With the top 15 picks locked and loaded for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, all eyes were on the real opening round of the playoffs last night.
Originally scheduled for an opening day of four matchups, an unexpected wrench was tossed into the plan in the very first game. Playing for what seemed like an eternity - with the NHL’s in-game team even throwing in a 7th period stretch - the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning went the whole nine yards for the fourth longest game in NHL history - 150 minutes and 27 seconds. The game was so long the NHL had to postpone the second game in the Toronto bubble to today, because these marathon teams were still on the ice when the the Bruins and Hurricanes were set to drop the puck.
Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT!) - TB leads 1-0
After the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to register a single power play goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it only makes sense that this game opened with Pierre-Luc Dubois scoring on the Jackets first power play opportunity against the Lightning.
The lead was short lived as Brayden Point tied things up minutes later. Oliver Bjorkstrand added an absolute bardown beauty late in the second while, early in the third, Yanni Gourde didn’t let the lead last too long. It wasn’t until what felt like years later that Point would add his second of the game - and celebrate like he really, really meant it.
The craziest part about this game are the wild stats that come out of a quintuple overtime NHL playoff game. Puck was dropped at 3pm and finished around 10pm - that’s almost a true eight hour work day. Jonas Korpisalo made 85 saves. Seth Jones played over 65 minutes. Sixty. Five.
What an amazing way to kick off the first
real round of the NHL playoffs.
My sincere apologies to the many Flames and Stars fans that follow this blog but there’s less to write about here. Y’all couldn’t even make it past regulation so who really cares?
The Flames really needed to win this one after coming out flying with a pair of goals from former World Junior Captain Dillon Dube - including this one where he absolutely blew past Andrej Sekera to tuck it in far side.
Midway through the second frame, the Stars aligned for a pair of their own, just nine seconds apart. Unfortunately for the Dallas faithful, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson connected for the game winning goal just a few minutes later, sealing the win and the early series lead for Calgary.
Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 1 - VGK leads 1-0
After a goalless first period, the Golden Knights took charge in the second frame with Shea Theodore and William Carrier getting their team on the board. Not long after Carrier’s tally, Chicago added a goal of their own, as David Kampf posted his first tally since returning to play.
While the Blackhawks have a storied history of strong playoff performances, they couldn’t fight their way back in this one with Reilly Smith going on a tear in the final period - including this nasty little backhand.
With game one in the books, the Golden Knights will look to build on their solid play from the round robin games and make quick work of the Blackhawks. I’m guessing in five games or less.
Hurricanes @ Bruins, 11:00am EST
The Hurricanes and Bruins kick off their first game many hours after they were supposed to - as the bullies from Columbus and Tampa Bay wouldn’t let them have their turn. In this series, all eyes are on the Hurricanes top line with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen combining for seven goals and eight assists in their three game sweep of the Rangers. On the other side of the ice, Boston’s big bad trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak will hope to put their lacklustre round robin performance behind them and defend their case as one of the best lines in the league. As someone with no horse in any race in these playoffs, I’m really looking forward to this series.
I wouldn’t say the Islanders surprised anyone with their victory in the play-in rounds, but their series win over Florida was definitely not a certainty for this squad. The Capitals, led by The Great Eight, come into this one as the heavy favourites. They have stars with playoff experience on a roster who’s core is primarily in tact from their cup run a few years back. But what do we know that perhaps the Capitals don’t? Never underestimate what Jean-Gabriel Pageau can do in a playoff game.
The dinner entertainment for this evening is brought to you by Taylor Hall’s Coyotes and Nathan MacKinnon’s Avalanche. Coming off a dismantling of the Nashville Predators in the play-in round, the Coyotes will look to build on their success with quite the task in front of them. Sitting just behind Pastrnak, MacKinnon is the second top scoring player from the regular season still left standing while dominant rookie Cale Makar runs an effective power play and transitions the puck with the best of them. Making the Avalanche fall will be difficult for Arizona but, as we’ve learned from many years of the NHL playoffs, anything is possible once you’re in.
Our NHL nightcap sees the Habs face off against the high flying Flyers. After a dominant performance in their round robin games against rosters most would deem superior, the Flyers face off against Montreal at what appears to be the height of their game. Perhaps Sean Couturier and the team love the bubble life? I wouldn’t count the Canadiens out of the conversation here, though, as Carey Price appeared to return to a form we haven’t seen from him in what feels like forever in the play-in rounds. The Habs managed to take down Sidney Crosby’s Penguins to make it here, so they’ll be determined to continue down a deep playoff run on the backs of solid goaltending and a balanced offensive attack.