Ramblings – Robertson Debuts, Pietrangelo Hurt, Surprise Goalies Stand Tall, Vets Step Up, and more (August 3)
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The last time the NHL had a best-of-five series was in April of 1986. All time, teams that have won the first game of a best-of-five series is 68-15. This historical trend indicates that one, or possibly two, of the teams who have lost the first game will come back to win it. Where as six, or maybe even seven of the Game 1 winners will win the series. So which team comes back?
My personal hope is for the Rangers, since I placed a small wager on them back in March to go all the way – based solely on Igor Shesterkin (since, offensively, this team is already upper-tier). His undisclosed injury and the subsequent start by Henrik Lundqvist put a damper on that strategy. In all honesty, the Hurricanes would have been my favorite "sleeper" pick because of the coaching style and the depth. But up against Shesterkin? Who is riding a wave of adrenalin and has dominated at every level? No, I was taking the nice odds on the Rangers. Had I known in advance that Shesterkin would be hurt, I would have moved my money over to Carolina! Ah well. It was only play money…
John Tortorella decided to get all psychological on us and start the inferior Joonas Korpisalo. The thinking, likely, was that Joonas 'could' win. And if he doesn't, then he could turn to Elvis Merzlikins, who would have a better chance of succeeding if he was going in as Plan B and not as "the guy" so early in his young career.
…and it paid off.
I don't know if he felt as if his team would tighten up in front of Korpi, when they may have leaned on Elvis a little more, but whatever the reason – it worked. And the Leafs were completely stifled. Sure, they had 28 shots, but they only had one clean shot. The rest were either peripheral, or with a player draped over them, or 'gifts' from the stats-keeper (i.e. shots going wide but saved anyway). The center of the ice in the Columbus zone was completely locked down.
Toronto is indeed in trouble. Last year, Columbus held Tampa to just three power plays over the last three games. Their forte is to clog the scoring lanes without taking penalties. And as the ace in the hole – if Korpisalo ever stumbles, Elvis is in the building…
Dobber Darling Cam Atkinson picked up a pair of points in the win for the Jackets. Oliver Bjorkstrand was pointless but had four SOG and before the late Atkinson goal, Bjorkstrand was the centerpiece of pretty much all of Columbus' scoring chances to that point.
Prospect Liam Foudy was also noticeable in his 13:19. He is going to be a high draft pick in my keeper league in the fall. But that would be to their detriment, as especially earlier in his career I don't see big points. He may be one of those hugely valuable, speedy second- or third-liners who puts up 45 to 55 points, and early on he may be a 35-point player (as a rookie and later as a sophomore).
Did Jason Spezza enjoy his 3:53 of ice time? Short bench for the Leafs, as Spezza, Fred Gauthier (4:14) and Kyle Clifford (3:21) combined for barely 10 minutes of action. Even the rookie making his NHL debut, Nick Robertson, played 12:28 (2 Hits, 1 SOG, 2 TKA).
Robertson, by the way, is still just 18 years old. The last 18-year-old to make his NHL debut in the playoffs? A fella by the name of Jarome Iginla back in 1996.
Auston Matthews logged a massive 24:38…so there'll be no controversy this year on that front, obviously.
The Coyotes elected to sit Vinnie Hinostroza and play young Barret Hayton. Hinostroza was the darling of the Coyotes in 2018-19, but was subsequently buried during 2019-20 thanks to the acquisition of Phil Kessel and the emergence of Conor Garland (as well as, later, the acquisition of Taylor Hall).
Speaking of Garland, the team's leading goal-scorer was given just 10 minutes of ice time on Sunday. Whatever the logic, it worked as Arizona won the game. But hockey politics are always at play, especially in the playoffs. So the big names get the big ice time. As long as Phil Kessel is producing (as he seems to be again – two assists Sunday), it's going to stay that way.
Christian Dvorak picked up two points. He played with Hall and Kessel and the trio formed an effective line, combining for six points.
Viktor Arvidsson, who was a monster in exhibition action with two goals, led Nashville forwards in ice time. He was the only forward on the squad to hit 20 minutes TOI, and his 5:27 of PP time also led the forwards. Arvidsson is legendary for his low PPPts-per-PPTOI ratio. This season wasn't so bad, as he averaged 3.4 points per 60 minutes on the power play (i.e. eight points in 141 PP minutes). But in 2018-19 his number was amongst the league's lowest at 1.4 (just four points in 169 PP minutes!). I guess, given his exhibition game production, the 'hot hand' strategy was the thinking there.
Surprising (or was it, though?) difference in intensity after watching a few play-in round games and then switching to the first round-robin game. The teams in the round robin, for seeding, didn't seem to play nearly as hard.
David Pastrnak was pointless and posted a minus-3 rating as the Big Line was beaten again and again. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron combined for six shots, but were on the ice for a minus-2. I suspect this was a warmup game for Boston, as they dressed rookies Jeremy Lauzon and Jack Studnicka, plus Karson Kuhlman.
For the Flyers it was all hands on deck other than Shayne Gostisbehere. And in Ghost's case…who would they take out? Philippe Myers? He scored and was plus-3 with five SOG. As long as the Flyers roll six defensemen, Ghost's best chance of getting in is if Robert Hagg gets scratched. Certainly possible, but not a given.
In his first career NHL playoff game, Carter Hart stopped 34 of 35 shots.
Michael Raffl, who picked up two points, left the game with an injury. If he can't go next game I'm sure Joel Farabee will draw in.
The Avs- Blues game was a little more intense, though I only caught a bit of this one it just seemed to have more of that than the Flyers-Bruins. This one is notable in that the Blues held a 1-0 lead from the first period into the third, and the Avalanche won it with 0.1 seconds left on a Nazem Kadri goal. Just as notable – Kadri didn't get suspended.
That goal was on the PP and it happened in no small part because Alex Pietrangelo wasn't killing it. And Pietrangelo wasn't out there because he was injured on this play here:
No word on if Pietrangelo will be back next game. And I'm sure we won't get an update on that either – he'll either be in the next game or he won't. They won't tell!
|Line||Freq||EV – FORWARDS||CF||CA||CF%|
|#1||22.3%||SCHENN,BRAYDEN – SCHWARTZ,JADEN – TARASENKO,VLADIMIR||4||11||26.7|
|#2||21.3%||O’REILLY,RYAN – PERRON,DAVID – SANFORD,ZACH||8||6||57.1|
|#3||18.8%||BARBASHEV,IVAN – STEEN,ALEXANDER – SUNDQVIST,OSKAR||7||8||46.7|
|#4||17.8%||BLAIS,SAMMY – BOZAK,TYLER – THOMAS,ROBERT||7||10||41.2|
|#5||3%||BLAIS,SAMMY – STEEN,ALEXANDER – THOMAS,ROBERT||1||0||100.0|
Lowest ice time amongst Blues' defensemen? Vince Dunn. Yep, just 14:49.
Blues' PP units were more of a 1A/1B, rolling four forwards and one D. With Schenn, Schwartz, Perron, O'Reilly seeing 3:15… and Tarasenko, Blais, Thomas and Bozak.
One thing I didn't consider enough is the fact that these guys have just had four-and-a-half months off. That's a full offseason right there. So the aging veterans who would go out there and have a red-hot October before cooling down and having the expected overall decline – well, this is their October! Eric Staal had a noticeable spring in his step. Phil Kessel is fully recharged. Zach Parise looked good. Duncan Keith, another example. Justin Williams. This play-in round, and the first and second rounds – the aging vets could be a real factor. Watch for that.
In a bit of a surprise, Alex Stalock got the start for the Wild. Another surprise, and another shutout. Coaches are messing with our minds with the goalie selection – and it's paying off for them.
With the empty netter – defenseman Jared Spurgeon tallied points on all three Minnesota goals.
Drake Caggiula has been suspended for the next CHI-EDM game due to this hit:
Ironically, Ennis got the penalty on the play. Caggiula gets the suspension a day later.
See you next Monday. Be safe!
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