For the first time in NHL history, the top seed in each conference has been eliminated in the first round after the Colorado Avalanche knocked off the Calgary Flames last night in Game Five. The Flames now join the Tampa Bay Lightning in an earlier-than-expected off-season after the two teams combined for one win in nine games. Beyond that, the other two division winners – the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators – are in the weeds with both series tied 2-2, while the owners of the second-best record in each conference – the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks – are on the brink of elimination at 3-2. It’s been a wild Round One thus far and things should only get more interesting moving forward. To prepare for the chaos, teams continue to make minor moves to support their playoff rosters:
- It’s goalie carousel day in the NHL, as clubs continue to swap out their AHL options in net as emergency third-stringers. The Colorado Avalanche did just that last night, taking Joe Cannata with them to Calgary to close out the Flames. Cannata, a minor league veteran out of Merrimack College, has spent almost all of the past two seasons in the ECHL, but has the AHL experience to provide emergency assistance if needed. With the Colorado Eagles also in the postseason, Cannata should continue to work with the Avs while the AHL tandem stays put.
- After Josef Korenar accompanied the San Jose Sharks to Vegas for Games Three and Four, it is the more experienced Antoine Bibeau who gets the call for Game Six. Bibeau and Korenar split time evenly with the Barracuda this season, with Korenar having the advantage statistically, but it’s Bibeau and his two NHL appearances that get the call this time around. The Sharks aren’t taking any chances with one more loss ending their season.
- The Washington Capitals announced today that they have swapped deep keepers ahead of Game Five, sending Vitek Vanecek back to the AHL’s Hershey Bears and recalling young Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov was stellar in Hersey’s playoff debut on Friday, but will use his night off to travel to D.C. rather than back up Vanecek for the Bears.
- Defenseman Mac Hollowell has been reassigned from his junior team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, whose season has ended, to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, who are just beginning their postseason. Hollowell, a fourth-round pick of the Maple Leafs last year, enjoyed a breakout season to end his junior career and Toronto is likely eager to see how he can translate his game to the pro level. The puck-mover should also be a major boost for the Marlies in their Calder Cup title defense.