Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily: Round-robin time

NHL

The first day of the NHL’s restarted season produced a few shocking moments, a few controversies and a speech that hockey fans won’t soon forget. Day 2 brings the start of the round-robin games among the top seeds and the rest of the qualification round series, as the Eastern Conference postseason rolls on in Toronto while the West plays out in Edmonton.

Check out the ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily every day of the postseason until the Cup is handed out in October.

Today’s games

Qualification round, Game 1: No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes (2 p.m. ET)

The great goaltending mystery of the Predators will be solved on Sunday. Will it be 37-year-old franchise standard-bearer Pekka Rinne, or 24-year-old Juuse Saros, the latter of whom was the stronger goalie this season? Meanwhile, the Coyotes enter this series potentially without center Nick Schmaltz, who was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ryan Reaves in their exhibition game; and absolutely without general manager John Chayka, who quit the team before the playoffs. How will the Coyotes process that distraction?

Round robin: No. 1 Boston Bruins vs. No. 4 Philadelphia Flyers (3 p.m. ET)

The Flyers finished 11 points in back of the Bruins, who were the only NHL team to reach 100 points and won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s best regular-season team. Yet with three wins in the qualification round, the Flyers could jump all the way into the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins could put an end to that chatter with a win on Sunday.

Round robin: No. 1 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 2 Colorado Avalanche (6:30 p.m. ET)

The defending champion Blues will have Vladimir Tarasenko on the ice for the first time since Oct. 24, as he returns from shoulder surgery. The Avalanche are also celebrating good health, as Colorado welcomes a number of players back to their lineup that were injured at the end of the season — including Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon, center Nazem Kadri and winger Mikko Rantanen.

Qualification round, Game 1: No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets (8 p.m. ET)

Last postseason, the Blue Jackets faced a superior offensive team filled with high-end skill and championship aspiration in the first round … and swept them. With Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares, the Leafs have the stars. Coach John Tortorella hopes, once again, the Jackets have the blue-collar aesthetic that leads to another upset. “We’re not built with game-breakers. We’re not. We’ve really bought into playing as a team,” he said.

Qualification round, Game 1: No. 8 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 9 Minnesota Wild (10:30 p.m. ET)

The Canucks play their first playoff series since 2015 against a Wild team that played 12 games under new head coach Dean Evason before the season was paused. The Wild were a good defensive team that didn’t get the saves they needed from their goaltenders. The Canucks were a good offensive team that needed goalie Jacob Markstrom (11.40 goals saved above average) to bail them out defensively.


Question of the day: Will the power plays continue?

Toss out the Islanders vs. Panthers game, and the other four contests on Day 1 of the postseason averaged 11 power plays each. There were 16 minor penalties in the Rangers’ game against the Hurricanes, creating a disjointed affair with minimal 5-on-5 play. Fans have come to expect tightly officiated games at the start of a season, as the on-ice officials attempt to established rules and the expectations for how they’ll be followed. Perhaps the same thing is playing out during the season restart.


Bet of the day

Avalanche over Blues (-110). The Avalanche are healthy, and took both games against the Blues they played in 2020. This could be a statement game for Colorado. But keep in mind that the round-robin series is ultimately a tune up for the next round for these teams, so approach with caution.


About last night…

Carolina Hurricanes 3, New York Rangers 2 (Carolina leads series, 1-0) | Replay

The first game of the day offered the postseason’s first surprise, as Henrik Lundqvist got the start for New York after Igor Shesterkin was ruled “unfit to play.” (The rookie would watch the game from the stands.) The 38-year-old goalie played well in making 34 saves, but the Hurricanes outlasted the Rangers with goals in each period and beat the New York for the first time in five tries this season, when it counted the most.

Chicago Blackhawks 6, Edmonton Oilers 4 (Chicago leads series, 1-0) | Replay

After Connor McDavid scored 2 minutes and 34 seconds into the game, the Blackhawks dominated the rest of the first period in scoring four straight goals against goalie Mike Smith, who was pulled in the second period after Chicago’s fifth goal. Rookie Dominik Kubalik had five points, while Jonathan Toews had three points. McDavid and Leon Draisaitl each had three points, but Edmonton laid an egg against a Chicago team that clearly didn’t appreciate being written off as a No. 12 seed. One note: Chicago’s Drake Caggiula will have a hearing Sunday for an illegal check to the head on Edmonton’s Tyler Ennis.

New York Islanders 2, Florida Panthers 1 (New York leads series, 1-0) | Replay

Trade deadline addition Jean-Gabriel Pageau opened the scoring while Semyon Varlamov (27 saves) and the Islanders’ defense did the rest in their Game 1 victory against the Panthers, who were limited to five shots on goal in the third period. The silver lining for Florida: Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky played well, making 26 saves.

Montreal Canadiens 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2 (Montreal leads series, 1-0) | Replay

In the day’s other shocker, Jeff Petry‘s goal at 13:57 of overtime gave the Canadiens the Game 1 win over Pittsburgh. For the Penguins, it was every nightmare scenario for the series coming true for a game: a failure to convert their chances, including a 5-on-3 power play and a penalty shot by Conor Sheary late in the third period; and watching Carey Price become the difference-maker in goal for Montreal.

Calgary Flames 4, Winnipeg Jets 1 (Calgary leads series, 1-0)

Mark Scheifele‘s first-period injury changed the trajectory of this one, as the star center was limited to just 2:59 in Game 1. Andrew Mangiapane had a goal and an assist and Cam Talbot needed to make only 17 saves in the Flames’ win.


Three Stars

1. Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild

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2:51

Minnesota Wild defenceman Matt Dumba addresses social injustices and how everyone can be better before the Blackhawks take on the Oilers.

The NHL held pregame ceremonies before some of Saturday’s high-profile games to address racial injustice, but none compared to the power of Dumba’s speech prior to the Blackhawks vs. Oilers game. The Wild defenseman referenced Black Lives Matter and Breonna Taylor before taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem as players stood around him.

2. Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks

The Calder Trophy finalist had two goals and three assists in Chicago’s Game 1 stunner against the Oilers. His five points set a record for most in a rookie’s playoff debut. Well, this wasn’t technically a “playoff game” in the NHL’s eyes, but these were “playoff stats” in the NHL’s eyes, so … who knows, really?

3. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Petry had the game-winner, but this game doesn’t even get close to overtime without Price’s 39-save performance. Specifically, this is a very different game if Price doesn’t stop 18 Penguins shots in the first period. The “goalie single-handedly sparks five-game series upset” narrative certainly got some fodder.


Outfit of the day

Strong Immortan Joe vibes from Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks before their game against the Oilers.


Social post of the day

The Marleau family sent sunny vibes to the Penguins. They’ll need more of them.


Controversy of the day

The Flames’ win was overshadowed by the postgame comments by Jets coach Paul Maurice, who claimed that Matthew Tkachuk kicked Winnipeg star Mark Scheifele to injure him in the first period.

“It was intentional,” Maurice said. “It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg. You can’t see it on the program [camera] feed, but you take the blue-line feed and you zoom in. He went after the back of his leg. Could have cut his Achilles [tendon]. Could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”

Before Maurice’s news conference, Tkachuk denied he did anything intentional to injure Scheifele, letting out an exasperated laugh when asked if he had any role in the injury. “No, absolutely not,” Tkachuk said. “I’m backchecking on him. It’s such an accident. I felt terrible. He was turning away, and I just went in and my left skate had a little bit of the speed wobbles. I was probably moving too fast for myself and I was going down. It looked like my leg probably jammed him up.

“I feel terrible. He’s a top player in the NHL and someone I’ve gotten to know in the past few summers [training with him]. It’s not good for the game when somebody like that isn’t in the game. It was very unfortunate and unlucky. But there’s really nothing that could have happened.”

Scheifele will see a specialist on Sunday.

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