Around the NHL: Recapping the first round of the playoffs
9 months ago
Round one is done. Let’s take a look at each series.
Interestingly, the last time that a team that is currently still in the playoffs won a Stanley Cup was in 2006, when the Carolina Hurricanes beat… yeah. Could we potentially get a rematch? Perhaps, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers will meet in the finals, giving the NHL its first Canadian Stanley Cup winner since 1993.
The Edmonton Oilers beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-2:
The pivotal moment of this series was after the first period of Game 3. The Kings held a 3-0 lead going into intermission, as well as a 2-1 series lead. Had they held on to this lead, the Oilers would have been down 3-1, with a game remaining in Los Angeles.
However, three second-period goals tied the game heading into the third. While the Kings restored the lead, Evander Kane scored with about three minutes left in the game to send it to overtime. Zach Hyman sealed the win, Oilers dominated Game 5, and got a late winner in Game 6 from Kailer Yamamoto to seal the series.
It was a hard-hitting affair with huge comebacks and highlight goals. In the end, the good guys prevailed.
Next up for the Oilers is…
The Vegas Golden Knights beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1:
The games were close, but eventually, Sin City was able to breeze past the airportless Jets.
So what does this mean for the Oilers? Had the Jets won, Edmonton would have had a chance to redeem their awful 2021 playoff series. However, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is one of the best in the business, and he could really steal a series.
Instead, the Oilers will face the Knights and former Oiler, Laurent Brossoit. The backup goaltender only played 11 games with the Knights in 2022-23, owning a .927 save percentage and a 2.17 goals-against average. Solid numbers, but a rather small sample size.
In fact, his playoff numbers, while still good, have declined quite a bit. He’s played all five of Vegas’ games, owning a .915 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against average. Don’t forget, this is against the Jets who don’t have a Connor McDavid or a Leon Draisaitl.
Captain Mark Stone made a miraculous comeback to be ready for the playoffs (definitely not cap circumvention), and is tied for the lead in points with Chandler Stephenson.
To me, it feels like the Kings were the big test for the Oilers until the Conference Finals. Obviously, the Knights are no pushovers, but Edmonton had a 3-0-1 record against the Knights in the regular season. It may be close, and this may be some bias, but I see Edmonton winning this series, akin to the Calgary Flames series in 2022.
Game 1 will take place on Wednesday at 7:30 PM MT in Las Vegas.
The Seattle Kraken beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3:
I’ve complained about it before in these articles, and I’ll do it again. Why couldn’t the Avalanche play like this against the Oilers last season?
The Kraken don’t have a star on the team, but they sure have plenty of guys that can get on the scoreboard. Yanni Gourde leads the team with six points (one goal, five assists), while former Oiler Justin Schultz trails him with five points.
Former Oiler Jordan Eberle also scored a crucial overtime goal in Game 4, which tied the series and gave the Kraken their first-ever playoff win at home.
As for the Oiler former Oiler, Adam Larsson, he added two helpers during the series.
The Kraken will face the…
The Dallas Stars beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2:
Every result that Dallas had, so did Edmonton. So would you be surprised I was seriously considering putting my life savings on Edmonton winning Game 6 after the Stars knocked off the Minnesota Wild the night before?
Roope Hintz is currently the playoff leader in points with 12, ahead of Matthew Tkachuk, Draisaitl, and Mitch Marner’s 11 points.
Furthermore, goaltender Jake Oettinger has been a wall between the pipes, owning a .929 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average, ranking third in the playoffs.
I’ve said it before, but I think the Western Conference finals will be between the Dallas Stars and the Edmonton Oilers. Obviously, Edmonton will need to get by Vegas, while Dallas will need to get by Seattle, but it just seems like it’ll be the case. I won’t be upset if Seattle pulls off the upset though.
Game 1 between the Kraken and the Stars will take place on Tuesday at 7:30 PM MT.
The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2:
I felt physical pain when the puck slowly rolled by Andrei Vasilevskiy to send Toronto to their first Semi-Final since 2004.
In all honesty, Tampa Bay really should have won that series, as they choked away a lead late in Game 3, as well as a 4-1 lead with about 10 minutes to go in Game 4.
Not only does the longest-running joke in hockey end after 19 years, but the team that Toronto plays next should be a fairly easy matchup for the only other Canadian team still in the playoffs.
A few days later, and I’m still devastated that Toronto won.
The Florida Panthers beat the Boston Bruins 4-3:
You had a 3-1 lead against the team with the least number of points in the playoffs, Boston. This may be the beginning of the end for a team that has been a perennial contender for a decade.
They won a Stanley Cup, and made an additional two Stanley Cup Finals, but the team is getting old, and the cupboards are barren.
As for Florida, they’ll be in tough against the Maple Leafs. I said that “they’ll be lucky to get a win against Boston”, but it really feels like they don’t have a chance against Toronto. Hopefully, they’ll knock them out, but don’t hold your breath.
Game 1 will take place at 5:00 PM MT on Tuesday.
The Carolina Hurricanes beat the New York Islanders 4-2:
I didn’t watch a second of this series, but Carolina managed to win the series in pretty quick fashion.
Sebastian Aho leads the team with four goals and three points in those six games, but out of the remaining teams, they have the least number of goals. One bright spot for the team in their boring brand of hockey is that they have the best penalty kill in the playoffs at 94.4%.
Their opponent, the New Jersey Devils, have the second lowest powerplay percentage of any team remaining with a 16.7% clip.
Furthermore, the Devils have the second-least goals of any team remaining with 17. This will probably be another snooze fest.
The New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers 4-3:
What a barn burner this series was. New York took the 2-0 series lead after beating New Jersey twice in the Devils back yard, before New Jersey won the next three. The Rangers came in clutch and won Game 6, setting up a Game 7 between the geographical rivals.
However, they were badly outplayed in the last game of round one, losing 4-0 to the Devils. There was one notable event that occurred in Game 7, as Jacob Trouba caught Timo Meier with a pretty dirty hit on open ice.
At some point, “clean” hits that make contact with the head have to be outlawed. CTE doesn’t care if you connect with the shoulder first.
Either way, hopefully the Carolina vs New Jersey series won’t be the snooze fest it’s expected to be.
Game 1 will take place at 5:00 PM MT on Wedmesday.
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