It’s human nature to canonize two things: a) an outstanding moment just passed and b) nostalgic, “golden age” memories.
With that in mind, I’ll couch my praise of this first week of the 2015 postseason with some qualifiers to keep things reasonable: this is the best start to a postseason that I’ve covered. That keeps it to six playoffs (counting this one), including the 2010 run where the Chicago Blackhawks ended their lengthy championship drought.
The way 2014-15 had been going, the thought of covering a game into 3:15 a.m. (give or take) probably would’ve sounded like a beatdown for me. Honestly, the regular season tried my patience and passion at times.
It’s not just by stark contrast that this postseason has been so great, though. Merely going to triple-overtime isn’t necessarily a sign of a great game - it could also just as easily be a sign of two inept offenses - yet the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators treated fans for most of the running time of the longest game in Predators history.
The most remarkable thing, for me, is that I wasn’t yawning through much of it. It was downright energizing.
I’m not sure how many potential new hockey fans managed to stay up late enough to catch Jets - Ducks and Predators - Blackhawks, but I’d wager many who did may be fans for life. In other words, they may just be Dose readers going forward.
(Hey, you have a very important head start, though.)
Matchups have had a huge impact on the playoffs being so strong, so let’s hope that we get the right ones in round two.
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BLACKHAWKS 3, PREDATORS 2 (3 OT)
-- If you've been a hockey observer for as long as I have, you start to develop these weird gut feelings during marathon OT games. My feeling was that Chicago would end up with this one, fair or not. It's odd how often these weird inklings turn out to be right. This is *not* a matter of tooting my own horn, by the way. I'm actually wondering if anyone else has experienced this, especially in playoff hockey OT(s).
-- Duncan Keith received 46:19 TOI and didn't really look tired. What a freak.
-- Nice all-around game for Brent Seabrook, who scored the OT winner, generated two SOG and six hits. It's interesting that beyond Keith, no Blackhawk hit 38+ minutes. Four Predators hit 42+ minutes. Maybe depth was the difference-maker?
-- Hopefully pushing Chicago so hard will convince Nashville to stay the course. All of this attacking offense (especially from their defense) bodes well considering the fact that Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones are all in or around their prime years. The only thing that can mess that up is management/ownership reading the wrong press clippings in the next 1-3 years and blowing it up.
-- Seriously, this game was so great. I just felt like it needed an extra mention. Maybe it wasn’t as good as Jets - Ducks, but it was about as close as you can get to it about 24 hours later.
RED WINGS 3, LIGHTNING 0
-- Petr Mrazek had it pretty easy in this one, only needing 22 saves to grab his first career playoff shutout.
-- Mrazek happened to draw a penalty from Cedric Paquette, who drew Justin Abdelkader's ire by tripping Mrazek. I wouldn't be surprised if those two tangle, especially late in a lopsided game or something.
-- Speaking of Abdelkader, he threw six hits, generated two PIM and one SOG to go with his assist in an effective first game in this series.
-- Tampa Bay looked super off in this one. Just really clunky, really biffing a 56-second 5-on-3 opportunity in this one. This team can be really fun, but Detroit is basically Older Tampa Bay, so this 2-1 deficit is a serious cause for concern for the Bolts.
-- Ben Bishop has really benefited from the luxuries of playing for the Lightning while only putting up average-ish individual numbers. They really need him to put up an elite effort or two in this series.
FLAMES 3, CANUCKS 1
-- I've heard some seemingly reasonable claims that Calgary's been playing some boring hockey (my main focus in PHT coverage has been earlier games, so I haven't gotten to sink my teeth into this series as much as others), but I still contest that the Gaudreau line can provide enough entertainment to at least make them a viable alternative to Vancouver, a team that just seems tired in every sense.
(Pavel Datsyuk was the other playoff performer to get a gentlemanly nod while Anze Kopitar looks increasingly gentlemanly outside of the playoffs by comparison to his resoundingly ungentlemanly teammates.)
-- Sam Bennett already has two playoff goals under his belt. If you can grab him in a playoff pool, do it post haste.
-- Hard to tell how long Alex Burrows will be out with what's believed to be a broken rib (or broken ribs). Keep an eye out for updates in that regard.
-- Henrik Sedin scored a goal, which isn't THAT unusual. But, wow, six SOG? Don't see that every day from the passin' Sedin.
CAPITALS 2, ISLANDERS 1 (one measly OT)
-- The Capitals indeed put Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom back together (along with Joel Ward). It paid off nicely, as Ovechkin scored the 1-0 goal and Backstrom notched the game-winner, with both forwards grabbing assists on their pals' respective tallies. Ward had an assist of his own, and Backstrom praised his screening job on the OT winner where he drew that apple.
-- Since Ovechkin and Backstrom are back together again, may I turn my campaigning/griping to John Tavares and Kyle Okposo? Depth is great and all, but those two are good for a goal per contest between the two of them (in my opinion) if you put them together, so they should get on that.
-- Braden Holtby in his last two games: 76 saves on 79 attempts, including 36-for-37 last night. He's back to his more-or-less elite form.
-- Tom Wilson will almost certainly be a target for Game 5, if not the rest of this series. In about two and a half minutes, he received a kneeing penalty on Josh Bailey and then likely injured Lubomir Visnovsky with a vicious hit. I'd be surprised if he doesn't at least get in a scuffle before round two begins.
-- Jaroslav Halak's holding up his end of the bargain, as his 107 saves on 115 attempts works out to a .930 save percentage. Kind of hard to believe this is a first-round series sometimes.