Yesterday’s dose of NHL playoff action was ripe with standout goaltending performances and clutch goal scoring, along with a good mix of stingy defence and high-octane offence. Add in a complimentary yoga lesson courtesy of Tyler Seguin, and you’ve got an entertaining day of hockey!
If the NHL’s lengthy pause has been to the benefit of anyone, it has to be the New York Islanders. They simply couldn’t win hockey games down the stretch, and now here they are in the first round with a stranglehold on the Washington Capitals. They only got two pucks by a determined Braden Holtby, who turned away 32 in the process, but thanks to the rest of the Caps’ roster generating a measly 23 shots on Semyon Varlamov, that’s all they needed. The Islanders were especially dominant from the back half of the third period onwards, until Mat Barzal finally won it 4:28 into overtime.
After a rather disappointing regular season, Joe Pavelski came through for the Dallas Stars with his first career playoff hat-trick. The heart-and-soul of the San Jose Sharks (he still is, just look at that team without him) forced overtime with his third goal of the game, with just twelve seconds remaining in regulation. Huge props to Tyler Seguin for successfully keeping this play onside:
by popular request, here is tyler seguin doing acrobatics to stay onside pic.twitter.com/AEHMkntXj0— scrappy kappy (@marnylandersen) August 16, 2020
The Stars’ offence was ballistic in this game, outshooting Calgary 62-40, and their final attempt resulted in the OT winner at the 16:05 mark courtesy of John Klingberg. The series is tied once again, with momentum swinging back in Dallas’ favour. As for the Flames, Sam Bennett has come alive in these playoffs; he’s now tallied seven points in eight games since the restart. Both he and Pavelski are sources of secondary scoring who’ll be relied on by their respective teams to help take a crucial Game 5.
Blackhawks 3, Golden Knights 1, VGK leads 3-1
The Golden Knights continued to steamroll the Blackhawks on the shot clock, but thanks to a 46-save performance by Corey Crawford, Chicago’s hopes for another Stanley Cup are still alive. Goals from Drake Caggiula and Matthew Highmore were enough to grab the victory, with Alex DeBrincat icing it late with an empty-netter. Shea Theodore scored the lone goal for Vegas, with Robin Lehner stopping 23 of 25 shots; a solid outing in his own right. Something tells me Crawford won’t be able to bail out his team in this fashion a second time, so Chicago will need to drastically increase their offensive zone time if they want to extend the series even further.
Sturdy defence and goaltending was the story in this game, as a lucky bounce off of Jakub Voracek was the only goal scored. Carter Hart bounced back from his rough outing in Game 2, stopping 23 shots for his first career playoff shutout, while Carey Price continued his renaissance by stopping 19 of 20. Both goalies were provided with ample support; The Habs moved the puck efficiently while the Flyers bore down and didn’t give the opposition much to work with. I’m impressed with the Canadiens’ ability to keep up with a powerhouse like the Flyers, Jesperi Kotkaniemi in particular was noticeable; he looks like an NHL player. What really caught my eye however, was Philadelphia’s sluggish power play. They make the Ottawa Senators’ unit look lethal!
I know you’re not expected to play back-to-backs in the playoffs, but Jake Allen proved in this game why it’s important to have two capable goaltenders on your roster. Having a safety net in case your #1 option struggles out of the gate is invaluable, and it made the difference for the Blues, who cut the Canucks’ series lead in half thanks to Brayden Schenn’s tally at the 15:06 mark in overtime. Furthermore, the Blues secured their first victory since the NHL’s return. The Canucks are a dangerous team anchored by a dynamic young core and plenty of experience up and down their lineup, but the Blues took it to them in Game 3, generating 67.58% of the 5v5 expected goals. They’re the defending champs for a reason.