(UPDATE: Here’s the full Round 1 schedule with dates and TV info.)
Round 1 matchups are set
The Predators winning the Central Division was the biggest tournament-altering moment of the last night of the regular season. You can now see all eight series matchups here, with additional information.
Those who didn’t make it …
Get to cross their fingers and hope that their team wins the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery. Get the lowdown in this post.
Kucherov, Lightning hit 128
In a remarkable moment of symmetry, both the Lightning and Nikita Kucherov will end 2018-19 with 128 points. On the way, the Bolts tied the NHL record with 62 wins. This post is basically the factoids on those specific accomplishments, and they’re really something.
1. Ryan Poehling
For Poehling, this wasn’t just the last game of the season, it was also his first NHL game. So what did he do? He celebrated it with a hat trick and a shootout-winner, that’s how. Yes, it is indeed worth a post of its own.
In what was one of the other highlights of the night, legendary announcer Bob Cole ended his broadcasting career while Poehling began his in a memorable way:
2. Robin Lehner
Lehner put a bow on a remarkable regular season, making 29 saves for his sixth shutout of 2018-19. He did so in just 46 games played (43 of those being starts), going 25-13-5 with a tremendous .930 save percentage.
With Thomas Greiss being almost as good in 2018-19, it’s unlikely that Lehner built up the volume of games (and to some voters, most importantly wins) to be a serious Vezina threat. Nights like these should stand as a reminder of just how special his season has been.
Then again, Lehner and Greiss combined to win the William Jennings Trophy for the lowest GAA, so they get fitting recognition as a tandem.
Now, the question is: can he back it up during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs? For all of the Penguins’ flaws, they have a knack for making even the hottest goalies look cold.
If the Blue Jackets hope to upset the mighty Lightning, they’ll probably need more than just a strong series from Artemi Panarin and for Sergei Bobrovsky to finally overcome the ghosts of playoffs past.
Someone like Bjorkstrand pitching in would really help. He’s been absolutely on fire during the last 10 games, firing in an impressive nine goals and two assists for 11 points. Bjorkstrand managed all of his assists in one game: Saturday’s 6-2 thumping of the Senators, where the winger also scored a goal.
Bjorkstrand’s shown signs of being a dangerous player in the past, including at lower levels than the NHL. He could be an X-factor in the first round … if Columbus manages to keep things close, at least.
Highlight of the Night
Scratch that, let’s call this what it is:
One more Gritty video
Gritty vs. goalies? The Flyers are embracing their history, right?
- Aleksander Barkov scored a goal and an assist, giving him 96 points this season, breaking a tie with Pavel Bure and setting a new franchise record for the Florida Panthers.
- Leon Draisaitl collected his 50th goal … but it wasn’t enough to surpass Alex Ovechkin, who won the Maurice Richard Trophy with 51. Ovechkin became the first player to win it eight times, as Brett Hull managed the feat on seven occasions.
- The Predators have won two Central Division titles in a row. Despite being limited to 58 games played, Viktor Arvidsson‘s 34 goals sets a new franchise record in Nashville.
- Sidney Crosby reached the 100-point mark while assisting on Jake Guentzel‘s 40th goal of 2018-19. Crosby’s hit 100+ points during six different seasons. Imagine how many more Crosby might have managed if his career wasn’t threatened by injuries? Even so, he’s in select company.
- The Islanders went from worst in the NHL in goals allowed in 2017-18 to first in 2018-19, becoming the first team to do that since the Ottawa Senators … in 1917-1918 and 1918-1919. Nice one, Sportsnet.
TBL 6 – BOS 3
STL 3 – VAN 2 (SO)
MTL 6 – TOR 5 (SO)
CBJ 6 – OTT 2
BUF 7 – DET 1
NJD 4 – FLA 3 (OT)
CAR 4 – PHI 3
NYR 4 – PIT 3 (OT)
NYI 3 – WSH 0
NSH 5 – CHI 2
DAL 3 – MIN 0
EDM 3 – CGY 1
WPG 4 – ARI 2
LAK 5 – VGK 2
SJS 5 – COL 2
For the third consecutive postseason, NBC Sports’ coverage of Stanley Cup Playoff first-round games on NBCUniversal cable networks (NBCSN, USA Network and CNBC), as well as NHL Network, will air side-by-side and will be available for streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app in local markets alongside regional sports network game telecasts. (Local blackouts apply in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh in the first round).
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.