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Recapping and Reevaluating the NHL Qualifying Round

Two days of non-stop playoff hockey are in the books and it has not disappointed. The games played the last two days have been exciting, fast-paced, and played under a playoff atmosphere. Days one and two have given fans everything from a surprise starting goaltender to an overtime thriller and even a few penalty shots. The eight game one results have provided a clearer view into what NHL fans can expect going forward in the qualifying round.

#12 Montreal Canadiens lead #5 Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0

The Canadiens weathered an early Pittsburgh storm as the Penguins could not capitalize on 10 shots within the first five minutes of the game. Montreal then capitalized on a scrum in front of the Pittsburgh net as Jesperi Kotkaniemi gave the Canadiens the early lead.

Second period goals by Montreal’s Nick Suzuki and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust made the score 2-2 going into the third period. The Penguins failed to capitalize on both a long 5-on-3 and a penalty shot sending the game into overtime. 13:57 into the Montreal-dominated overtime, Canadiens’ defenseman Jeff Petry found the back of the net to give his team the 1-0 series lead. 

The win felt like a gutsy road performance and should give the Canadiens lots of momentum heading into game two of the series on Monday night. Pittsburgh has some work to do on the powerplay and need to clean up some fundamental mistakes if they are going to win the series.

Original Prediction: Pittsburgh wins in 4 games

New Projection: Pittsburgh wins in 5 games

#6 Carolina Hurricanes lead #11 New York Rangers 1-0

The Hurricanes got on the board just 61 seconds into the game when Jacob Slavin put one past Henrik Lundqvist. The game would only get choppy from there as each team would total 21 penalty minutes by the end of the game.

Goals by Carolina’s Sebastian Aho and Martin Neccas and New York’s Mika Zibanejad would give Carolina a 3-1 advantage heading into the final three minutes of the third period. Marc Staal would add a shorthanded marker with just under two minutes left, but it was not enough for the Rangers to complete the comeback. Carolina would win game one by a score of 3-2.

Carolina should feel confident about the game they played and should look to cutdown on penalties during the remainder of the series. New York needs to figure out their goalie situation as Igor Shesterkin was a late scratch due to an undisclosed reason.

Original Prediction: Carolina wins in 5

New Projection: Carolina wins in 4

#7 New York Islanders lead #10 Florida Panthers 1-0

The Islanders lockdown defense was on display yet again in their return to the ice. Goals by J.G. Pageau and Anthony Beauvillier were all New York needed to win game one. Florida did not have an answer for Semyon Varlomov or the Isles defense until 23 seconds into the third period when Johnathan Huberdeau cut the lead in half. The Panthers kept on the offensive pressure for the next ten minutes but were unable to find an equalizer as New York’s defense slammed the door shut en route to a 2-1 victory.

New York needs to keep playing their brand of hockey and continue to do just enough on the offensive side of the puck. Florida needs to try to stretch the Islander defense and score on the break to be successful in the series.

Original Prediction: New York wins in 5

New Projection: New York wins in 5

#9 Columbus Blue Jackets lead #8 Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0

Toronto and Columbus were locked in a defensive battle of the goalies for the first two periods of game one. Joonas Korpisalo and Freddy Anderson were phenomenal the entire game, but just over a minute into the third period, Cam Atkinson broke the tie for the Blue Jackets. Columbus’ defense stayed steady for the remainder of the game as Korpisalo stopped everything that came his way. Columbus added an empty net goal and went on to win 2-0.

Columbus should be thrilled with their shutout win because of Toronto’s potent offensive attack. Toronto should be happy with their defensive game but need to get their offense going because their defense and goaltending has proved unreliable in the past.

Original Prediction: Columbus wins in 4

New Projection: Columbus wins in 4

#12 Chicago Blackhawks lead #5 Edmonton Oilers 1-0

Edmonton appeared to be off and running with an early goal by captain Connor McDavid, but the 1-0 lead went as quickly as it came. Chicago scored four goals in a span of eight minutes to take a 4-1 lead at the end of the first period. The Blackhawks would not look back as they would go on to win by the final score of 6-4. Rookie leftwing Dominik Kubalik tallied five points (2 goals and 3 assists) in a dominant performance. Other notable players with multiple points were Johnathan Toews and Connor McDavid who had three points each. 

Chicago’s veteran core stabilized the team after falling into an early hole, but it was the Blackhawks young guns that did the heavy lifting. If the Hawks continue to get production from their young players, then they will make quick work of the Oilers. Edmonton needs to get production from someone not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl as well as solid goaltending. 

Original Prediction: Chicago wins in 5

New Projection: Chicago wins in 5

#11 Arizona Coyotes lead #6 Nashville Predators 1-0

The Coyotes quickly got out to an early three goal lead with goals by Ekman-Larsson, Dvorak, and Keller. After Juuse Saros settled into the game, he was near perfect for the rest of the game. Near the end of the second period, Michael Grabner scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway to give Arizona a 4-1 lead. The Predators would score two third period goals, but it would not be enough to complete the comeback. Arizona won the game 4-3.

The Coyotes need goaltender Darcey Kuemper to stay sharp as he made 40 saves in game one. The Predators need better paly in net and better special teams play as they allowed both a powerplay and shorthanded goal in game one.

Original Prediction: Nashville wins in 4 

New Projection: Arizona wins in 5

#10 Minnesota Wild lead #7 Vancouver Canucks 1-0

The Wild came out firing and scored just three minutes into the games as Kevin Fiala scored on the powerplay. Minnesota and goalie Alex Stalock weathered an eight-minute Vancouver surge and drew a penalty that led to their second powerplay goal of the game. The Wild “parked the bus” and sat back defensively for the remainder of the game. Stalock stopped all 28 shots that he faced and the Wild added an empty net goal to take game one by a score of 3-0.

Minnesota needs to continue to play their defensive game that caters to their veteran core to win the series. Vancouver needs to beat the Wild with the speed and skill of their young core as well as executing better on their special teams play.

Original Prediction: Vancouver wins in 3

New Projection: Minnesota wins in 5

#8 Calgary Flames lead #9 Winnipeg Jets 1-0

Game one of this series started with a bang as Matthew Tkachuck collided with Mark Scheifele knocking him from the game and possibly ending his season. After a choppy first half of the period, Andrew Copp gave the Jets a 1-0 lead.

Momentum began to shift in the second period as Calgary went on the powerplay and tied the game with a Johnny Gaudreau goal. The Flames would add a second powerplay goal and a shorthanded marker to end the second period. Calgary would add an empty net goal to make the final score 4-1 and take a 1-0 series lead. 

Calgary was flying after a rocky start and capitalized on their special teams leading them to a game one win and a promising series outlook. In addition to overcoming a few key injuries, Winnipeg needs to get the chip off their shoulder as the result of what they thought was a dirty hit on Mark Scheifele.

Original Prediction: Flames win in 5 

New Projection: Flames win in 4

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