I think we can all admit without turning in our hockey fan cards that the first round was pretty middling as far as entertainment. And that’s actually fine. When you have a few, clear, really good teams as the NHL does, the first round probably should be underwhelming. The Jets, Preds, and Lightning were always going to bludgeon whoever they saw (which the Preds eventually did). The only long series of intrigue really as the Leafs and Bruins and that was more for the comedy of what we all knew was coming. But this round shaped up to be the true must-see theater, and it really has been.
Jets-Predators goes plaid, and 1-1
It’s with a slight twitch of pain that I say this, because it’s always cool knowing your team played in the best playoff series of the post-lockout era even if it lost it, but this Jets-Preds has every chance of being as good if not eclipsing Hawks-Kings ’14. The pace last night simply was ridiculous, and both of these teams seemingly have accepted they’re going to give up chances to get their own. Last night was an example of how the Jets defense might be the first to crack, as on Arvidsson’s goal Chiarot got caught wandering and the Preds have the forward depth to make that a problem, and then for the winner a clearly still rusty Toby Enstrom got caught on a pinch and Byfuglien played the ensuing 2-on-1 like the dog that he is in his own zone. He was awful from the 3rd period on and it’s a small miracle he didn’t help create the winner for the Preds before that.
Encouragingly for the Jets though, it was the top line that basically had to do everything for Nashville as Winnipeg rolled over the rest. Not encouragingly is that Peter Laviolette was happy to let the top lines go at each other and Scheiele did not come out ahead, but also he kept throwing Byfuglien out behind them. Maybe Paul Maurice thinks his top line is enough protection for Buff and Enstrom, but it most certainly was not last night. Look for Trouba and Morrissey to be the ones getting the assignment in Winnipeg. And for this series only to get faster and more frantic, which is great for all of us.
Sharks and Knights split with 2OT as well
Clearly the Sharks weren’t ready for Vegas in Game 1 and everything that could have gone wrong did. They were hellbent on slowing the game agains the Knights in Game 2 and it mostly worked. You get in trouble with Vegas when you let them get behind you in the neutral zone or hit the line with speed with or without the puck and harass your d-men. The Sharks made sure their d-men backed up at the first sign of trouble, basically put three across their own line so even when the Knights dumped it in they couldn’t come over the hill like starving Scotsmen painted blue on the forecheck. It requires you basically bury a good percentage of your good chances because you won’t get as many as normal, but the Sharks did. Interesting to see if they can do this at home with a more expectant home crowd. Then again, Fleury can’t keep this up, can he?
Pens Caps Is Pens Caps
I’ll admit I basically thought that once the Caps coughed up a two-goal lead in the time it takes to take a shit in Game 1 at home that this series is basically over. And it may still yet prove that way. Of course, this being the NHL, we can’t talk about how it’s been really entertaining and both Ovechkin and Crosby are giving this series the battling star-power the league has been dying for because it’s overshadowed by either the league’s incompetence or stupid shit like Tom Wilson braining Brian Dumoulin.
Do I know it was a goal? No, I don’t but you can’t tell me the call was confirmed when there was no call. The refs just blew the play dead and then high-tailed it for the headphones. And I get that different angles can skew things, but we can pretty much conclude that thing was over the line. As for Wilson, he’s lost any benefit of the doubt and the league would do well to try and cap any future stupidness from him by sitting him again. But they won’t, and it’s not like it would work from a real life Venom anyway.
Bs kneecap Bolts
This was a surprise, but sometimes the team that’s sat around for a while just isn’t as sharp as the one that played two nights ago and this is what that looked like. Also, why is Brayden Point and Anton Stralman your choice to deal with the best line in hockey? If you have any hope of beating the Bruins you have to keep Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand on a leash and you’re not doing that with Brayden Fucking Point, whatever his season was. And Stralman might be dead, and if he isn’t he’s definitely on a lot of tubes. The Bolts might have the second best line in hockey so they should be fighting fire with fire and if Victor Hedman is a Norris candidate then he should be out there trying to keep Bergeron’s line in their own end. Ryan McDonagh is fine but he’s a second pairing guy now. Then again, if they’re going to insist on pairing Dan Girardi with Hedman maybe that’s the problem. They’re going to have to figure out something, because letting that line go off or multiple goals is a great way to assure you’re going to enjoy the Florida sunshine full-time right quick. Ha, just kidding, no one enjoys Tampa.