The Stanley Cup playoffs are heating up, and Saturday was full of surprises. The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning opened their series in Florida, and the B’s didn’t seem to have any kind of a hangover despite going the distance with the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1. In Las Vegas, the San Jose Sharks played like a team desperate for a different outcome after having their doors blown off in Game 1. The Sharks held a lead until late in regulation, and were forced to go deep into the night against the Golden Knights. And in Raleigh, N.C., my Lower C team Ice Aged snapped a long losing skid with an emphatic 6-0 victory over the Puckaneers. That was my favorite result of the day. Let’s get started!
The Bruins kicked off the day with matinee action in sunny Central Florida. They were forced to go the distance in the opening round, and Tuukka Rask looked shaky for Games 5, 6 and 7. However, whatever was ailing him he left behind in the Bay State, as he was on point in Game 1 against the Lightning. Rask stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced in the opening game victory, and the Bruins provided him with plenty of goal support along the way. At one point Rask blew a gasket, angered after allowing a goal while suffering a broken left skate blade which he ended up throwing in disgust. He didn’t let it faze him, though, and he bounced back and was focused the entire way. Rask won three of the four regular-season meetings with the Lightning, and he picked up right where he left off in the playoff series opener.
Rick Nash struggled with inconsistency in the opening round and he took a lot of dumb penalties, but he was a man possessed in this one. He opened the scoring with a power-play marker at 17:11 of the first period, and he added an even-strength marker midway through the second period as the B’s started to build a big lead. He ended up with a plus-1 rating, a blocked shot and two hits over 12:55 of ice time in what might have been his best game in black and gold since coming over from the New York Rangers at the NHL trade deadline.
Nash certainly wasn’t the only offensive star. Patrice Bergeron was also in the two-goal club, potting his second and third playoff goals of the season while adding an assist with an impressive plus-4 rating with five shots, a block and a hit. He also did work in the faceoff circle, winning 13 of his 23 opportunities. Bergeron more than earned his DFS salary in the Game 1 victory. His linemate and power-play partner Brad Marchand was also at the top of his game after disappearing at times during the Toronto series. He lit the lamp once while adding three helpers with a plus-4 rating to please his fantasy owners and B’s fans. David Pastrnak continued his amazing playoff run, too, picking up four assists with a plus-4 rating, two shots on goal, a minor penalty and a hit over 15:21 of ice time. He has managed five goals with 12 assists and a plus-5 rating through just eight postseason games, as he builds his resume for the Conn Smythe Trophy, should the B’s end up going to the Finals.
Charlie McAvoy is also playing with a lot more confidence over the past couple of games. He chipped in with a pair of assists with a plus-2 rating and five hits, while Jake DeBrusk got into the act with another goal, a plus-1 rating and a blocked shot with a hit.
On the Tampa side of the ledger the box score wasn’t quite so filled. Dan Girardi and Mikhail Sergachev accounted for the team’s only goals, and that certainly will not do if the Lightning plan on lasting longer than this series. Tampa Bay’s fearsome twosome of Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos were scoreless with a combined minus-3 rating and just four total shots on goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy will also need to be much better, too, as he let in five goals on 23 shots.
The series continues Monday night in Tampa for Game 2.
SAN JOSE SHARKS 4, VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 (2 OT) (Series tied 1-1)
The San Jose Sharks are a veteran club and one lopsided loss wasn’t going to knock them off the rails. San Jose was embarrassed 7-0 in the opening game in Vegas, but they were able to bounce back with a much better showing in a marathon session on Saturday night.
Things looked like they were able to go the same way they did in Game 1. William Karlsson opened the scoring at 17:59 of the first period to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead. After re-emerging from the room, that man struck yet again. Karlsson took a pass from Reilly Smith open a 2-0 lead in the second period just 26 seconds out of intermission. The turning point was a holding the stick call on David Perron, as Brent Burns was able to get the visitors on the board via the power play, slicing the Vegas lead in half just 94 seconds after Karlsson’s second marker.
The floodgates opened, but this time for San Jose. They scored again at the 11:08 mark when Logan Couture bagged his third of the playoffs on a pass from Tomas Hertl and then Burns returned to finish off the second-period scoring with his third of the postseason on assists from Timo Meier and Joe Pavelski. That’s the way it would stand until the third period.
Defensive reigned supreme for a good chunk of the third period until Nate Schmidt was able to break through with the equalizer at 13:28. The Sharks were probably getting that old feeling again, but they were able to stave off the advances of the Golden Knights, while even killing a delaying game penalty on Brenden Dillon in the final two minutes of regulation.
In the overtime session Jonathan Marchessault appeared to have the game winner late in the first OT, but after further review from the war room in Toronto it was determined that Marchessault interfered with Martin Jones in the crease and the goal was waved off, much to the dismay of the home folks. The Sharks got a reprieve, and they were able to take advantage. After a Jon Merrill penalty for hooking, a no-doubter call, by the way, Couture was able to strike eight seconds later off the faceoff to tie this series at one game apiece. From the looks of the first two games, this is going to be a high-scoring series with plenty of big scoring and fantasy points for DFS players.
The series shifts to San Jose for Game 3 on Monday night.
As far as the other game, I was able to record two shots on goal and a plus-2 rating, but save your money and avoid me in DFS. I wear No. 68 because I am as old as Jaromir Jagr, but minus the scoring touch and the dangles.