Around The NHL 4/20/23

Hits: 13

Around The NHL

Written by: Graham Conklin



Leafs 7 – Lightning 2

This one’s going seven. Toronto had to prove they could put up a fight after a not-so convincing game one loss at home to Tampa, and boy did they. While there’s more to prove and Tampa Bay will certainly look to clap back, Toronto made a statement tonight that they are serious about making a run this year. Even missing sophomore Michael Bunting and a relatively poor night from starman Matthews, the Leaf’s depth led by playoff debutant Matthew Knies put on a show at Scotiabank Arena.

Marner took advantage of an early power play, stamping home a slap shot through the legs of Vasi. Oh boy did Tampa come out slow. Goals from Tavares and Nylander would put the leafs up a convincing 3-0 after one.

Ian Cole flexed his stickwork after a defensive breakdown to bring the score within two, and Tampa was able to sustain some pressure for the 7 or so minutes ensuing. A second goal off a rebound for Tavares was the twist of the knife needed to deflate any shot Tampa had of turning the tides. Aston-Reese and Marner would go back-to-back within about two minutes to make it a 6-1 game at the end of two.

Perhaps Toronto could’ve pilled it on in the third, but a more conservative play style would stifle offenses for both sides in the third, happy to take the 1-1 series draw back to Amalie Arena, as shots were in the Leaf’s favor 8-5 in the third. After a great scrap from Jeannot and Schen, Corey Perry would capitalize off of another defensive breakdown from Toronto, beating a lunging Samsonov. Tavares would get the last of the game at the end of a two-man advantage, final score 7-2 Leafs.

This year’s series between Atlantic division foes is shaping out similarly to the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trading games at Scotiabank by wide margins. These two star studded offenses are high flying, and the series will be decided by who can win those inevitable close games that are to come. Tampa seemingly missed lead defenceman Victor Hedman, as top lines and power plays feasted on the at many times lost Tampa defensive core.

Rangers 5 – Devils 1

What happened to the Devils? Rangers trade deadline acquisitions Kane and Tarasenko have continued to shine, beginning to mesh with the NYR veterans more so than they had in the last month of the regular season. While on the other hand, NJ has forgotten the playstyle that would put them a single point shy of the Metro Division crown, for a bashful and cliche playoff playstyle that doesn’t capitalize on their speed. Referees had themselves a night, calling any and everything as we’ve come accustomed to early on in the playoffs. While the Devils power play didn’t suffer the same woes as game one, there was less to be said about their kill, and their ability to stop Kreider, as all eyes were on Fox on the man disadvantage.

New Jersey would head into the locker room after one with a lead thanks to a PP goal from Eric Haula, the type of power play opportunity that was lacking in game one – cleaning up with bodies in front of the net. Vitek Vanechek was strong early, stopping all 14 that came his way.

Vitek would get beat six minutes into the second by Tarasenko, off of a beautiful shot over the glove through traffic. Next, Miles Wood would go to the box for an offensive zone slashing penalty, and you know how this goes. A tip in front from Kreider beats Vanechek clean, and the life was sucked out of the young Devils. Kreider would score yet another tip in on the Power Play at the end of the second to put the Rangers up two at the end of two.

New Jersey came out strong in the third, but a turnover in the offensive zone from Jesper Bratt would see Patrick Kane go the length of the ice and beat Vitek on the backhand for his first goal, and fourth point of the series. With time dwindling away, Chytil found Kakko wide open in front of the net, who would put in the last goal of the game to make it 5-1 Rangers.

Expect to see some changes from New Jersey headed to MSG to save the season on Saturday. Akira Schmid, who has been the Devils statistically strongest goalie on the year could find himself in the starters net. Rookie Luke Hughes could step in for a last ditch effort to generate more offense as well. While the 5-1 score lines are certainly unsettling for New Jersey, the right response and leadership from Coach Lindy Ruff could loosen the Devils up and get them back to playing their traditional game. This being in addition to the Devils being one of the strongest road teams in the NHL on the year.

Kraken – Avalanche

The Kraken certainly proved they belonged in game one. Game two focused on the Avalanche and answering if they had the same magic recipe that resulted in the Cup in ‘22. It sure didn’t appear so in the first ten minutes as Ball Arena was stunned to see their defending champs struggle to keep up with the pace of Seattle.

After early chances in the first minute of the game for Gourde and Geekie, Justin Schultz would beat Georgiev five-hole to start the scoring. Controlling play for the first half of the period, the Kraken would capitalize again on a rip skating down the middle from Tanev to go out 2-0. Colorado turned it on at this point and played like the Avalanche of the past.

The second period would be rapid fire back to back goals from Artturu Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin. The combination of Makar and MacKinnon started to have their way in the second, and it created plenty of scoring changes for the Avs. Lehkonen’s tip-in was assisted from a strong slap shot from Makar and the faceoff draw win from MacKinnon.

While this was no one-way battle, Colorado did plenty to show why they are the reigning champs. When things are working on all three levels for this team, there are few teams that can run with them. The Kraken had loads of chances to take back a lead in the third on special teams, but Georgiev held strong. The game winner was scored by Toews with 7 to go in the third, off a long rebound from Grubauer.