Well, I can’t say I expected the Winnipeg Jets to be the first team booted from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, but that happened last night.
Before we get to the recaps, a quick programming note. Jimmy Hascup is covering Friday’s Dose while I’ll handle the Sunday version, with Michael Finewax in his usual Saturday spot. Just thought I’d give people a head’s up rather than providing some timeframe confusion for those opening up the Rotoworld NHL page tomorrow.
(We don’t want you saying “Oh, it’s Saturday after all, I’m going to base this decision upon a fantasy hockey column instead of checking my phone/various other places that would reveal what day it actually is …”)
Anyway, let’s get started.
DUCKS 5, JETS 2
-- It turns out that possibly eight different Winnipeg players were dealing with injuries of varying severity in this one, with captain Andrew Ladd apparently fighting through an issue that may have normally sidelined him for about one month.
At least this adds a teaspoon of sweetness to the otherwise bitter feeling of being swept: those guys can heal up and/or go under the knife rather than exacerbating issues.
-- If you look at the Jets’ franchise history as an extension of the Atlanta Thrashers - which is kind of lame, honestly - then the Thrash-Jets still haven’t won a playoff game in franchise history. That’s right, not even a single game. At least this time around they deserved to win one.
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-- Drew Stafford was sufficient enough through three games (one goal, one assist, nine SOG), but Game 4 didn't go well for the former Buffalo Sabre. He didn't just fail to get a SOG; he didn't even attempt a shot on goal.
-- Ryan Kesler is really heating up, as he put together his second consecutive two-point night (two goals in Game 4, a goal and an assist in Game 3). He also has a three-game point streak going (three tallies, two assists). These are the contests that Anaheim acquired Kesler for, and so far so good.
-- Comfortable spot for Frederik Andersen right now, although a gap between rounds gives John Gibson time to truly get to 100 percent (or as close as he can) and possibly pose a threat if the Flames or Canucks make things difficult for Andersen.
-- Should we wonder if Ondrej Pavelec just had a hot run and then went back to being, well ... Ondrej Pavelec? He suffered with an .891 save percentage in this sweep after posting easily his career-best mark of .920 in the regular season.
I wouldn't base a harsh decision based on the sweep, but I'd also think long and hard about the backup situation - do they trust Michael Hutchinson if Pavelec falters next season? - instead of just leaning on Pavelec.
Then again, I think every team should spend a little extra to get a better backup, so this isn't really an unusual stance for me.
RANGERS 2, PENGUINS 1 (OT)
-- If this isn't the flattest series of the first round, it's at least up there. Once again, the SOG totals in the first period (10 in Game 4) give you the impression that both teams came out a little groggy (or at least maybe the Rangers did, as they only generated two of those 10 SOG).
-- I've mentioned before - maybe on Twitter, maybe in the Dose, maybe on both - that there's been a feeling that "tired" teams are getting bumped out quickly. The Penguins strike me as a bunch that needs to be put out of their misery, with that misery being their injury-ravaged defense in this case.
(Seriously, what could we really expect from a team that's missing Kris Letang and other key blueliners.)
-- It's unfair to bury the Penguins too deep for this situation, in my opinion. That said, this really just reinforces my feeling that people discounted Dan Bylsma's coaching accomplishments far too easily.
-- Chris Kreider isn't shy about being physical, but I wonder what got into him in Game 4 in particular. He threw a whopping 10 checks in this one.
-- Rick Nash has been limited to just one goal on 16 SOG, but people aren't beating up on him because he also has three assists. And his team is winning. And maybe they're tired of trying to make that story happen.
-- Patric Hornqvist has three points, which is more impressive when you consider the fact that the Penguins have only managed seven goals in this series.
SENATORS 1, CANADIENS 0
-- This series has been closer than 3-0 in Montreal's favor, so it's fair to see Ottawa avoiding a sweep. It could become uncomfortable quickly if the Habs fail to close this out on Friday, too.
-- In two games, Craig Anderson has stopped 75 out of 77 shots, including Game 4's 28-save shutout. It's easy to forget that he had another nice individual season considering Andrew Hammond's heroics. While Anderson's 14-13-8 record didn't do fantasy owners many favors, his save percentage was pretty strong at .923. I wonder if a team might try to pry Anderson loose this summer, even if that idea seems farfetched.
-- Carey Price has been pretty great in the postseason after his outrageous regular season campaign. That's especially true in the past two games, even if he only won one of them. Price stopped 31 out of 32 shots on Wednesday after giving up one goal on 34 shots in Game 3.
-- Mark Stone generated a ton of attention with his strong finish to a Calder-caliber rookie season, but Mike Hoffman reminded us that there are other useful young forwards in Ottawa (though the 25-year-old isn't a rookie). Hoffman scored the game's only goal amid an odd start to the postseason; he had four SOG last night and three in Game 1, yet zero in Games 2 and 3.
-- Speaking of shots on goal, it's weird to see Erik Karlsson finish a game - 27:25 TOI and all - without a single SOG. It turns out that his pucks just hit a lot of bodies in Game 4: six of his attempts were blocked.
BLUES 6, WILD 1
-- Hey, a game had to get away from Devan Dubnyk at some point, right? He was chased after allowing six goals on just 17 shots, including a spectacular Vladimir Tarasenko goal (one of two on the night for the red-hot Russian). It could be a good thing to get Darcy Kuemper's feet wet - nine saves on as many shots in 23:10 of relief duty - in case Dubnyk hits an inopportune slump.
-- Kevin Shattenkirk is doing a splendid job of reminding us that he scored a lot of points this season. Forty-four looks more impressive when you consider the fact that injuries limited him to 56 regular season contests in 2014-15, after all. He's really on fire in the playoffs, though, with Game 4's three-assist output giving him a ridiculous seven helpers in four postseason games. This already marks a career-high for a playoff run, besting 2013-14's five points.
-- Jay Bouwmeester is either overrated or previously overrated (for all the grief Chris Kunitz gets for being an Olympian, Bouwmeester also has a gold medal from 2014), depending upon whom you ask. It's oddly fitting that the rather lucky blueliner had a game-best +4 rating while kind of just being there.
-- I wonder if Martin Brodeur had any lessons for Jake Allen regarding dealing with low shots-faced totals during his brief sojourn with St. Louis this season (yes, that did happen, you weren't stuck in a time warp for a couple weeks). Allen only needed to make 17 out of 18 saves for his second playoff win. He's only faced 30+ SOG twice in 2015, and 27 from Game 1 represents the most action Minnesota sent his way in this series so far.
-- Patrik Berglund's been on a nice role lately, including Game 4's goal and an assist. He now has four points in as many postseason games and has 11 points in 12 games (playoffs and regular season) stretching back to March 28. He went from March 1-24 without a point before that, so keep in mind that he may still be streaky.