This weekend was awesome for hockey. We were treated to five (5) Game 7s, capped with two overtime thrillers on Sunday. As far as the Blackhawks are immediately concerned, it wasn’t a good weekend for the IceHogs; we’ll get to that in a separate post. This morning we want to focus on the ridiculous climaxes to the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Johnny Be Good
• To be absolutely clear: the MVP of the Stars-Flames series was Dallas netminder Jake Oettinger, and his performance on Sunday was as good as we’ve ever seen. He was credited with 64 saves; his teammates managed just 28 shots on net in the game. He was tremendous in the entire series and the Blackhawks are going to have to face him in the division — IF Dallas can get him re-signed. You assume the Stars are going to make him a priority; Oettinger is a restricted free agent this summer.
• Calgary forward (and unrestricted free agent-to-be) Johnny Gaudreau played the role of hero in overtime, scoring the decisive goal to send the Flames on to the second round where they’ll match up with their geographic rivals from Edmonton. Are you ready for a playoff Battle for Alberta for the first time in nearly 30 years?
The Breadman Delivers
• The first game on Sunday needed overtime at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers and Penguins battled back and forth all afternoon with Sidney Crosby back in the lineup for Pittsburgh; this may have been the last time Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are in the lineup together as Malkin is headed to free agency. Crosby came back from concussion protocol in time to make an impact in Game 7.
• The game needed free hockey to be decided (well, it ain’t free at the prices they were getting for the tickets at MSG) and it was former Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin with the historic OT GWG. He had been quiet for three periods but he was the right man in the right place at the right time for the Rangers.
One End is Another’s Beginning
• The Edmonton Oilers sent the Los Angeles Kings home for the summer on Saturday night. This series had the feel of Connor McDavid taking the next step into a truly elite level of player; he picked up the team and carried them on his back at times, forcing his will onto the series. He’s been a special player in the regular season his entire career, now he’s a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.
• For LA, the game marks the end of an era. Former captain Dustin Brown announced near the end of the regular season that this would be his final run. My buddy Dennis Bernstein was in the arena and shared this video of the Oilers paying their respects to a really good player as his career came to an end. You’ll notice Duncan Keith spending the longest time with Brown; they battled through some really tough series when the Kings and Blackhawks were battling for Western Conference supremacy.
Dustin Brown's final moments in a Los Angeles Kings uniform. Led the handshake line as it should be. pic.twitter.com/f9mjmHuixI
— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) May 15, 2022
Canada (Cup) Dry
• Cubs fans have to kinda sorta feel a little for the poor Toronto Maple Leafs. It looked like Auston Matthews was taking the step Connor McDavid did into bona fide postseason superstardom and the Leafs were going to get over the hump finally. But, alas, they’re still the Maple Leafs and the Lightning are going to play another round in an effort to win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships.
• Oh, and the hero for Tampa, Nick Paul? Grew up in Toronto…
The Maple Leafs are the first team in MLB/NBA/NHL history to lose a winner-take-all game in the opening round of the playoffs 5 years in a row.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) May 15, 2022
Good Carolina Sauce
• Speaking of Toronto kids doing good (or is it well?), Max Domi showed up to play in his first career Game 7 for the Hurricanes. He was acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline and was underwhelming for the Canes down the stretch; he scored just two goals in 19 games to close the regular season after the deal. On Saturday night he scored twice — and tied the Carolina/Hartford franchise record with three points in a Game 7.
• Former Blackhawks forward Teuvo Teravainen had seven points (two goals, five assists) in the seven-game series. He scored Carolina’s first goal in the clinching match and assisted on Domi’s second goal of the night — the game-winner.
• We’ve got a schedule for Round Two. Who ya got?
The Second Round of the 2022 #StanleyCup Playoffs will bring the first “Battle of Alberta” in 31 years and three rematches of recent playoff matchups.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 16, 2022