Welcome to Hockey After Dark, a nightly recap of the NHL playoffs made possible by insomnia, playoff anxiety, and my BFF caffeine. Come for the topical social commentary, and stay for the sporadic in-depth analysis littered with obscure pop culture references. If you enjoy the snark, feel free to follow me at @DXTraeger
The MassMutual NHL® East Division is known for many things, such as the being the site of Carter Hart’s 2021 Implosion™.
As has been the case for many
years months weeks days, the MassMutual NHL® East Division has produced the most overtime games in the league, and on Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins provided their third overtime in as many post-season games this year.
Game 1 went to the Capitals after Nic Dowd feathered a shot home from the point. Brad Marchand (Rattus Norvegicus) evened the series just 39 seconds into Game 2’s overtime session.
Wednesday’s tilt required two overtimes to determine a winner, and it’s fair to say that Washington lost the game as much as Boston won it.
Washington started rookie Ilya Samsonov in goal, and the Russian netminder from Evgeni Malkin’s hometown of Magnitogorsk held serve until about 5:45 into the second overtime.
Samsonov stopped a dump-in behind his net, and ostensibly left the puck for his defenseman, Justin Schultz. Schultz looked over his shoulder and took a stride to his right just as Boston’s Craig Smith passed Schultz on his left.
Smith swooped in, corralled the stationary puck, and wrapped home a game-winner before Samsonov could react.
Alex Ovechkin was…not pleased:
Angry Ovechkin after Caps lose Game 3 in OT pic.twitter.com/S8yD92kTZm
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 20, 2021
Smith’s goal gave Boston the series lead, and full momentum heading into a critical Game 4 on Friday night.
My new favorite player/name, “Garnet Hathaway,” seems to have earned his hockey degree from the Tom Wilson School of Asshatery:
— Capitals District (@CapitalsDist) May 20, 2021
I dislike Brad Marchand with the best of them, but what Hathaway did there is a knee killer. I’d argue that Hathaway’s low hit/interference was dirtier than Ulf Samuelsson’s knee-on-knee hit of Cam (K)neely.
Later in the game, Marchand would literally flip the script on Hathaway, dropping beneath the charging Capital and sending him flying into the boards.
Someone call Terminx: this series has a pest infestation.
Carolina Hurricanes defeat the Nashville Predators, 3-0 (Hurricanes lead the series, 2-0)
The Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks mercifully ended their regular season on Wednesday afternoon in a game that absolutely nobody cared about.
The Nashville Predators are politely doing the same thing in their series with the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Predators’ season will be over on Sunday.
The Canes’ Sebastian Aho had two goals, and Alex “The Human Scrabble Cheat Code” Nedeljkovic turned aside 32 shots for the shutout.
Winnipeg Jets defeat the Edmonton Oilers, 4-1 (Jets lead the series, 1-0)
The Winnipeg Jets backed their way into the NHL playoffs, and were rewarded for their (lack of) effort with playing against Connor McDavid, the league’s best offensive player.
McDavid played the Jets 8 times during the regular season, and McDavid notched multiple points in every contest. So imagine the presumptive Hart Trophy winner’s surprise when the Jets held him completely scoreless on Wednesday.
The game was actually a lot closer than the final score indicated, as the Jets scored two empty-net goals in the final minutes.
Edmonton can’t win this series if McDavid doesn’t carry his weight. For that matter, the Jets can’t win if McDavid does McDavid things, so this series hinges entirely on what #97 can or can’t do.
The Colorado Avalanche defeat the St. Louis Blues, 5-3 (Avalance lead the series, 2-0)
A funny thing happened on the way to the Ball Arena: Nazem Kadri turned back into Nazem Kadri, which is always the worst thing that Nazem Kadri could do.
Kadri leveled Justin Faulk with a Matt Cooke-esque elbow to the head, earning him an ejection and probable multi-game suspension:
Nazem Kadri about to get suspended in the first round AGAIN pic.twitter.com/qoBYHiS2X1
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 20, 2021
Kadri’s antics injected a little sympathy for the Blues, and probably ticked the St. Louis players off. The Blues closed an early 3-0 hole to 3-2, only to see the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon ice things with a hat-trick.
So now Colorado leads the series up 2-0 and the Blues are possibly playing without the services of Faulk and Robert Bortuzzo (who left Wednesday’s game and did not return). St. Louis had faced an uphill climb at the serie’s outset, but now a comeback may be impossible.
Game 3 is on Friday night.
Penguins vs. Islanders, Game 3 Thoughts:
- The Penguins are likely to be without the services of Evgeni Malkin tomorrow night. His absence hurts the Penguins because of the positive trickle-down of talent to the bottom lines, and because #71 would likely bring the puck into the offensive zone on power-plays, a responsibility that Kris Letang is ill-suited to perform.
- Pittsburgh needs to continues to get bodies and pucks to the net. He’s no longer with the team, but the Penguins need some ugly Patric Hornqvist goals to help get them over the hump with the pesky Islanders.
- Despite what you may have read, no, the Penguins do not have to play a more physical brand of hockey or engage in post-whistle shenanigans to uphold the honor of their teammates. The Penguins have skill players; the Islanders have grunts. If a grunt can take a Sidney Crosby off of the ice for 2 minutes with coincidental minors, the grunt wins. Take your lumps, win the series, and move on, boys.
- The Penguins need to continue their containment of Mathew Barzal. Barzal is at his best when he’s cycling high and drawing defenders out of their lanes and/or off of their marks. Forcing Barzal to the boards instead of the high slot (even on his backhand) is a defensive win.
- Tristan Jarry needs to remain aggressive. He’s in the NHL because he’s athletic and has great twitch, and he needs to allow that talent to augment his line with the shooter.
And now…your moment of shirtless DM hockey Zen: