The current playoff format just isn’t fair, because a legitimate Stanley Cup contender like the Boston Bruins must play a powerhouse team in round one like the… Toronto Maple Leafs? Toronto played a complete game to knock down the Bruins at home in Game 1, though this series is far from over; we’re still predicting a slugfest.
Here’s a recap of last night’s action — check out replays of every playoff game on ESPN+ — and what to watch for tonight, in today’s edition of ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily:
About last night…
Game 1: Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Boston Bruins 1. The Maple Leafs haven’t won the first game of a playoff series since 2003. “I did not know that,” says John Tavares, who was 12 years old at the time, and does not remember whether or not he stayed up to watch. Tavares had a goal and assist, Mitch Marner scored twice (including a slick penalty shot) and Frederik Andersen looked solid as Toronto silenced the Bruins’ mighty top line plus a sold-out crowd to steal home-ice advantage.
Game 1: Washington Capitals 4, Carolina Hurricanes 2. The Caps showed that 3-0 is not the worst lead in hockey (too soon, Lightning fans?) as they sealed a 4-2 victory over the Canes — despite a late push and two third-period goals from Carolina rookie Andrei Svechnikov. Carolina was playing in its first playoff game in a decade; the last time they were here, Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” was the No. 1 song in America. Unfortunately, the Canes didn’t have an answer for Washington’s power play, which went two for four.
Game 1: Calgary Flames 4, Colorado Avalanche 0. On a team so stocked with firepower — five players had 70-plus point seasons — it was rookie Andrew Mangiapane who opened the scoring with a beauty in the second period. Welcome to the show, kid. Matthew Tkachuk scored two goals, but the real star was goaltender Mike Smith, who dazzled while pitching a shutout.
Andrew Mangiapane sores the goal in front of the net to put the Flames up 1-0 in the second period.
1. Mike Smith, G, Calgary Flames. In his first playoff game in seven years, the 37-year-old shined. Smith turned away all 26 shots — and even notched an assist on the empty-net goal. Goaltending was a big question mark for the Flames entering the playoffs; it was unclear if Smith would even start this game, or if they’d go with David Rittich. If the Flames continue to get performances like this in net, they really are the favorites in the West.
2. Frederik Andersen, G, Toronto Maple Leafs. Yes, Marner got two goals and should be recognized. But if the Maple Leafs are going to advance, they’ll need more nights like this from Andersen. He looked confident. He weathered bursts of pressure. He did it all in a hostile environment. By turning away 37 of 38 shots, Andersen was a huge boost for Toronto.
3. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals. The Caps didn’t get a shot on goal for nearly 10 minutes in their opening game against the Canes. Then Backstrom got hot. Like, really hot. He scored twice (accounting for two of Washington’s first four shots) and the rest of the team would wake up, building a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period.
Play of the night
Late in the second period, with the Maple Leafs holding onto a 2-1 lead, Nazem Kadri got the puck in his own zone. He looked up to a see a streaking William Nylander by the opposite blue line. Kadri slung the puck between two Boston defenders to hit Nylander in stride.
The result? A gorgeous cross-ice connection and breakaway goal for Nylander. “When you look at it in slow mo and in instant replay, you overanalyze it a bit,” Kadri says. “But in the time, I just saw him open and gave it to him.”
Sick pass by Kadri springs Nylander on the breakaway pic.twitter.com/CK1a58tvRv
– Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 12, 2019
Dud of the night
It wasn’t the best night for Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, and he was totally fooled on Marner’s penalty shot which swung the game’s momentum.
“That was a [David Pastrnak] move, he’s done that in practice,” Rask said, acknowledging that yeah, it was a good move, but the veteran goaltender shouldn’t have looked so stunned.
What’s on the schedule tonight?
Columbus erased a three-goal deficit to defeat the (heavy Stanley Cup favorite) Lightning in Game 1. If the Blue Jackets take Game 2, they would be poised for one of the biggest NHL playoff upsets of all time? And is anyone prepared to see John Tortorella… in a good mood?
The Nassau Coliseum was rocking on Wednesday as the Islanders look to capitalize on their first home-ice advantage in a playoff series since 1988. The typically offensively challenged Isles scored enough goals (four) to keep up with — and defeat — the Penguins in overtime in Game 1.
Some relief for Winnipeg? Patrik Laine netted a goal in Game 1; the Finnish sniper is a streaky goal scorer and is looking to get track on track after a so-so season. But that was all the offense the Jets could muster past rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington. For the Blues, hometown boy Patrick Maroon (who set up the game-winning goal) is heating up at the right time.
The Sharks ended the season on a slump, but maybe all they needed was a little puck luck — as in, the puck fortuitously bouncing off captain Joe Pavelski‘s jaw and deflecting past Marc-Andre Fleury. San Jose got plenty of opportunities in a 5-2 opening win and the Golden Knights, according to coach Gerard Gallant were “outplayed” in every facet, not even generating a shot for the first five minutes. They’ll need a better start for Game 2.
The Golden Knights could be getting reinforcements. Russian forward Nikita Gusev, the reigning MVP of the KHL, is reportedly working to get out of his contract with SKA St. Petersburg early to join Vegas as soon as this week. (SKA was eliminated in the conference finals of the Gagarin Cup playoffs).
The skilled and speedy Gusev, 26, is on the Golden Knights’ reserve list and is eligible to play in the postseason. Gusev was also recently named the training camp roster for Team Russia for May’s World Championships in Slovakia. So if he doesn’t make it to Vegas for the playoffs, you can catch him in action there.
Social post of the day
I screamed at my tv pic.twitter.com/3QtJg9bqpg
– Manny (@mannyelk) April 12, 2019
The Canes might want to clean this up before Game 2. Just saying.
“Honestly I’ve never heard anything like that before in my career,” Mike Smith, on hearing the crowd in Calgary chant “Smitty” during his epic opening night performance.