Happy Mother's Day!
After months of sneaking up on teams, the Vegas Golden Knights barely knew what hit them in Game 1. The Jets scored three goals within the first eight minutes of the game, which turned out to be enough for a 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.
Only a minute after puck drop, Dustin Byfuglien received a drop pass from Mark Scheifele and fired a slap shot past Marc-Andre Fleury. Then nearly seven minutes in, Patrik Laine fired a one-timer to make the score 2-0. See Laine’s goal below.
Not even a minute after, Joel Armia appeared to score, but the goal was immediately waived off for what appeared to be goalie interference. Paul Maurice decided to challenge anyway, which resulted in a long sequence in which referee Kelly Sutherland clarified that the challenge was not about the puck being kicked in. After several more minutes of deliberation, video review reversed the original call, giving the Jets the 3-0 lead. Although Fleury was interfered with, the puck appeared to be going in before the interference took place. See it for yourself and be the judge.
Brayden McNabb scored less than a minute later to put the Golden Knights back to where they were before the video review call.
The second and third periods weren’t nearly as eventful, with the teams trading goals by Mark Scheifele and William Karlsson. Late in the second period, James Neal hammered Tobias Enstrom with an open-ice hit.
The good news is that Enstrom was able to return for the third period.
Blake Wheeler led all skaters in this game with three points, all assists. Wheeler has recorded multiple points in back-to-back games. He has picked up where he left off during the regular season, racking up major assist totals (3 goals and 15 assists in 13 playoff games). Although he turns 32 later this summer, Wheeler is playing the best hockey of his career with his 68 assists this past season tied for the league lead (and of course a career high, as is his 91 points). His trade to the Atlanta Thrashers from the Boston Bruins in 2011 is turning out to be one of the NHL’s most one-sided deals.
Wheeler’s linemate Mark Scheifele scored again, which gives him a playoff-leading 12 goals. Scheifele has also scored four goals over his last four games. Scheifele has also posted multiple points in eight playoff games already, which puts him in some rare company.
Mark Scheifele of the @NHLJets is the 16th different player in NHL history to post multiple points 8+ times through his team’s first 13 games of a postseason and just the seventh to do so in the last 30 years. #NHLStats #VGKvsWPG #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/sci9a9yiPZ
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 13, 2018
Scheifele has to be considered a Conn Smythe favorite should the Jets advance.
Speaking of which, I picked the Jets and Bolts to win their series. As difficult as the Golden Knights have been, I just think they haven’t faced any team that is as loaded and firing on all cylinders like the Jets. If you want to see who the rest of the Dobber writers picked, check our Round 3 picks.
Well, I thought the Capitals would be in for a letdown after their conquest of Pittsburgh. But instead, quite the opposite happened with the Capitals riding high in Game 1. The breaks finally seem to be going Washington’s way, as evidenced by the late first-period goal from Nikita Kucherov being waived off because of too many men, then Alex Ovechkin scoring 1.8 seconds into the ensuing power play.
What I noticed early in the game and perhaps set the tone was the Capitals’ ability to shut down the shooting lanes for Tampa, forcing them mainly to the perimeter. I came away very impressed with the Capitals’ defense in Game 1. Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov both logged heavy minutes. John Carlson looked steady out there. And although Michal Kempny played just 17 minutes, he stood out as having an especially strong game and seems like a shrewd trade acquisition for the Caps.
That defense held the Bolts to just two shots in the first period and four shots by the time the Capitals were ahead 4-0. That’s a very steep hill to climb for any team to climb, even though the Bolts were able to make the score look more respectable in the end.
Evgeny Kuznetsov is not one of Don Cherry’s favorite players, as I heard Grapes mention in an interview last week. Something to do with the bird-flapping celebration. But Kuznetsov is on fire right now with points in four consecutive games and 16 points in 13 playoff games, including the overtime winner in Game 6 against Pittsburgh. As long as Nicklas Backstrom is out of the lineup, Kuznetsov will continue to be leaned on more heavily. Even if he wasn’t necessarily on your radar as a must-own in playoff pools, his strong playoff performance shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, as he racked up 19 points (7g-12a) over his last 11 regular-season games.
Dobber might be on to something in making the Capitals his Stanley Cup pick now. Am I ready to do the same? Not yet. Tampa Bay was my pick from the start, so I’m sticking to it. I’ll go Tampa Bay in 7 instead of 6 now, though. J
The announcement many were expecting finally broke on Friday, as Kyle Dubas was named the general manager of the Leafs. Because it’s Toronto, there’s already been plenty written about the hiring. So instead I’ll try to focus on the fantasy implications, which is to say the hiring shouldn’t change much, if anything. Dubas was already a major part of the decision-making process, and the Leafs already have a plan in place. Sign Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, while James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Leo Komarov will all test free agency.
I’d also expect Roman Polak’s time in Toronto to come to an end, which should result in a full-time roster spot for Travis Dermott. With Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner both 50+ point scorers last season while dominating the power-play time among Leafs’ blueliners, I wouldn’t expect Dermott to have a major impact fantasy-wise next season. But if the Leafs decide to phase out 37-year-old Ron Hainsey (one year left on his contract), then Dermott might even be able to break through with some top-4 minutes. Then there could be something there.
Mike Fisher has announced his retirement again, returning to life as Mr. Carrie Underwood. Fisher recorded just one point (an assist) in 12 playoff games, missing Game 7 against Winnipeg with a lower-body injury. His retirement should have very little fantasy impact, as he was mainly used on the Predators’ fourth line.
Something that could be fantasy relevant for the Preds: How they decide to deploy their goalies next season. Pekka Rinne has one more year left on his contract, and he will be 36 when it ends. Even though the Preds should be poised to make another run next season, I wonder if Juuse Saros is groomed to be the starter beginning in 2019-20. That doesn’t mean he’s given the starting role outright next season, but if he at least stays on his current pace then expect something like 30-35 games.
Not to take away from what should be a Vezina Trophy season for Rinne, but his playoff failures (particularly during the Winnipeg series) have to be on the mind of management. If Rinne regresses to the point in which Nashville is as concerned about its goaltending situation as it was going into Game 7 against Winnipeg, then I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Saros is the playoff Game 1 starter next season, similar to the Braden Holtby scenario in Washington.
For what it’s worth, Saros posted a 1.05 GAA and .952 SV% in limited action during the playoffs. Granted, this was mainly mop-up duty, but remember he also played most of Game 7 after Rinne was given the hook early and for the third time in that series.
As for Rinne, I don’t have any projections for next season other than what’s in my head. But I’m probably going to let someone else pay what it’s probably going to cost to draft him, knowing the cost associated with drafting the likely defending Vezina Trophy winner.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.