Pregame Skate: Can Game 2s match Game 1s? Fla-NJ begins
The first night of the playoffs was as intense as it gets. Can those six teams make it even better with the addition of the Florida-New Jersey series starting tonight too?
Game 2 can't possibly live up to Game 1, can it? We had a player (Darren Helm) have his playoff venture come to an end after a fluke accident. There was Red Wings coach Mike Babcock slamming the refs on live TV. Oh, and something about Shea Weber and Henrik Zetterberg? I don't know, I thought I heard people talking about that.
Just as important (moreso, even) is the fact that the Predators won the game 3-2. So now we start to get our first sense of desperation from teams. The whole goal is to split the first two when you're the road team, that's Detroit's mission tonight.
It is going to be interesting to see how physical this game gets. Will Weber be a targeted player by the Wings? Perhaps, but the stakes might be too high for Detroit to mess around with it. They were paying rent on the penalty box last game, I don't think they want to re-up the lease for tonight, particularly with Helm, one of their top penalty killers, out.
Also, do we have a playoff star in the making? Watch for Nashville's Gabriel Bourque, who scored two goals and had a golden chance for a hat trick in Game 1. There are always a couple of breakout players, he's the early leader to be one this year.
The Kings have never won the first two games of a playoff series on the road. The Canucks have never lost the first two of a series at home. So the forces would appear to be leading us toward a split.
One person who might disrupt that force? Mike Richards. The Kings forward was terrific in Game 1, eating up 22:25 of ice time while scoring a goal and chipping in two assists in the 4-2 win. He was the best skater on the ice Wednesday. Looks like Ryan Kesler has a shutdown job for Game 2.
We all knew that the Kings weren't your ordinary eighth seed this season and they showed it. You wonder if it was a matter of not having Henrik Sedin for the Canucks, being on cruise control for much of the season or what, but they need to start possessing the puck more. At least for the majority of the first periods on Wednesday that didn't happen. Part of that was due to them taking a lot of penalties, another thing they need to cut back on.
And sadly, I don't think we can expect to get any more great in-game tweets from the Kings account, the organzation gave its apologies on Thursday.
This is the most-anticipated matchup of the playoffs and it shows. Game 1 of the series pulled in 844,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network, leading to the best opening night on cable in a decade. I don't think the Flyers' 4-3 comeback win in overtime did much if anything to push people away either.
The Flyers just seem to be in the Penguins' heads now or something. The last three times the Penguins led 2-0 or better against Philly, it has been the guys in orange and black taking the celebratory skate. It's not a great plan for the Flyers, mind you, but it's working. They are one of the most dangerous teams in the game when trailing.
If Pittsburgh is going to hold onto any leads, not taking their foot off the gas is one key component, sure. But another is getting a little better play from Marc-Andre Fleury. He hasn't been playing his best hockey of late to be sure. In four of his last six starts he has given up at least four goals, including Game 1. Goaltending makes or breaks teams, especially in the playoffs, so they need him to step up the game a notch or two.
All-time now Philadelphia is 6-1 in Consol Energy Center. In case you forgot, that's not their home arena, it just feels like it. If they make it 7-1 tonight, well, this series could be on track for a surprising early end. Not that Philly would feel safe with a 2-0 series lead or anything.
It was 12 years ago today that Florida played its last Game 1 in a playoff series. They lost to the Devils before getting swept. That's a long time to wait so they're hoping not to befall the same fate.
I'm curious to see what a playoff atmosphere in Florida will be like. I've been curious about it for a long time, so tonight we finally get to see. Phoenix isn't known as the best hockey market to put it kindly but the playoff atmospheres are solid.
But the game is obviously played on the ice. At this point we still don't know who the Panthers are going to put between the pipes but it is looking like it will be Jose Theodore. There's no such questions on the other end where Martin Brodeur will don the pads for the Devils.
Here's a thought I'll live you with on this series as it begins. The Panthers have been hammered mercilessly this season for taking advantage of the "Bettman" point with OT and shootout losses. Some might say the Devils benefitted more. The only difference between these two in that regard is that the Devils won shootouts and the Panthers didn't. With ties instead of shootouts, the Devils miss out on 12 points. So Florida can't get any more OTL points, but New Jersey can't win any shootouts either. Just a thought.
Your daily miscellany
- Best of Thursday
- Here is another candidate for the Canadiens GM spot that you can cross of the list, Jim Nill. (ESPN.com)
- Last night's edition of Coach's Corner on CBC. Enjoy. (Kukla's Korner)
- Another day, another missed call that led to a playoff goal? Not a great start for the refs. (Pro Hockey Talk)
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