Nikita Kucherov has been suspended one game for his hit on Markus Nutivaara on Friday. Fair or not, that’s about what I thought he would receive.
Although Art Ross Trophy winner Kucherov was the top-ranked player in playoff pools, he has been held without a point in two games so far and will still be scoreless in the playoffs after Game 3 because of his suspension. Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point, who were projected to go second and third, have also been held without a point in the first two games (see our Dobber Hockey Experts Panel picks for more). In addition, Kucherov has been held to just two goals in his last 14 playoff games. He’s been getting it done and then some in the regular season, but not so much in the playoffs when the intensity is turned up several notches.
So if the Lightning are eliminated in the first round, does that mean the folks that didn’t pick any Lightning players will win their playoff pools? It probably isn’t that simple, but it goes to show that playoff pools aren’t as easy to predict as you might think and sometimes a counterintuitive strategy (although more risky) wins in the end. The silver lining is that if the Bolts come back and win this series, you’ll probably get the same four or five games of production out of them than you thought you would receive from them in the first round anyway.
It's funny how in two short games that the narrative on the Lightning has shifted from being the model franchise to the ultimate choke team. A win in Game 3 would go a long way toward righting the ship. A loss, well…
Not to worry, Connor McDavid owners. It sounds like he won’t need surgery for a small PCL ligament tear. The injury from the final game of the season looked a lot worse.
On to Saturday’s game action:
Noted goal scorer Brooks Orpik scored 1:48 into overtime to give the Capitals a 4-3 win in Game 2 and a 2-0 series lead heading back to Carolina. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Evgeny Kuznetsov each recorded two points for the Capitals. Ovechkin also dished seven hits (not sure if any playoff pools out there count hits).
Man, was Rod Brind’Amour ever pissed after Micheal Ferland was ejected after his attempted check to the head of Nic Dowd. Ferland recklessly throwing hits in playoff games is nothing new, but my initial thought was two-minute penalty. Like any of these types of hits, it’s subject to debate, though.
Ferland gets thrown out of the game for a check to the head pic.twitter.com/gSAHQkdoV7
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 13, 2019
Fortunately for the Hurricanes, the Capitals weren’t able to score on the ensuing five-minute power play. Fortunately for the Capitals, Dowd was able to return to the game. I highly doubt Ferland is suspended for this hit.
Aside from fans of the Stars and Predators, this series might be considered by many to be the least interesting of the bunch. So if we call it the country and western series, would that make it more interesting? Such deep hockey commentary, I know.
Craig Smith scored exactly five minutes into overtime to give the Predators a 2-1 win over the Stars, evening the series at 1-1 heading back to Dallas for Game 3. Smith also led the Predators with six shots on goal in this game.
In spite of the loss, Ben Bishop was stellar, stopping 40 of 42 shots to keep the Stars in this game. With his 1.92 GAA and .946 SV% in two playoff games, Bishop is carrying a strong regular season into the playoffs, where he has been the Stars’ best player so far. Bishop finished the regular season with a 1.98 GAA and .934 SV% and seven shutouts, which are numbers that could result in a Vezina Trophy nomination.
Wayne Simmonds left in the first period after blocking a shot. He wasn’t having a great season by his standards before his trade to Nashville (27 points and a minus-20 in 62 games), but his numbers have taken a further nosedive with the Predators (3 points in 17 games). Even if you figured that the Preds would make a deep playoff run, Simmonds probably isn’t someone you should have targeted in your playoff pool. Some team will probably overpay for the 30-year-old’s services this offseason. Don’t be the one who adopts a similar strategy in your fantasy league, as the power forward’s point totals have been on the decline for the past three seasons.
Mattias Janmark left in the second period after crashing awkwardly into the boards, but he was able to return to the game.
The new divisional format was designed to build rivalries, and this doesn’t seem any more apparent than with these two teams. In other words, they don’t like each other. Fans of other divisional foes (and even some outside the division) might be pulling for the team they dislike less as opposed to the team they like more in this series. If these fans can’t figure out which team that would be, they’d simply hope that these two teams beat the crap out of each other. Well, these two teams might already be headed down that path.
Nazem Kadri has been offered an in-person hearing for his crosscheck to the face of Jake DeBrusk, which means that the league can suspend him for more than five games. Because he’s a repeat offender, Kadri’s going to sit multiple games for sure. That’s even with any perceived advantages that Toronto receives from the NHL office and even with the knee-on-knee collision with DeBrusk earlier in the game likely motivating the hit. I realize hockey is a sport about getting payback when someone on the other team crosses the line, but that reasoning isn’t going to carry weight here. Kadri should know better.
I’d imagine this lands Kadri a suspension pic.twitter.com/LXi9ZovoS5
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 14, 2019
Kadri’s game misconduct in the third period gave the Bruins a five-minute power play, where they were able to ice the game with an insurance goal en route to a 4-1 victory and a tie in the series heading back to Toronto.
Torey Krug left this game in the second period after taking a hit from Jake Muzzin. Charlie McAvoy totaled nearly 26 minutes in this game, so expect the Bruins to lean heavily on the 21-year-old d-man should Krug miss any time. Connor Clifton, another d-man, also didn’t finish the game for the Bruins.
Auston Matthews is receiving a lot of criticism from Leafs’ fans regarding his playoff performance. Dating back to last season’s series with the Bruins, Matthews has just two points and a minus-5 in his last nine playoff games. He may be struggling to handle the more physical play of the playoffs, or he simply doesn’t match up well against the Bruins. Matthews has the size (6-3, 223 lb.), but not everyone with size has the desire to play a physical style. With Kadri out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, the Leafs will need to lean even more heavily on him.
By far the biggest question regarding the Flames entering the playoffs was their goaltending. Mike Smith had been downright awful during significant stretches of the season, so would he be able to hold up during the playoffs? Why didn’t the Flames give David Rittich a go instead?
Smith has found his game and then some. Since he doesn’t fit the definition of a stud goalie, he fits the definition of a hot goalie, which can just as well get the job done in the playoffs if he can be hot for long enough. Unfortunately, Smith couldn’t hold off the Avalanche for this entire game. The Avs looked like the better team in Game 2 regardless of the outcome. Regardless, they won in overtime on Nathan MacKinnon’s first goal of the playoffs.
Even though Smith has a brief playoff history for a goalie of his service time, his career playoff numbers are outstanding (11-8, 1.79 GAA, .947 SV% entering Game 2). Maybe that could have counted for something in Bill Peters’ decision to start him in Game 1? The numbers aren’t recent, though, as his last playoff experience was in 2011-12 when he led the Coyotes to the conference final (his playoff numbers are mainly from that season). It’s more likely that Smith’s much-improved play swayed the decision (9-5-1, 2.08 GAA, .916 SV% since February 14).
By the way, MacKinnon fired seven shots on goal in logging over 26 minutes, the most of any Avalanche forward. Not known for his offensive prowess, Erik Johnson also fired seven shots on goal.
After a Game 1 where they were firing on all cylinders, the Flames looked like a strong bet to head to Denver with a 2-0 series lead. Regardless, this series is also tied at 1 and could be more interesting than we first thought. One reason is that Philipp Grubauer has also been a hot goalie.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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