Will the Hurricanes ever lose again? How many coaches will start their best goalie? Now that all 24 team have taken the ice, the tournament is in full swing and the madness is very real. Let’s review the six games from Monday and preview today’s six-pack.
Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1, CAR leads 2-0
- Carolina struck early in this one courtesy of future star Andrei Svechnikov, and while the Rangers did manage to tie it up shortly thereafter on the powerplay courtesy of Artemi Panarin, it was all Canes for the latter two frames. The Rangers simply could not find a way to shut down Carolina’s big guns in Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho.
- If you like the old timey sports when the hockey men punch each other in the face and get beard residue everywhere then this might be the series for you. I’m not sure that there were five minutes of five-on-five hockey played in the latter two periods. These two teams simply love to violate the rulebook as a means of asserting dominance. Sports!
Lightning 4, Capitals 3, Round Robin
- OVERTIME. After falling in a hole 0-2, the Caps managed to tie this one up dramatically at the end of the second period only to eventually fall to the Lightning in a shootout. This was one the Caps should have had as Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov ran riot in the Lightning end. Full credit should go to Andrei Vasilevskiy who handily out-dueled his counterpart Braden Holtby. The Lightning and the Capitals will both be treats to watch when they next face the Bruins and Flyers, respectively.
Knights 5, Stars 3, Round Robin
- Look if you didn’t stay up for this one, don’t worry too much about it. The most memorable moment came during the anthem when Ryan Reaves took an knee during the US anthem and, rather than leaving him to carry that symbolic burden alone, teammate Robin Lehner and opponents Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson also took a knee. Maybe there was a hockey game after that but seriously, we need to talk about Reaves’ bravery and commend those three other individuals for staying by his side. This is how we start the conversation.
Penguins 3, Canadiens 1, Series tied 1-1
- Matt Murray got some redemption in this one as Montreal largely hung around until the bitter end. Sidney Crosby opened up the scoring early setting the tone for a high-scoring affair and both team exchanged powerplay opportunities through the first two frames as alas both netminders stood tall. Montreal got a solid performance out of Jesperi Kotkaniemi who managed to get the Habs on the board in the late stages but multi-point performances by the Penguins’ Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel ended up making the difference.
Oilers 6, Chicago, 3, Series tied 1-1
- What is goaltending anyway? Even after Chicago tied this one up at 3-3 in the second, Edmonton basically had their way throughout. Both netminders played dreadfully and the difference here was that the Oilers’ big names, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, showed up to play with the rest o of lineup following suit while Chicago didn’t get much production outside of the DeBrincat line. With both teams lacking defensive depth and quality goaltending, and with so many elite shooters on both teams, expect a couple more high-scoring tilts.
- Look I know $70M is a lot of money and everything but the Cats haven’t advanced to the conference semi-finals since Clinton was in office but there’s a big difference between a starter with a save percentage of 90.0 and a back-up with 93.8. Led by known playoff juggernaut, Jean-Gabriel Pageau the Islanders cruised in game one. The two teams stack up pretty evenly in a lot of categories but the Panthers will need contributions from players other than Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to compensate for their questionable goaltending. Also did you know that Joel Quennville and Barry Trotz coach THESE teams. That knowledge will never sink in for me.
- This is the mayhem we live for. Neither team really excels in even strength quality, Nashville does slightly better with quantity, neither team really has a reputation for elite shooting, Arizona has the goaltending that Nashville thinks they have, and Arizona is a disciplined team that can burn you on special teams. While some folks foam at the mouth over Nashville’s defensive depth, don’t sleep on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Oh and both teams have this island-of-misfit-toys thing going on up front. Sign me up for four more games of high-scoring weirdness, please.
Blue Jackets @ Maple Leafs 4PM EST, CBJ leads 1-0
- Funny how you can match up one of the most expensive rosters in the league against one of the least expensive and end up with a simply insufferably boring result. If you love early-2000s hockey minus the hall-of-fame goaltenders and power forwards then this is the series for you. The Budget Special Blue Jackets held their own in game one and I’ll let you in on a little secret: Columbus’ goaltending is really good. Between that and the Jackets’ special teams, Toronto’s firepower alone might not make enough of a difference.
Flames @ Jets 6:45PM EST, series tied 1-1
- With the Jets’ goaltending and special teams, you can’t count them out yet. They have the firepower to match up with the Flames even in the absence of Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine. Even after dropping game two, the Flames know they can get under the skin of the Jets and will continue playing their physical brand of hockey. If only the Jets had the services of a six-foot-five, 200-pound defender slash power-forward. Sigh.
Hurricanes @ Rangers 8PM EST, CAR leads 2-0
- Have the Rags waited too long to sub in one of their young ‘tenders for ol’ Hank? At the other end of the ice, Petr Mrazek hasn’t necessarily had to stand on his head. Given the Canes big advantage in nerd stats heading into this series, New York was going to need to steal a game or two with goaltending and now down two games, it’s probably too late either way. Carolina is just too deep for the top-heavy Rangers to match up against.
- Vancouver will look to bounce back in a big way after an opening match-up against Minnesota in which the Wild established their game early on and never really abated. With the exception of Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, none of the Canucks looked especially threatening while the Wild got admirable performances from a lot of different players. If Vancouver wants to look for edge they can work with, the Wild didn’t manage to beat Jacob Markstrom at even strength and goaltending is, after all, the great equalizer.