NHL Playoffs 2023: Initial thoughts after each first-round series’ opening contest

Compared to other teams, some had a better start so far.

Teams have given us a sense of what to anticipate after Game 1 of each Stanley Cup Playoff series. Even though it’s only one game, every game in the NHL playoffs is crucial.

Underdogs have had an unexpectedly good start, winning six of their first eight games on the road. The New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets in particular made a statement with their opening-round playoff victories on the road.

Some problems were experienced by other teams, including the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers. And certainly, the Tampa Bay Lightning had cause for discouragement despite a significant victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The opening thoughts from each Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series are listed here.

Islanders need to fix anemic power play

In the regular season, the New York Islanders’ power play was among the worst in the NHL, and nothing changed in Game 1 against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Isles fell 2-1 and had numerous opportunities to change the course of the game while having the upper hand.

  • The Islanders were unable to capitalize on any of their four power plays.
  • According to Natural Stat Trick, they only produced four shots with 0.82 predicted goals on them.
  • The Isles were given a power play with just over five minutes left in the third period and had a chance to tie the game, but they failed to even attempt a shot.

The Islanders have a chance to pull off the upset, but they must see some sort of output from their power play unit for this to be a low-scoring series in any case. The Hurricanes have a top-notch defense, and during the regular season, they led the NHL in five-on-five expected goals against. The Isles’ postseason run could be cut short if they can’t score with the man advantage.

Panthers missed golden opportunity against Bruins

The Florida Panthers cannot afford to lose games that they can win if they want to shock the Boston Bruins. Exact same thing occurred in Game 1.

The Panthers occasionally outperformed Boston while the Bruins were playing without their captain Patrice Bergeron. Florida managed to keep Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in check, controlling 61.0% of the anticipated goals at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Linus Ullmark of the Bruins was simply unbeatable by the Panthers, and Alex Lyon of Florida gave away an egregious goal in his postseason debut. There were many positive aspects of the Panthers’ performance, and maybe they can build on those as they attempt to tie the series before returning to Florida. However, the Panthers missed the opportunity to win this game despite the Bruins’ lackluster performance. They might not have many opportunities like that for the remainder of the series.

Joe Pavelski’s injury could tilt balance of the series

Veteran forward Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars missed Game 1’s second period due to a hard hit from Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. Even with assistance, Pavelski found it difficult to leave the rink, and Dallas might be without him for at least a few games.

Matt Dumba lays a late hit on Joe Pavelski and receives a 2-minute minor penalty for roughing. pic.twitter.com/a6XTWf4Hup

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 18, 2023

The Stars’ top line has relied on Pavelski, 38, for several seasons. He just finished the regular season with 28 goals and 49 assists, making him one of the NHL’s most dependable forwards. Taking him out of the Dallas starting lineup will further increase the chances in the Wild’s favor after their double-overtime victory in Game 1.

Despite having a strong defense, Minnesota has trouble scoring goals when playing five on five. The Wild will most likely need to prevail in a few defensive games with low scoring in order to win this series. That becomes much more of an objective for Dallas now that Pavelski isn’t playing.

Goaltending remains a giant question mark for Oilers

Although Stuart Skinner performed admirably as the Oilers’ primary goalie during the regular season, there were concerns about his lack of experience going into the playoffs. Those queries are still open following Game 1.

To be fair, Skinner was not the sole factor in the Oilers’ loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 at home. Just that after Edmonton went up 2-0 in the first period, Skinner didn’t do anything to help his side secure a victory.

  • Adrian Kempe scored a goal to begin the second session, which was relatively softly conceded by him.
  • He ended up giving up 0.65 goals more than usual overall, according to Natural Stat Trick.
  • In almost 70 minutes of play, the Oilers’ goalkeeper faced 35 shots and gave up four goals.

That won’t do, especially not when the Kings have Joonas Korpisalo playing at his best. The good news for Skinner is that Edmonton performed admirably overall in Game 1, so he should have an excellent chance to turn things around and go back on track by winning Game 2.

Devils cannot let Rangers win special teams battle

All season long, the New Jersey Devils outperformed the New York Rangers in five-on-five play, but the Rangers’ superiority on special teams in Game 1 more than offset that advantage.

The Devils received two power opportunities in the first ten minutes of the game, but they went scoreless on both occasions. Igor Shesterkin, the goalie for the Rangers, didn’t even receive a shot from New Jersey. New York gained a lot of confidence on the road while New Jersey missed its chance to reclaim the initiative quickly.

POWER PLAY KREIDS IS BACK AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/ncrvmO2iL8

— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 19, 2023

The Rangers then capitalized on their first power play of the game with just over 10 minutes left in the opening period, taking the lead 1-0. Following that, things for the Devils wouldn’t get any better.

As a result of New York’s utterly ineffective penalty kill, New Jersey went 0 for 4 in the game’s final power play opportunities. The Rangers, on the other hand, profited from two of their three power plays and romped to a 5-1 victory. Despite the Devils’ superior five-on-five play, they simply cannot afford to lose to the Rangers’ powerhouse special teams unit if they want to win.

Lightning win big, but at an even bigger cost

The scoreboard alone would lead one to believe that the Tampa Bay Lightning won Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a rout. The accident report presents a totally different picture.

The Bolts lost two crucial defenders even though they defeated the Leafs 7-3 in Toronto.

  • After the first period, Victor Hedman left the game due to an unspecified injury.
  • After receiving a high hit from Toronto’s Michael Bunting in the second period, Erik Cernak seemed to have a head injury.
  • Even with a 1-0 lead, the Lightning face a difficult task if those two can’t get back into the series.

Hedman is still one of the finest defensemen in the NHL when he’s at his best, despite having a bad year in 2022–23, and Cernak takes up tough minutes while playing a crucial role on the penalty kill.

The worst-case scenario for Tampa is losing those two to an offensively potent Maple Leafs team. Mikhail Sergachev can serve as the Bolts’ starting defenseman, but he doesn’t have a lot of support. Zach Bogosian and Haydn Fleury will now be in the lineup following challenging regular seasons for both, while rookie Nick Perbix, who is expected to play a bigger part, will do so.

Regardless of the outcome of Game 1, the Maple Leafs will lose the series as long as Hedman and Cernak are sidelined.

Jets send a message in domination of Golden Knights

Although the Winnipeg Jets’ victory over the Vegas Golden Knight in Game 1 wasn’t unexpected, how they did it was. Simply said, the Jets defeated the Golden Knights 5-1 in their own barn.

The game was not closer than it appeared on the scoreboard in this instance. With the exception of a brief moment in the second period, Winnipeg had complete control of this game. The Jets only allowed the Golden Knights 1.2 expected goals at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick. Vegas was unable to maintain any sort of offensive zone possession.

Everyone watching the game anticipated a strong comeback from the Pacific Division champions in the third period when the Golden Knights were down 2-1, but it never materialized. Blake Wheeler extended his team’s advantage less than five minutes into the first as the Jets instead came out strong. On defense, Winnipeg limited Vegas to 10 shots on goal in the final period, several of them with the opposing end’s goal unattended.

Before they travel to Winnipeg behind the series 2-0, the Golden Knights must respond to the message the Jets conveyed in Game 1 of their series.

Philipp Grubauer, Kraken silence doubters

Philipp Grubauer’s ability to stand up against a Colorado Avalanche offense that can score a lot of goals when they’re on a roll worried me a lot going into this series. Grubauer has already proven me incorrect after Game 1.

Grubauer stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced and 2.52 goals above average in helping the Seattle Kraken defeat the defending champions in Game 1. The Kraken goalie did receive assistance from an outstanding defensive effort in front of him, but Grubauer also made some enormous stops at crucial moments in the game.

By the time the third period’s final buzzer sounded, both Grubauer’s critics and the sold-out Ball Arena audience had fallen silent. Grubauer needs to put on a few more games like this one if Seattle is to pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent Stanley Cup Playoff history. Although it is vital to keep in mind that it is only one game, it is difficult to not be inspired by what Grubauer accomplished in Game 1.