to do with the result, especially goalie Andrew Hammond, who stopped all of the Smurfs’ 33 shots for a shutout. Robby Fabbri and Jamie McGinn each scored for the first time in the series to give Hammond the offense he needed. Marc-Andre Bourdon’s aggressiveness cost his team 9 penalty minutes but his mates bailed him out with excellent penalty killing.

Under the radar – Roman Polak has quietly made a big contribution for the Smurfs. The rugged defenseman has averaged 22 minutes per game, blocked 6 shots and had 3 takeaways versus no giveaways. He has also taken the body (6 hits) without taking himself out of position much.

Looking ahead – Milan’s bigger, hard-nosed forwards like Jamie McGinn and Nick Bjugstad have had success in the series and they need their water bugs like Jaden Schwartz, Toms Zaborsky and Par Arlbrandt to find similar success. Berlin has an unsettled lineup at the moment with youngsters like Timo Meier, Athony Beauvillier and Christian Dvorak joining the lineup. Coach Oates needs them to gel quickly.

 

Paris leads Athens 2-1 – Two closely matched teams have played three one-goal games and they are embroiled in a doozy of a series. Athens stole momentum and home ice advantage in Game 1, only to lose it when the series went to Greece.

 

Game 1  (Athens 4, Paris 3) – Logan Couture and Loui Eriksson of Athens have been unstoppable so far in the playoffs and they started their parade in Game 1 with 3 points each in a rare Paris home loss. Through three games, Couture is tied for the individual scoring lead with 9 points and Eriksson is one behind him. Thomas Kuhnhackl shocked the Paris crowd with a goal in the second period that put Athens up 3-2 and after Benoit Pouliot tied it for Paris in the middle of the third period, Couture scored for the second time in the game to give Athens the lead back. Gods defensemen Alexander Edler and Alex Goligoski combined to block 7 shots.

Game 2 (Paris 5, Athens 4) – The Rouge Eiffels evened the series, but it looked scary for the French fans along the way. Athens was leading 4-2 before Paris turned it on in the final 14 minutes of the third period. David Perron started the rally, Damien Brunner tied the game with 12:51 remaining and then blueliner Jason Krog dramatically became the hero of France when he one-timed a pass to the point and drove the puck through Gods goalie Jaroslav Halak with just 35 ticks left. Halak was great, making 44 saves in the game.

Game 3 (Paris 6, Athens 5 ) – Evgeny Malkin was held scoreless at home, but he broke out in Athens with a goal and three assists to lead the Eiffels to the road win. Malkin linemate Joffrey Lupul scored twice and had an assist but that line was resting on the bench when their teammates ended the overtime affair with a goal scored by Travis Hamonic. Kyle Turris fed him the puck when Hamonic gambled and rushed forward into the slot area, risking an odd-man rush the other way. There were 14 penalties and 6 powerplay goals in the game. Gods Couture and Eriksson had two PP goals each and Eriksson’s second came with 53 seconds left in the third period to force overtime. Mike Richards of Paris was in the penalty box serving a 5-minute major at the time.

Under the radar – Patrick Marleau is 38 years old and finishing his first season with the Gods, which is his fourth EURO League team. He hasn’t scored a point yet in the series, but he hasn’t coughed up a puck yet either in an average of 12 minutes per game, and he is plus 2. He also has a EURO Cup on his resume and his leadership in the dressing room seems to be helping as the Gods have been locked in a tense struggle with a very powerful team.

Looking ahead – An injury to Nicklas Kronwall in Game 1 seems to have hindered Athens a great deal. They have lost both games without him. And Evgeny Malkin has figured out how to shake Anze Kopitar’s checking while keeping Kopitar from hurting the Eiffels. Momentum has swung to Paris and if they become the first team in this series to play solid defense, it could be over soon.

 

Lisbon leads Madrid 2-1 – These Iberian Peninsula neighbors will see a lot more of each other beginning next season when Lisbon moves into the Demitra Division, but right now, Madrid has seen enough of Lisbon H.C. Madrid flirted with first place in the Southern Conference all season and they came into the series as the favorites. But going into Game 4, they are somewhat lucky to still be in it.

 

Game 1 (Lisbon 5, Madrid 1) – Twenty-five-year-old Kari Ramo is having a great series so far and it started with a solid, 22-save performance in Game 1. Star forwards Steven Stamkos of Lisbon and Gabriel Landeskog of Madrid traded first-period goals and it was a coin flip for the next 30 minutes until Lisbon blew the game open with 4 goals in the third period against Royal goalie Robin Lehner. The big line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Stamkos did almost all of the damage while playing against the line of Blake Wheeler, Colin Greening and Patrik Berglund.

Game 2 (Madrid 3, Lisbon 2) – A goal by Mikhail Grigorenko in overtime might have saved the Royals from being down 3 games to none right now. Five minutes and 15 seconds into overtime, Grigorenko tapped in a goal-mouth pass from Loic Lamperier and Madrid had a win to tie the series at 1-1. Lamperier, a Frenchman, also scored the goal in the third period that tied the contest and forced overtime. Lisbon outshot Madrid in every period including overtime.

Game 3 (Lisbon 3, Madrid 1) – In Game 3, Ramo and Domi were four-letter words as far as Madrid was concerned. Domi scored a pair of goals and Ramo kept slamming the door as the Royals were working for a tying-goal that never came. He shut out Madrid in the last 25 minutes and his team was shorthanded for 8 of those 25 minutes.

Under the radar – Lisbon’s top line, Kari Ramo and Max Domi have made a lot of noise in the series, and they have over-shadowed the work of Wayne Simmonds, the team’s second-line right winger. Simmonds has engaged in a fight, caused havoc while creating screens in front of Lehner and he is second on the team in shots on goal, although none of his 12 shots have resulted in goals yet.

Looking ahead – Madrid has seemed dead in the water for the majority of this series, but they are too good of a team to count out. Step 1 for them is evening the series and to do that, they need to achieve what seems impossible: halting the Tavares-Stamkos-Moulson line. Coach Bylsma shuffled the lines after Game 1, hoping Derek Stepan could do the job with Wheeler and Landeskog, and it has worked, at least while the teams were 5-on-5. Now he has to figure out how to check the Domi line and the Lisbon powerplay.

 

Bratislava leads Munich 2-1 – The eighth seed Munich won 2 of 4 games against Bratislava in the regular season and they are a home win away from evening the series at 2-2.

 

Game 1 (Bratislava 5, Munich 1) – The Eagles’ convincing win in Game 1 seemed to make them complacent. They didn’t look as good in the next two games, although they lead the series two games to one. Munich did a good job of fending off Bratislava (they killed off four consecutive penalties in the first period) until the third period, when the Eagles erupted for four goals and broke a 1-1 tie. Five different players scored in the game for Bratislava including Brent Burns and Tyler Myers, defensemen who also had an assist each. The line of Jonathan Toews, Alexander Ovechkin and Tyler Ennis combined for 14 shots on goal and 6 points.

Game 2 (Bratislava 5, Munich 4) – Bratislava was cruising, up 4-1 at the start of the third period, when Munich fired in three goals to tie it. But Toews won it for his team by scoring his second of the game with five minutes to go. Bratislava deserved to win, the Munich rally aside, because shots were 46-16 in favor of the Slovakian-based club. Penalties hurt Munich. They gave away 7 PP opportunities and Bratislava cashed in 3 times.

Game 3 (Munich 3, Bratislava 1) – Cory Schneider came close to stealing Game 2 for Munich, making 41 saves after a 42-save job in Game 1. In Game 3, he achieved the heist, stopping 38 of 39 Bratislava shots. Toews gave Bratislava a lead with his third goal of the playoffs in the first period, but Gareth Roberts of Munich tied it in the second. The third period was frustrating to Bratislava and beautiful to Munich. The Dire Wolf fought off a five-minute major and were outshot 17-7, but they scored twice and Schneider stifled the Eagles. Fyodor Malykhin and Filip Forsberg tallied for Munich.

Under the radar – Bratislava’s second defense pairing of Josh Gorges and Phlip Larsen is a big reason Munich has had trouble getting shots on goal in this series. They each have 7 hits and 4 shots on goal in the series, and they have only been tagged with a giveaway each. The stats might not be eye-popping, but they have done a good job of clogging the slot area and tying up sticks.

Looking ahead – It appears that Munich is going to go as far as goalie Schneider takes them. If his teammates can help him out a bit more, Munich could pull the upset. Bratislava is averaging a league-leading 44 shots per game in the playoffs and Munich has to find a way to slow them down. Bratislava is also the league’s least penalized team – along with Dublin – at just 6 minutes in 3 games. They just need to play the way they have been playing and they should advance.

 

 

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