NHL Rink Wrap: Avalanche sweep Predators; Crosby roasts Rangers

NHL Rink Wrap: Avalanche sweep Predators; Crosby roasts Rangers
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• In a move out of left field even for Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders fired Barry Trotz. Yes, seriously.

• Pierre McGuire’s short, strange Senators tenure ended as well on Monday.

Cale Makar, Roman Josi, and Victor Hedman are the finalists for the 2022 NHL Norris Trophy. That’s all you’ll see of Josi, however, as Makar’s Avalanche completed a sweep of Josi’s Predators.

• The Flames tied their series 2-2 with the Flames, and the Panthers did the same with the Capitals. Meanwhile, the Penguins pushed the Rangers to the brink of elimination.

Game 4: Pittsburgh Penguins 7, New York Rangers 2 (PIT leads 3-1)

Between empty-netters and lucky bounces, a 7-2 score can be leading. It was not misleading for Game 4 between the Penguins and Rangers.

Instead, the Penguins just absolutely dominated Game 4, pushing the Rangers to the brink of elimination. Generally, it might be easier to blame it all on Igor Shesterkin. If that was it, a goalie change could conceivably swing the series.

While Shesterkin hasn’t been a miracle worker, it really wasn’t about that. To avoid a short series, the Rangers must find answers against the Penguins.

Game 4: Florida Panthers 3, Washington Capitals 2 [OT] (Series tied 2-2)

If the Capitals beat the Panthers in Game 4, you could have leaned on several narratives.

  • The Capitals connected on special teams (1-for-5), while the putridity of the Panthers’ power play continued (0-for-4).
  • Yes, Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t tested often (14 saves). Florida wouldn’t have been fair to pin a would-be loss on “Bob,” though. The Capitals enjoyed some breakaways and semi-breakaways, yet Bobrovsky came through more often than not.
  • In a dizzying sequence of events, T.J. Oshie got away with what sure looked like a hit to the head on Sam Bennett, then Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a pretty 2-1 goal.

 

Should the NHL suspend Oshie for that hit on Bennett? That’s its own debate. But it’s tough for all but the most devoted Capitals fan to admit that the Oshie hit on Bennett warranted a penalty (whether that be a minor or a major). If a penalty was called, that Kuznetsov goal couldn’t have happened.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]

It did, though, leaving the Panthers down 2-1 to the Capitals with a bit more than half of the third period left in Game 4. With an empty net, the Panthers scored, and then an overtime goal survived a video review.

Understatement: quite the turn of events for the Panthers and Capitals. Washington’s overall efforts still deserve notice; they actually won the high-danger battle despite Florida’s volume advantage of shots. A tied series gives the Panthers a chance to impose their will against the Capitals (or, you know, at least find some answers on the power play).

Game 4: Colorado Avalanche 5, Nashville Predators 3 (COL sweeps series 4-0)

Give the Predators credit: they gave the Avalanche much more trouble in Games 3 and 4 in Nashville. Yes, Nashville pushed Colorado to OT in Game 2, but that was on the back of Conor Ingram’s wonderful performance. Things were much more competitive from a moment-to-moment basis in Nashville.

All of that aside, it’s telling that the last Predators goal represented their only lead of the playoffs. They simply couldn’t hang with the Avs, and so the Predators follow up an unexpected playoff appearance with a hasty postseason exit.

Game 4: Calgary Flames 4, Dallas Stars 1 (Series tied 2-2)

For a while there, it seemed like Stars netminder Jake Oettinger might “goalie” the Flames in Game 4.

Despite the Flames’ 19-8 shots on goal advantage, they ended the first period tied 0-0 with the Stars. By the end of the second, only one goal went in on 39 SOG, and that Rasmus Andersson tally happened on a 5-on-3 power play.

There’s a long history of teams surviving lopsided stretches and counterpunching to steal a victory.

The Flames avoided that against the Stars in Game 4. In another “sigh of relief” moment, Johnny Gaudreau connected on a pretty penalty shot goal. Gaudreau then assisted on an Elias Lindholm tally, building a 3-0 lead that was as insurmountable as you’d expect in this seriously stingy series.

Three Stars in NHL Playoffs on Monday

1. Sidney Crosby, Penguins

At age 34, the general feeling is that Sidney Crosby is still elite … but maybe not quite the best of the best. Maybe it’s too early to remove Sidney Crosby from the best in the world conversation, though?

Crosby and Jake Guentzel have been dominant for long swaths of the Penguins’ series against the Rangers. In Game 4, Crosby collected a goal and two assists, while Guentzel generated two points (1G, 1A).

When the numbers have been good but not as eye-popping as before, people would look to underlying stats with Crosby. Well, Crosby, Guentzel, and Bryan Rust dominated in that regard, too. With that trio on the ice, the Penguins generated 7 high-danger chances while allowing none at 5-on-5.

Truly, Crosby’s looking like as big of a difference-maker as any player in the NHL so far during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

2. Cale Makar, Avalanche

Could Sidney Crosby hang with Cale Makar, though? Well, he probably would pass on a straight-head sprint sort of race, if you’re being literal about it.

Makar lays a credible claim to the top spot of the night. He generated his own one-goal, two-assist performance, and did so in a game that wasn’t as wide open. Those points also helped to complete that Avalanche sweep over the Predators.

Wherever you rank two superstar players, Cale Makar keeps making it abundantly clear that he’s an all-world talent in the present, not just the future. The Blues or the Wild will really need to scheme to find ways to slow Makar down (but not over-commit, or they’d leave things too open for other Avalanche stars, like Nathan MacKinnon).

3. Johnny Gaudreau, Flames

This is the sort of playoff performance you’d expect from Johnny Gaudreau after the best regular season of his career. Gaudreau collected an assist, and scored a crucial penalty shot goal that ended up being the game-winner.

Beyond that, he helped the Flames absolutely dominate the Stars at even-strength. Gaudreau bounced back from an injury scare, drew two penalties, collected those two points, and the Flames easily won the high-danger chances battle with him on the ice.

The Stars have squeezed a lot out of their all-defense approach during their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff run, and they’ve been able to grind out two wins against the Flames. Game 4 prompts some concern. With the level of play the way it was, should Dallas be a bit more aggressive?

Gaudreau might force them to seek more offense.

TUESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 5: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET — ESPN (Series tied 2-2)
Game 5: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m. ET — ESPN2 (Series tied 2-2)
Game 5: St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild, 9:30 p.m. ET — ESPN (Series tied 2-2)
Game 5: Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers, 10 p.m. ET — ESPN2 (Series tied 2-2)

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