The NHL postseason kicked off with a bang on Saturday afternoon with five games being played throughout the day. The return of meaningful hockey brought out the best in some of hockey’s brightest stars, but also highlighted flaws in certain teams. Here are some of the biggest things we can take away from day one of the postseason.
Dominik Kubalik Is Here To Stay
Dominik Kubalik exploded in his NHL postseason debut, stunning the Edmonton Oilers with what would end up a five-point performance. The Czech rookie had a great 30-goal season which earned him a top-three spot in voting for the Calder Trophy. Despite his lengthy hockey hiatus, Kubalik picked up right where he left off, firing rockets past helpless goaltenders.
His five-point performance set a new mark as the first player in NHL history to record a five point night in their NHL postseason debut. Both of Kubalik’s two goals came on the power play, as well as one of his three assists. The Blackhawks power play will need to stay on top to outscore the opposing Edmonton Oilers, and with the Blackhawks rookie stepping up, they very well could have what it takes. Alongside Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Kubalik could give the Blackhawks all the firepower they need to make it back to the playoffs.
Connor McDavid Is On His A Game, But Can’t Win The Series Single Handedly
A three-point night by the NHL’s best play was not enough to lead his team to victory. McDavid opened up the scoring against the Blackhawks early in the first, scoring a perfect snipe while on the power play. The lead was short lived as Chicago scored three consecutive goals before the midway point in the first period came to an end.
McDavid played a great game, but the Blackhawks showed that they cannot be underestimated, especially with Toews, Kane and Keith leading the way. The Oilers will need more than just McDavid’s A game if they want a chance to compete for lord Stanley’s cup.
Carey Price Looks To Be In Vintage Form, But Don’t Count Your Blessings Just Yet.
The Montreal Canadiens stunned many in their first playoff game in three years. The Canadiens are the underdogs, not only in their series against the Penguins, but in the entire postseason as they entered with the lowest odds of winning the Stanley Cup.
In their first game, the Canadiens stunned the Penguins in overtime by a final score of 3-2. The Canadiens biggest star of the game was Carey Price who put up a stunning performance to shut down Pittsburgh’s star-studded offence. While it may have been just one game, Price played exactly how analysts said he would have to if the Canadiens even have a chance to topple the Penguins and advance. While they still have an uphill battle to climb, if Price can continue to play like he did on Saturday night, the Habs could very well manage to lock up a spot in the NHL Playoffs.
Winnipeg Had An Uphill Battle Without Stars
In a disappointing loss to the Calgary Flames on day one of postseason action, the Winnipeg Jets suffered a major blow early on. Both Mark Schiefele and Patrick Laine went down with injuries and their statuses are still in question. Without Scheifele or Laine, the Jets will have a very tough time coming back with confidence after Saturday night’s loss.
Winnipeg’s center depth is already somewhat thin, and with the loss of Mark Scheifele, it becomes all the more depleted. If Scheifele does not return for game two or three, it is quite likely that Blake Wheeler may have to take a center job which is not ideal. While Wheeler does have center experience, you want him playing where he is most comfortable and and is that strongest and that’s on the wing. It will be up to key players like Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler to take the reins offensively and it will be up to goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to play like the Vezina nominee that we saw all season.