There’s nothing quite like the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Constant hockey, with games staggered so you can switch between them and never have to watch an intermission panel. Upsets, injuries, and drama of all kinds. It’s pure chaos, and almost too much to keep up with.
Last night saw each series switch locations so the lower-seeded teams got a chance to host. At TD Garden, Boston avoided a 3-0 series deficit with a decisive 4-2 victory over Carolina that was mostly powered by special teams. In Tampa Bay, Toronto took a 3-0 lead in the second and did exactly what was expected of them - which is to say, they gave up the next two goals - before some late-game heroics from Jack Campbell and a couple of empty net goals helped them hold on to the lead. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do that before. Toronto now leads that series 2-1.
In the Western conference, Minnesota put together another strong performance against St. Louis, winning 5-1 and taking the lead in the series. And while the Oilers may be little more than a couple of star forwards and exactly 1 NHL-caliber defenseman held together with scotch tape, that seems to be working for them now, as they blew out the Kings for the second game in a row en route to a 2-1 series lead.
Today is the first weekend of the playoffs, which means we get our first afternoon games. Only one game happening at a time, unless we get some overtimes. Should be fun!
Game 3: Florida Panthers @ Washington Capitals, 1:00 PM ET (Tied 1-1)
By all accounts, Florida should win this series, but the Capitals are proving to be a tougher out than some might have expected. The Panthers won game 2 decisively, and in the manner we expect from the Panthers - which is to say, by scoring so many goals their opponent had no chance to catch up. They’ll look to take the lead in the series this afternoon, and prove to the hockey world that they do in fact have what it takes to win a series.
Game 3: Colorado Avalanche @ Nashville Predators, 4:30 PM ET (COL Leads 2-0)
This is the most lopsided matchup of the first round, and sure enough, it’s the only one that still has a chance of ending in a sweep. Colorado did what everyone expected of them in game 1 by absolutely steamrolling Nashville, but the Predators put together a plucky effort in game 2, taking it to overtime before Cale Makar simply decided it was time for the game to end. It would be hilarious if Nashville won even a single game in this series. Can they Sens ‘em?
Game 3: New York Rangers @ Pittsburgh Penguins, 7:00 PM ET (Tied 1-1)
The Rangers and Penguins might be the most entertaining series of the first round so far. It’s also looking like the most likely to turn into the type of series where the two teams beat each other up so much that whoever wins will have nothing left in the tank for the next round. It’s still early, though. Pittsburgh took the first game in a lengthy overtime, and the Rangers bounced back with a much more decisive victory in game 2.
Game 3: Calgary Flames @ Dallas Stars, 9:30 PM ET (Tied 1-1)
The Flames are heavy favourites to make it out of the Pacific, and every casual hockey fan has to be rooting for a Battle of Alberta in round 2. However, alarm bells are starting to ring in Calgary after the Flames were shut out in game 2 and held to only one goal in their game 1 victory. Their lethal top line simply hasn’t looked as scary as it did in the regular season, and the secondary scoring hasn’t stepped up either. The Stars, while deeply weird and not exactly Cup favourites, are certainly capable of taking advantage of another team’s collapse.