NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers Day 1 Recap

  • August 02, 2020, 12:36 PM
  • Matt Atencio
NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers Day 1 Recap Photo of Rodgers Place, the hub arena in Edmonto, Canada. Courtesy: NHL.com
It has been 142 days since the National Hockey League suspended all operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to plague the world. Aug. 1, 2020 saw the return to action. 24 teams will compete for a chance at Lord Stanley’s cup, with 16 of the 24 teams competing in a best-of 5 play in round to determine who moves on.

Game 1: (11) New York Rangers v. (6) Carolina Hurricanes

The physicality in this game showed right from the drop of the puck, squashing any thought that these qualifier games would not have the intensity of playoff hockey.  .  Carolina Hurricanes Defensemen Jaccob Slavin placed a beautiful shot over the right shoulder of New York Rangers Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to make it 1-0 just 61 seconds into the game.  The Hurricanes never looked back after that goal. The Rangers came out flat to start the first period and were completely dominated by the Hurricanes. Goals in the second period from Carolina’s Sebastion Aho on the power play, and New York’s Mika Zibanejad to make it 2-1 going into the third period.  At 10:51 of the third, Martin Necas banked a shot in off Rangers defensemen Mark Staal to make it 3-1.   Staal would score a shorthanded goal in the waning minutes of the third period to make it 3-2 with less than two minutes to play.  The Hurricanes survived to win the game 3-2 and take a 1-0 lead in the series.  Special teams played a major factor in this game.  The teams combined for a total of 17 penalties in the game.  The Hurricanes (8th on the PP, 4th on PK in the regular season), went 1/7 on the power play and completely neutralized the Rangers (7th on PP, 23rd on PK in the regular season) potent powerplay units.

 

Game 2: (12) Chicago Blackhawks v. (5) Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers came into this game riding one of the best powerplays in NHL history (29.2% during the regular season).  It did not take long for it to get going, as the Oilers captain Connor McDavid put home a pass from the NHL’s leading scorer Leon Draisaitl on the powerplay to make it 1-0.  Less than three minutes later, Oilers goaltender Mike Smith mishandled the puck behind the net. This allowed Chicago Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome to score by banking his shot off Smith from behind the net, making it 1-1.  This sequence seemed to wake the Blackhawks up.  They would go on to score the games next three goals – two coming from captain Jonathan Towes and one coming from Brandon Saad and took a 4-1 lead into the first intermission.  In the second period, Leon Draisaitl would score on the powerplay to make it 4-2 and give the Oilers life.  However, Blackhawks rookie Dominik Kubalik would score shortly after on the powerplay to make it 5-2. This ended Smith’s night in net and Mikko Koskenin would comes in for the remainder of the game. Kubalik would score later in the period again giving him 5 points in his playoff debut, the first player in NHL history to accomplish this.  The Oilers would get one final chance in the dying moments of the second.  On the powerplay, Draisaitl’s shot from the slot was pulled off the goal line by Blackhawks defensemen Olli Maata.  Chicago took a 6-2 lead into the break. Forwards James Neal and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would score in the third to make Blackhawks fans sweat, but the Oilers were unable to make up the deficit.  The Blackhawks went on to win 6-4, leading the series 1-0

 

Game 3: (10) Florida Panthers v. (7) New York Islanders

The New York Islanders played their style of game from beginning to end against the Florida Panthers. That includes a defensively sound game and good goaltending.  The Islanders opened the scoring on a goal from Jean-Gabriel Pageau late in the first period.  Anthony Beauvillier would score early in the second to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead.  Semyon Varlamov backstopped his team through the first two periods, giving up 0 goals.  Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky played well throughout the game, but got no help form his team. The Panthers would get a quick goal in the third from Jonathan Huberdeau just 23 seconds into the period.  While it gave the Panthers some jump, they were unable to make up the deficit.  The Islanders would go on to win the game 2-1 and take a 1-0 lead in the series. 

 

Game 4: (12) Montreal Canadiens v. (5) Pittsburgh Penguins

For the Montreal Canadiens to have any chance in this series, it would have to come on the back of their star Goaltender Carey Price.  Price was under siege the in the first ten minutes of the game but managed to keep the Pittsburgh Penguins off the board.  Price got rewarded for his efforts with 6:03 remaining as Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored to make it 1-0.  The Canadiens would score again in the second period when forward Nick Suzuki stripped Penguins defensemen Brian Dumoulin and placed a great shot on glove side past goaltender Matt Murray to make it 2-0.  The Penguins would answer back in the period with a goal from captain Sidney Crosby, who banked a shot off the left skate of Price to make it 2-1.  Bryan Rust would score less than three minutes later on the powerplay, putting in a rebound at the top of the crease, to even the score at two.  Neither team would score for the remainder of regulation.  The Penguins had two opportunities to get the game winning goal.  Carey Price however, said no to that idea.  Midway through the third, the Penguins had a 5 on 3 powerplay for just over 90 seconds, but Price shut them down.  Later in the third, Penguins forward Conor Sheary was awarded a penalty shot but missed wide on the blocker side of Price.  The game would go to overtime, where Canadiens forward Jeff Petry found the back of the net to win the game 3-2 for the Canadiens.  The Canadiens took a 1-0 series lead on the Penguins.

 

Game 5: (9) Winnipeg Jets v. (8) Calgary Flames

The Winnipeg Jets struck first in the game on a goal from Andrew Copp midway through the first period.  The Calgary Flames then took over in the second with three straight special teams goals to make the game 3-1 going into the third.  Andrew Magiapane would ice the game late in the third to give the Flames a 4-1 victory over the Jets. The biggest story line coming from this game had nothing to do with the actual game.  The Jets sustained two injuries to key players that will affect their chances of moving past the qualifiers.  In the first period, Jets forward Mark Scheifele went into the boards where his lower leg appeared to be cut by Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.  Scheifele would have to be helped off the ice, unable to bare any weight on his leg, and would not return to the game.  In the third period, Jets forward Patrik Laine would exit the game as well after a scrum with Flames captain Mark Giordano left him favoring his wrist.  It is unknown how long both players will miss, but it is a significant blow to the Jets. 

 

The Stanley Cup Qualifiers resume Aug.2 2020 and will continue to run until Aug. 9 2020, or until all series have been completed

Matt Atencio

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