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RTP Daily, August 30: The ‘return’ to return-to-play

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The NHL returned to the second-round of the playoffs on Saturday after the players withheld playing on Thursday and Friday in solidarity with athletes across other sports regarding racial injustice and police brutality.

Vegas Golden Knights v Vancouver Canucks - Game Three Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Saturday’s return-to-play was filled with references to the conversations players have had with their teams and each other over the previous 48 hours. There was a noticeable presence of ‘non-hockey talk’ in the pre-game interviews; summaries of which you can see here from NHL.com’s Wes Crosby:

“I think for us, the decision to postpone our games and sit out (Thursday and Friday) was viewed as an opportunity to highlight a bigger issue than hockey,” Shattenkirk said. “We wanted to make sure that every Black player in this league can feel safe and can feel like they have a voice. We want to make sure we continue this conversation moving forward, and make sure we keep the sport progressing in the right way as well.”
[...]

“It was amazing to see everyone coming together and realizing this is bigger than sports,” Bergeron said. “It’s about human rights. It’s about supporting our Black players, being there for them and realizing there needs to be change. We want to be a part of that change going forward. So this is just the beginning. Obviously, we know that there needs to be reflection and discussions, and conversations, but there also needs to be actions. We want to be there for that.”
[...]

“We’re not being political,” Marchand said Friday. “That’s not the goal, and that’s not what we’re here for. There needs to be changes made throughout society. It’s bigger than hockey right now. It’s bigger than sports. It’s about people being equal and being the same and being treated the same.”

There was also a pre-game video:

If you haven’t checked it out already, Beata’s Saturday LNN has a lot more on this topic that’s well worth the read as you engage with your own thoughts and feelings about your hockey fandom and the bigger issues facing society-at-large.

Saturday’s Games:

Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Boston Bruins 1, TBL leads series 3-1

  • It really seems as though the Boston Bruins are built to play teams even for ~40 minutes of action, and either win the game when the Marchand — Bergeron — Pastrnak line is on the ice, or through special teams. It’s a strategy that has admirably got them pretty far, and isn’t too different than the Sens when the Pizza line was going in the mid-00s. That strategy is showing its flaws against the Tampa Bay Lightning’s depth, though. Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman aren’t your average bottom-six players, and can often push the play in Tampa’s favour to allow Kucherov — Point — Palat to take advantage of a worn-down Bruins corps. To me, that was part of the story in Game 4. I, among others, was critical of Tampa GM Julien BriseBois when he gave up a pair of first-rounders for Goodrow and Coleman, but if it helps win him a Cup, you’d bet that any criticism will fall by the wayside.
  • Palat scored two goals, Kucherov had two assists, and the Bruins were on the bad end of a couple of bounces that represent enough of a margin at this level of play to sink the chances they had.

Philadelphia Flyers 1, New York Islanders 3, NYI leads series 2-1

  • A game with an even first-period, a dominant second for the Islanders, and a Philadelphia surge in the third — the win came down to who got the breaks and which goaltender made the key saves. Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves — including 12 in the third — while the Islanders made the most of their second-period pressure to get two goals from Matt Martin and Leo Komarov to put this game away.
  • An Anders Lee powerplay marker early on in the third-period sunk the Flyers, with Carter Hart not playing poorly, but letting in the extra tally that was enough to put the game in Barry Trotz’s favour.
  • While Philadelphia won the score-adjusted shot metrics battle, especially with the Sanheim — Myers pair was on the ice, the shot locations tell a different story. It was way too easy for the Islanders to get shots in tight on Hart, and while the Flyers had a respectable amount from the middle as well, you could see how Trotz’s defence forced a lot of low-to-high plays that resulted in point shots that could either be blocked, or steered away by Varlamov.
  • Jean-Gabriel Pageau played 17 minutes and was a +2. He was lined up alongside ex-Sens forward Derick Brassard and Leo Komarov. That line broke the tie to make it 2-1 in the second, with Brassard assisting on Komarov’s first of the playoffs.

Vegas Golden Knights 3, Vancouver Canucks 0, VGK leads series 2-1

  • Vancouver probably deserved better after an even and fast first-period where they traded powerplays and chances with the Golden Knights. Hockey, as we know, isn’t fair. Alex Tuch’s seventh (!) of the playoffs, followed by a Zach Whitecloud tally ninety seconds later was all Robin Lehner needed to carry this one home.
  • Vegas’ forecheck, and the job of Alec Martinez and Shea Theodore on Elias Pettersson was a treat to watch. The young star had a 43% CF%, and part of the reason was just how much Vegas disrupted the puck-moving of Vancouver’s defence in transition.
  • Lehner has two shutouts since The Tweet from Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent, Alan Walsh, and probably should’ve won the only game the Canucks won given how much the Golden Knights pushed the pace of play in that contest. He has a 0.908 save-percentage in this year’s playoffs.

Sunday’s Games:

Colorado Avalanche @ Dallas Stars, 6:00pm ET, DAL Leads Series 2-1

Philadelphia Flyers @ New York Islanders, 8:00pm ET, NYI Leads Series 2-1

Vegas Golden Knights @ Vancouver Canucks, 10:30pm ET, VGK Leads Series 2-1