- No overtime for the Bruins and Capitals in Game 4. Instead, Boston won handily, leaving Washington on the brink.
- The Predators made up for that lack of OT by beating the Hurricanes in double OT.
- Once again, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl couldn’t score. Knowing that, you probably can guess who won.
- The Blues deserved at least a closer Game 3 score vs. the Avalanche. Alas!
- Get ready for four more NHL playoff games on Saturday.
Game 4: Bruins 4, Capitals 1 (BOS leads series 3-1)
After three straight Capitals – Bruins playoff games went to OT, Game 4 was more or less clinched early in the third period. To Washington’s credit, they stayed in a game that Boston largely dominated. Eventually, the Bruins broke through in Game 4, and the Capitals are now on the brink of elimination. Boston’s best have been a lot better than Washington’s top players so far in this First Round playoff series.]
Game 3: Predators 5, Hurricanes 4 [double OT] (CAR leads series 2-1)
Once again, the Predators received a ton of power-play opportunities — quite a few more than the Hurricanes. (Just ask Rod Brind’Amour.) Once again, the Predators biffed most of those power-play chances, only scoring a PPG when they had a 5-on-3 vs. the Hurricanes. That almost became the story of that game, but Nashville just kept fighting, and ultimately won in double OT. Considering the leads that they couldn’t protect, and chances they squandered, it would have been deflating to lose. Instead, the Predators won Game 3, and now at least have a chance against the Hurricanes.
Game 2: Jets 1, Oilers 0 [OT] (WIN 2-0)
Well, this was unexpected. Even those of us who understand that the NHL playoffs can be unpredictable probably felt a little amazed on Friday. For the second game in a row, the Jets shut down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. This was yet another skin-tight game, with Paul Stastny scoring the only goal in OT — a goal that will surely haunt Mike Smith. Just like that, the Jets are up 2-0 over the Oilers in this First Round Series, and the scene shifts to Winnipeg for Games 3 and 4.
Game 3: Avalanche 5, Blues 1 (COL leads 3-0)
Look at that 5-1 score and you’ll assume that St. Louis got demolished. Instead, the Blues made a real push against the Avalanche in Game 3, they just couldn’t get it done. In particular, it might hurt that this wasn’t some out-of-this-world game from someone like Nathan MacKinnon or Cale Makar. The Avs have some depth, and they reminded the NHL of that on Friday. Doing it without Nazem Kadri is impressive, but then again, they need to get used to that.
Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Friday
1. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
So much for that “Connor vs. Connor” talk feeling like kind of a lame joke.
Instead, Connor Hellebuyck has been absolutely tremendous against Connor McDavid and the Oilers. As great as Hellebuyck was in Game 1, he was even more brilliant in Game 2. Hellebuyck pitched a 38-save shutout in Game 2, with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combining for nine of those shots on goal themselves.
Hellebuyck’s allowed just a single goal in this series, and hasn’t had much room for error (Mike Smith’s only allowed three). Give credit to the Jets’ defense. As a team, they’ve limited the room for McDavid, Draisaitl, and the Oilers. But a lesser goalie probably wouldn’t have Edmonton in this spot.
Consider this something of an honorable mention for Mike Smith, who ended up with 35 saves.
2. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche
Again, that 5-1 score didn’t fairly depict the Blues’ efforts on Friday, but that’s how the playoffs often work in the NHL. Grubauer didn’t notch a shutout, but he stopped 31 out of 32 shots. Grubauer was probably the biggest reason why the Avalanche beat the Blues in Game 3.
If you want, you could sub Ryan Graves into this spot. He scored the 1-0 goal, which was key being that no one scored until the second period. Graves ended up with three points (1G, 2A), although one of those helpers happened on an empty-netter. Graves was also +4, fired four SOG, delivered one hit, and blocked two shots.
3. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
Like Graves, Charlie McAvoy collected three points. In McAvoy’s case, he generated three assists — two of which were primary helpers.
While some focus from Bruins – Capitals Game 4 will be on Washington’s power play, the biggest concern is even-strength play. McAvoy is a big reason why. The Capitals only generated one high-danger chance against the Bruins at even-strength in Game 4.
Frankly, McAvoy ranks as one of the NHL’s best even-strength defensemen, and he showed why with a great effort on Friday. The three assists were merely the delicious icing on the cake.
Don’t forget about Juuse Saros as an honorable mention, as his 52 saves proved crucial for Nashville.
NHL suspends Nazem Kadri for eight games
In case you missed it, the NHL handed Nazem Kadri a stern suspension for his hit on Justin Faulk. The Avalanche forward was suspended eight games for that hit. If the Avalanche are eliminated before the eight games are up (they played one of them in Game 3 on Wednesday), then the suspension will spill into the 2021-22 NHL season.
SATURDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 4: Panthers at Lightning (TB leads 2-1) 12:30 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
Game 4: Penguins at Islanders (PIT leads 2-1) 3 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 2: Canadiens at Maple Leafs (MTL leads 1-0) 7 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
Game 4: Golden Knights at Wild (VGK leads 2-1) 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)