Well, that was unpleasant. Last night’s unpleasant result aside, this has already been a wild few days of playoff hockey, and for the first time of the season, we can say “at least we aren’t Tampa Bay Lightning fans.” There are four playoff games scheduled today to get the sour taste out of your mouth, and the NHL has done a pretty good job this year of scheduling them so that you can watch most of all of them. Hopefully your couch is comfortable, because you’ll probably be sitting there for 11 hours.
What’s on tap
Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals Game 2 (WAS leads 1-0)
12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET on NBC, SN, and TVAS
Game one of this series was a bit of a dud, as the Caps looked very much like the defending champs and the ‘Canes very much like the new kids a little out of their depth. A strong rally late in the third and two goals from rookie Andrei Svechnikov was not enough, as a long bomb from Lars Eller iced the game. Look for Carolina to hit back hard and early today.
Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators Game 2 (DAL leads 1-0)
3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2, FS-TN and FS-SW
The Stars held on to a one goal lead in the face of a furious Nashville rally on Wednesday to take the lead in a strangely high scoring game for two of the postseason’s more defensive-minded squads. The Predators have never won a series in which they’ve lost the first game (in nine tries!), so they’re already fighting against history.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins Game 2 (TOR leads 1-0)
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on NBC, CBC, and TVAS
The Bruins looked unprepared for Toronto’s offense on Thursday, an observation reinforced in postgame comments by Brad Marchand. While Tuukka Rask was not up to the task, allowing four goals on 33 shots, Frederik Andersen was not heavily tested, and the numbers bear that out. In all situations, the Bruins saw an expected goals against (xGA) of 4.18 compared to Toronto’s xGA of 2.69.
Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames Game 2 (CGY leads 1-0)
7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, and ALT
A tight, no-score tie gave way late in the second period on Thursday as Andrew Mangiapane out-waited Philipp Grubauer to break the game open. The contest was much closer than the score would indicate (two of Calgary’s goals cruised into empty nets), as Mike Smith stood tall, stopping all 26 Avalanche shots, more than a few on highlight reel saves.
Nicklas Backstrom: With two goals (bringing him to 100 playoff points), and a massive late shift protecting a one-goal lead on the penalty kill with two blocks, Backstrom imposed his will on the Hurricanes in Game 1, and is the main puzzle for the up-and-comers to solve in Game 2.
Miro Heiskanen: Potting a goal and an assist in over 23 minutes of ice time, the rookie Heiskanen has clearly earned the trust of head coach Jim Montgomery, and is eagerly establishing his bona fides against some of the league’s best blue liners.
Mitch Marner: It’s often said about Marner (mostly by Jeff Marek) that he doesn’t make the right play, he makes a better play. The 21-year-old media maverick showed us what that means in Game 1, dominating Rask and the Bruins by scoring twice on five shots in just under 20 minutes of ice time, including a shorthanded penalty shot.
Mikael Backlund: All due respect to Mike Smith’s shutout and assist, and linemate Matthew Tkachuk’s two goals, but Backlund was driving the bus on Thursday. With seven shots, two hits, and an empty net goal, the pivot of the vaunted triple-M line stole the show in Game 1 and will be a force to be reckoned with going forward.
After Thursday’s showing, Avalanche-Flames has to be appointment viewing. Not expected to be particularly close heading into the postseason, Colorado is giving Calgary a fight, and we’ll be pointing to that Game 1 as an example of how exciting low-scoring hockey can be before the Flames blew the whole thing open.
What are you watching?