The NHL Playoff Recap gives you our take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
FLYERS/PENGUINS, GAME 1: FLYERS 4, PENGUINS 3 (OT) (FLYERS LEAD SERIES 1-0)
THN’s Take: After 20 minutes of their first playoff game against the arch-rival, cross-state Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers must have wondered how things could’ve gone any worse. They were down 3-0 and the goalie problems that plagued the franchise for the better part of the past two decades were the topic of conversation again. However, the Flyers hung tough and received big boosts from a veteran (Daniel Briere) and rookie (Brayden Schenn) – as well as a botched offside call – before wining the game 4-3 in overtime and showing this highly anticipated series will be lengthy and ferociously contested.
The only reason the Flyers got on the scoreboard at 6:22 of the second was because linesman Tony Sericolo was out of position and missed an indisputable offside that led to a Briere breakaway and his 43rd career playoff goal. But that gave Philadelphia the momentum and the Penguins fell back on their heels for the rest of regulation. Meanwhile, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov redeemed himself after a shaky first period and Briere and Schenn took over: Briere added his second of the night at 9:17 of the third, while Schenn (who assisted on both of Briere’s goals) tipped in a power play goal five minutes later to send it to overtime. And when first-year Flyer Jakub Voracek scored just 2:28 into the extra frame, the shocking comeback was complete and the Flyers had stolen home-ice advantage.
Pens superstar Sidney Crosby led the charge for his team with a goal and two points, but they really appeared to miss the veteran presence and edge of former Pen and current Ranger Mike Rupp. As the game went on, Pittsburgh simply had nobody to step up and respond to the opposition’s push with a forceful check or aggressive play, a role the veteran winger excels at.
1. Danny Briere
2. Brayden Schenn
3. Sidney Crosby
The Black Hole: Evgeni Malkin, the odds-on favorite to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in 2011-12, was a non-factor for the Pens, going pointless and registering a minus-1 on the night. Certainly, Pittsburgh’s defense corps shares some blame for the loss, but Malkin has shown the power to be a game-changer all on his own – and when he doesn’t do much of anything, there’s a lot of blame that falls at his feet as well.
- Adam Proteau
RED WINGS/PREDATORS, GAME 1: RED WINGS 2, PREDATORS 3 (PREDATORS LEAD SERIES 1-0)
THN's Take: The Predators set the tone early in the game by buzzing Detroit's back end with speed and physicality. When Nashville had the puck, the forwards took a page out of the Wings' book by cycling madly. Considering the Preds' top-rated power play couldn't connect despite ample opportunity, the opening match was closer than it should have been. The Wings must be much smarter going forward and matching Nashville's pluck is going to be tough if Darren Helm's wrist injury is serious.
This very much looked like a changing of the guard and though a trip to Joe Louis Arena for Game 3 will reveal the true nature of the Preds, they certainly don't look like Detroit's little brother anymore.
1. Pekka Rinne – It's rare to see a 6-foot-5 netminder move the way Rinne did in Game 1, but the franchise goaltender did all he could to keep Nashville ahead, even when the vaunted Red Wings attack was in full assault mode.
2. Gabriel Bourque – the rookie was the embodiment of Nashville's excellent opening strategy, as he used his speed and grittiness to upset the Red Wings' defense. The fact he had two goals, including the game-winner, didn't hurt his cause, either.
3. Paul Gaustad – The big Preds center had the opening goal, but it was his work at the end of the game that really sealed things. With Detroit on the power play and the net empty, Gaustad won two straight defensive zone faceoffs against Pavel Datsyuk to neutralize the final threat.
The Black Hole: Brad Stuart was burned on all three Nashville goals and even had the first one go in off his skate. Jonathan Ericsson also struggled with the Preds speed at times, but it's hard to beat the veteran Stuart's run of bad luck on the back end.
- Ryan Kennedy
KINGS/CANUCKS, GAME 1: KINGS 4, CANUCKS 2 (KINGS LEAD SERIES 1-0)
THN's Take: If this series continues to resemble the 2011 Stanley Cup final in the subtle way it did in Game 1, the Canucks are headed down the wrong path.
They were criticized for not being tough enough to match up against the burly Bruins and seemed to want to pre-empt the perception this year by throwing their weight around early. Zack Kassian, Max Lappiere and Byron Bitz ran loose, each pickng up a second period penalty. But that’s when the Kings, led by Mike Richards, pushed back and brought to the surface old Canucks weaknesses that played against them in last year’s final. The whiffs of embellishment and arm-raising protestations became a distraction and an early embarrassment – something the Canucks should have learned to stay away from by now.
Of course, Daniel Sedin’s concussion was the biggest difference-maker in this game and downgraded Vancouver’s first line to a three-man unit from a one man and a two-headed scoring machine unit. But this is where Ryan Kesler is supposed to come in. He was the Canucks’ best player against the Nashville Predators in Round 2 last year when they needed him and that time has come once again. It’s clear an impassioned showdown with Richards – equally dastardly, more level-headed – is on the way and Kesler won’t win it if he’s preoccupied with trying to draw penalties.
Another similarity to last year’s final? The goalie showdown of Roberto Luongo and this year’s Vezina favorite Jonathan Quick is going to be great theatre, featuring two of the league’s best at their position. And, like last year’s final, Luongo’s effort in Game 1 will be glossed over because of a somewhat lucky bounce off Jeff Carter’s leg and the 4-2 final score.
1. Mike Richards – His Stanley Cup playoff experience shone through with a three-point night and by setting the tone of the series early through Kesler.
2. Roberto Luongo – The Canucks had fewer shots on goal through two periods than the Kings got in the second period alone and it was Bobby Lou who kept it even until late.
3. Jonathan Quick – His workload was relatively light early, but picked up in the third period when the Canucks stopped taking penalties. Didn’t let in the big goal to the home team at crunch time.
The Black Hole – Mason Raymond. Ya, this may be a bit unfair, as Raymond is a victim of circumstance, but without Daniel Sedin there is literally a black hole on Vancouver’s top line. Don’t let Los Angeles’ stat line fool you, they averaged 2.6 goals per game over their last 10 games and scored at least four goals, four times. They have an impressive arsenal that can bite and the Canucks are in trouble if Daniel can’t return to help their attack retaliate. No knock against Raymond, but that’s a void he can’t fill – and it shows.
- Rory Boylen