NHLN Playoff Notebook: A Brick Wall in Washington, Double Overtime, and Exorcizing Demons

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 2:33 am by Scott Maxwell

The Washington Capitals, after failing to advance in Game 4, looked to finish off the Philadelphia Flyers…and stumbled face first into a brick wall by the name of Michal Neuvirth. The New York Islanders looked to take the lead in a 2-2 series against the Florida Panthers, and it took double overtime and a goal from a rookie defenseman to get the job done. The San Jose Sharks put an end to their choking ways after exiling the Los Angeles Kings from the playoffs. Also, the Minnesota Wild decide to stick around for another game after an overtime win against the Dallas Stars.


The Philadelphia Flyers needed a win tonight, and that was exactly what they got. However, they decided to stop playing after taking a 1-0 lead on the powerplay to instead take the time to flirt with disaster. However, Jakub Voracek cares not for your silly shots.

While Mr. Voracek might have over exaggerated, it’s not by much. The Washington Capitals outshot the Flyers 44-11 in the game. No worries though, as there is an unwritten rule somewhere that says the Capitals aren’t allowed to be successful in the playoffs. This rule was made painstakingly clear when Ryan White shot a Sam Gagner rebound wide of the net, but it bounced off the skate of Taylor Chorney and in. That goal was all that they would need, as the Caps could not muster the tying goal past Neuvirth.

Neuvirth would stop all 44 shots he faced for the shutout, while Chris VandeVelde scored the empty net goal to secure the victory for Philly. The Caps dominated the possession game, with a massive 63-17 edge in even strength shot attempts. Don’t feel too bad Flyers, you still out shot Alex Ovechkin 11-8. The Caps saw six players take at least five shot attempts, and not a single player had a negative shot attempt differential. The Flyers, on the flip side, had just one player with a positive differential – Michael Raffl’s +3.

On the bright side, I think this was the first game that didn’t have a dirty play or ugly collision that resulted in a player getting killed.

Capitals lead series 3-2.


For the second night in a row, a game was not decided in regulation, and not in the first overtime, but the second overtime. However, this one wasn’t decided by a veteran forward like Patrick Kane, as New York Islanders rookie defenseman Alan Quine was the deciding factor in this game. Quine hasn’t been on the roster for very long, as just a few weeks ago, he was called up due to injury. He went from zero to hero with just one shot, and now the Islanders head home with a chance to exterminate the Florida Panthers.

Frans Nielsen kicked off the scoring midway through the first, as he put home his own rebound past Roberto Luongo. Thomas Greiss stood strong through the first two periods, letting nothing get by him. That didn’t last too long though, as just two minutes into the third, Aleksander Barkov tied the game despite an almost offside call. Some bad news for the Panthers though, as Nick Bjugstad was toepicked into the boards in the second overtime, and suffered what may have been a concussion. It clearly rattled the Panthers, as not long after, the game ended with Quine’s goal on the powerplay.

I don’t know what the Panthers did to anger the hockey gods, but they must have done something bad. They’ve outshot the Islanders three times in this series, and one game they tied. They out attempted the Islanders 94-55 at even strength, with Teddy Purcell being the team’s only player with a negative differential with a -2. Despite that, they face elimination going to Brooklyn. Both goalies stood tall, as Greiss stopped 47 of 48 shots, while Luongo stopped 40 of 42.

An interesting pull from the game is that the Panthers relied a lot on Jussi Jokinen, so much that the only players with more ice time on Florida were Aaron Ekblad, and Erik Gudbranson. Also, this was the Islanders second longest game, still not long enough to beat the Easter Epic. This was also the second longest game in Panthers history, the longest being the Cup deciding 1-0 game against Colorado in 1996.

Islanders lead series 3-2.


The San Jose Sharks had the Los Angeles Kings on the brink, and yet still there was plenty of doubt in the minds of hockey fans everywhere. After all, this is the same team that just two years ago squandered a 3-0 series lead to the very same team. But this was not the case, as the Sharks finally rose from the moat, invaded the castle, and defeated the Kings.

It wouldn’t be without it’s share of scares though. After taking a 3-0 lead through the first 24 minutes, Patrick Marleau had a penalty shot, and it looked like the Kings were about to be eliminated from the playoffs in the first round since the Sharks in 2011. But, Marleau missed, and then Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Kris Versteeg all scored to rally the Kings to a 3-3 tie before the end of the period. And you could sense the fear in San Jose, the “not again” feeling in the players guts.

But Brent Burns stepped up and said, “Not this time!” and proceeded to assist both of San Jose’s next goals to give the Sharks a 5-3 lead, and San Jose would give a sigh of relief as they were on to the second round.

It was a game the Kings should have won, as they out Corsi’d the Sharks 63-38. However, Jonathan Quick wet the bed, and couldn’t bail out his team when they needed it. Burns finished the game with three 5v5 primary assists, a crazy game for a defenseman, while rookie Joonas Donskoi came up clutch with two goals, including the game winner.

Fun fact: With the conclusion of this series, Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson now have equal consideration for the Norris, as neither player showed up in the playoffs (Doughty finished the series with one assist, which he got tonight on a slap shot that required a fluky double deflection to go in).

Sharks win series 4-1.


Another team facing elimination tonight, the Minnesota Wild were in a must win situation against the Dallas Stars. It required overtime, the Wild pulled it off, after blowing and overcoming leads, and they return home still alive in the series.

The Wild started off strong, as they scored twice within the first six minutes of the game thanks to Mikael Granlund and Jordan Schroeder. However, Johnny Oduya scored late in the first to cut the lead in half. After a scoreless second, five goals were scored in the third, including one from each team in the first two minutes, and a Mikko Koivu goal with three minutes left. Koivu continued the heroics in overtime, as he deflected a Ryan Suter shot to give the Wild the victory.

After a solid start in game 4, Antti Niemi finished the game with a brutal .792 save %. Meanwhile, despite allowing four goals, Devan Dubnyk finished with a .902 save %. The Stars had a Corsi advantage of 86-46, even though they lost (a noticeable trend tonight). Not a single player on the Wild bench had a positive Corsi differential.

Trivia time: Who led the Stars forwards in ice time? If you guessed Jamie Benn, you’re wrong, as his 22:26 TOI was second to Patrick Sharp’s 23:19. In fact, Sharp was second on the team, after John Klingberg’s 26:21.

Stars lead 3-2.



3. Joonas Donskoi

Donskoi scored two goals for the Sharks in the win, including an impressive job of muscling out his opponent, passing off the puck, and getting to net for the game winning goal.

2. Mikko Koivu

Like Donskoi, Koivu scored two goals. However, the Wild captain one-upped Donskoi by scoring the game tying and winning goals to keep his team alive.

1. Michal Neuvirth

He stood on his head while the rest of the Flyers sat on their butts.