In another genius scheduling move, the NHL is technically starting Round 2 of the post-season before they finish Round 1. While the scheduling office must be having fun using the dart-board method of scheduling games, fans with OCD are probably twitching in their seats today.
NIGHT'S MONDAY'S RECAP
The Ducks had a chance to close out the Predators in Game 6 on Monday, and failed. Nashville took a 2-0 lead in the second, and held on to finish the game with 3 goals to Anaheim's 1. With the series tied at 3 games each, this will end on the Ducks' home ice - not that home ice has been kind to either team in this series. The first 4 wins in this match-up were all victories for the road team, and Nashville will be looking to tap back into that magic to keep their season alive. Fate may be with the Preds, as Bruce Boudreau teams are typically losers in Game 7 - his lifetime record is 1-6 per NHL.com.
Apparently, the Hockey Gods do have at least SOME sense of compassion. In another very close game, the Blues sent the defending Cup champs to the golf course by a final score of 3-2. This game was back and forth all night until former Blackhawk Troy Brouwer scored about halfway thru the third to give the Blues the lead they'd hold on to. Even though it's painful to support the Blues for even one game, this is a huge win for the hockey community. Drink from the well of tears filled by Hawks Hipsters, and have your hockey soul rejuvenated. The Blues will face the Dallas Stars in Round 2.
Match-Up #1: Tampa Bay Lightning vs New York Islanders (Rd 2, Game 1), 7:00PM EDT - NBCSN
This is how we start the second round, having to watch the team that unceremoniously disposed of us in 5 games. That series made the Wings look like cheap street-walkers... the Lightning got in, got what they wanted, and left the money on the dresser. I know I'm pretty doom-and-gloom about the Wings lately, but I can't bring myself to feel good things about this team until Ken Holland shows us something good at the draft. At least the Islanders have a shot to make this an exciting series to watch after how they played their series against the Panthers.
Why You Care Enough To Watch: Tampa isn't as good as we made them look. Yes, you read that correctly. There were plenty of breakdowns and mistakes made by the Lightning in our series, our team just wasn't skilled enough to take advantage of them. This Islanders squad has some serious talent and speed, fully on display in their series against the Panthers, which could burn Tampa badly. Players such as John Tavares, Brock Nelson, Kyle Okposo, and Frans Nielsen will be tough to contain. Expect Tampa to dominate puck possession, but not necessarily dominate the final score.
Also, the Long Island Fishermen need to cast some nets and catch themselves a big fish-faced Tyler Johnson.
Match-Up #2: Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators (Rd 1, Game 7), 10:00PM EDT - NBCSN, FS-W, FS-TN
As recapped above, the Ducks just couldn't find a way to win Game 6. Game 7 may be no different, as the Predators managed to take Games 1 and 2 of the series in Anaheim. Nashville seemed to be really clicking last game, getting big goals from the defense and nice efforts from their star players. I feel like I've already mentioned him a few times, but Mattias Ekholm continues to impress me as one of Nashville's 2nd-pair defensemen. I know he's not the most realistic trade target, but c'mon Kenny... Pull off something amazing and swap out Jonathan Ericsson for Ekholm.
Why You Care Enough To Watch: There's always a specific tension to a Game 7. The feeling that even the slightest momentum shift could tilt the contest in one direction or the other. With no sense of home-ice-advantage, momentum could be an even more fickle mistress than usual. Both these teams can play fast or slow, rough goon hockey or puck possession skill games. As it's Game 7, I'd expect more physicality to show up than patience. For anyone willing to stay up late enough, this is likely to be a game to remember.