Cue the music - hockey is back! After a long wait since Sunday, the Playoffs got into full swing last night with some fun games around the league. I'm sure nobody is aware of this, but there were two other games going on last night in addition to the Red Wings debut against the Lightning. I know, weird right?
LAST NIGHT'S RECAP
What does this look like, the game recap from last night? This is for watching out-of-town scoreboards. If you want the recap from the Wings game, go here. I'm not touching it.
The Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the New York Rangers to start their series. You'll remember the Rangers were that team that tried and failed to lose to us on the last Saturday of the regular season. Good job not drawing the Penguins in the first round, Blue-Shirts. To celebrate their home ice advantage, Pittsburgh decided to wear their ugly jerseys (they're ALL Pittsburgh's ugly jerseys).
Maybe the hideousness gives the Penguins power or something? They took a tight 2-0 lead against the Rangers into the 3rd period and used momentum from a short-handed goal to crush New York in a 5-2 final. Pittsburgh just rolled in this one, with their AHL squad coming up big yet again. These guys are scary, and that's a scary thing to say. Then again, they might have had some help from a surprise appearance by Antti Raanta after Henrik Lundqvist left the game in the 1st with an eye injury and did not return.
In the only other action from the night, the St. Louis Blues brought the Chicago Blackhawks into town for the beginning of the "Detroit Hates You vs Detroit Hates You" series. I'll let you guess which is which. Despite being badly outshot entering the second period, the Blues managed to hang in there. More than hang, really, as this one went scoreless thru regulation.
It ended half-way thru the 1st OT period on a great offensive zone series by the Blues. On a cross-crease pass, David Backes managed to bank the puck in behind Corey Crawford off Trevor van Riemsdyk to go 1-up on the series. Hitting, astounding saves, odd-man rushes, overtime... this game had everything you want in hockey except scoring. I want to hate on this game, but... it was a REALLY good one to watch...
Match-Up #1: Florida Panthers vs New York Islanders (Game 1)
Time: 8:00 ET
TV: CNBC, SN, TVAS2, FS-F, MSG+
For a team that's so rarely made the playoffs in their existence, the Florida Panthers sure showed up in a big way this year. Taking the top seed in the Atlantic Division, the Panthers are a weird mix of the Ageless Wonder Jaromir Jagr and a slew of 1st round lottery picks-turned-roster-players. The Florida fans will toss rats at the Isles, who never seemed to click this season. They had spurts of strong play, particularly late this season, but have also seen some key injuries that are sure to dampen their post-season aspirations.
|Jonathan Huberdeau||Aleksander Barkov||Jaromir Jagr|
|Jussi Jokinen||Nick Bjugstad||Reilly Smith|
|Teddy Purcell||Rocco Grimaldi||Jiri Hudler|
|Garrett Wilson||Derek MacKenzie||Shawn Thornton|
|Brian Campbell||Aaron Ekblad|
|Dmitry Kulikov||Michael Matheson|
|Jakub Kindl||Alex Petrovic|
|Roberto Luongo (starting)|
New York Islanders
|Frans Nielsen||John Tavares||Kyle Okposo|
|Nikolay Kulemin||Brock Nelson||Josh Bailey|
|Shane Prince||Ryan Strome||Steve Bernier|
|Matt Martin||Casey Cizikas||Cal Clutterbuck|
|Nick Leddy||Johnny Boychuk|
|Calvin de Haan||Travis Hamonic|
|Thomas Hickey||Ryan Pulock|
|Thomas Greiss (starting)|
Why You Care Enough To Watch: Whoever wins this series goes on to face the Wings after we beat Tampa. Florida is this year's Calgary - they don't have the fancy stats to back up their play. Bolstered by good shooting and good goaltending, they'll either fold like a paper
tiger kitty, or make us re-think the legitimacy of advanced possession metrics.
The Islanders are the Red Wings of the Metro Division, only more so - a preseason powerhouse who ended up making everyone think "huh, who'd have thought they'd finish all the way down there"... This is New York's OTHER team, the one people from the city talk about like "Oh the Isles are OK, I guess they won some Presidency Trophy or something... BUT THE RANGERS MADE THE WILD CARD, BABY!!!" That's gotta feel good, you know, in John Tavares' soul... Grab popcorn and just enjoy yourself while this one gets ugly.
Match-Up #2: Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers (Game 1)
Time: 7:00 ET
TV: NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, CSN-DC, CSN-PH
The President's Trophy winning Capitals open their home ice advantage by inviting over that cousin you have who always gets drunk and tries to fight you. It doesn't matter that he came over for the crochet party you're hosting - he's still a 12-pack of PBR deep and thinks your couch looked at him funny. This series is really going to be a tale of two styles - the symphony of precision and offense that defines the Capitals, and the... whatever you call it that Philly does on the ice.
|Alex Ovechkin||Nicklas Backstrom||T.J. Oshie (questionable)|
|Andre Burakovsky||Evgeny Kuznetsov||Justin Williams|
|Jason Chimera||Mike Richards||Marcus Johansson|
|Daniel Winnik||Jay Beagle||Tom Wilson|
|Brooks Orpik||John Carlson|
|Karl Alzner||Matt Niskanen|
|Dmitri Orlov||Nate Schmidt|
|Braden Holtby (starting)|
|Jakub Voracek||Claude Giroux||Wayne Simmonds|
|Michael Raffl||Sean Couturier||Brayden Schenn|
|Matt Read||Nick Cousins||Sam Gagner|
|Chris VandeVelde||Pierre-Edouard Bellemare||Ryan White|
|Nick Schultz||Mark Streit|
|Brandon Manning||Shayne Gostisbehere|
|Yevgeni Medvedev||Radko Gudas|
|Steve Mason (starting)|
Why You Care Enough To Watch: Even with our mini-rivalry against Nashville, you never hated Barry Trotz. All jokes aside, there are few coaches in any sport that have ever done more with less than he did behind Nashville's bench. Now that he actually has offensive talent and a defense competent beyond its top pair, he's probably the most deserving person outside of Detroit to get some success this year. Ditto Ovechkin - the guy has been one of the best since he arrived and has typically just been surrounded by junk. Now that he actually has a full team of talent and a good coach behind him, the only reason you have to root against this guy is if he plays against Detroit. Kick back with some classical music playing over whatever commentary is airing and just watch some pretty hockey.
Also, goon hockey is dead and the Flyers need to just go away.
Match-Up #3: Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild (Game 1)
Time: 9:30 ET
TV: NBCSN, SN360, TVAS3, FS-SW, FN-N, FS-W
Dallas was a force to be reckoned with during the regular season. A high-flying offense covering what seemed to be an improving defense, the Stars clung on to the top spot in a tough Central division entering the playoffs. There are players to envy on offense and defense from this squad (Seguin is questionable), and their philosophy is definitely "shoot first, ask questions later". A questionable identity at times, but at least it's an identity.
They face a Minnesota Wild squad whose identity can be best described as "steamed chicken". No flavor, no pizzazz, just the basic hockey nutrients. The Wild will be without Zach Parise and the streaky scratch Thomas Vanek for the first two games. As if that would help them anyway.
|Jamie Benn||Cody Eakin||Patrick Sharp|
|Valeri Nichushkin||Jason Spezza||Patrick Eaves|
|Antoine Roussel||Radek Faksa||Ales Hemsky|
|Travis Moen||Vernon Fiddler||Colton Sceviour|
|Alex Goligoski||John Klingberg|
|Johnny Oduya||Stephen Johns|
|Kris Russel||Jason Demers|
|Kari Lehtonen (starting)|
|Jason Zucker||Mikko Koivu||Charlie Coyle|
|Nino Niederreiter||Mikael Granlund||Jason Pominville|
|Chris Porter||Zach Dalpe||David Jones|
|Ryan Carter||Jarret Stoll||Justin Fontaine|
|Ryan Suter||Jared Spurgeon|
|Marco Scandella||Jonas Brodin|
|Nate Prosser||Matthew Dumba|
|Devan Dubnyk (starting)|
Why You Care Enough To Watch: Because you're a masochist and you like to cry over what could have been if Jim Nill's and Ken Holland's places were swapped. And because you want to laugh at Ryan Suter for not coming to Detroit. No no no, Ryan... you go ahead and stay in Minneapolis. We don't even want you here anymore (PLEASE ASK TO BE TRADED TO DETROIT FOR ERICSSON).
Match-Up #4: Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks (Game 1)
Time: 10:30 ET
TV: CNBC, CBC, TVAS, FS-W, CSN-CA
California remains the only place in the Pacific Division that knows how to ice a winning hockey team. Go figure, a place that never sees ice naturally actually isn't half-bad on it. LA and San Jose will fight for the right to play that other California team that was named after a movie franchise. LA is arguably one of the most dominant teams over the past few years, up there with the Blackhawks, and were the first NHL club to win the Stanley Cup as an 8 seed - so never really count them out. San Jose has never made it past their Conference Finals - so I guess go ahead and count them out because logic?
Los Angeles Kings
|Milan Lucic||Anze Kopitar||Tanner Pearson|
|Dustin Brown||Jeff Carter||Tyler Toffoli|
|Dwight King||Vincent Lecavalier||Kris Versteeg|
|Kyle Clifford||Andy Andreoff||Trevor Lewis|
|Brayden McNabb||Drew Doughty|
|Jake Muzzin||Luke Schenn|
|Rob Scuderi||Alec Martinez|
|Johnathan Quick (starting)|
San Jose Sharks
|Tomas Hertl||Joe Thornton||Joe Pavelski|
|Joonas Donskoi||Logan Couture||Joel Ward|
|Melker Karlsson||Patrick Marleau||Matthew Nieto|
|Nick Spaling||Chris Tierny||Tommy Wingels|
|Paul Martin||Brent Burns|
|Marc-Edouard Vlasic||Justin Braun|
|Brenden Dillon||Roman Polak|
|Martin Jones (starting)|
Why You Care Enough To Watch: You don't. Seriously, there are only 2 cities that even remotely care about this series - San Jose and Anaheim. Los Angeles itself is too preoccupied with Kobe Bryant's farewell tour (I think he plays disc-golf or some other hippie California sport) to pay any attention to hockey. And Dodgers baseball is getting into full swing, so kiss half the attendance in LA good-bye unless that rain storm they've been waiting for since 1985 finally hits. Neither of these teams will make it to the Cup Finals anyway, so if their own fans don't care then why should you?
Feel free to use the comments section below for the Game-Day Thread for any of these games. And as always...