It's always interesting to see how teams adjust as a series shifts from the top seed's home ice to the lower seed's. Does last line change really matter? Can a team respond to a change from a hostile or friendly environment to the opposite? If Brian Boyle falls in a forest, does he make a sound? Trick question, nobody cares about Boyle falling as long as it's in a forest far away from the rest of civilization. Time to get prepped for some Game 3 action around the league.
LAST NIGHT'S RECAP
The first game yesterday saw the Blues take a 2-1 series lead over the Blackhawks. This was a BIG win for the Blues, taking the contest by a final score of 3-2, as the series has played out incredibly tight between the two teams. Make no mistake, whichever team loses this match-up will do so by the thinnest of margins and be haunted by "what-if" questions all summer long. Somehow it's comforting to think that could be the Blackhawks, and I think that's in no small part due to the Blues being in that position for so many summers already.
The Red Wings did good things that made us feel good. Good times here.
If you didn't swap over to the Panthers/Islanders game immediately after the Red Wings game ended, shame on you. Maybe I'll give you a grace period for watching the post-game coverage, but that's it! I can't make the claim that Florida and New York played a particularly good hockey game, but it was incredibly entertaining. Even the SUV in the front row was on its feet cheering at one point. Both of these offenses are fast if not particularly structured, with enough skill to cover deficiencies and transition games that exceed Mach 1. Neither of these teams like to play in the neutral zone, so they just don't.
Florida led early in the game, going up 3-1 before letting the home team storm back to tie the game and force overtime. This one was destined to come down to whoever tired first, which happened to be the Panthers. Defenseman Thomas Hickey pinched in for the Islanders to grab a well-fed puck directly in the slot and beat Roberto Luongo to end the night in the first OT period. Despite holding a 2-1 series lead, this series doesn't belong to anyone yet.
The last game of the night saw the Anaheim/Nashville series play only its second game because someone in the NHL forgot these guys when scheduling all the other "real playoff teams"... Mattias Ekholm came up big with the game-winner in Game 1, and got right back into it by swinging some momentum Nashville's way with a tying goal to end the 1st period. Hey, this kid is a little underrated and could look good in a Winged Wheel, dontcha think?
Ultimately, that momentum would carry Nashville thru to the end of the game. Despite a late goal to bring Anaheim to within 1, the home team would fall to a 3-2 final with the series now shifting to the Music City. I'm not sure you can label the Country genre as actual music, but I suppose the Preds have earned their city a few liberties. Losing two at home and then having to hit the road doesn't bode well for the Ducks, but I don't think too many Wings fans will lose sleep over that.
Oh my gosh, Philly finally scored! Still, 1 goal in 120 minutes played is not going to get the job done. Scott Laughton was brought in to fill Sean Couturier's slot for Game 2, by way of redistributing Matt Read and Brayden Schenn so Laughton could move to 3-LW. The results were unspectacular, and will continue to be so unless the Philadelphia
Goon Squad Flyers can find a way to contain Washington's second and third lines. Wayne Simmonds hasn't done anything incredibly stupid in a while, so maybe it's about time?
Braden Holtby (starting)
|Steve Mason (starting)
Why You Care Enough To Watch: Washington is possibly the most complete team in the post-season. That said, it will be fun to watch the Flyers have a higher number of games played than goals scored for the playoffs. Keep an eye on Marcus Johansson of the Caps, this third line kid is tied for the team lead in post-season points (4A) with Backstrom. Comparatively, Backstrom's sole purpose in life is to feed Ovie the puck... So there must be something to Johansson's game. An RFA needing a new contract for next year, and with Washington tight against the cap, a big playoff performance could lead to an offer sheet or some creative trades for the Caps.
Match-Up #2: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild (Game 3), 8:30PM EDT, CNBC, FS-N, FS-WI, FS-SW
Minnesota Wild: The Flyers of the West (without the thug streak). In all fairness, they are without both Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek - both of whom are expected to miss the duration of the first round if not longer. Even though Vanek has been absent by coach's choice for a few games this season, he and Parise both represent significant scoring threats that the Wild are doing without. This may have shaped up to be quite a different series had they played, but as things stand now I almost expect to see the Wild swept.
Projected Line-Ups (Updated because Seguin hurt himself)
|Kari Lehtonen (starting)
Devan Dubnyk (starting)
Why You Care Enough To Watch: Like I said in the opening, it will be interesting to see how the Stars respond to the shift in ice. The Wild were able to keep Game 2 close, dropping the contest 2-1. Dallas has the opportunity to sweep, and probably should, continuing with this game. Even if nobody else is interested, I guarantee the Blues and Blackhawks will be watching closely for holes they can poke in the somewhat-vulnerable Dallas defense.
San Jose got the lead in Game 2 and never really let up. If I was coach of the Sharks, I wouldn't make any adjustments for Game 3 on home ice. LA has played close, but not close enough to take a win yet. Up 2-0 in the series, the Sharks need to go for the sweep and make the winner of Anaheim/Nashville sweat.
Los Angeles Kings
|Jonathan Quick (starting)
San Jose Sharks
|Martin Jones (starting)
Why You Care Enough To Watch: The potential is there for LA to get absolutely spanked, but it's just potential. San Jose has a losing record at home this year, but have looked like the dominant team thus far in the series - no lucky wins here. Will the Sharks collapse at home, or keep the train rolling? Also, is it just me or should San Jose pair Vlasic with Dillon so they can have a "Dill-Pickle" defense pairing? I'd pay money to see that...