Here’s five quick thoughts on what went down last night for the start of the NHL playoffs.
1. Detroit looked unflappable. After allowing an early first period goal to Kyle Turris, Detroit went right along doing what they were going to do regardless. They continued to pressure, they continued to counter-attack, and they continued to resist any and all Coyotes advances including shutting down 1:30 of 5-on-3 Coyotes power play in the first. Jimmy Howard held strong and the Wings took over in the second period as they went on to win 4-2.
That was a game that could’ve gotten out of hand early for the Wings and they didn’t flinch. It’s just one game, but that sort of cool nerve is the sort of thing championship teams have. Even scarier still, they did it all without Henrik Zetterberg.
2. Speaking of showing nerve, how about the Washington Capitals? They came back to tie the Rangers in the third with a stuff home goal by Alexander Ovechkin and won it in overtime thanks to Alex Semin’s wicked snipe past Henrik Lundqvist. With how the Rangers played, that’s the sort of game last year’s Caps team loses in frustrating fashion. Seeing the Caps sack up and not back down is encouraging for them and their fans. The Rangers can’t feel badly about how they played but games like last night’s are the ones where they really miss Ryan Callahan.
3. Anyone worried about how the Penguins would respond to the playoffs only had to look at last night’s game to see why that’d be foolish. Lots of shots (39 on Dwayne Roloson) and excrutiating physical play all leading up to a 3-0 win over Tampa Bay. That’s going to be Pittsbugh’s M.O. throughout the playoffs to make up for the lack of offense they’ll have as long as Crosby is out. We saw it through the regular season from them and this team knows how to bring it in the playoffs. Marc-Andre Fleury will be the guy that decides how far the Penguins go in the playoffs.
4. Yes Vancouver looked very strong in their 2-0 win over Chicago and while it’s tough to poke holes in a game they won 2-0, Roberto Luongo has to be counting his lucky stars too. After the Canucks dominated the first period of play, Chicago was relentless in pursuit in the final 40 minutes hitting numerous posts and forcing Luongo to make lots of big saves. Vancouver’s in for a fight in this series.
5. For all the bluster I talked about the Ducks offense and Nashville’s lack of offense they sure both made a fool out of me. Mike Fisher scored twice and the Predators took it to the Ducks defense making them uncomfortable all night long in Nashville’s 4-1 win. Anaheim’s blue line crew is going to have to get a lot tougher if they’re going to keep the Predators from bothering Dan Ellis. I knew that the Ducks goaltending would potentially be an issue in this series, but Ellis has to be sharper than he was last night.
Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.
“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”
Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.
Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).
So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.
Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.
Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.
He was asked if he was playing.
So, no problems?
And that was that.
No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.
“Very confident,” said Sullivan.
Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.
Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.
Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.
Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).
It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.
Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.
At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.
After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.
He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.