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From the Branches: Kadri and Rielly and playoffs, oh my!

Playoff hockey: it's a whole other level of excitement.

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Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

WOW!

What a start to the playoffs last night. After all the gnashing of teeth by the media about how a lack of Canadian teams would doom ratings, last night should have reminded real hockey fans of the intensity and drama playoff hockey has to offer. So much happened that I don't know where to begin.

Oh, wait. I do!

Rangers @ Penguins

This will probably be the most talked about game today because of what happened to Lundqvist. A fellow Rangers' stick accidentally went through his mask and hit him on or very near the eye. The trainers rushed out and brought him to the bench. They administered eye drops, they inspected his eye. There was no blood, but he looked in pain.

The crowd started getting restless as a short delay turned into several minutes. The Penguins fans started booing. There was only a minute or so left in the period, so naturally everyone thought Rantaa would come in and play it out. Why keep Lundqvist out there for 50 seconds when he is obviously in some difficulty.

After a 4 minute delay, he went back in and almost immediately Patric Hornqvist scored on him, one of the three goals he earned in his hat trick for the night.

Lundqvist did not return for the rest of the game.

Adding an ironic twist to all this was that it was Marc Stall's stick that went through his mask. The same Marc Stall whose eye was badly injured a few years ago when he took a puck to the eye because he did not wear a visor.

The Penguins won 5-2, notably while playing their second backup, Jeff Zatkoff.

Red Wings @ Lightning

This was a fun game and Tampa gave the Red Wings a good beating.

It was all Kucherov all night as the Lightning won 3-2.

Blackhawks @ Blues

Rounding out a home team sweep on the night were the Blues winning 1-0.

You know the history here. The Blues keep making the playoffs, and keep getting bounced, usually by the Blackhawks in the first round. Everything was on the line in this game, and one team had to make a statement.

The Hawks were out-shooting the Blues at every turn, but It went scoreless all the way to overtime because Crawford and Elliot stood on their heads and made some ridiculous saves.

In the end it was a fluke goal win for the Blues as a shot by Backed bounced off Trevor van Riemsdyk and in to the net. The GIF below shows the hilarious moment when Crawford turns around in disbelief to see that the puck really is in the net.

The Broadcast

Everything worked for the NHL last night. It was an exciting start to each series. Unfortunately, the broadcasts in Canada were a stunning contrast. The lackluster effort from Sportsnet had me seriously wondering if they have given up.

At the start of the coordinated intermission of the two early games, Stombo lead into the commercial break saying there would follow "analysis" of the games. The commercial break turned out to be a solid 5 minutes. Then Darren Millard and Doug MacLean did the "analysis," which was narrating ~20-30 seconds of video highlights... and... that was it. Back to a solid 8 minute block of commercials, interrupted for 5 seconds by Strombo saying "we'll be back to the game after this."

I was watching on CBC, so maybe actual Sportsnet had more? Maybe because it was Wednesday they didn't think it mattered? The in game crews were fine. Bob Cole was great to hear. But in between periods? No panel? No Cherry? Just.... commercials?

Kadri and Rielly

Naturally, The Leafs wanted some attention yesterday and blew up Twitter by completely unexpectedly signing both Kadri and Rielly to six-year deals.

Leafs sign Morgan Rielly to six-year contract worth $5M annually - PPP
The Leafs lock up their young starlet on defense to a long term deal.

Toronto Maple Leafs sign Nazem Kadri to six-year contract extension - PPP
Kadri's deal will total at $27-million and carry a $4.5-million cap hit.

Lou Lamoriello on Morgan Rielly as future captain material: "From the characteristics I’ve seen, he has that capability"

Unlike recent history, this time Maple Leafs aren’t squandering future - The Globe and Mail
Mirtle: Toronto signing Morgan Rielly and Nazem Kadri to long-term deals ensures that team will benefit from the upside of two young, promising players

AIHL

Don't forget that we are picking an AIHL team to support this off-season. The poll seems to have had a very large number of voters suddenly support one particular team. A little suspicious there....

The AIHL on PPP: Who do we root for? - PPP
PPP is sticking to hockey all summer long as we cheer on an Australian ice Hockey League team. The question we face is: which one?

Oh and Chowder is in on this too and have already picked their teams. Naturally, I immediately HATE THEIR TEAMS.

Chowder has chosen which teams we'll be following in the Australian Ice Hockey League this season. - Stanley Cup of Chowder
"There were arguments. There were accusations of skulduggery. There was a moose driving a zamboni and cross-city sniping aplenty...and that was just the staff chat. But finally, SCoC has reached a decision."

NCAA

Jeff Marek
@JeffMarek
Enjoyed this piece on the Frozen Four by @tanyarezak
The agony of defeat at the NCAA Frozen Four

Troy Stecher Signs with Vancouver Canucks - SB Nation College Hockey
College hockey's best free agent chose to sign with his hometown team

Boston College's Alex Tuch Signs with Minnesota Wild - SB Nation College Hockey
The Wild signed their 2014 first round pick after two years at Boston College