By AJ Chasan
48 hours, 457 minutes. The NHL’s game one, two day stretch went as well as expected. We saw nothing but action packed hockey these past two nights and now have more clarity on how these first round series will unfold. With that being said, I went around last night and asked those on WMSC’s own sports team as well as some others to give any questions or takes for us to give thoughts on. And with that, our first mailbag of the playoffs.
“The Michael Bunting hit might have lit a fire Toronto won’t be able to control.” ~ Ryan Miller – Chatham University Hockey
Agree with this wholeheartedly. Going into this series I had the Leafs as my winner here. I thought with the acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly at the deadline that would be the move to take this group to the next level and truly compete for this year’s cup.
In the first period Tampa dominated, it happens. Toronto came back in the middle of the second to pull the game within one. At 4:20 left in the second period, Toronto poked the bear. Bunting pulled a classic Bunting, throwing a cheap shoulder away from the puck to the head of Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak. He earned himself a match penalty for the infraction. Bunting also did himself one better, earning his squad yet another opening round series loss. He woke the defending eastern conference champions right back up, putting three straight goals up after the hit. I’d be shocked if this doesn’t ignite the Bolts. Tampa in five.
“What do the Devils need to fix in game 2?” ~ Campbell Donovan – RHSN Intern
Do we have to talk about the special teams? No goals on four power play attempts in a playoff game not only will lose games, but will also lose a series. They need to be able to put pucks in the back of the net when given man advantage opportunities.
A more glaring storyline however is the putrid five on five performance last night. A rush centric offense won’t win a playoff series. Teams need to be able to create looks in the offensive zone once the puck is entered and settled. Too many times were the Devils just throwing pucks on net with no net presence. A goalie like Igor Shesterkin will eat an offense like that alive. Maybe a Timo Meier bump up to the Nico Hischier, Dawson Mercer line? A 40 goal scorer playing on the third line is unacceptable. That performance was unacceptable. Coach Ruff has to mix around the lineup a bit, it didn’t work at all in the opening contest.
“Why are the Devils no match for the Rangers? Seriously.” ~ Justin Randell – WMSC Sports Team Contributor
Like I mentioned in yesterday’s piece, experience matters. One team’s been there before, one hasn’t. That was indicative of the final score last night. Most team’s young cores when they get to the playoffs for the first time get dominated. That’s not a bad thing. Could this still turn into a series? Absolutely. It’s a best of seven for a reason. The Devils have a ton of talent in that dressing room. They’re just now finding out what playoff intensity is all about. I liked the Rangers before the series for a reason, that was justified last night.
“What does Florida need to do to take down the president’s trophy winners?” ~ Connor Cupen – Host of WMSC’s Breaking The Ice
Turn on the movie Miracle, watch that at morning skate, and hope that ownership is willing to pay whatever it takes to hire Kurt Russell as a part time coaching assistant.
In all seriousness, just play their game. Boston won this years presidents trophy for a reason, they’re arguably the greatest regular season hockey team ever. But this isn’t the regular season. It’s a gauntlet built on who can win four sprints to four. Florida’s a team thats built on it’s multitude of scoring threats from not only their top six but in their d-core as well. If they can get the first goal tonight and manage to steal a game in TD Garden, they’ll have two chances at home to put their stamp on this series.
“Did Vegas underestimate the Jets early?” ~ Jake Ferraro – Host of Jakes Takes at KOSU 91.7
Don’t believe so. Vegas just stunk in every facet of the game last night. Bad on the forecheck, bad in their d-zone, bad on the breakout, couldn’t generate many chances when they did get the puck in deep, all in all they were just horrible. Winnipeg played a heck of a game and you’ve got to give it to them. They heard all the haters that slept on them to win this series. Was an emotional win for the Jets.
Do I believe that Winnipeg actually wins this series? No. Talent will eventually win out in this one and Vegas will end up moving on. A win tomorrow however for Winnipeg and a hypothetical two games to none going back north of the border to Canada might have me worried about Vegas’ chances. I expect the Golden Knights to bounce back and even up the series in game two.