The Colorado Avalanche came into their first game the clear underdogs.
While they boast the Hart Trophy candidate in Nathan MacKinnon, the Predators have a few things in their favor that make them one of the league favorites for the Stanley Cup. They’ve got offensive depth, a near-perfect blue line, and a Vezina frontrunner in Pekka Rinne to go with some very recent, very deep cough playoff experience.
Although they were the team everyone expected to just go to town, though, things didn’t get started off quite as far in their favor as one might expect.
The Avalanche got their game started on the right foot, tied after two periods and only really letting things fly off the rails in the final 20 minutes of play. Had another goaltender not named Pekka Rinne been on the ice for the Predators, things may have very easily gone the other way. [Mile High Hockey]
While that may surprise some around the league, the matchup wasn’t exactly expected to be a pure shoo-in for the Predators by everyone - and there were plenty of intriguing storylines to pay attention to, to boot.
If you want a closer look at some of those, I chatted with NHL Network analyst Alex Tanguay ahead of the game, putting up our chat for your reading pleasure. [MHH]
If you want some more personalized opinions on how the Avs can possibly pull off an upset, by the way, we’ve got you covered. [MHH]
And now, for the fun stuff! I assume most of you guys watched the game last night, so here’s what you may have missed if you only had time to tune in for one matchup:
In case you were eating dinner or something, Brad Marchand scored the first goal of the series between the Bruins and the Maple Leafs to put Boston up 1-0. Then, he followed that up as only Brad Marchand can do, by... licking someone.
Brad Marchand out here licking dudes pic.twitter.com/jiJ2NxbmmZ— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 13, 2018
The back story here is that Marchand and Komarov are both constantly all up in each others’ business on the ice, and it’s resulted in some pretty weird shit during games. There was the time that Komarov wouldn’t stop holding Marchand after the play, so the Boston left winger kissed him on the cheek; now, he claims that Komarov wouldn’t stop hacking at him after the whistle to kick off the game, so he ‘decided maybe he wanted to cuddle’.
The Brad Marchand hat trick: A goal, an assist and an opponent's face licked— Pat Pickens (@Pat_Pickens) April 13, 2018
That was quickly overshadowed, of course, by this play by Nazem Kadri:
Full sequence on the Wingels-Kadri incident. Wingels catches Marner up high, but no excuse for the Kadri hit. Gotta be a suspension pic.twitter.com/EEKeUd6t2z— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 13, 2018
The league is holding a hearing on the hit, and Nazem Kadri is a repeat offender. At the very least, expect a few games - although in the NHL, there’s always a chance he gets the same fine Milan Lucic once got for making a jerk-off motion at the crowd.
Then, we’ve got the Washington-Columbus series.
If you have a chance, read through this delightfully sad breakdown of the game from our good friends over at Russian Machine Never Breaks. The Capitals * just * cannot * figure * out * how * the * playoffs * work * and at this point, I kind of honestly believe that they never will. [RMNB]
If you want to feel better about having to face Filip Forsberg, though, hey! You could be up against Artemi Panarin!
Sweet move and shot from Panarin & the Jackets win game one in OT pic.twitter.com/E1ZlNh1fjx— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 13, 2018
While the slow-mo gifs floating around are easier to follow, sometimes we just need a look at the real meat and bones of this ABSOLUTE NONSENSE in real-time.
Meanwhile, over in the New Jersey-Tampa Bay series, the team that employs Cory Schneider started... well, this guy:
As was probably to be expected from a guy with a very fun Twitter handle but very mediocre technical tools in net at the NHL level, he dropped the game 5-2.
For a good example of why:
Ondrej Palat gets the Lightning on the board pic.twitter.com/p7b4wwZGKK— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 12, 2018
Probably could have held his positioning on that one a little better instead of sliding through his crease, but yeah. Yikes.
Oh, and John Gibson allowed three goals by the San Jose Sharks, including two by playoff newcomer Evander Kane and one by scoring legend Brent Burns (who took a whopping nine shots on goal on the night).
Martin Jones earned a shutout to put San Jose up 1-0 in the series, but really, he made 25 stops. This Anaheim team has got to pull themselves together.
Finally, I’m going to do a quick bit of shaming, because someone needs it:
@NBCSN Stanley Cup Playoffs are no place for a female color analyst. Just sayin’.— Don Calderalo (@dcalderalo) April 13, 2018
Dude has already been ratio’ed to hell, but just a quick thought on this:
A.J. Mleczko is an Olympian, and a gold medalist at that. She’s a Harvard grad, she’s been in the broadcast booth in various capacities since her debut in 2006, and she knows a hell of a lot about hockey.
When Cassie Campbell does the Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, sometimes she gets a little weird when talking about goaltenders (really, how many non-goaltenders don’t when they’re in the booth? Athletic save, my butt), but it’s very hard to listen to her broadcasts and find yourself actually thinking ‘oh my god, there’s a WOMAN calling this!’. She fits in seamlessly, and she does a great job.
Mleczko does as well. Yet both of them get these kinds of remarks: that there is no room for wimmenfoke, likely pronounced just how I spelled it, to be calling men’s games.
Forget the fact that Doc Emrick is a Speech and Broadcast major who never played hockey. Forget that famed NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. and MLB analyst Buster Olney never played, either. NHL Stanley Cup-winning coach Ken Hitchcock barely played hockey growing up at all. Apparently, if you are a woman - and an Olympic medalist, at that - you cannot work broadcasting for the sport you excelled in, because... women don’t think the game at the same level? Their brains can’t handle it? I honestly don’t understand.
In any case, I try not to be the constant harper on gatekeeping, but this is a reminder: in 2012, a study showed that 55 percent of women and 63 percent of men in Canada listed the Stanley Cup Playoffs as their favorite televised event. If there’s less than a ten percent margin between fans dating back six years - and we know female viewership has been on the rise - then maybe, it’s about time people accepted that they may be a part of the overall hockey experience by now.
Just a thought.