Quite an interesting week, huh?
On Monday, we saw the Capitals squeak by the Islanders, denying the latter their first playoff series win in more than two decades (apparently Isles management is OK with the slow-and-steady approach, as Jack Capuano is here to stay). On Tuesday, we got a day off that seemed like it would have made more sense as a palate cleanser between rounds, but what can you do? Wednesday saw a low-event Game 7 in which Tampa Bay essentially got off the hook.
Now we’re onto last night’s games. This week got a little jumbled Dose-wise, as well, but things are back to normal. That means Michael Finewax will cover Saturday’s edition, Jimmy Hascup tackles the Sunday Dose and then I’ll be back to provide you notes both essential and esoteric Monday - Friday next week.
Let’s take a look at the beginning of round two, with a pair of very different contests.
CAPITALS 2, RANGERS 1
-- My feeling was that the Rangers "deserved" this one, or at least carried the play early on. There were a couple WOW-ish early misses for Keith Yandle, for one.
This wasn't one of those crazy-lopsided games, mind you. In fact, it could very well be a matter of the Rangers being fresher, at home or a few other factors.
But just throwing out there: I thought the Rangers looked pretty stout for a while. *Shrugs*
-- Look, I know it's more interesting and fresher to praise Joel Ward for another big goal. From a FanDuel standpoint, it's easy to see why one would get excited.
Let's not kid ourselves, though. Alex Ovechkin made that happen. He caused havoc (OK, Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom created mayhem) and sent a beauty of a pass to Ward for a tap-in. Ovechkin also scored the sort of goal that Ovechkin and maybe five other dudes could score. Or maybe just him.
Really, if 100 other scorers could conceivably score that goal, only so many are willing to pull that trigger. That's one of the many things that make Ovechkin special, and I can't lie; knowing that he's razzing Henrik Lundqvist something fierce sure is a good sign.
I mean, unless you're Lundqvist or the New York Rangers.
-- Speaking of Lundqvist, I have an odd feeling this won't be a great series for Lundqvist.
That's not me saying he'll turn into Anders Lindback* against the Caps, but I have a weird feeling he's not 100 percent sharp. It's been an odd season by Hank standards.
This is a totally unscientific opinion, so add a few extra grains of salt to the usual mix.
-- Maybe it's not as much about Lundqvist as it is about Braden Holtby. He was great for Washington, really sharp. He also carries one advantage I still care about, at least when splitting hairs in this parity-packed era: contract-year motivation. After all, if all things are at least close to equal, would you take the guy hoping to make a raise from about $2 million per year or an already hyper-rich player who has a wealthy deal that will probably cover him for the rest of his career.
In case you're not following, Holtby is the guy with a ton on the line.
* - We're at the point where I'm running out of "don't be this guy" goalies. I bet Lindback has a great 2015-16 just to leave us all with zero answers.
DUCKS 6, FLAMES
-- Gut feeling No. 2: could the Ducks be more legitimate merely by rest?
Championship runs are often about breaks here and there, and I'd wager that the Ducks got a break in sweeping the Winnipeg Jets. Anyone who watched that series - nay, even took a cursory glance at the box scores of the games - realizes that those contests were generally really, really close.
Anaheim only had to play four games, though. If they can finish Calgary off quickly - not out of the question, even if Game 1 was indeed just one game - then they could very well enter the conference finals playing three fewer contests than their opponents. That means more than you might think.
Again, it WAS just one game, and this is JUST a gut feeling. I had to share that, though.
-- Calgary walked in big underdogs by almost any metric, but man, this was an outright thrashing. Yikes. Vancouver was an ideal matchup for the Flames, but the longer they go on, the longer the odds.
-- Both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf generated four-game nights apiece. While I don't expect them to pour it on like this every night, I also don't get the impression that Calgary has anyone (healthy?) who can consistently stop them. They rampaged and basically had fun in Game 1.
-- Jiri Hudler and Michael Ferland were both injured in this one. Each player is considered day-to-day. If Hudler's even encumbered, just add to the growing list of worries.
-- Bob Hartley said that Johnny Gaudreau was held out of the third period to rest him (and because the Ducks were "taking liberties"), not because he was hurt. Man, let's hope so, because the alternative is two-thirds of the Gaudreau - Hudler - Sean Monahan line being hurt.
Take an extra moment to consider that horror.
-- How absurd is it that Tomas Fleischmann AND James Wisniewski are both still healthy scratches? I'm not sure if that says more about Anaheim's depth and more about how many trade deadline flops we've seen this year.
(Seriously, most years guys at least avoid being scratched ...)
-- Sam Bennett spoiled Andersen's shutout. He now has three goals on 12 SOG in seven games. If Hudler's hurt, maybe the Ducks should just slide the fourth pick of the 2014 NHL Draft into that spot.