At the outset of this year’s post-season, there seemed to be a general consensus among fans and analysts that there was a lot to look forward to: the vagaries of the NHL’s seeding format had created some of the best first round match-ups in recent memory. So far, the competition has delivered, and then some. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been enjoying the hockey on display about as much as I could considering the absence of the Ottawa Senators.
In last night’s games, the New York Rangers, the Florida Panthers, and the Dallas Stars were all able to level their series at one game apiece. The only team to extend their lead in the series was the Colorado Avalanche who are now up two games to none on the thoroughly overmatched Nashville Predators. Yes it took overtime for the Avs to prevails 2-1, but the shots were 51-26 (!) and only an incredible display from Preds’ goalie Connor Ingram kept it close in any way, shape, or form. If there was one virtual certainty in the first round, it was that Colorado would advance and that appears to be the case barring a total collapse. Meanwhile, almost all of the rest of the first round matchups are intriguing affairs. It’s all you could hope for, frankly.
Carolina Hurricanes @ Boston Bruins, CAR Leads 2-0, 7ET
When I wrote that almost all of the other first round matchups were intriguing affairs, I had this one in mind as an exception. Sure the Bruins are back at home and could yet climb back into it, successive 5-1 and 5-2 defeats have them looking as vulnerable as I can remember at any time during the Bergeron/Marchand era. Coach Bruce Cassidy seems to have elected to re-unite the Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak line in an attempt to get any kind of offense going. It might all be for naught however: the Canes are a well-oiled machine, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they make quick work of the B’s in the next two or three games. Tonight will tell us if we have much of a series left at all.
Toronto Maple Leafs @ Tampa Bay Lightning, Series Tied 1-1, 730ET
How quickly things change in the NHL play-offs! After the Leafs thoroughly dismantled the Lightning with a 5-0 victory in game, Tampa responded in kind with a 5-3 victory in game two that was not even as close as the score line might indicate. And with the series shifting back to Florida, this is now a best-of-five series wherein the Bolts will have home ice advantage. Jason Spezza will suit up for Toronto after being a healthy scratch for the first two games. Both goalies have been subpar at best and the offense has flowed freely; if nothing else, expect a lot of goals again tonight.
Minnesota Wild @ St. Louis Blues, Series Tied 1-1, 930 ET
In the initial open thread, I suggested that this series had the potential to be one of the best in the first round and while the 6-2 and 4-0 score lines suggest imbalanced games, the tension between the two teams is already running high. The Blues were none too pleased about Jared Spurgeon’s cross-check on Pavel Buchnevich in game one, but so far there hasn’t been a lot of extra curricular silliness. Stay tuned.
Edmonton Oilers @ Los Angeles Kings, Series Tied 1-1, 10 ET
Speaking of tension running high, the animosity between the Oilers and the Kings has apparently spilled over to the arena staff. Personally I think this kind of gamesmanship is all in good fun but I can imagine some of the Oilers’ players were pretty unhappy!
Arena staff won't give the Oilers the nets or turn the lights on. pic.twitter.com/61xiMpYBRG— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) May 6, 2022
Meanwhile, the key to actually beating the Oilers, as ever, will be to stay out of the penalty box. Edmonton struck twice with the man advantage in their 6-0, Game 2 victory and were converting on nearly 30% of their chances in the regular season. Let’s just say Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl don’t need any more time and space than is strictly necessary!