Many seeds that have fallen, sweeps and comebacks, looking back on what happened in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
The defending champion still alive
# 2 Florida Panthers vs # 3 Tampa Bay Lightning: 2-4
The defending champion did not tremble. For its entry into the running in these revisited playoffs, the Lightning, although not having the home advantage, quickly took control of the series. Winner of the first two away heats in the BB&T Center, Tampa Bay was already in a strong position. If the Panthers gave themselves a little air by winning Match 3 after extra time, they quickly found themselves on the precipice by losing quite heavily in Game 4 (6-2), allowing the Lightning to already be in a position to conclude.
If Florida gave himself a stay and a possibility of comeback by winning the next game, Tampa Bay was merciless in Game 6 and drily dominated the Floridians (4-0) to secure his place in the second round. Despite its relative dominance in head-to-head regular-season showdowns – the Panthers had won five of eight games – Florida was a cut below for the first-ever playoff series between these two division rivals.
# 1 Carolina Hurricanes vs # 4 Nashville Predators: 4-2
You had to have very strong nerves to watch the series between the Hurricanes and the Predators. If a gap separated the two franchises at the end of the regular season (80 points for Carolina, 64 for Nashville), this duel of the first round was much closer than expected. However, Carolina quickly asserted her superiority. Winners of the first two games without forcing, Rod Brind’Amour’s men were then confident for the rest of the series.
With his back to the wall, Nashville will then miraculously save himself twice. In Bridgestone arena dumbfounded, the Predators will snatch a success after a double overtime in Match 3… then in Match 4 ! The series is then completely relaunched, and the suspense is far from disappearing for the end of this confrontation where the two franchises do not let go. Beaten twice in extra time, the Hurricanes in turn won after extra time in the fifth round before concluding the series a few days later… again after extra time! If you were looking for the most indecisive streak from round one, maybe this was it.
Hierarchy overthrown in the East
# 2 Washington Capitals vs # 3 Boston Bruins: 1-4
A little tour and then go. Long leader of the East Division and among the contenders for the title, the Capitals were totally disillusioned as soon as they entered the running. Like last year in the bubble, Washington couldn’t pass a single round and couldn’t win more than one round in the series. An unlucky Stanley Cup finalist last year, Boston scrambled to pick up some contested games and take out Alex Ovechkin and his teammates.
However, the Capitals had the opportunity to switch the series on their side from the first meetings. Winner of Game 1 after extra time, the franchise of Virginia then lost twice on the small of the margins (4-3 then 3-2) in extra time. Washington may in particular feed regrets about its performance in Game 4 where the franchise had the advantage before seeing Boston equalize in the third round and then win after a double-overtime. The last two sets were however dominated by Boston, which still has a chance to retain its title in the Eastern Conference.
# 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs # 4 New York Islanders: 2-4
Another surprise in this East division, the elimination of the Penguins who were brought out by Islanders still ready to overturn the established order in the playoffs. Still, Pittsburgh seemed to be holding the series at the right end. If New York wins Game 1 after extra time, Sidney Crosby’s teammates are on the line in the two games that follow and lead 2-1 in the series. Unfortunately for the Pennsylvania franchise, it won’t win any more rounds in this series.
Indeed, the New Yorkers equalize first by winning the least disputed meeting (4-1) before putting a sledgehammer to the Penguins in Match 5. Led before the third third, the Islanders benefit from achievements Jordan Eberle then Josh Bailey to come back to height then win after a double overtime. Pittsburgh is on the verge of elimination and will not recover, falling on a good Ilya Sorokin in goal in the deciding game. As in 2018/2019, New York was therefore stronger.
Toronto reversed, the Oilers out
# 2 Edmonton Oilers vs # 3 Winnipeg Jets: 0-4
Two completely opposite scenarios but two seeds overturned in the North division regrouping all the Canadian franchises. Second of it at the end of the regular season, the Oilers did not hold out against the more successful Jets. However, apart from Game 1 – won 4-1 by the No. 3 seed, Edmonton came very close to knocking down Winnipeg every time. In a closed second set, Paul Stastny scored the only goal of the game after extra time to allow the Jets to create a first break. Bis repetita a few days later in a much more open meeting (5-4) but with a similar outcome, where Winnipeg first made up a three-goal delay to snatch the extra period before knocking out Connor McDavid and others once again after extra time.
With their backs to the wall, faced with elimination and the threat of a sweep, Edmonton will then throw its last strength into the battle in Match 4. The two teams surrender blow for blow until, once again, direct to extra time. This time around, it will take three for the Oilers and Jets to come out on top, but Winnipeg will take the upper hand again thanks to Kyle Connor, soaring to the next round without dropping a game.
# 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs # 4 Montreal Canadiens: 3-4
If Winnipeg was quick, the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens kept the suspense going until the end by pushing the series until Game 7: a scenario that seemed almost unthinkable in the middle of the series. Indeed, Toronto dominated the first part of this opposition, so much so that the Ontario franchise led 3-1 after four games. The Maple Leafs were then in a position to conclude, but the momentum will completely change sides.
In the obligation to win the following three meetings, Montreal will first be very scared. Leading 3-0 in Game 5, the Canadiens cracked and let Toronto come back and equalize for overtime. However, Dominique Ducharme’s men will stay alive thanks to a saving goal from Nicholas Suzuki, forcing a Match 6. Bis repetita in said Game 6 where Montreal late scored two goals in the third period but saw the Maple Leafs force overtime, before snatching a Game 7 through Jesperi Kotkaniemi. On their momentum, the Canadians will then achieve the feat by stringing a third victory to seek qualification, eliminating a Toronto franchise. yet among the favorites after an excellent regular season.
Colorado unrolls, Vegas almost sinks
# 2 Vegas Golden Knights vs # 3 Minnesota Wild: 4-3
Faced with a Wild they had not beaten since March 4, the Golden Knights came very close to disaster. Defeated in Match 1, Vegas then shows its teeth and wins the next three sets to position itself for the qualification and put pressure on Minnesota. However, as in the series between Toronto and Montreal, the balance of power will then be completely reversed.
Drawing on their mental resources, the residents of St. Paul won twice to force a decisive Match 7. Last year’s conference finalists, the Golden Knights are now facing their fate and, unlike the Maple Leafs, won’t crack under the pressure. Without trembling, Vegas controlled and very quickly extinguished the hopes of the Wild in the wake of a Mattias Janmark author of a hat-trick. The Knights have scared each other but are still racing to run for a third conference final for their fourth NHL season.
# 1 Colorado Avalanche vs # 4 Saint Louis Blues: 4-0
We can’t stop Colorado anymore! Faced with the Blues, winner of the Stanley Cup two years ago, the Avalanche were ruthless and completely unrolled. A tone above, the teammates of Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, author of an assistance during Match 3, never trembled, winning all their matches by at least three goals. Unbeaten since May 6 and beaten only once in the past month, Colorado is scary and is positioned a little more as a serious candidate to reach the Stanley Cup that they have not contested since the start of the millennium.
The series of the second round
- # 1 Carolina Hurricanes vs # 3 Tampa Bay Lightning: 0-1
- # 3 Boston Bruins vs # 4 New York Islanders: 1-1
- # 3 Winnipeg Jets vs # 4 Montreal Canadiens: 0-0
- # 1 Colorado Avalanche vs # 2 Vegas Golden Knights: 1-0
Image credit on top: RJ Sangosti | The Denver Post