Five thoughts from the first day of the NHL Restart
Dylan Callaghan-Croley (@DylanCCNHL)
August 2, 2020
The NHL returned to action on Saturday afternoon for the first time since March and provided five tremendous games for fans to watch. All close and tight battles, there was a lot to take in, in the first day of the NHL Qualifying Round.
With that, here's one thought from each of Saturday's games...
1. Carolina Hurricanes 3 - New York Rangers 2: A Penalty Riddled Game
From the start of the Saturday’s matchup between the Hurricanes and Rangers, you could tell it was going to be a physical one. The final box score showed that the two teams combined for 68 hits (40 from the Rangers) and 14 penalties. It was a sloppy game to say the least but it also shouldn’t be too shocking considering the circumstances. Overall, neither power play looked good on Saturday as teams look to refind their chemistry following the four month layoff. The Ranger weren 0-for-7 on the man advantage while the Hurricanes were 1-for-7. The team that figures out their power play first in this series may be the team that ultimately wins the series. It will be interesting to see if the physicality remains in game two of this series on Monday.
2. New York Islanders 2 - Florida Panthers 1: Will Johnny Boychuck Be Ready for Game Two?
In game one of their 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers, the New York Islanders lost defenseman Johnny Boychuck in the second period after a check to the head from Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson. Boychuck didn’t return in game one and it’s still unknown if he’ll be ready for game two on Monday. Look for Barry Trotz to dress an extra defenseman either way on Monday. While the Islanders blue line efforts were still good after the loss of Boychuck, losing a veteran presence like him for the qualifying round and the playoffs would be a considerable one for the Barry Trotz’s team.
3. Chicago Blackhawks 6 - Edmonton Oilers 4: Edmonton Has a Lot to Fix in Not a Lot of Time
If their 6-4 loss to the Blackhawks was any indication of where Edmonton is coming off the shutdown then there’s a ton for Oilers to fix before game two of the series on Monday. The Oilers were absolutely putrid on the defensive side of things and Mike Smith’s slow start didn’t help them at all. A Chicago first period outburst that saw the Blackhawks score four goals really put Chicago in a deep hole early and they were never able to climb out of the whole after that. Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik wasdominant in the win for Chicago, totaling two goals and three assists.
Perhaps what Edmonton will need to fix the most in terms of their defensive efforts, is their penalty kill. After having the league’s No.2 PK during the regular season, the Oilers allowed Chciago to score on three of their six opportunities. It was an abysmal effort defensively all around for Edmonton and the Blackhawks now have them on the ropes.
4. Montreal Canadiens 3 - Pittsburgh Penguins 2 : Carey Price Looked Like Vintage Carey Price
In our preview of the qualifying round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens we noted that while Pittsburgh should be the favorite, the one thing that could single handedly determine the series was Montreal goaltender Carey Price. If game one of the series was indication, that is very much a possibility.
In game one, Price looked phenomenal for the Canadiens and to be fair, Penguins goalie Matt Murray looked pretty good himself. Price on Saturday night, stopped nearly everything the Penguins sent his way, stopping 39-of-41 shots including 9-of-10 shots on the powerplay. Price stood on his head for most of the game as he looks healthy and rejuvenated which could be big news for the Canadiens.
Montreal will still need a lot to go right to win the series but taking game one of the series is surely huge for Montreal. Game two is set for Monday night at 8:00 p.m.
5. Calgary Flames 4 - Winnipeg Jets 1: Mark Scheifele Injury Could Spell Doom for the Jets
It’s safe to say when a team loses their best player it’s hard for them to replace him in a suitable manner. If the Winnipeg Jets hope to win their series against the Flames in the qualifying round, they’ll need to find a way to do just that. In the first period of the game on Saturday night, Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk drove Scheifele into the boards and in the process, Tkachuk’s skate got the bottom part of Scheifele’s leg causing the nine-year NHL veteran to hit the boards awkwardly. Scheifele immediately grabbed his leg following the collision as he squirmed on the ice until the trainers came out to his aid.
As of Sunday morning there was no update on the nature of Scheifele’s injury but both the replay as well as the excruciating pain he appeared to be in immediately following the play would make signs point to this being a long-term injury for one of the Jets top point-getter in the regular season (tied for first with 73-points). If he is out long-term, the Jets will need to find a way to replace his production fast. If not, it could be a quick qualifying round exit for the Jets especially if Calgary continues their impressive defensive effort that they showed on Saturday night.