After a nearly five-month wait, the NHL is back! The 2020 playoffs kicked off on Saturday with five qualifying round games. There was a good variety of play from looser, high-scoring games to tighter, defensive affairs. The first day also saw some major upsets as both of the 12th seed teams – Chicago and Montreal – beat Edmonton and Pittsburgh respectively in Game 1.
The Blackhawks taking Game 1 was the less surprising of the two events. Certainly Edmonton went into this series as the favorites, but the Blackhawks have a ton of playoff experience to lean on and the Oilers have never been able to fully answer the question: Do they have enough backing superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Clearly Edmonton is a competitive team now, but are they a serious playoff threat? Maybe, but this game played into the narrative that the Oilers aren't well-rounded enough to be trusted. Their defensive and goaltending woes ultimately cost them Game 1 despite strong performances from Edmonton’s top forwards.
With that in mind, Montreal beating Pittsburgh is arguably the bigger upset. An argument can be made that the Penguins were only kept out of the top-four seeds in the first place because they were hit hard by injuries during the regular season. The fact that Pittsburgh performed as well as they did through the adversity they faced was impressive. Now that they’re 100%, you’d think that they’d be able to roll over Montreal. That’s the beauty of the game though: You can’t discount teams like that. The Penguins might still win this series, but Montreal has shown that they’re a real threat. Especially if Carey Price has more performances like he did on Saturday, stopping 39 of 41 shots including the 18 he faced in the first frame.
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The NHL playoffs continue Sunday with five games scheduled and NBC has you covered. The Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators will get the ball rolling at 2:00 PM ET and then just an hour later at 3:00 PM ET, the Philadelphia Flyers will face the Boston Bruins. In the evening, the St. Louis Blues will play the Colorado Avalanche at 6:30 PM ET, the Columbus Blue Jackets will face the Toronto Maple Leafs at 8:00 PM ET, and finally the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks will start their series at 10:30 PM ET.
CAROLINA 3 NY RANGERS 2 (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)
Jaccob Slavin netted the first goal of the 2020 playoffs and recorded an assist. It was the Hurricanes defenseman’s first career postseason goal.
Sebastian Aho also had a goal and an assist for Carolina. He had 38 goals and 66 points in 68 games in the regular season.
Mika Zibanejad scored a goal and registered an assist for the Rangers. If you count the regular season, he’s on a seven-game goal scoring streak.
Igor Shesterkin might have gotten the start, but he was deemed “unfit to play.” Henrik Lundqvist stepped in and saved 34 of 37 Hurricanes shots. Not ideal, but given the amount of work he had, this loss can’t be put all on his shoulders.
At the other end of the ice, Petr Mrazek stopped 24 of 26 shots. He surrendered a goal in each of the second and third periods. At no point did Mrazek concede the Hurricanes lead.
CHICAGO 6 EDMONTON 4 (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)
Dominik Kubalik led the charge for the Blackhawks with two goals and three assists. His first marker was also the game-winning goal. This was the rookie's first career playoff game.
Jonathan Toews scored two goals and registered an assist. The Blackhawks captain now has 42 goals and 113 points in 129 contests.
Corey Crawford turned aside 25 of 29 Oilers shots. Three of the four goals were netted during Edmonton power plays.
Connor McDavid scored a goal and registered two assists. He’s up to six goals and 12 points in 13 career playoff games.
Mike Smith got the start for Edmonton, but surrendered five goals on 23 shots. Four of those goals came in the first 12:57 minutes of the game, but that actually didn’t result in him being pulled. It wasn’t until he allowed a fifth goal at 6:32 of the second period that he was finally given the hook. Mikko Koskinen stepped in, stopping 18 of 19 shots the rest of the way.
NY ISLANDERS 2 FLORIDA 1 (Islanders lead series 1-0)
Jonathan Huberdeau scored the Panthers’ lone goal. It was his second playoff goal in seven career games.
Anthony Beauvillier netted the game-winning marker. He has two goals and three points in nine postseason games.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau accounted for the Islanders’ other goal. He’s up to 13 goals and 17 points in 36 playoff contests.
Semyon Varlamov turned aside 27 of 28 Panthers shots. The only goal he surrendered came 23 seconds into the third period.
At the other end of the ice, Sergei Bobrovsky kicked out 26 of 28 shots. The Islanders beat him in the first and second periods.
MONTREAL 3 PITTSBURGH 2 (OT) (Canadiens lead series 1-0)
The two sides stayed tied until Jeff Petry broke it 13:57 minutes into overtime. It was his fourth goal and fifth point in 19 career playoff games.
Carey Price stopped 39 of 41 shots against Pittsburgh. In the first period, the Penguins outshot Montreal 18-6, but the Canadiens went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead in large part thanks to Price’s efforts.
Matt Murray saved 32 of 35 Canadiens shots. He struggled in the regular season with a 20-11-5 record, 2.87 GAA, and .899 save percentage in 38 starts.
CALGARY 4 WINNIPEG 1 (Flames lead series 1-0)
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 29 of 32 Flames shots. Most of the damage was done in the second period when Calgary scored two power-play goals and a shorthanded marker in the span of 11:08 minutes.
Cam Talbot turned aside 17 of 18 shots against Winnipeg. He never faced more than seven shots in a single period.
Tobias Rieder scored the game-winning goal. He had just four markers in 55 contests during the regular season.
Andrew Mangiapane contributed a goal and an assist for Calgary. He’s on a four-game point streak if you include the regular season.
The Jets’ lone goal was scored by Andrew Copp. It was actually the first goal of the game, coming at 8:51 of the first period. The Jets entered the intermission with the lead, but it didn’t last.