The explosions continue to be the story of these Stanley Cup playoffs, after a night in which all four games were decided by three or more goals. Only 4 of the 28 matches played so far have been resolved by a single goal, two of which have gone into overtime.
In the end, it’s going to get tight again, you guess, and the deeper we go into this first-round series, the more compelling the play will be.
On Monday night, one team got a chance to be the first to reach the second round, while three others are looking to dominate 3-1. Here is a look at the four games you can click on.
Can Johnny Goudreau find a way to score as the pressure mounts?
It’s important to start with this: Johnny Goudreau hasn’t had a bad streak. It’s not the first reason Calgary’s 2-1 series gap is to blame against Dallas.
He and Matthew Tkachuk were tied to lead the team with two passes each. This is good for driving team points as well. In Game 3, Gaudreau came in with a solid effort, scoring the assist in Elias Lindholm’s second goal in the first half.
But what sticks in your mind is Gaudreau’s detachment in the last minutes of regulation as the flames fell by one. His chance of hitting a big goal shifting momentum and in a series where good ice in front of the net is hard to come by with pinch control, was a defining moment.
Jake Oettinger stopped.
Gaudreau had the best season of his career this year, he’ll take home the Hart Trophy and could be in the top three of the award finals. He had one of the best offensive seasons in Flames history with 115 points, and was one of three to score 40 goals on the team, reaching this feat for the first time. Gaudreau and The Flames have both talked about wanting to be together, but it always gets kind of complicated.
The hat picture is tight, with RFAs Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane also in this off season. Gaudreau project to achieve at least $8.5 million On his next contract, if not $9-9.5 million. If it hits the market and goes to the highest bidder, it wouldn’t be crazy to propose to go over $10 million.
But also part of the narrative in his time in Calgary was about the disappointment of the supplement, and Gaudreau’s inability to find a way to beat it and be a top player in the big moments. His performance on this influential tour could have a huge impact on any decision on what happens next between him and the team.
Entering Game 4 (9:30PM ET / 6:30PM PT, Sportsnet), the need for the Big Moment player increases.
“I’d rather have a player score a big goal than a guy who scores 40,” Flames coach Daryl Sutter said on Sunday.
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This is the narrowest defensive streak and he only has three goals (Gaudreau took into account two of them). What are they really need to Is the manifestation of insult from either line, or that their strength performance is better than 8.3 percent. What will be most talked about is the first line if it does not result and the flame is delayed 3-1.
While this trio has dominated most shot attempts with equal power, their projected target percentage is less than 50, the worst of any flame streak, and they are narrowly outdone. There is no margin for error in this series.
“We’re doing a lot of the things we’ve done all year, and we’re not getting results. But in a series, you have to get results or you run out of real estate,” Sutter said.
Gaudreau has been a longer flame than anyone else in his line. He saw the playoff disappointments here, and sometimes had to be her face. And while he had a pretty good streak in the tough draw as Dallas, it wouldn’t be “very good” as Calgary remembered in the first round.
Only the big moments will be.
“Just stick with it, you’ll come,” Goudreau said.
Will the avalanche eliminate predators?
Speaking of the flames, Sutter may be correct in a prediction he made about the first-round series from Colorado two months ago, calling it a “waste of eight days” for any unlucky team that got into the avalanche.
The Nashville Predators are bouncing about that score, dropping 3-0 heading into Game 4 (9:30 PM ET / 6:30 PM, PT, Sportsnet ONE).
Colorado has a chance to be the first team to reach the second round, as the avalanche winner awaits at Minnesota St. Lewis, which turns out to be a strange exchange of blasting back and forth. He should be a player of at least six players, which leaves Avs some time to rest and get goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper back to full health.
This was just a mismatch, made worse by the fact that Nashville lost goalkeeper Juuse Saros before the playoffs began. While Conor Ingram put up a fight in Game 2, and cleared 49 consecutive shots in an overtime loss, Game 3 brought the realistic score 7-3 in Colorado’s favour.
The Avs are the playoff leaders in shootouts and shots by percentage (both over 60) at 5-on-5 and have outperformed Nashville 16-6 overall—no one has outdone their opponent by a larger margin. Colorado’s strong performance scores the best in the league with 42.9 percent. Cal Makar has seven points to lead in the league’s playoffs, while Nathan McKinnon is far from top of the league with four goals, as is Mikko Rantanen with five assists.
Their only fear may be a 72.7 percent kill from a penalty and an eye injury to Kuemper’s Game 3 when Ryan Johansen sticks Accidentally slipped through his mask. Pavel Francouz will start Game 4, but the hope was that Kuemper could still play Game 5, or back for the next series.
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How will Igor Shesterkin respond to the withdrawal of Game 3?
The New York goalkeeper has had an almost perfect season.
There were no weaknesses in Igor Shesterkin’s appeal until March. He didn’t have a month with a savings ratio of less than 0.920 from October through February. He allowed more than three goals per match only three times in those first five months and was never withdrawn for performance reasons. There was a sparkling issue regarding his place in Hart Trophy’s conversation.
In March we saw the first signs that he was actually a human.
Against the St. Louis Blues on March 10, Shesterkin was withdrawn for a debut performance, allowing four goals from 17 shots. Only 12 days later he was pulled again for performance, allowing five goals in 24 shots against the New Jersey Devils.
Goalkeepers, of course, are allowed to have moments like that in an 82-match season, and frankly, it’s amazing how many “bad” matches Shesterkin has played all year. In the playoffs, Rangers are counting on his 26-year-old son to be a squad builder and fill some of the gaps left by the team’s mediocre control stats. So the fact that Shesterkin allowed four goals on 15 shots in the first half and was withdrawn in Game 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins should be at least a little worrisome.
With the Penguins hitting the netminder of the third series, this is an area that should be a crucial advantage for the Rangers, and another score like the one their MVP got in Game 4 (7PM ET/4PM PT, Sportsnet) could end their season. Shesterkin, who was not responsible for the loss, needs to recover as soon as possible. He’s the serial thief.
So how did he respond to the few draws he got in the regular season?
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After the draw against St. Louis, Chesterkin rebounded into the net after two nights against Dallas and allowed two goals in the first five minutes. He would have been on his way to another early draw had not the Rangers responded with four goals in the back half of the first half. In all, Shesterkin allowed four goals from 33 shots, but was not in danger of losing the game thanks to the New York attack – it was a 7-4 victory for the Rangers.
And after a Devils match pulled from him, Shesterkin returned to the network after three nights against… the Pittsburgh Penguins. He faced only 21 shots, allowed one goal in the third inning, and won the match 5-1. Shesterkin’s next start after this was also against Pittsburgh and although he allowed the first goal of the match, Shesterkin still held off 22 of 24 shots and led his team to a 3-2 victory.
“It’s one game for me,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said on Sunday. “There’s no reason to blame him. Our team dominated in the first period. Nothing on Igor.”
Florida Panthers… gulp
Maybe there is a curse on mice?
It’s fair to say that the Florida Panthers playoffs weren’t a great start. The balloon-whistle attack has kept under three goals in two of the three games so far with an average of 2.67 per game. They have the one power game they haven’t scored yet, 0 for 9. Sergey Bobrovsky, seen as a ramshackle step up the ladder, has been very good and Florida is finding ways to lose it anyway. The 6-1 loss to Washington in Game Three was the most worrisome yet, as poor penalties gave the Capitals twice as many power plays. There wasn’t enough thrust back when they let the early bullets slide away.
“The level of intensity is probably important and understanding every little thing has repercussions in the game,” said Panthers coach Andrew Brunot. “And over the three games we kind of lose at it and it costs us some goals. And I think with our group a little bit of a nervousness. Talking about it, we still feel like it’s staying. We have to get a little bit more angry, a little bit more intense during the whole 60, every minute, every game.”
nervous? Deficiency if severity to full 60? These are usually signs that the team is not quite ready to break through the playoff.
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Historically, there was reason to be pessimistic about the Panthers’ playoff match hopes, other than to wonder if their all-crime approach could translate. They were the best team of the regular season after all, and no President’s Cup winner has won a Stanley Cup since Chicago in 2013. So could that be the curse of the President’s Cup, or is it something else?
Keep in mind that of the ten previous Presidents Cup winners who have not won the Cup, only two have lost in the first round: the 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning one year after reaching the Conference Final, and the 2012 Vancouver Canucks one year after reaching the Cup Final.
The collapse in Florida’s first round would be deeper than either because this has been the most hopeful season for fans of the franchise in a generation. This was the first year they’d win a playoff tour since 1996. That’s a 26-year drought in any playoff game for a fan base, folks. So this may be more than the fact that Presidents Cup winners tend not to go for four rounds – Florida may be dealing with the curse of the late rats Scott faced Milanby 26 years old.
“We know the best hockey game we’ve played yet,” Sam Reinhart said.
Against a team with poor netting, and without the annoying strength like Tom Wilson in the past two games, it’s terrifying that the Panthers haven’t found their best version yet. If they lose again on Monday (7PM ET/4PM PT, Sportsnet ONE), they may not have time to find them.