Ryan Dadoun

Holtby, Capitals silence Flyers in Game 1

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It’s been months since the Washington Capitals were in a position where any particular game was especially important to the team, so the question going into Game 1 was if they could match the intensity of the Philadelphia Flyers, which had to claw their way into the postseason. Despite that potential contrast, Washington came out strong to earn a 2-0 victory in Game 1.

Washington outshot Philadelphia 31-19 and as has been the case throughout the campaign, Braden Holtby stepped up when the Capitals needed him to. This was his third career postseason shutout and just adds to his impressive body of work in the playoffs. Though he’s just 26 years old, he had a 1.92 GAA and .936 save percentage in 34 playoff contests going into this series.

The Capitals ran into penalty trouble in the first period, but it was Washington that capitalized on the power play. Defenseman John Carlson scored the game winner with the man advantage midway through the second period and Jay Beagle provided an insurance goal with 3:24 minutes remaining in the contest.

As disappointing as dropping Game 1 has to be for the Flyers, the key issue might be losing Sean Couturier in the second period after he absorbed a big hit from Alex Ovechkin. Couturier might have hurt his shoulder, but the Flyers are only calling it an upper-body injury. He’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow.

While there’s a lot left to plays, the Flyers had long odds going into this series and will have a lot riding on Game 2 on Saturday. That contest could get very physical too if the second half of the third period tonight was any indication.

Flyers’ Couturier exits game after big hit from Ovechkin

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While the Philadelphia Flyers were still within striking distance of the Washington Capitals through 40 minutes, the big story for them thus far is the status of Sean Couturier.

The 23-year-old forward left the game midway through the second period with what looked like it might be a shoulder injury after absorbing a hard hit from Alex Ovechkin. He didn’t return and the Flyers are officially terming his injury as “upper body,” per the team’s Twitter feed.

We’ll still need to wait for more information about the severity of the injury, but if Couturier misses part or all of this series, it will be a serious blow for the Flyers. He’s a significant presence with the team, especially defensively.

Just to highlight how important he is to the Flyers, in terms of minutes per game he was second on the team among forwards in the regular season, behind only Claude Giroux.

Ducks’ Bieksa, Rakell, and Perron might be fine for Game 1

Anaheim Ducks' David Perron, left, celebrates his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets with teammate Kevin Bieksa during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
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The first round series between the Ducks and Predators will be the last to start on Friday and that extra time was probably to Anaheim’s benefit.

The Anaheim Ducks have a few injured players, but defenseman Kevin Bieksa (upper body) and forwards Rickard Rakell (appendectomy) and David Perron (shoulder) might all be healthy enough to play in Game 1, per the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens. We probably won’t find out for certain until just before the start of the contest though.

The trio served important roles on the Ducks during the regular season. Bieksa ate up 21 minutes per game, Perron had 20 points in 28 contests after being acquired from Pittsburgh, and Rakell was fourth on the team’s scoring list with 43 points in 72 contests.

The Ducks are the favorites going into this series against Nashville, but just seven points separated them in the standings. Any weakness the Ducks have might be exploited by Nashville and the last thing the Ducks want is to have depth issues stemming from injuries. Fortunately for them, it looks like they might not need to deal with that challenge.

Jagr in position to add to long list of playoff accomplishments

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Even at the age of 44, Jaromir Jagr is one of the key reasons why the Florida Panthers will be on home ice when their first round series against the New York Islanders starts tonight (8:00 p.m. ET, CNBC), but as much as they needed him in the regular season, they might be relying on him even more in the first round.

That’s partially because of Florida is expected to miss a key forward in Vincent Trocheck, but obviously his wealth of experience is also a factor. Barring a last minute setback, Jagr will take sole possession of 18th place on the all-time playoff games played list tonight, passing Brett Hull and Scott Niedermayer in the process. Jagr is also just three games shy of Martin Brodeur and six games away from Wayne Gretzky.

Jagr is in a position to also reach some major postseason marks if he’s offensively productive during the Panthers’ playoff run. In the near-term, he’s just a goal away from 10th place and Jean Beliveau on the all-time playoff goals list and his next point will make his the fifth player to ever record at least 200 career postseason points.

It’s hard not to contrast those accomplishments against the Panthers franchise he now plays for, which has only advanced beyond the first round once and that was back in 1996. Still, the Panthers have been trending in the right direction in recent years with their blend of an exciting young core and veterans like Jagr, Jussi Jokinen, and goalie Roberto Luongo.

That mix might be able to get them past the New York Islanders and beyond.

Related: Jagr on playoff-bound Panthers: ‘There are so many doubters when it comes to our team’

WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action

The Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, (8), of Russia, leaps in the air in celebration after scoring his 500th career NHL goal during the second period of a hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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The playoffs kicked off last night and home teams are off to a 3-0 start. Will that change tonight? We certainly have some interesting lower seed teams in the mix.

Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals (Game 1)

Tonight’s action will kick off with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals looking to gain an edge on a Flyers squad that had to claw their way into the playoffs. For the Capitals, this is the first high-stakes game they’ve had to play in a while.

The game is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. ET and you can watch it on NBCSN or by clicking on the link below:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

If you want some pregame reading material:

Caps GM on Holtby’s Vezina chances: ‘I think he’ll get it’

Series odds: Flyers are biggest underdogs of first round

Capitals ‘entitled to nothing’ as NHL’s top regular season team entering playoffs

Will Richards, Williams’ past success guide the Capitals?

New York Islanders at Florida Panthers (Game 1)

After taking the Atlantic Division title, the Panthers are looking to claim their first playoff series since 1996. Meanwhile, the Islanders are hoping for their first series win since 1993.

The game will start at 8:00 p.m. ET and will air on CNBC. It also can be streamed here:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some notes:

Tavares knows Isles fans are ‘dying’ for first series win since ’93

Report: Panthers likely won’t have Trocheck, Kampfer until Game 5 at the earliest

Isles rule out Halak for first round series versus Panthers

Huge boost for Isles as Hamonic returns for Game 1

Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars (Game 1)

Minnesota would be facing tough odds against Dallas under ideal circumstances, but with forward Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek sidelined, you could make an argument that this is the most one-sided of the first round series. Even still, the Wild might turn some heads and upset Dallas in the process.

The puck is set to drop at 9:30 p.m. ET and you can watch the game on NBCSN or online:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here’s some more information about the series:

Seguin to miss Game 1, but Ruff expects him back for Game 2

For Wild, no Parise affects ‘every area of the game’

San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings (Game 1)

This is the fourth playoff series between these two franchises in the last six years and the last time they met, San Jose took a 3-0 series lead only to suffer a rare reverse sweep. There is no shortage of first round series featuring good teams and interesting storylines, but if you want two squads with a recent and bitter history against each other doing battle, then this series is tailor-made for you.

The opener is set to begin at 10:30 p.m. ET and will be on CNBC. As with all the other games, NBC Sports is also offering a livestream:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here’s some links:

Kings’ defensive depth goes under the microscope

‘It’s not the highlight-film position’: Kings GM believes Doughty should win Norris Trophy

Sharks confirm it’s Jones over Reimer in goal for Game 1