Flyers G Sergei Bobrovsky steals the show as Philadelphia beats Pittsburgh 3-2

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bobrovskystealsshow.jpgNote: We probably won’t recap regular season games individually very often, but this is Hockey Christmas so I thought I’d touch on the two early games separately. Expect a recap post for the 10:00 PM ET games tomorrow morning, though.

There were any number of stars who should have been the story of this game, even with Chris Pronger out as he recovers from off-season knee surgery. Obviously, the game features the Pittsburgh Penguins’ big guns in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Philadelphia Flyers employ a wide variety of explosive forwards such as Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere and their young guns including Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.

Yet, when the clock reached all zeroes, the star of the game was someone few expected to play. Flyers rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stole the show in his NHL debut, not unlike Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury did many years ago.

Philadelphia Flyers 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

Bobrovsky stopped 29 out of 31 shots as the Penguins set up some dangerous shots but rarely pierced the relatively unknown netminder, who was also strong in the preseason (only allowing 6 goals in 5 irrelevant games played). Fleury wasn’t bad by any means either, as he 24 out of 27 shots and wasn’t really at fault for any of the goals.

The game was probably iced when Flyers forward Claude Giroux took advantage of a foolish pass by Penguins defenseman Kris Versteeg to score a shorthanded goal, putting Philly up 3-1 in the first period. The Penguins returned the favor with a power-play goal less than 20 seconds later, but fell short of tying the game in their new arena.

Crosby took a staggering amount of faceoffs (winning 18 out of 29) and played an aggressive game putting a lot of shots on net but only registered two shots on goal. Both Crosby and Malkin were held off the scoreboard in this one, a discouraging sign considering the fact that Pronger wasn’t out there to befuddle them.

While Giroux and Briere (a goal each) are hardly worthy of “scrubs” designation, this game ultimately came down to players with smaller billings rather than matinee stars. Blair Betts scored a goal for the Flyers while Tyler Kennedy potted the Penguins’ first tally.

Now, naturally, it’s only the first game of the season so it’s not time to panic yet if you’re a Penguins fan nor is it time to schedule a parade in Philadelphia. Still, it was an exciting way to start the season and break new ground at the Console Energy Center, even if the Penguins dislike the result.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.