Hockey After Dark, Night #2: "Capital Punishment" Edition

Hockey After Dark, Night #2: "Capital Punishment" Edition

Penguins

Hockey After Dark, Night #2: "Capital Punishment" Edition

Don’t let the title fool you: while last night was, officially, Night #2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there was no “Night #1” of “Hockey After Dark.” AND, to make matters worse, this article is appearing during the day of Day #3…so, long story short (too late!) the Internet (g)ods have ROBBED YOU because of…gnomes.  Yes, blame the gnomes.  If you appreciate the snark, follow me on Twitter: @DXTraeger

Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins thrashed the Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 on Wednesday night but…

…don’t count me among those expecting Philadelphia to roll over and (proverbially) die when the two teams meet up later tonight for Game 2.

A popular theme among those that subscribe to hockey analytics is the notion/tendency of regressing toward the mean, which is to say that the Penguins’ ungodly shooting percentage in Game 1 can’t be sustained throughout the course of an entire series, ergo, the sledding will be a lot tougher come Friday and beyond.

Also, no, I don’t expect the Flyers’ goal-tending to improve.  Even “yer a wizard!” Harry Potter– hell, Hermione– couldn’t bewitch that ragtag group to best whatever the hockey equivalent of the Mendoza line is…

…but I do expect a Philadelphia power-play that mustered zero shots on goal in four man-advantages to eschew passing for the type of WDVE “GET IT ON THE NET!” dirty goals that invariably determine the outcome of NHL playoff games.

I anticipate the Flyers to simplify their game plan and focus on two things: speed (which is tied to shorter shift lengths) and puck support all over the ice.   The bulk of Philadelphia’s turnovers happened within a contextual vacuum, with the puck mover being forced to thread the needle with a pass because of a lack of options, and the Penguins’ swarming in turn.

The TL;DR version of my Game 2 expectations?  A completely different approach from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Washington Capitals blew a 2-goal lead and then lost in overtime…

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If you read through Dan Steinberg’s full tweet, there’s a shred of me– albeit a 0.000001% shred– that feels sympathetic toward the Capitals’ fans that have been rocking that red since…oh, about 2008 or so.

The fact that the Capitals preemptively dumped perennial Vezina Trophy contender Braden Holtby for Philipp Grubauer in net reeks of a team/coach/ORGANIZATION hitting the panic button before they had even taken the ice for Game 1.

The Capitals then proceeded to relinquish all of the momentum they’d amassed following two power-play goals during Josh Anderson’s 5-minute major for boarding, and found themselves staring down at the abyss of yet another soul-crushing overtime loss.

This time, though, the loss came to a franchise on pace to amass the 16 total franchise playoff wins needed to hoist the cup **AFTER** Halley’s Comet makes its next trip past Earth.

Between the insufferable nature of the Columbus Artillery and the diseased tweets of Mia Khalifa, I find myself equally rooting for & against both the Blue Jackets and Capitals in this first round tilt.

The Montreal Canadians’ fans have (apparently) been transplanted to the Nashville Predators

I love hockey.  I love seeing hockey thrive in “non-traditional” markets.  I love seeing fans share the same passion for the game that I have.

That said, the fans in Montreal have always been annoying for their collective uproar over EACH AND EVERY PERCEIVED SLIGHT, and the grandstanding from the, well, grandstands wears on a casual viewer awfully fast.

Filip Forsberg (HEY!  REMEMBER WHEN THE CAPITALS PANICKED AND TRADED HIM FOR MARTIN “I’M NOT EVEN IN THE NHL ANYMORE” ERAT?!) scored two brilliant goals to help pace the Predators against a very, very outmatched Colorado Avalanche team, which brings us all to an interesting observation:

The four generally agreed-upon Hart Trophy Candidates (“Player Judged Most Valuable to his Team”) are Nathan MacKinnon, Taylor Hall, Claude Giroux, and Connor McDavid.

It’s still early in the playoffs, but if you put any stock in Game 1 performances as a barometer for the rest of the respective series, then the three players whose team made the post-season (MacKinnon/Hall/Giroux) are staring down VERY short stays while McDavid’s Oilers were out of the playoffs in January.

I mean, if the Hart Trophy is going to be awarded to a guy who had a good season on a chronically flawed team- doesn’t that significantly cut into the value of the Hart Trophy?  Sure seems like this year’s crop of likely candidates is all kinds of failsauce.

Anyway, barring a miracle, the Nashville Predators sure seem to have the easiest path to Round 2 of any NHL team still in the mix.  I hope you like Carrie Underwood.

Joe Thornton (Almost) Returns, Sharks Beat Ducks, Nobody On the East Coast Cares

As a male who can grow a respectable playoff beard, I admire Joe Thornton.  I will never understand why he, a two-time 30-goal scorer, just woke up one morning and decided, “Eh, I’ll be the John Stockton of hockey players.”

I will also never understand why Joe Thornton teased a comeback during warmups as though the sight of him would suddenly throw the seasoned Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks into a tizzy.

Which, of course, is precisely what happened as the San Jose Sharks blanked the Ducks 3-0.  I blame my inability to anticipate the outcome of Thornton’s mental PSYCH on the resounding lack of a hockey-based “Baseketball.”

Evander “the Human PR Nightmare” Kane scored twice for the Sharks in his playoff debut, which only completed a West Coast Day filled with criminal and sport collisions that don’t reflect badly on one another at all!  Not one little bit.

And finally…

Your moment of shirtless hockey Zen

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