The Eastern Conference teams, aside from the Lightning and Red Wings, have made it through three games, and pretty much everything is going as expected. Despite being tied 1-1, the Lightning have dominated the Wings, the Habs hold a commanding 3-0 lead over the Senators who have been playing playoff hockey for two months now, and the Rangers and Islanders are doing their best to make sure we see a Battle of New York this year.
Let’s take a look.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
For some reason, this series waited an extra day to play its third game, just to mess with everybody. All the other series have played through three, but the Lightning and Wings are knotted up at 1-1 after two games. And frankly, I’m not really sure how, considering Tampa has doubled the Wings in shots so far this series.
Petr Mrazek was able to bail the Wings out in game one, but he probably isn’t going to be able to pull that off for the rest of the series. The 5-1 result in favour of the Lightning that we saw in the second game is much more indicative of the way this series is going to play out than the 3-2 Red Wings win in game one.
The Lightning are dominating the possession battle at even strength, as they have a 56.2 Corsi For percentage, so the only way I can see the Wings winning this thing is either them being bailed out by Mrazek/Howard, or Tampa starts giving them a ton of opportunities on the power play. The Wings did have the best power play in the regular season, after all.
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
A big theme in the playoffs is success manifested through a combination of discipline and special teams. This is a prime example of that. The Islanders came into this series with a major key to success being “keep the Capitals off the power play” and they have done exactly that, helping them to a 2-1 series lead.
The Capitals scored the second most power play goals of any team in the league during the regular season, which isn’t surprising because Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom play on their team. The Islanders have managed to hold the Caps to just one power play goal so far through three games, largely because they’ve only given them six opportunities with the man advantage.
Maybe it isn’t the Islanders, it could be a function of the refs calling absolutely nothing, because the Islanders have also only been given six power play opportunities throughout the series. Regardless, these two teams have been generally evenly matched at even strength, so whoever can stay out of the box will have the advantage in the series.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
I thought this was going to be the most lopsided series in the first round, for some reason. I don’t really know why, considering the Penguins, for all their struggles and near collapse this season, still has the best player in the game on their team. This series has been pretty tight so far, at 2-1 for the Rangers.
Interestingly enough, the reason the Penguins are in this series isn’t offence, it’s been their ability to stop the Rangers from scoring. The Rangers are winning the possession and chance battle at even strength, but it isn’t really by much. Although, the Rangers are outshooting them by an average of 30.0 to 23.7 shots per game. The Pens also haven’t had more than five shots in the first period in any of their three games so far, which makes it really difficult to keep up offensively.
The Penguins have also conceded the most power play opportunities of any team so far in the playoffs with 14, but thankfully for them, the Rangers have only capitalized on two of them. The Penguins are going to need to get their offence in gear and start getting some shots on net if they want to have any prayer of winning this series.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators
I hate to say it, but it looks like the Senators’ wild ride is all but over.
Although the Canadiens have outplayed the Senators at even strength based on their Corsi For and Scoring Chances For percentages, Ottawa could still be in this series had they managed to have some better luck in their two overtime periods. Of course, that’s wishful thinking, but despite the fact they’re down 3-0, this has been a pretty tight series.
You probably aren’t going to win games when you’re not only being out chanced and outshot, but you’re also facing this season’s inevitable Hart Trophy winner, Carey Price.
Thanks to Hockey Reference, NHL.com, and War-On-Ice for the stats.