The NHL returned yesterday with 5 games as they got the Play-in Round underway, and it certainly wasn’t lacking for excitement. They also made some strong statements about racial injustice and the need to improve this element of the sport, thanks to a video from the Hockey Diversity Alliance and an incredibly powerful speech from the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba before the puck dropped on the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks squared off.
While there’s still a lot of work to be done, it’s an important step by the league.
Let’s take a look at yesterday’s action, shall we?
Things got rolling in Toronto with the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers and it didn’t take long for them to show that while it may look a little different, hockey is definitely back. And it was a big hit that got things going, with Carolina’s Brady Skjei demolishing the Rangers Jesper Fast at center ice. Fast would not return to the game.
And just a few seconds after that, the first goal of the playoffs from Jaccob Slavin:
The Rangers had Henrik Lundqvist in goal, as Igor Shesterkin was ruled unfit to play before the game, and the King held them in it, allowing them to make it 3-2 in the 3rd, but they couldn’t get the equalizer, dropping Game One to the Canes.
Then it was over to Edmonton, as the Number 5 seed Oilers took on the Number 12 seed Chicago Blackhawks. It looked like the Hawks were in trouble early, as Connor McDavid scored on the power play less than 3 minutes in. Chicago would tie it on an unassisted Mike Smith ass goal (love those!) from Dylan Strome after a classic Smith turnover, and 7 minutes later, it was 4-1 Hawks, led by rookie Dominik Kubalik, who set up two from Jonathan Toews and one from Brandon Saad. Leon Draisaitl would get one back for the Oilers in the 2nd, again on the PP but Kubalik brought the hammer down on the Oilers and this game with 2 straight of his own. The Oilers would get two in the third, but that makes the game seem a lot closer than it was. The Oilers will look to rebound on Monday and avoid going down 2-0 in this best of 5 series.
The Montreal Canadiens were the 24th ranked team in the NHL, and barely made it into this play-in, but they made the most of it last night, knocking off the highly favored Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in OT on a Jeff Petry winner. This game featured TWO penalty shots, both of which did not result in a shot on net, including one to the Habs’ Jonathan Drouin in OT. Carey Price was phenomenal, stopping 39 of 41 Pittsburgh shots. The other Montreal goals came from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki, while Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust scored for the Penguins.
And things wrapped up on Day 1 in Edmonton with the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets doing battle. The Flames won handily, in a 4-1 decision, but the loss was compounded as Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine both left with injuries and did not return.
That’a scary looking injury, and if it were anyone else, we might just call it an accident and be done with it, but it’s Matthew Tkachuk, and so we need to at least consider that this play was as dirty as shit. Things would get worse, when Laine jammed his wrist scrumming with Mark Giordano.
Special teams got it done for the Flames, with two PPG and one shorty en route to the 4-1 win and a 1-0 series lead. Now we wait to see what, if anything, we can find out about the Scheifele and Laine injuries.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s Drake Caggiula will meet with DoPS later today:
Chicago’s Drake Caggiula will have a hearing Sunday for an Illegal Check to the Head on Edmonton’s Tyler Ennis.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) August 2, 2020
We’ll preview today’s games (which include two of the Round Robin games to determine the top 4 seeds) as well as the Canucks and Minnesota Wild facing off in Game 1 tonight at 7:30!