- The Jets and Canadiens began their Second Round series, with Montreal coming out on top.
- That said, the joy of that Game 1 win was tampered for the Canadiens thanks to a brutal Mark Scheifele hit on Jake Evans.
- While the Golden Knights shook off that Game 1 blowout, the Avalanche still prevailed in OT in Game 2.
- Congrats to the Buffalo Sabres for winning the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery.
Game 1: Canadiens 5, Jets 3 (MTL leads series 1-0) — series livestream
Was this all about rust? The Jets have to hope so, as the Canadiens got off to a hot start in Game 1. For the most part, Montreal controlled play when things slowed down, too, so we’ll see. No doubt, the Mark Scheifele hit on Jake Evans will factor into things, including a possible suspension. You can read some immediate reactions here, while time will tell what kind of repercussions there will be beyond Canadiens – Jets Game 1.
Game 2: Avalanche 3, Golden Knights 2 (COL leads series 2-0) — series livestream
Above, there was some talk of rust. But Game 1 of Golden Knights – Avalanche might have boiled down to the power of rest. Game 2 added credence to that, as the Golden Knights played much better, often taking it to the Avalanche. It wasn’t enough to tie the series, though, as Colorado found a way to win in overtime. This one has to really sting the VGK as the series swings to Vegas.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Second Round schedule, TV info]
Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Wednesday
1. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche
Understandably, people joke about the Golden Knights when they talk about quantity-over-quality. It’s something that the Canadiens and Hurricanes endure at times, too. Sometimes it’s justified.
But in Game 2, the Golden Knights generated some serious quality to go along with that overriding quantity. So don’t scoff at Grubauer making 39 saves to help the Avalanche take Game 2 over the Golden Knights. He put in some serious work shortly after being named one of the Vezina finalists.
(Fellow Vezina finalist Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t have it easy in Game 2, either.)
2. Joel Edmundson, Jeff Petry, and the Montreal Canadiens defense
Frankly, this has been, at times, a surprising season for NHL defensemen. Dmitry Kulikov quietly put together a sound defensive year. At times, Victor Hedman‘s looked less than superhuman. And Joel Edmundson’s been much better than many expected (myself included).
But even by those standards, Edmundson was great for the Canadiens vs. the Jets in Game 1.
Over a stout 24:44 TOI, Edmundson collected two assists, a +2 rating, five shots on goal, two hits and three blocked shots. It was a big Game 1 for the Canadiens’ defensemen in general, with Petry also chipping in two assists. Look at the “fancy stats” and you’ll notice how well Edmundson, Petry, Shea Weber, and others limited high-danger chances against while helping to create offense for Montreal.
3. Samuel Girard, Colorado Avalanche
Interestingly, there were a handful of standout NHL defensemen with two-assist nights on Wednesday. Again, Joel Edmundson and Jeff Petry pulled that off for the Habs. In defeat, Shea Theodore assisted on both Golden Knights Game 2 goals.
Samuel Girard collected two primary assists of his own, reminding the hockey world that the Avs’ defensive might extends beyond Cale Makar. (And, Devon Toews, too. Yeah, Colorado is loaded.)
Feel free to mix in other choices. Maybe you prefer Carey Price, although the Habs protected him well on a 27-save night. Mikko Rantanen deserves credit, especially for the OT-winner. And Eric Staal quietly scored two points of his own (1G, 1A).
[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Sabres win 2021 NHL Draft Lottery
As bad as 2020-21 was to the Buffalo Sabres, at least they won the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery, and thus the first pick. (Feel free to give Taylor Hall another lottery draft credit.) While the Sabres pick first, the Seattle Kraken won the other 2021 NHL Draft Lottery drawing to select No. 2 overall.
Catch up on where the 15 NHL teams ended up in the 2021 NHL Draft pick order here.
Scheifele hit on Evans
No doubt, Mark Scheifele’s hit on Jake Evans cast a shadow over Game 1 between the Canadiens and Jets. Read up on the reactions here. The good news is that, as of Wednesday night, Evans reportedly didn’t need to be hospitalized.
THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 3: Bruins at Islanders, 7:30 p.m. ET (Series tied 1-1) – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 3: Hurricanes at Lightning, 8 p.m ET (TB leads 2-0) – USA (livestream)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.