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Friday Four: Road teams off to fast start

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses home dominance of Flames by Ducks, Marc-Andre Fleury

by Kevin Weekes @kevinweekes / NHL Network Analyst

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

 

Road teams make statement

Visiting teams went 5-3 in the first two nights of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 4-1 on Wednesday and 1-2 on Thursday. The New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks each won Game 1 of their respective series on the road. It's been really impressive considering how young some of those teams are, given the age and inexperience of some players who are exciting but don't have that much playoff experience.

You work all season for home-ice advantage, but five teams have already lost it and are facing virtual must-win games in Game 2.

 

Ducks continue home dominance of Flames

In the Anaheim Ducks' 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, center Ryan Getzlaf was the best player on the ice. He really established himself in the game and was dominant, which is exactly what the Ducks need: their No. 1 center to be their No. 1 center. Getzlaf scored a goal 52 seconds into the game and also had an assist in his team-high 23:57 of ice time. Getzlaf was 12-for-20 on faceoffs, had four hits, four shots on goal and one blocked shot. That was a signature game for him.

We've seen the emergence of Rickard Rakell, who also scored Thursday and led the Ducks in goals this season with 33. Anaheim has now won 28 straight games (including playoffs) against Calgary at Honda Center. For the Flames to win the series, they know they have to win at least one game there, and that will be tough.

Video: CGY@ANA, Gm1: Getzlaf rips PPG in game's first minute

 

Marc-Andre Fleury

The surprising starter for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1, Fleury did what he does when called upon. Everyone knows he's a high-caliber guy, and his teammates love him. General manager Jim Rutherford didn't want to trade him, and you can understand why. Matt Murray has had a really good season, but he's been dinged up with injuries going back to the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

As well as Murray has played, the Penguins have aspirations of repeating as champs, and they know their best chance to do that it to have two No. 1 goalies. Fleury made 31 saves in a 3-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1. At the end of the game, you saw how much his teammates appreciated the effort. Fleury will start in Game 2 on Friday; let's see if he's able to have a repeat performance. The Penguins' defense is banged up, so the Blue Jackets will look to take advantage and avoid going down 0-2 against the defending Stanley Cup champs.

 

Rangers

If you're a Rangers fan, they couldn't have gotten off to a better start. Right from the start on Wednesday at Bell Centre, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was in a groove; he finished with 31 saves in a 2-0 win. I think the Rangers did a nice job boxing out, blocking shots, contesting shots and getting their sticks in lanes. It was a really nice defensive game by the Rangers.

New York plays a nice road game. They did lead the League with a 27-12-2 record away from home. Lundqvist talked about it in the post-game interviews. The structure they played with allowed him to play his A-game. We knew this was going to be a low-scoring series with Lundqvist and his counterpart, Carey Price, but Montreal can't afford to go down 2-0.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm1: Lundqvist shuts the pads on Martinsen

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Justin Williams

The Washington Capitals' forward is better known for his Game 7 heroics, but he put on a show on Thursday. After a great start by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who took a 2-0 lead in the first period, Williams scored twice to tie the game at 2-2. He is just clutch. It's who he is and what he does in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There's a reason he has won the Cup three times and was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2014.

 

Nashville Predators

Huge win for the Predators on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. It was a very controlled and complete game for them, starting with Pekka Rinne, who made 29 saves. They managed the puck well and made plays, but still played within their structure, while playing a smart road game. The lone goal was scored by Viktor Arvidsson, who's been great for them all season long.

 

Canadian teams looking for first win

So far, it hasn't been good for Canada. The Flames, Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers each lost Game 1, making for an 0-5 start to the playoffs. No Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs in 2015-16, so it was exciting to see five in this season. Hopefully they are more successful in Game 2.

 

Jake Allen

How about the performance of Jake Allen? He made 51 saves in a 2-1 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. The Blues were outshot 52-26 and still won because Allen kept them in the game. He made some sensational, two- and three-save sequences and point-blank saves. It was reminiscent of the great Curtis Joseph form his time with the Blues in the 1990s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, standing on his head.

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