The playoffs always usually drag some unlikely heroes into the spotlight. People you wouldn’t normally think would be gamechangers become almost god-like. Last night was no exception.
Forget everything you thought was going to happen in round one, because it doesn’t matter any more.
Well, except for Anaheim.
Boston Bruins 3 – 4 Ottawa Senators (1 – 1)
Unlikely hero: Dion Phaneuf(?)
This was a complete reversal of game one. After a quiet first period, the Bruins got themselves a lead in the second, promptly fell asleep in the third, and lost in overtime.
Losing Adam McQuaid in the first, the Bruins took the lead through Drew Stafford at 29:47, although the lead would last little more than a minute, with Clarke MacArthur scoring his first goal in two years to tie things up.
They would reclaim the advantage just two minutes later though, Craig Anderson being caught with the puck by the side boards on a power play, with Tim Schaller the grateful recipient, scoring shorthanded. Patrice Bergeron followed this up with a power play goal to send the Bruins in 3-1 at the end of two.
And lo, like the Sens did in game one, the Bruins forgot they were in a game and were made to pay. Chris Wideman and Derick Brassard scored within 2:20 of each other to tie the game, before Phaneuf scored at the end of a power play in overtime to tie the series ahead of the trip to Boston.
Toronto Maple Leafs 4 – 3 Washington Capitals (1 – 1)
Unlikely hero: Kasperi Kapanen
It took almost 92 minutes to separate two teams who are really very good at hockey, and in the end, it was the 20 year old with only 19 NHL games to his name who came up trumps.
As in game one, the Leafs took the lead, James Van Riemsdyk scoring at 17:34. That would be reversed in the second, with power play goals from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson putting the Caps in front by the 32nd minute. That lead would only last four minutes, though, as Kapanen, then Morgan Rielly on the power play, would restore the Leafs’ lead by the end of the second.
Nicklas Backstrom levelled the game in the third after Freddie Andersen left a wide open gap at his right hand post, and the game finished like that.
A period and a half of overtime couldn’t separate the sides, but Kapanen would get the clincher, putting away a beautiful backhand pass from Brian Boyle from behind the net, and tie the series.
Both goalies made 47 saves, and neither side deserved to lose. A great game.
Nashville Predators 5 – 0 Chicago Blackhawks (NSH leads 2 – 0)
Unlikely hero: the Nashville Predators
Now, it may seem odd that an entire team is an unsung hero, but who had the Preds 2-0 up heading home having kept the Blackhawks shut out for 120 minutes?
Goals from Ryan Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala eased the Preds to their second win, but the story here is how bad Chicago looks.
Pekka Rinne made 30 saves, but the Hawks never looked like breaking the duck. The Preds were in control, and honestly looked like they had another gear if they needed it. Rinne even had two assists on the night.
Joel Quenneville has some work on his hands, because there’ll be no easy fix to this.
Calgary Flames 2 – 3 Anaheim Ducks (ANA leads 2 – 0)
Unlikely hero: Lance Bouma
How’s Lance Bouma the unsung hero in a game the Ducks won?
Six ducks goals
own team shield
one elliott should have had
wraparound all alone
— Liam (@LiamIsNotDead) April 16, 2017
That last goal, credited to Ryan Getzlaf, deflected in off Bouma in the far slot as he was trying to cut a passing lane. He was trying to do the right thing, and it was really unlucky, but that was the sort of night the Flames had.
Truth be told, they can only blame themselves. They put themselves in another hole by going two goals down in the opening seven minutes – Jakob Silfverberg scored from the boards on a chance Brian Elliott really should have had, and Rickard Rakell scored a wraparound while being left completely alone behind the net. The Ducks had all of the first, and should have been further ahead when Mikael Backlund was sprung by Michael Frolik and the Swede scored on a shorthanded breakaway just before the end of the period.
That woke the Flames up, and as on Thursday, they had a great second period they should have made more of. Sean Monahan scored on the power play from a brilliantly-worked move involving TJ Brodie, Kris Versteeg and Johnny Gaudreau at 27:01, and they should maybe have been ahead after a combined effort of Sam Bennett and Alex Chiasson forced the puck home, but the play was ruled as goaltender interference and Glen Gulutzan declined the challenge.
The second ended with a bit of pugilism, with Sam Bennett and Ryan Kesler wrestling in the slot, Chiasson and Hampus Lindholm having a shoving match over held sticks in the faceoff circle, and Micheal Ferland and Kevin Bieksa getting reacquainted with each other and getting five minutes each for their troubles.
Again as in game one, penalty trouble would do in the Flames. Corey Perry skated directly into Dougie Hamilton, who responded by grabbing Perry’s stick and getting two minutes for it, and that’s when Getzlaf would score the winner. Then, as the Flames needed to chase the game, Brodie took a daft cross-checking call and that was game.
Some of the calls on the Flames are soft and silly, but they need to stop putting themselves in the position to be penalised if they are to turn this around.
Ties start heading to the road team’s arenas tonight, with game threes getting underway.
Wild @ Blues (STL leads 2 – 0)
Faceoff: 3e/12p/8 BST
TV: NBC, Sportsnet, TVAS, Premier Sports
Two one-goal games have the Blues up 2-0 and a chance to end the series in four – if they can sweep the Wild at home.
Nothing new to report on the injury front for either team, but the Wild may do some line mashing to get things going a bit.
What the Wild need to do: Beat Jake Allen. They’re getting plenty of looks, they just can’t put the puck in
What the Blues need to do: More of the same. Maybe ease the pressure on Allen a little.
Reason to watch: It’s an early game and, with the bank holiday in the UK, it’s not a school night.
Penguins @ Blue Jackets (PIT leads 2 – 0)
TV: CNBC, Sportsnet 360, TVAS2, Fox Sports Ohio, Root Sports
This all got a little bit silly towards the end of game two, didn’t it? The game was gone and the Jackets went full Torts. Not ideal if you want to progress into round two.
The Jackets will be missing Matt Calvert, who received a one-game ban for cross-checking Tom Kuhnhackl’s neck and headshotting him to the ice. One game.
The Pens have no new injury concerns. Chris Kunitz practised by himself on Saturday, but the game may come too soon for him. Please don’t put Tom Sestito in for some kind of vengeance.
What the Pens need to do: More of the same. They’ve got this.
What the Jackets need to do: Shut up shop and try playing hockey.
Reason to watch: The Pens are going pretty well, and the Jackets struggled in the Paint Shop. Could be a different ball game in Ohio.
Canadiens @ Rangers (Series tied 1 – 1)
Faceoff: 7e/4p/Midnight BST
TV: NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVAS, MSG, Premier Sports
We’ve seen Jekyll and Hyde from the Habs. They couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo in game one, and at times looked killer in game two. They’ll need to show their good side and hope they can catch the Rangers cold.
The Rangers have been relying heavily on Henrik Lundqvist, but have also looked pretty good going forwards too. This is gonna be good.
Nothing on the injury front to report from either camp.
What the Habs need to do: Keep working Henrik.
What the Rangers need to do: Tighten their own end up.
Reason to watch: I can’t leave Paul Byron behind.
Oilers @ Sharks (Series tied 1 – 1)
TV: NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVAS, NBCS CA
A tale of two very different games. The Sharks made the comeback win in game one against a naive Oilers outfit, while in game two, the Oilers dominated but only scored on the penalty kill. Lord knows what’s going to happen as this tie heads to San Jose.
The Oilers could be without Oscar Klefbom, who missed the third period of game two and Saturday’s practice after blocking a shot with his inner thigh, although Todd McLellan expects him to be in.
The Sharks are still waiting for Joe Thornton to be ready to go, and he is listed as a game-time decision.
What the Oilers need to do: Stop taking penalties. Or, alternatively, take more and score more shorthanded. Dealer’s choice.
What the Sharks need to: Try to generate more than 16 shots against an overworked goalie and a poor defence.
Reason to watch: Insomnia. Neither game has been great thus far, so you either have to be emotionally attached or unable to sleep for this one.
Now we’re two games in, we can start to look at the stat charts and see who’s leading the charge. I’ll do this after every round of games is complete, rather than on a nightly basis.
Nine players find themselves on two goals: Joel Edmundson, Ryan Getzlaf, Michael Grabner, Kasperi Kapanen, Sean Monahan, Zach Parise, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg and Justin Williams. Edmundsen, along with Tanner Glass, have shot percentages of 100% thus far.
Ryan Johansen and Shea Theodore have three assists each, while Getzlaf and Johansen lead on four points.
Ryan Hartman of the Blackhawks has 14 PIM, which is impressive in two games.
Pekka Rinne‘s two shutouts see him lead the league with a save percentage of 100. Of those who’ve conceded, Jake Allen‘s 97.4 and Marc-Andre Fleury‘s 97.2 are mighty impressive.
As for fancystats (via corsica.hockey), with a minimum of ten minutes per game played, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter (69.66) have the best unadjusted 5v5 CF% and FF% (70.83 and 74.19 for Koivu, 69.66 and 71.43 for Suter), but when score, venue and zone adjusted, Oscar Lindberg (72.69) is the best CF% forward, Brendan Smith (65.95) is the best CF% defender, Koivu is the best FF% forward (73.1) while Justin Schultz (69.81) is the best FF% D.
Minnesota (61.62, 61.64) is the best CF and FF team, with St Louis their polar opposite (38.38, 38.36). Adjusted, this remains the same, but the numbers read 56.95 and 57.76 to the Wild.
Almost like the Blues are sneaking goals and being swamped…