By AJ Chasan
When the NHL schedule annually turns over its marathon of a regular season to its lethal intense two month gauntlet, hockey becomes the war on ice it’s meant to be. Players skating at full speed/emotion, battling for every loose puck, checking/shoving to get to the net, guys will do anything possible to get to the top of the mountain. All 16 teams that punch their ticket to the playoffs all have one goal in mind, to become a Stanley Cup champion. On opening night, this all was displayed.
Hurricanes defeat Islanders 2-1 in Game 1
Two teams built on physicality and capitalizing on mistakes, the Islanders and Hurricanes brands were on full display.. With a combined 83 hits from both sides, this game was a full on clash. The story from this game has to be the amount of penalties taken in this one. Each respective unit took four trips to the box. The Hurricanes were able to capitalize on these man advantages, with power play goals scored by forwards Sebastian Aho and Stefan Noesen. Look for these penalty numbers to come down as the series progresses and five on five scoring be the reason one team wins the series over the other. I still favor the Islanders to advance into round two.
Bruins defeat Panthers 3-1 in Game 1
Even with the Bruins dealing with a reported “bug” inside their dressing room, did the outcome of this game surprise anybody? This Boston team set single season records for wins and points for a reason, they’re an unbelievably deep group. With eight players earning a point in this victory, their depth and speed were too much for the Panthers to handle. Linus Ullmark was on point as well in this one, stopping 31 shots which earned him a .969 save percentage. I don’t expect Florida to slow down this full on assault of a roster, look for a Boston sweep here.
Wild defeat Stars 3-2 (2OT) in Game 1
In our series picks we highlighted each team’s goaltending as a focal point to pay attention to in this series, game one solidified this into fruition. Filip Gustavsson and Jake Oettinger collectively turned away a combined 96 shots in this one. Both of these teams went blow for blow, but the Wild ended up with the puck luck needed to steal series wins. Ryan Hartman ended up in the right place at the right time, catching an errant poke off the half wall from Stars defenseman Thomas Harley and putting the puck in the back of the net. It happens, but game two now becomes a must win situation for Dallas. They cannot go to the hockey state of Minnesota down two games to none. I still like Dallas to win the series but with the potential loss of Joe Pavelski after getting hit by Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, this now becomes a real toss up of a series. We’ll all know more as time progresses.
Kings defeat Oilers (OT) in Game 1
Out of any underdog in this first round that could have made a statement during game one, none could have been bigger than the Kings overtime win in Edmonton. After the first period, this game felt over. Leon Drasaitl opened the scoring for Edmonton, and roughly six minutes later defenseman Evan Bouchard sniped one on the power play to make the game 2-0. In arguably the hardest place to play for an opposing team, that Edmonton crowd was in an absolute frenzy. The Kings did not back down. Edmonton took five penalties throughout the remainder of the game, and the Kings took full advantage. With 17 seconds left regulation Anze Kopitar scored on the powerplay, and after nine minutes and 19 seconds in overtime Alex Ifallo scored to win the game. At the end of the day, Edmonton can walk in the dressing room knowing they were the better team and lost due to their own unraveling. But in the playoffs these are the types of breaks that can change series. If Edmonton hammers LA on Wednesday, I’ll feel the exact same way about them as I did coming into the year. Won’t spoil anything now but you could be seeing a ton of Oilers hockey over these next two months. But if LA can keep game two close and potentially steal another, things could get real interesting out west.