There were two Game 7 overtime thrillers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. To help digest what we saw from each of the eight remaining teams, we are here to serve up our top picks for each remaining club. More about the full playoff schedule.
Offseason keys for eliminated teams
There were two Game 7 overtime thrillers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
To help digest what we saw from each of the eight remaining teams, we are here to serve up our top picks for each remaining club.
More about the full playoff schedule.
Offseason keys for eliminated teams
The Presidents Trophy winners did not dominate the eighth-seed Washington Capitals in their first-round victory.
The Cardiac Cats looked like they were on life support.
Down 2-0 in the game. The lead was blown in Game 6. There were some issues along the way to Florida's first playoff series win since 1996.
Florida did get there. It's not just because of top-end talents like Jonathan Huberdeau or Sam Reinhart. It was more the work of Carter Verhaeghe and Claude Giroux, who both had three goals and seven points.
A meeting with the reigning Stanley Cup champion Lightning is the reward for the hard work of the panthers. Is there any recent bad blood there? You bet. The Florida panthers fell in the first round of the playoffs last season after being sent packing by the Tampa Bay bay.
To avoid another letdown, and prevent a three-peat, the panthers have to get to the bottom of what went wrong against Washington.
The Florida led the NHL in wins when trailing after two periods. The inflated sense of ability to overcome any obstacle may have given the panthers an inflated sense of being able to bite them.
Florida averaged a league-high 4.11 goals-per-game in the regular season but only 3.33 goals per game in the playoffs. In the regular season, Florida allowed fewer than three goals against per game.
Bobrovsky will have to beat Vasilevskiy at the other end to win the game. The bonus for Florida is that while it sent Washington home in six, the other team battled with Toronto in Game 7. The Lightning will enter the second round with less rest than their in-state rivals, something that the panthers should exploit immediately.
The bottom line is that it is important that it is key on the team defense. Someone is going to light the lamp with a depth of talent like Florida. The type of tight-checking defensive effort that the Buccaneers can bring is something the Carolinas have to balance.
That has been a weakness for Florida, but it could be the difference between a conference finals berth and a locker clean-out.
What did we learn from the first-round victory over Toronto?
They haven't satisfied themselves with back-to-back Stanley Cup wins. The Lightning are hungry for more.
We learned from the rest of the field that it will be hard for the defending champ to get there.
Toronto pushed the other way. Out of those games, the Lightning averaged more goals against than they did. Vasilevskiy was not outstanding. The power play was middle-of-the-pack. They did not dominate in the faceoff dot.
None of that mattered in the end. The Game 7 was very competitive. The players put their bodies on the line to keep the pucks out. Nick Paul had a two-goal game. The switch was flipped to full-throttle Beast Mode. That is what the Lightning can do. They get you with a left hook when you think they are tired and outmatched. The lights are out.
Where will they go next? The regular-season series between Florida and Tampa Bay was 2-2. Both teams have high-end scorers. Both teams have great goalies. How did we get to this point without mentioning Victor Hedman, the best player in the first round?
The edge of the bay is in its resolve. The past two years it has played more hockey than anyone else. If it has slowed the team down physically, it has not had an effect on their mental state. The mountain is difficult to climb. They have made it past base camp. The opportunity is historic. It will be a strength to lean on against the big, bad Cats, because they have embraced the necessary sacrifice to reach their goals before.
There are no numbers or statistics to measure all that. It is just a belief that teams like Tampa Bay have. You have to earn it before you can qualify.
Nick Paul gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead with his stick work.
The Carolina Hurricanes series against the Boston Bruins reminded us that home ice still matters.
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The Hurricanes looked different in Raleigh. In their four home wins, they averaged 4.50 goals scored and 1.50 goals allowed. They averaged 2.10 goals per game in Boston. The Hurricanes were the best defensive team at home in the regular season.
In the win over the Bruins, Rod Brind'Amour was able to get his top line with Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal away from their Bruins line and into his checking line with Jordan Staal. Staal's 5-on-5 ice time against Bergeron varied from venue to venue.
Game 1 (CAR): 9:19 Game 2 (CAR): 7:21 Game 3 (BOS): 1:42 Game 4 (BOS): 1:45 Game 5 (CAR): 9:21 Game 6 (BOS): 3:13
Game 7 (CAR): 9:34
If he was playing Staal, he was not playing Aho. In Boston and Raleigh, Aho had no points in three and four games, respectively. With the Hurricanes having home-ice advantage in the second round, one imagines we'll see more of the same from BrindAmour: Deploying his great checking line and his dynamic top scoring line efficiently and effectively.
The New York Rangers goalie had yet to prove his worth in the playoffs. In the qualification round of the 2020 Toronto playoffs, the Vezina Trophy winner gave up three goals in a loss to the Hurricanes.
Did he prove it against the other team? He did when it mattered the most.
It was not a good series for Shesterkin. He played to a below replacement level in three games against Pittsburgh. His 78 saves in the triple-overtime loss and his 42 saves in the overtime win were two of the best of the series.
The Rangers effort in front of him led to some of his rockier nights. His 3.66 goals-against average is the highest for any goalie that played at least six games in the first round, but his.911 save percentage is the third best. The team was called out by their coach for being soft in front of their goalie, and gradually they got the message.
If the Rangers were looking for proof of concept on Shesterkin, they found it in that Game 7. The series-winning goal was scored by Artemi Panarin. Mika had a big night. As the Rangers goalie made save after save, the Garden crowd chanted "Igor!"
Jacob Trouba said that he is Mr. Reliable back there.
It is almost impossible to remember how Colorado swept Nashville in the first round. Juuse Saros was the best player in the Nashville Predators and they were without him. Colorado scored seven goals in four games. MacKinnon had five goals. Cale Makar scored 10 points.
Nashville's goalie never stood a chance.
Even though the Avs lost their starting goalie, Darcy Kuemper, to an eye injury in the first game of the series, no one missed a beat. Even if it did show exactly what makes Colorado so dangerous, it was not a fair fight.
Pick winners throughout the playoffs for a chance at thousands of dollars. Pick your favorites.
The second-round game against St. Louis is so delicious. Colorado is doing well. In the final three games of their first-round win over Minnesota, the Blues are thriving. This is the reason we love hockey.
Colorado and St. Louis have not played since May 12. There was plenty of time for preparation.
The Blues have a deep team with hard-earned confidence and a goalie in Jordan Binnington who has ice in his veins. This isn't the same as a plucky team just trying to stay competitive.
The Avs have to not underestimate the Blues or overestimate their own abilities. St. Louis shut down the Wild's offensive depth and frustrated both the goalies with strong forechecking and a good cycle game. They will bring that recipe to Colorado.
In the playoffs, the Avalanche haven't been challenged much. St. Louis will change that.
MacKinnon scored an empty-netter to seal the four-game sweep.
The Blues are full of surprises.
In the first-round series against Minnesota, David Perron had five goals and nine points. It was eye-catching.
When the Blues trailed their best-of-seven series 2-1, Ville Husso was stumbling to open the door for a Jordan Binnington resurgence? It was unexpected.
If St. Louis didn't start the playoffs with a lot of confidence, it's rolling now.
Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko have five goals each. The defensive play has improved greatly in the final three games of the first-round series.
We have already covered the goaltending. St. Louis shut the door on Minnesota with a combined score of 15-5. The team clicked in the same way the Blues did during their Stanley Cup run.
The next challenge will be getting through a second-round meeting with the powerful Colorado team, who just happen to be back at full strength.
After missing the end of Colorado's first-round sweep over Nashville, Darcy Kuemper will be back for Game 1 against St. Louis. He had a sensational regular season, and was on point again until early in the Nashville series when he was hit in the eye with a stick.
The presence of Kuemper helps set up the situation in the crease. The Blues will be determined by how well they can fight. The depth of scoring has been impressive throughout the season, but began to shine late in the first round. It will take more than one player to challenge Kuemper and the talented defense that boasts a walking highlight reel, as well as a deep offensive group that is equally capable of scoring in bunches.
St. Louis will have to go toe-to-toe with Colorado, and hope it has a few more tricks up its sleeve.
When the guy on the other side of the ice is putting on one of the greatest performances in recent NHL history, it's easy to be overshadowed as a playoff goaltender. Watching Jacob Markstrom in Game 7 for the Flames while Jake Oettinger was in goal for the Stars was like hearing a singer trying to put on a concert.
The focus can now be on the best goalie in the playoffs, since the Otter went back to Texas. Markstrom set a new Flames franchise record for the highest save percentage in a single playoff series when he posted a.943 save percentage in the first round.
Prior to the Dallas series, Markstrom had 14 games of playoff experience with the Canuck. The proof of concept was enough for the Flames to sign him to a six-year, $36 million free-agent deal.
There is a goaltending battle in the Battle of Alberta. Mike Smith leads the NHL playoffs in goals saved above expected, while Markstrom is third. Smith has played better than the other players in front of him, while Markstrom has been a key part of the way the Flames defended the Stars.
There are headlines like "Do Markstrom deserve more credit for Flames success against Stars?" in Canadian media. The Flames goalie has been great. A series win could change that.
Jake Oettinger made 64 saves, but it wasn't enough as the Flames defeated the Stars in overtime.
The player who refused to let his team lose another year of his life was watching the player who was watching the player who was watching the player. He is the one that actually makes one in a league full of difference-makers.
According to the research, McDavid was on the ice for 19 of the 27 goals in the series. He was on the ice for all six of the goals they scored in the series. According to Stathletes, the Kings were out-chanced by theOilers in the series.
He had six multi-point games in the playoffs, the most by any skater in a single round. His 14 points are the third most in an opening-round series by an Art Ross Trophy winner. The other two? Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are hockey players. Did you hear of them?
The only game in which he did not register a point was Game 4 in Los Angeles. It is not a matter of when, but if McDavid will score against the Flames. The trick is to minimize the damage he causes while maximizing the disparity when he is not on the ice.