Ramblings: Blue Jackets Bounce Back, Pastrnak Out, Tkachuk Leaves Game (Aug 14)
Before diving into game action, we'll start with a few news items. Claude Julien was hospitalized with chest pains on Wednesday night. Kirk Muller is expected to serve as the Canadiens head coach for the remainder of the series against Philly. Let's hope for a speedy recovery.
Nicklas Backstrom is expected to miss Game 2 against the Islanders on Friday. He is currently in concussion protocol after taking a high hit from Anders Lee in what was a physical Game 1. I'd expect there to be more fireworks between these two Metropolitan Division rivals in Game 2 and possibly beyond.
Dan Hamhuis announced his retirement on Thursday. The steady defensive-minded defenseman usually didn't generate a ton of buzz in fantasy leagues. However, I wonder if the Canucks' fortunes in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final had been different had Hamhuis not been injured early in that series. All the best to him in his retirement, which includes being a part owner of the WHL's Prince George Cougars.
Columbus 3, Tampa Bay 1 (series tied 1-1)
You kind of wonder about the psyche of a team that goes through five overtime periods but has nothing to show for it afterward. Yet if you didn't know already, John Tortorella's Blue Jackets are a resilient bunch. Already missing Cam Atkinson for Game 2, the Jackets were able to tie the series with a 3-1 win, with goals coming from Ryan Murray, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Alexander Wennberg.
As a result of Atkinson missing the game, Emil Benstrom entered the Blue Jackets lineup. He was held without a point and played just seven minutes total.
After playing over an entire game in Game 1 (65:06!), Seth Jones logged "just" 28:31 in Game 2. The hockey world is currently witnessing what an outstanding defenseman he is and how integral he is to the Blue Jackets game plan. Maybe a future Norris Trophy candidate?
I'm getting lots of mileage on my Pierre-Luc Dubois pick in my hockey pool, where he is at the time of writing my leading scorer (eight points in seven games). A total of eight Leafs were picked ahead of him in this particular playoff pool, which tells you which team most thought would win that play-in series. Dubois is really demonstrating his value as a possible top-line center, scoring multiple points in back-to-back games and winning double-digit faceoffs in those games.
Facts on Joonas Korpisalo this postseason (cc: Dobber)
In fairness to Elvis fan Dobber, it's that Columbus defensive system that's helping Korpisalo to a significant degree. Tampa is being forced to take a lot of perimeter shots, so the shots on goal (37-22 in favor of T-Bay in Game 2, for example) don't tell the whole story.
In the Expert Panel Playoff Picks, I was one of the minority of writers who chose Columbus. I was originally going to choose Tampa Bay, but I thought that Columbus could potentially jump out to a big lead if both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were missing. I then thought the Hedman return (and the subsequent Game 1 marathon win) would swing things in Tampa's favor. After Game 2, though, the Blue Jackets should feel confident enough in their game plan that a second consecutive series win against the Bolts is a definite possibility.
Vegas 4, Chicago 3 OT (Vegas leads 2-0)
Reilly Smith wins the overtime challenge for this game, scoring the game winner at 7:13 of the first extra period.
The Golden Knights were able to win without their regular-season leading scorer, as Max Pacioretty was announced as unfit to play Game 2. As a result, Chandler Stephenson was moved back up to a line with Mark Stone and William Karlsson.
Vegas took a 2-0 lead before the end of the first period and appeared to be running away with the game (and possibly even the series at this point). However, goals by rookies Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik tied the game for Chicago. In spite of being heavy underdogs, the Hawks possess a nice mix of youth and experience on their forward lines.
Patrick Kane assisted on all three Blackhawks goals, which were his first points in three games. If the Hawks are to salvage this series, they will need more production like this from their leading scorer.
Carolina 3, Boston 2 (series tied 1-1)
There was one important lineup change for each team in Game 2. For the Bruins, David Pastrnak was listed as unfit to participate for Game 2. Bruce Cassidy said during his post-game interview that he believes it's a day-to-day issue and hopes Pasta can return for Game 3 on Saturday. In Pastrnak's absence, Anders Bjork moved up to the top line.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes made a goaltending change, giving James Reimer the start. Rotating goalies might become a regular thing for the Canes, as Reimer started the play-in series clincher Game 3 against the Rangers. I wouldn't be surprised if Petr Mrazek is back in for Game 3. This isn't the usual method of playoff goalie management, but the Hurricanes aren't known for being a conventional team.
Playing in his second game since returning from injury, Dougie Hamilton scored the game winner in the third period. Hamilton has resumed first-unit power-play duties and logged 24 minutes total while taking five shots on goal. Everything should be back to normal if you need him.
Even though the Bruins stumbled during the round robin, I'm shocked that only 3 of 16 Dobber writers are picking Boston. After the upsets in the play-in round, the writers were most likely expecting more of that, with Carolina the perfect team to do that. The Canes finished 19 points behind the Bruins in the regular season (although the Bruins played two more games). Yet with a 4+ month layoff, this might have to be treated as a brand-new season.
Dallas 5, Calgary 4 (series tied 1-1)
Just when it looked like the game was heading to overtime, Jamie Oleksiak stunned Calgary with just 40 seconds left in regulation. The Stars have had trouble scoring all season, so they couldn't let an offensive outburst like this go to waste.
You may have noticed Johnny Gaudreau a day late and a dollar short on that defensive coverage.
The defense drove the offense for the Stars, with blueliners scoring three of Dallas' five goals. Miro Heiskanen scored his first two goals of the playoffs to go with a plus-3 and four shots in 25:20 of icetime.
After Anton Khudobin started Game 1 for the Stars, Ben Bishop was back between the pipes for Game 2. Bishop allowed four goals in spite of the team in front of him carrying the play, so it's possible that Khudobin could start Game 3. That shouldn't be as surprising as you might think, as Khudobin's season numbers (2.22 GAA, .930 SV%) in 30 games were better than Bishop's (2.50 GAA, .920 SV%).
To add injury to insult for the Flames, Matthew Tkachuk looked pretty banged up throughout the game and eventually left for good in the third period. He first left the game late in the first period but came back for the second period. When he left in the third period, he appeared woozy as he walked down the tunnel. The moment before, he had been hit by Jamie Benn and also collided heads with Oleksiak on the play. Since these two teams meet again for the late game today (Friday), it's possible that Tkachuk might not suit up for Game 3. After the game, coach Geoff Ward did not provide an update.
Dillon Dube is having quite the postseason. The former World Junior captain for Team Canada has now scored in three consecutive postseason games, with four goals over that span. This time he scored 19 seconds into the game. Linemate Milan Lucic's point streak ended at five games, however.
With Tkachuk out of the game, 24-year-old Sam Bennett was given first-unit power play time. He delivered, scoring the game-tying goal with under three minutes to play. Bennett filled the roto statsheet as well, taking five shots on goal and dishing seven hits. Even if he's not the offensive producer that the Flames hoped he'd be when they drafted him fourth overall in 2014, he's still providing physicality that is much-needed during a playoff series.
If your playoff pool counts shorthanded goals, then Tobias Rieder is your guy. He scored his second shortie of the postseason, which leads all players.
This is quite a streak for the Flames.
One last note, for those who bought the playoff list at full price on Monday or Tuesday because the coupon code “hockeyisback” didn’t work.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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