Ramblings: Play-Ins Begin! #12 Seeds Montreal and Chicago Win, Kubalik Crushes Oilers, Scheifele and Laine Injured (Aug 2)
It was hockey hockey hockey all day long on Saturday. You may have found it impossible to watch the entire quintupleheader, as other commitments and the nice weather of August might have gotten in the way. But at least when you were ready to watch hockey, there was probably a game on. Let's dive into the highlights of this day – a day you've no doubt been awaiting for months.
Carolina 3, NY Rangers 2
The day began with the news that Igor Shesterkin was unfit to play, which made the Rangers' goaltending decision a little easier. Many who picked the Rangers might have been tempted to switch their pick to the Hurricanes with Henrik Lundqvist starting in net. Grant Campbell, the Wild West writer, made some solid counterpoints to that argument earlier in the week. One, Lundqvist has historically been strong in the playoffs, except for one season. Also, Lundqvist was 3-0-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .947 save percentage against the Hurricanes this season, if you believe in matchups.
During those three starts against Carolina, Lundqvist had to stop 47, 43, and 42 shots. The way that the Canes can carry the play, it should be no surprise that Lundqvist was fairly busy again, facing 37 shots but eventually losing 3-2. For what it's worth, Rangers coach David Quinn was unsure whether Shesterkin would be ready for Game 2.
This game had its share of aggression with lots of hits. Mr. Game 7 Justin Williams even tried to be Mr. Game 1 of the play-in round, but it looks like Ryan Strome gets the better of him in the first tilt of the postseason.
Dougie Hamilton did not suit up for the Hurricanes, which meant that Sami Vatanen was on first-unit power-play duties. Vatanen took advantage, recording a power-play assist. I had the opportunity to switch Hamilton for Vatanen earlier this week in my hockey pool, but I decided to decline. I'm not allowed to make the swap now. Yes, it's a gamble on my part, but I figure I'm going to have to take some chances if I'm going to win the pool.
Because of the lack of information coming from NHL teams at the moment, we don't know whether Hamilton will return for the next game or not return to the playoffs at all. A week ago Hurricanes reporter Sara Civian said Hamilton's injury would be weeks and not months, but I wonder if he'll be fast-tracked back because it's the postseason.
Chicago 6, Edmonton 4
The image of the day, from before the game. Matt Dumba is the first NHL player to take a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustice.
The Oilers opted for playoff experience over pure numbers and contract, starting Mike Smith over Mikko Koskinen in net for Game 1. That didn't turn out to be such a good idea, as Smith allowed four first-period goals and five goals total before getting the hook for Koskinen in the second period. Even though Smith and coach Dave Tippett have history dating back to their Arizona days, expect Tippett to turn to Koskinen for Game 2. When a team is outplayed for most of the game the way the Oilers were, it's not all on the goalie, though.
In his playoff debut, Dominik Kubalik had scored two goals and added three assists before the second period had ended. He had even more chances to add to that total afterward in what was a dominant performance. Those who rolled the dice on him in playoff pools have already reaped a solid return, even if he slumps the rest of the way or the Blackhawks' stay in the postseason is short.
I was curious if any player had ever recorded that many points in his first-ever playoff game, and in fact, Kubalik's performance was one for the ages.
All in all, the Blackhawks played Chelsea Dagger six times in Edmonton. You couldn't blame fans of past Blackhawks opponents of having flashbacks to earlier nightmares, as there was also plenty of Jonathan Toews in this game. The Chicago captain scored two goals and added an assist playing on Kubalik's line. In the end, playoff experience meant something in Toews' case, but it also didn't mean anything in Kubalik's case.
One silver lining for the Oilers is that they made a late third-period push to reduce the Blackhawks lead to two goals. James Neal scored his first goal since New Year's Eve, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his first career playoff goal. Completely overshadowed in the Edmonton loss was the fact that Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl each recorded three points. As much as the Oilers were outplayed, they can throw this one in the garbage and reset the scoreboard for 0-0 in Game 2.
NY Islanders 2, Florida 1
This game was a low-scoring one, which played right into the hands of the Islanders. In fact, this game was quite similar to other Islanders/Panthers matches this season, which ended 3-2 (SO), 2-1, and 3-1, all in favor of the Islanders.
Johnny Boychuk left the game in the second period after taking this check to the head from Mike Matheson, who was assessed a two-minute minor on the play. Matheson has a suspension history, having been suspended two games for a choke slam on Elias Pettersson last season. I think a suspension is warranted, but I also wouldn't be surprised if the NHL doesn't agree.
Montreal 3, Pittsburgh 2
We got our first sudden-death overtime of the postseason. Fortunately for the event planners in Toronto, it was the final game of the day. Jeff Petry was the first overtime hero of the postseason, scoring at 13:57 of the first overtime.
Here you go, Habs fans. I'll eat crow because this was the one series in which I predicted a sweep (for Pittsburgh). Apparently, I never give your team enough credit. I say that because I've probably been chirped the most throughout my writing career by Montreal fans compared to fans of any other team.
Since #12 seeds Chicago and Montreal both won today, I'm starting to realize that a team that was nowhere near a playoff spot at the time of the pause has a real chance of making the round-of-16 playoffs. Since these playoffs will be at their most unpredictable in a sport that already has unpredictable playoff results, I'm beginning to think that my coin-flip odds will be just as reliable as my own picks. But could these potential results be any more out of whack than last season's first-round results?
As you'd expect, Carey Price was busy. He did not disappoint, stopping 39 of 41 shots. If Montreal is to pull this series out, he'll probably need another effort like this one because the Penguins will likely fire everything but the kitchen sink at him for the rest of this series.
There were not one, but two penalty shots in this game. Both turned out to be misses.
By the way, this was the first playoff game with two penalty shots since all the way back to 1923.
Calgary 4, Winnipeg 1
Injuries can swing the momentum of a series. Unfortunately for the Jets, they're on the wrong side of that momentum after Game 1.
Mark Scheifele left the game in the first period after being checked along the boards by Matthew Tkachuk. Hopefully this is nothing too serious, but the worry here is that Scheifele was accidentally sliced somewhere on his left leg.
Then in the third period, Patrik Laine left the game after he was hit in the left wrist area. He appeared to be in a lot of pain on the bench before walking down the tunnel.
Losing Scheifele for a significant length of time would be devastating, as the Jets possess very little depth at center considering that they are also without Bryan Little. The Jets appeared to stack a top line after the Scheifele injury, moving Blake Wheeler together with Laine and Kyle Connor before Laine left the game. Without Scheifele and eventually Laine, the Jets could not capitalize on any of their seven power plays in the game. By the last power play in the third period, Nikolaj Ehlers had been moved up to the first-unit power play (finally), as had Jack Roslovic.
Tkachuk looks like he is going to be a factor in this series. Or to be more descriptive, a pain in the ass for the Jets. He had to fight Wheeler after the hit, and he drew an interference penalty later in the second period which led to the Flames' third goal.
Like their provincial rivals, the Flames decided to go with their more experienced goalie, giving Cam Talbot the nod over David Rittich. This turned out better for the Flames than for the Oilers, as Talbot stopped 17 of 18 shots he faced.
Enjoy Sunday's action! For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
No data at this moment.