NHL Rink Wrap: Blues almost upset Avalanche; Lightning win Game 1
• Without Brayden Point in Game 1, the Lightning still beat the Panthers. While the score was misleading (4-1), Florida still has some thinking to do.
• Jordan Binnington (and some post luck) helped the Blues get to overtime, but the Avalanche overcame that performance in Game 1.
• The NHL announced the 2022 Selke Trophy finalists: Aleksander Barkov, Patrice Bergeron, and Elias Lindholm.
• Apparently Mitch Marner was the victim of a carjacking.
• It’s not too late to read PHT’s Roundtable about the playoffs so far, with some looks at the future.
To reiterate: the Lightning didn’t beat the Panthers to the degree that backs up the 4-1 score. This was a close one.
But, without Brayden Point and arguably with fresher legs, the Panthers have a lot to chew on after being largely muzzled by the Lightning in Game 1. In the end, this was an even contest at 5-on-5 when it came to high-danger chances, with Florida holding an early edge and Tampa Bay finishing strong.
There’s some comfort in that, yet also room for doubts. Some disturbing trends carried over from the Panthers’ work against the Capitals and Game 1 versus the Lightning. After going 0-for-18 on the power play vs. the Caps, Florida went 0-for-3 in Game 1. The Lightning struck three times on the power play.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 Second Round schedule, TV info]
Beyond that, the Lightning slowed down the Panthers’ rush/transition game quite often, much like the Capitals did. For some speculation on how Florida may spark a better pace, check out this detailed recap.
Check the three stars for another story in this game: Tampa Bay’s stars really delivered.
Game 1: Colorado Avalanche 3, St. Louis Blues 2 [OT] (COL leads 1-0)
You know how the Panthers’ relentless offensive style hasn’t translated to the playoffs, at least yet? The Colorado Avalanche appear immune to such an affliction.
An improved Blues team struggled mightily with the Avalanche attack almost all Game 1 long, to the point that it was surprising that it went to overtime.
As you’ll note in the three stars section, Jordan Binnington was the main reason why. It’s also worth noting that the Avalanche hit at least five posts during this one.
Ideally, the Blues would be able to slow down the Avalanche, much like other teams can use tactics like a 1-3-1 trap to bottle up speedy teams. Could Colorado end up a unique animal in this regard, though?
Players like Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon can knife through defenses, neutralizing neutral-zone traps. Colorado also boasts a deeper rotation of puck-movers than most teams manage to pile up. It’s also noteworthy that the Blues emphasize skill more than size these days, opening up questions about how successful St. Louis would be trying to slow things down.
It’s the sort of thing that might make St. Louis throw a fit or three.
Three Stars in NHL Playoffs (Game 1 of Blues - Avalanche; Lightning - Panthers)
1. Jordan Binnington, Blues
Confession time: while Jordan Binnington earned a Game 1 start, I wondered if the Blues might eventually turn to Ville Husso.
A lot can change during a series, so maybe that will eventually happen. Perhaps Jordan Binnington may pass out from exhaustion after having to make so many saves?
Anyway, the Avalanche were almost unstoppable in pushing the pace against the Blues, but Binnington’s brilliance accounted for that “almost” part. Setting new career-highs, Jordan Binnington faced 54 shots and made 51 saves.
2. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning
Heading into the Lightning - Panthers series, people were aware that Brayden Point was hurt, and unlikely to play in Game 1. There were also rumblings than Nikita Kucherov isn’t healthy.
If Kucherov isn’t at full-strength, then it’s scary to imagine him at 100-percent.
At whatever level he is, Kucherov was the prime difference-maker in the Lightning’s Game 1 win against the Panthers. After making a move that forced MacKenzie Weegar to take a penalty, Kucherov made an even better juke to get Aaron Ekblad out of position, and set up an easy Corey Perry goal.
While that’s a bad gaffe by Ekblad, note that Kucherov pulled off these moves against high-quality blueliners (Weegar and Ekblad have, at times, quietly performed like stealth Norris finalists).
Kucherov also scored a key power play goal to turn a tense 2-1 contest into a comfortable 3-1 lead. You know all that talk (that’s now parodied) about Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau being “underrated?” They need to rise to Kucherov’s level if they want to get more of the spotlight.
(Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 33 saves earn him an honorable mention.)
3. Josh Manson, Avalanche
By certain metrics, Josh Manson hasn’t been a slam-dunk-addition for the Avs. That trade deadline move feels more successful after the success he had in Game 1.
Josh Manson scored the overtime-winner, assisted on Samuel Girard’s 2-1 tally, and drew the penalty that trickled into OT, and caused Brayden Schenn to lose his mind and damage a camera.
Not a bad night’s work.
THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 1: Rangers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 1: Oilers at Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
• Avalanche vs. Blues
• Lightning vs. Panthers
• Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
• NHL Second Round predictions
• Storylines for the NHL’s Second Round