If you ask me, I’ll take my chances with rust.
People fear a sports team sleepwalking into a game after a long layoff or a bye week, but I wonder if rust is often the scapegoat when the truth is just an off game (or an escalating challenge as weaker postseason teams are weeded out and the cream rises to the top).
Hockey playoffs can often be battles of attrition, so getting the opportunity to watch the action outside of the trenches has to be a welcome breather.
We saw three Game 2’s on Sunday, with all teams up in series upgrading their grips to 2-0 advantages. Some edges are bigger than others - the Lightning aren’t just up two games, they’re also getting the next two games at home, where they’re incredibly tough to beat - but the bottom line is that Bolts, Ducks and Blackhawks should not ease up one bit.
Granted, I get the impression that the Wild could very well “hold serve” in Minnesota, so easing up could be just as much a matter of perception as rust.
Regardless, the Ducks and Lightning in particular could find themselves in very advantageous situations if they get a few breaks and finish things off quickly (my impression is that Rangers - Capitals will go at least six games and be pretty grinding).
Agree to disagree, but I think that getting a few extra days of rest (and playing fewer games, thus gambling less often with injuries) could very well tilt the scales in an age of considerable parity.
LIGHTNING 6, CANADIENS 2
-- Steve Stamkos finally got a break or two in this one, scoring his first goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs and grabbing two assists later in the game. He had just one assist in his past six contests, so it wasn't just a situation where he wasn't scoring goals. He doubled his postseason output with this three-point game.
-- Stamkos wasn't the only part of the Lightning offense to break through, either. Tampa Bay came into Game 2 on a staggering 0-for-23 power play drought, yet they went 4-for-8 in this one.
Four of their six goals coming on the PP explains how the big line of Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson could manage matching -2 ratings despite the latter two forwards generating two points apiece. Odd stuff.
-- I regret not recommending Brandon Prust for PIM hunters, as the dude just seems to have a weird issue with Ben Bishop. He generated all sorts of bad attention from the Bolts for running Bishop again, helping him generate a staggering stat line: one assist, five hits and a ridiculous 31 PIM.
-- Cedric Paquette left the game with a This is the Playoffs We Won't Even Tell You Which Half of a Person's Torso is Impaired Now injury.
-- David Desharnais' total absence from the game was a lot more straightforward: seems as though he had the flu.
-- Valtteri Filppula is one of those guys who can easily get lost in the shuffle, especially since he barely ever shoots (just 91 SOG in 82 regular season games and only 11 SOG in nine playoff contests), yet he's a nice guy to have if you're not counting on night-in and night-out production. He scored a goal and two assists of his own in this one.
-- Paquette's mysterinjury could be Jonathan Drouin's gain, so keep an eye out for updates in that regard.
BLACKHAWKS 4, WILD 1
-- Chicago's big guns came up in this one: Jonathan Toews scored, Patrick Sharp found the net (along with an assist) and Patrick Kane connected twice. Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith also picked up an assist apiece.
Are we sure Kane was or is ever hurt? This all doesn't seem very fair.
-- The Blackhawks needed a win like this. They slowed Minnesota down. They carried the play possession-wise.
-- Corey Crawford maybe needed this the most, even if he was great in relief to close out Nashville in Game 6. He stopped 30 out of 31 saves for his third win of the postseason.
-- Wait, Bryan Bickell delivered 12 hits in this one? That doesn't seem possible. I doubt there are many playoff pools with hits, but if so, congrats on that one.
-- Tough series so far: Devan Dubnyk has allowed seven goals in these two losses. Chicago might just be the team to expose DD (and maybe lighten his wallet).
DUCKS 3, FLAMES 0
-- Anaheim fired 20 SOG to Calgary's nine in the first period. The Ducks really carried the play in a big way, at least until things went deeper. Matt Beleskey scored the big tally (the game-winner) while they added Hampus Lindholm got the insurance marker.
-- Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf got two assists apiece. Perry is leading all NHL scorers by three points with 13 in six games, sometimes playing two or three fewer contests. Pretty astounding stuff. Getzlaf is tied for second with 10 points.
-- Frederik Andersen grabbed his first career playoff shutout by making 30 saves. He now has a .942 save percentage and 1.64 GAA in the postseason, following up a great 35-12-5 record with a solid-enough .914 save percentage during the regular season.
-- Tough to pin this one on Karri Ramo, as he stopped 31 out of 33 shots but lost.