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Friday Four: Excited for Game 2s after great Game 1s

by Kevin Weekes /

Each Friday throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, series, plays, trends or really four of whatever from the playoffs that have caught his eye.

There are four Game 2s Friday and each one of them is following a phenomenal Game 1. Here's what I think of what has already transpired in the four series that resume Friday and what I think can and will still happen going forward.

1. Senators-Canadiens

As I said in my blog Wednesday, look for the intensity in this series because of the rivalry. We saw that tenfold in Game 1 with what happened in the Montreal Canadiens' 4-3 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Clearly this thing got sparked by P.K. Subban's slash on Mark Stone. It ratcheted up the heat for both teams. It was a physical game, and what's crazy is these two aren't very physical teams. It's not that they're afraid; they just aren't as physical as some other teams.

This wasn't supposed to be a series between two overly physical teams, but it certainly was in Game 1.

To look ahead now to Game 2 (7 p.m. ET; CBC, CNBC, TVA Sports), where do you want to begin?

I think it's going to be more of the same. I think they're going to be physical and I think there is going to be as much speed as we anticipated. I think there are going to be a lot of power-play opportunities. As much as both teams want to be on their best behavior, I don't think that's going to be the case. I wouldn't be surprised to see spillover from Game 1.

There is a lot of gamesmanship too.

I thought Senators coach Dave Cameron was a little too heated in saying suspend Subban or we'll slash one of their guys and you give us a five-minute penalty. I think he could have been more measured.

Ottawa GM Bryan Murray also turned up the heat with his comments Thursday. Surprisingly Canadiens coach Michel Therrien remained calm; you have to give him credit for that.

One thing you can say is neither team panicked and I don't expect them to panic in this series. I expect a lot of skill, a lot of speed, a lot of physicality and a great amount of intensity in Game 2.

2. Islanders-Capitals

The New York Islanders were the surprise of the first night of the playoffs with a 4-1 win at Verizon Center against the Washington Capitals. They had to play their style, a puck-pressure game, and they did that.

The Islanders were first to the position offensively and defensively. Washington didn't generate as many quality looks as it would have liked. I spoke to some Capitals people Thursday and they felt the Islanders did a great job suffocating them. That was the word they used to me.

To be an inexperienced group and to go into that building against the League's best goal scorer in Alex Ovechkin and handle themselves like that, I think the Islanders did an outstanding job in Game 1. They looked like they belonged. They weren't overwhelmed. They proved they belonged.

For Game 2 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, CSN-DC), I think the Capitals have to come out and play even heavier than they did in the regular season. They're a big, physical team that can lean on you and wear you out. They have to force the Islanders to think twice about coming in on the forecheck, to think twice about coming through the middle and getting in front of goaltender Braden Holtby to set screens. There was a lot of uncontested traffic in front of Holtby; that can't happen in Game 2.

Washington's defensemen have to do a better job of boxing out and protecting the house. Some of the low forwards have to do a better job of that, especially the low centers. They need to come lower.

Washington also has to take advantage of some open ice and shoot. I think the Capitals were too selective and tried to be too fine on the offensive end in Game 1. That played to the strengths of the Islanders.

3. Blackhawks-Predators

I wish they were still playing Game 1. That was amazing. A double-overtime game with that kind of speed and intensity; that was everything you love about Stanley Cup Playoff hockey.

Not that we expected anything different, but how about the fans in Nashville? Are you kidding me? They were amazing. What an atmosphere. The scene was set.

The Nashville Predators played off that energy early. They were flying. I'm not sure; did the Chicago Blackhawks have their watches set back 15 or 20 minutes? Man oh man, the Predators were flying early in Game 1.

Everything we talked about with the Predators, with them playing a skill game, their defensemen being active, was there. Chicago had no answer in the beginning. It took the Blackhawks a while to find their answer. You can't play on your heels playing against Chicago, you'll get killed. You've got to attack and the Predators did that so let's give them credit for their start.

In the end, I'll quote one veteran Blackhawks player: "Our group doesn't panic." It's that simple. Two championship rings in the bank will do that. Captain Jonathan Toews always does it, there's no doubt. He's always going to deliver. Forward Patrick Sharp raised his game. The Scott Darling story in goal is beyond incredible.

Darling is a big man. He's technically sound. He's mature. He's been through a lot to get to where he is. He's had a hard road. Give him credit. It's great that he played so well. What he did Wednesday was nothing short of amazing.

But you've got to respect the man, and goaltender Corey Crawford is the man in Chicago. It's the right move by coach Joel Quenneville to go back to him for Game 2 (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, CSN-CH, SPSO).

Look at what Crawford has done in the past and how he played this season; he was amazing for them.

If it were an elite quarterback that's won a Super Bowl and is a Pro Bowler, obviously his coach would go back to him for the next game if he had an off-week the week prior. I think it's a good move to do that. It shows no panic and it also shows respect.

The Predators have to hit the reset button and say, "Hey guys, we had an excellent game, but if we didn't know before that we could play with this team the doubt should be erased. We can play with this team."

4. Flames-Canucks

I thought Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack was excellent in Game 1. I also thought Calgary Flames goalie Jonas Hiller was excellent. The goalies kept each team in Game 1, kept them believing.

At the end of the day this is what makes the Flames the Flames. They're the frisky Flames. Another third-period comeback, with a late, game-winning goal from the defense. Those guys don't quit, they don't fold and they don't panic. It comes back to the refinement and reinvention of coach Bob Hartley.

If he was the Bob Hartley of years ago I could see him panicking. There was no panic from the Flames' bench in Game 1 and there hasn't been all season. I think it speaks to his evolution as a person and a coach. This is a team that just believes. I'm not surprised by what happened Wednesday.

I think it's going to continue to be a great series. It's a great rivalry. It'll be a skilled series. And nothing changes in the game plans for each team heading into Game 2 (10 p.m. ET; CBC, CNBC, TVA Sports).

For the Canucks, they feel that if they can shut down the Flames' top line of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler they can win.

For the Flames, they feel like if they shut down the Sedin line that increases their chances of winning.

But if you're the Canucks, you have to respect Calgary's back end; defenseman Kris Russell had the winning goal in Game 1. The Flames have the highest scoring defense corps in the League; they can make you pay, they did in Game 1 and they can do it again.

For Vancouver scoring from the back end has been an Achilles heel. The Canucks need more production from their defensemen to win this series. If they don't get production from their defense it's a tall ask for them to win the series.

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