Wooo! The playoffs have been great. So great that I went pretty deep on these four recaps, so let’s just jump right into the deep end in a Kapanen-ian fashion. SHALL WE?
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MAPLE LEAFS 4, CAPITALS 3 - 2 OT (Series tied at 1-1)
-- *wipes away sweat* Phew!
For a double-overtime game, this one maintained a remarkable pace for the majority of the proceedings. I'm not claiming that things never slowed, but the first two games of this series have been just fantastic so far. The teams combined for 101 SOG.
I don't know if the Maple Leafs "deserved" to win - whatever that even really means, honestly - but as someone without a horse in the race, I'm glad they did. This series is GOLD and I want more and more and more.
-- Kasperi Kapanen hasn't been at the NHL level for very long, yet he has scored some of the biggest Maple Leafs goals in ages. He tied the game 2-2 at one point, but of course that wasn't his biggest goal of Saturday. He got the double-OT-winner thanks to a stupendous pass by Brian Boyle, who took a penalty in the first overtime. The second OT only had eight minutes remaining (give or take), so there was at least a thought that we might go to three, causing untold heart attacks across the GTA.
Kapanen also scored the goal that helped Toronto clinch a playoff spot, in a remarkably similar way. So the kid has enamored himself with the Maple Leafs in little time.
-- No points for Auston Matthews here, but he did fire four SOG, including a couple golden OT opportunities. William Nylander's also looked slick at times. Long story short, the kids are alright.
-- Leafs management must feel great, even beyond the win. Matt Martin collected two assists and 10 hits. Kapanen, a major part of the Phil Kessel trade (easy, Mr. Cox) scored two big goals. Boyle had two assists. They're all geniuses!
-- Frederik Andersen stopped 47 out of 50 SOG, extending that management-endorsement-fun. Aside: I enjoy his tendency to add flair to glove saves. Always a bonus with goalies who do that.
-- Poor Braden Holtby. He came into Saturday with a .938 save percentage and a sub-.500 record in the playoffs. That almost seems impossible.
PREDATORS 5, BLACKHAWKS 0 (Nashville leads series 2-0)
-- Pekka Rinne ... where do you even start? I mentioned late in the season that, as much as many people - myself included - have criticized him, he's enjoyed a pretty strong regular season.
Well, so far he's many cynics look foolish for wondering if he'd hold Nashville back. After generating a 29-save shutout in Game 1, he did one better with a 30-save shutout in Game 2. The Blackhawks became one of those rare teams to fail to score a single goal in their first two home games in a series. This is a Blackhawks team that, for all their flaws, won the Central Division and employ an on-point Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Toews, you may remember, finished the season strong to make his All-Star nod look way more appropriate after a rough start.
I won't bore you with all the firsts and rare stats ... but the bottom line is that Rinne's on an insane level.
Now, the devil’s advocate argument would say that he can be hot-and-cold, so to beware of that. The Blackhawks will certainly be desperate as Games 3 and 4 shift to Nashville. Still … wow, what a two-game start.
-- After Matt Calvert only received a one-game suspension for his vicious cross-check on Tom Kuhnhackl in the CBJ - PIT series, it's tough to imagine Ryan Hartman receiving much of a punishment for "message-sending" a cross-check on Craig Smith. Then again, maybe the NHL will decide to make one-game suspensions a blanket punishment for "message-sending." Embarrassing stuff all around.
-- Interestingly formulaic ice time for Nashville's D. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi fell just over 24 minutes. Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban fell just under 23. Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber got the scraps, but not to the extent that you'd see with teams that clearly don't trust a depth guy in the playoffs. Pretty good setup so far, especially since Peter Laviolette was dealing with not having the last change what with being on the road.
-- This game was a lot closer than it seemed, at least for some of the proceedings. Credit Ryan Johansen for mopping up a few extra "garbage" points. He assisted on Ryan Ellis' 1-0 GWG, but he also scored and assisted as the Predators really ran away with the game in the third period. He had an assist in Game 1, so he's already at four points in the postseason.
-- It will depend upon deployment, but perhaps Kevin Fiala could be a poor man's Viktor Arvidsson next season, as far as breakout Predators go? His 5-0 goal was something out of a video game, and he has that first-round pedigree ...
Also, can I cast my vote/offering if no one else came up with it for nicknaming him "The Fiala Bear?" Get back to me on this one, Internet.
SENATORS 4, BRUINS 3 - OT (Series tied 1-1)
-- Defensemen were a theme in this one. The Bruins continue to suffer injuries to their blueline corps, with Adam McQuaid leaving the contest in the first period. At some point, even a well-run team with some strong points buckles under the pressure of too many injuries. One cannot help but wonder if that might be the case for the Bruins.
-- Speaking of defensemen, again: Dion Phaneuf scored what he believes was the biggest goal of his career in overtime. That's pretty significant considering his 902 career regular season games and 34 playoff contests.
It capped a shockingly effective night: that OTGWG, two assists, +3 rating, three SOG, three hits and one blocked shot.
This is actually a nice reminder that Phaneuf enjoyed a stronger 2016-17 than many realized, at least in rougher fantasy terms. He scored nine goals, 30 points, 100 PIM and generated 16 of his points as PPP. With 132 hits and 156 blocked shots, he was what you hope for from Phaneuf at this point: a guy who checks off a lot of boxes, making him useful in deeper leagues. His -6 overall rating meant that he wouldn't sink you too badly in that category in the process.
-- Erik Karlsson doesn't seem 100 percent, but anyone who questions his brilliance is probably stumping for one of their favorite players. Because he's brilliant. His assist on Derick Brassard's game-tying goal was a superlative solo effort, doing all the work, attracting a ton of attention and basically serving Brassard a goal on a silver platter.
-- Craig Anderson and Tuukka Rask have mostly been sharp, even if there's been a brain fart or two here and there (Anderson had quite the gaffe in Game 2). They haven't been superhuman like Rinne and some other guys on hot streaks yet, though. Both are capable of such runs.
-- David Pastrnak just seems to produce points, so it's heartening to see that trend carry over into the postseason. He has two assists in as many games, his first two games of playoff action at the NHL level. I'm not sure the 20-year-old gets enough hype after a 34-goal, 70-point output in just 75 games in the reg.
DUCKS 3, FLAMES 2 (Anaheim takes 2-0 series lead)
-- Two games, two one-goal, one-assist performances form Ryan Getzlaf. This time around, he also got the GWG.
I roll my eyes at least a few times per night with how much emphasis announcers put on faceoffs, but it's worth noting when a player is outright dominant in that area (usually the best FW guys clock in at a 55 percent success rate during a season ... not exactly world-bending stuff). Getzlaf was just killing it, going 12-2 in Game 2.
Getzlaf was Hart-level for the past two months or so, and it seems like he's maintaining his hot run.
-- Also hot, but a bit more surprisingly so: John Gibson.
I don't say that as a knock on Gibson as a talent; the jury's out a bit considering his still fairly light NHL resume (still just 118 NHL regular season GP). But the main reason I was a little hesitant to chalk him up for continuing his strong work from the regular season was that he was hurt down the stretch.
But ... he's been very good. Maybe better than the guy who managed a very nice .924 save percentage in 52 GP.
-- So far, he's winning the staring contest with Brian Elliott. That's not to say that Elliott's been awful; it reminds me a bit of Devan Dubnyk vs. Jake Allen. Allen/Gibson have been so strong that slight hiccups from Dubnyk/Elliott seem like major letdowns.
The best news for Elliott & Co. is that the series shifts to Calgary for Games 3 and 4. That might help with the whole "Getzlaf obliterating everyone in the faceoff circle" thing, if nothing else. Maybe.
-- Getzlaf isn't the only player who hit two goals in this series. Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell also notched their second tallies of the series in helping Anaheim go up 2-0.
-- Shea Theodore has three assists in two playoff games so far vs. nine points in 34 regular season games. With the Ducks leaking defensemen (Sami Vatanen couldn't play on Saturday), Theodore's getting a chance to remind the Ducks of his first-round pedigree.