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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Blue Jackets go for 2-0 lead against Lightning

Islanders, Jets, Sharks trying to sweep first two games of their series

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2019 NHL postseason. There were three games on the schedule Thursday, including the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals taking on the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1:

 

On Tap

There are four games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Friday:

Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN360, TVAS, SUN, FS-O): The Lightning, who won the Presidents' Trophy and tied the NHL record with 62 wins, look to rebound from a 4-3 Game 1 loss in which they led by three goals in the first period. Columbus looks to take a 2-0 lead in the first round for the second straight season; they lost in six games to the Washington Capitals last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, MSG, MSG+, ATTSN-PT): The last time the Penguins, who lost Game 1 4-3 in overtime, trailed 2-0 in a series, they were swept by the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final. The Islanders are trying to take a 2-0 lead in a seven-game series for the first time since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final.

St. Louis Blue at Winnipeg Jets (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVAS, FS-MW): Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington will look to give the Blues a 2-0 series lead after their 2-1 victory in Game 1. Patrik Laine, who scored one goal in the Jets' final 19 regular-season games, scored their only goal in Game 1.

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2, NBCSCA, ATTSN-RM): The Golden Knights, who have lost five straight postseason games dating to Game 2 of last season's Stanley Cup Final, look to avoid falling into a 2-0 hole for the first time. Defensemen Brent Burns had a goal and an assist and Erik Karlsson had two assists for the Sharks in Game 1.

 

About Last Night

There were three games on the schedule Thursday:

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Boston Bruins 1: Mitchell Marner scored two goals, John Tavares scored an empty-net goal, and the Maple Leafs, who lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round last season at TD Garden, took Game 1 in Boston this season.

Washington Capitals 4, Carolina Hurricanes 2: The defending champs jumped to a 3-0 first-period lead in Game 1 behind two goals from Nicklas Backstrom and one from Alex Ovechkin, but the Hurricanes made it a game, getting two goals from Andrei Svechnikov in a 2:19 span in the third. Lars Eller's empty-net goal sealed the win.

Calgary Flames 4, Colorado Avalanche 0: Mike Smith, playing his first postseason game since May 22, 2012, made 26 saves for the shutout to help the Flames to the Game 1 win. It was the Flames' first postseason win since May 5, 2015. It was the second straight postseason shutout for the Avalanche, who lost 5-0 to the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round last season.

Video: Smith stops 26 shots in Flames' Game 1 shutout win

 

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

 

Maple Leafs can use their speed to exploit Bruins

Remember the adage, "You can't hit what you can't catch?" It was applicable to the Bruins on Thursday. The Bruins used a rough-and-tumble approach to help eliminate the Maple Leafs in seven games in the Eastern Conference First Round last season. Too many times Toronto players were caught flat-footed along the wall. This time, the Maple Leafs played with more courage, with forwards Connor Brown and Trevor Moore initiating a physical game plan. More importantly, Toronto used its speed to convert stretch passes into prime scoring chances behind the Boston defense. Mitchell Marner scored a penalty-shot goal after being hauled down on a breakaway early in the second period; William Nylander scored on a partial breakaway later in the period. As Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy pointed out, the Maple Leafs are one of the faster teams in the League. They used that to their advantage to help win Game 1.

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm1: Marner pots second goal on penalty shot

 

Maple Leafs can't be taken lightly

This probably shouldn't have to be said, but the Bruins can't have too much confidence against the Maple Leafs, even though they won three of four games against them during the regular season, plus their seven-game Eastern Conference First Round last season. The Maple Leafs are a deep, talented, speedy team that can, and did, take the Bruins off their game in Game 1. So when Brad Marchand said, "I think maybe we thought it was going to be a little bit easier than it was out there," that needs to be addressed immediately or the Bruins will be out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before they know it. Odds are good that Boston will have that taken care of by Game 2 on Saturday.

 

Hurricanes are relentless

We knew that already from watching them all season, but they demonstrated it in more than one way in Game 1 against the Washington Capitals. Systemically, they are aggressive in the offensive zone and force opponents into turnovers that can lead to scoring chances. They did that with some success against the Capitals, outshooting them 29-18, but need to do a better job of finishing against Washington goalie Braden Holtby in Game 2 on Saturday to even the best-of-7 series. Being relentless also is part of the identity that helped Carolina qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Hurricanes did not give up or stray from their game plan when they fell behind 3-0 and nearly battled back to tie the game.

 

Capitals don't need lots of shots

The Hurricanes held the Capitals without a shot on goal for the opening 9:33. Then Nicklas Backstrom scored on their second shot on goalie Petr Mrazek at 9:58 and they had a 1-0 lead. By the end of the first period they led 3-0 with three goals on nine shots, and that turned out to be enough for them to win Game 1. Because of the way the Hurricanes play -- during the regular season they led the NHL with 34.4 shots on goal per game and allowed 28.6 shots per game, third-fewest in the League -- the Capitals likely will have to continue to be opportunistic offensively. But they have the skill to do so and play a system that stresses quality of chances over quantity. Their power play, which went 2-for-4 in Game 1, also has the ability to carry their offense.

Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Backstrom goes top shelf on Mrazek

 

Avalanche need power play to get going

The Colorado Avalanche had the seventh-best power-play during the regular-season, at 22.0 percent, and scored 31 power-play goals on the road, which was tied for fourth, but went 0-for-4 in the Game 1 loss to the Flames. The Flames, who were 18th on the power play (19.3 percent) in the regular season, scored on two of their five power plays Thursday. The Avalanche need to win the special teams battle going forward.

 

What goalie controversy?

So much discussion centered around the Flames' choice of starting goaltender. Would it be veteran Mike Smith, who had entered the postseason with 18 games of playoff experience, though none since 2011-12, or David Rittich, who had yet to face a puck in an NHL postseason game? Coach Bill Peters chose Smith and looked pretty good for doing so. Smith made 26 saves in Game 1 for his fourth playoff shutout. Rittich might see action in this series, but for now Smith is firmly behind the wheel.

Video: COL@CGY, Gm1: Smith makes 26 saves in shutout victory

 

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