Islanders Take Game One, Old vs. New, Johns Retires, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Islanders Take Game One, Old vs. New, Johns Retires, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

A Sunday matinee hockey game is always a great time in the summer.

The only game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Semifinal round that will be on NBC in the States, the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t disappoint. A tight 2-1 game went the way of the Islanders in Game One, giving them the first series lead against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

•   I’m still picking the Lightning to come out of the series, but the Islanders are a tough team to play against and a dangerous team across the lineup. They are, like the other three teams left in the postseason, built for playoff hockey.

•   The Islanders put together one of the more dominant performances you’ll see in a game that ended 2-1. The first breakthrough of the game not coming until just beyond the mid-way point of the contest, when Mat Barzal crashed the net on his way to scoring his fourth goal of these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

•   With the goal, Barzal became the fifth Islanders player to reach double-digits in points in the postseason, joining J.G. Pageau (13), Josh Bailey (12), Anthony Beauvillier (11), and Brock Nelson (10).

•   While the Islanders handled the Lightning much better than expected on the road in game one, it was still a game where just one goal could make the difference. Just over five minutes into the third period, Ryan Pulock gave New York the cushion it needed to close out Game One.

•   Probably a goal that Vezina Trophy nominee Andrei Vasilevskiy would want back.

•   Pulock’s 2-0 goal put him into some storied company in Stanley Cup Playoff history.

•   Not only is Pulock one game-winner this postseason short of joining this all-time leaders list, he became the first Islanders defenseman to score three game-winners in one postseason.

•   A two-goalie system in the postseason is a rarity as most times one hot goaltender can carry a team far into the playoffs or even all the way the to the Stanley Cup. For the Islanders, they’ve used two different goaltenders to win two different series’ and now Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov have the Islanders three wins away from playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1984.

•   Still, do not count out the Lightning. You can’t. They are the defending Cup Champions until they are not. If that means anything to you.

•   While the Islanders hold a 1-0 series lead over the Lightning, the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens begin their Stanley Cup Semifinal series tonight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas at 8:00 p.m. CT. Matchup of one of the oldest and most storied franchises in the league against the newest kid on the block.

•   Montreal rides into town having just dispatched the Winnipeg Jets in four-straight games and boasting the best penalty-killing unit in the postseason with a 90.3% kill-rate. Not to mention, Carey Price leads all Stanley Cup goaltenders with a .935 save-percentage and is second in GAA (1.97) among active goaltenders in the postseason, behind Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury.

•   Fleury has been a rock for the Golden Knights this postseason and it helps that Vegas is only allowing him to see 25.9 shots per game, the lowest in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

•   I’m riding with the Golden Knights in the series, but don’t be surprised if this series turns into the Carey Price show and he steals it for the underdog Canadiens.

•   Former Chicago Blackhawks 2010 second round draft pick Stephen Johns announced the end of his playing career yesterday after a grueling battle with concussions and post-concussion symptoms.

•   Johns will be documenting a rollerblading journey across the United States to bring awareness to those struggling with  mental health issues of their own. We wish Johns all the best in his ongoing recovery and whatever he has ahead of him in life.

•   Trying to transition loosely from a former Blackhawks player to a potential future one, it appears that Dougie Hamilton will be shopping himself around the league ahead of his impending discussions with the Carolina Hurricanes before hitting the free agency market.

•   The Blackhawks are a team that could absolutely use Hamilton. A big body on the blue-line that plays with speed and offensive creativity. There’s going to be tons of interest in Hamilton this offseason and you’d like to think that the Hurricanes are going to do everything they can to make sure he stays put, but if he hits the open market, I’d like to see Chicago be a major player.

•   He would, without question, immediately become the best defenseman in the Blackhawks organization.

•   Is it all a pipe-dream? Maybe. But the Blackhawks have a very small window to try to contend for another Stanley Cup before the ends of the current contracts for Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith. Going after Hamilton would be a swing at the fences for Chicago in that small window.

•   How is the offseason going for Kirby Dach you ask? Just fine, it appears.

•   Wakesurfing, I am told, is a popular offseason activity for hockey players. I have not wake surfed before, but Kirby and Jonathan make it look fun.

•   God, I am out of shape…

•   And no, before anyone asks, this is NOT a recent picture of Jonathan Toews. This was a screen grab from his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video about seven years ago.

•   That will do it for today. Have yourselves a good Monday!

•   LAST CALL! Send your questions to us for our Monday Mailbag post later today on Twitter using the hashtag #BNHawksMailbag or email them to me at Mario.Tirabassi at bleachernation.com!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.