NHLN Playoff Notebook: Sharks go up by two, everybody else gets even

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 2:32 am by Cam Lewis

A lot of things happened in the hockey world this weekend! The Penguins, Lightning, and Blues evened their respective series at one game each, and the Sharks put a two game stranglehold on the Predators. Nashville needs to stop taking penalties. The Islanders need to, uh, get some shots on net, but first, they need to get the puck. The Capitals need to ask themselves why exactly they allow Tom Wilson on the ice, because whatever it is he’s doing, it isn’t helping. And none of this will mention the Leafs winning the draft lottery! Woo!

Tampa Bay Lightning 4 – New York Islanders 1

Maybe the Islanders were tired and didn’t want to be playing a mid-afternoon game, or maybe they were just so anxiously awaiting the results of the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery that they forgot to show up for Game 2 of their series against the Lightning on Saturday. But whatever the reason, the Islanders were completely outclasses by Tampa Bay in this one, resulting in the series being evened at one game each. 

According to the advanced stats, New York was the better team than Tampa Bay in the first period, as they outshot them 12-5 and doubled them in shot attempts, 23-12, but that doesn’t accurately reflect what went down. While the Islanders had way more shots than the Lightning, most of them were from the outside, and only one of them was considered a high danger chance, while Tampa generated four quality chances, and capitalized on two of them. 

The Lightning completely took control of the game in the second and third period, shutting the Islanders down to just five shots (two at even strength) in the second, and three shots (all at even strength) in the third. All told, in the second and third period, Tampa Bay had 47 all situation shot attempts while New York only had 16. Also, that high danger chance the Islanders had in the first? It was their only one of the game, as Tampa Bay managed to completely shut them out in the offensive zone. 

In such a dominant performance, it’s tough to really pinpoint one player for having an excellent game, but Victor Hedman really stands out here. He played 27 minutes, and shut the Islanders down to just 11 shot attempts during that time. Also, everybody on the Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat line had a Corsi For percentage of at least 64 per cent at even strength, largely because they produced a good chunk to Tampa’s offence. 

This doesn’t really bode well for the Islanders, who, despite getting a win in Game 1, have now been eaten alive in the second and third periods of both games so far in this series. 

Series is tied 1-1 

Pittsburgh Penguins 2 – Washington Capitals 1

Speaking of teams not being awake for Game 2, uh, who were those people dressed up as the Capitals on Saturday? Those weren’t the guys who rolled their way to 56 wins during the regular season, right? 

You don’t even really need to look at the numbers to figure out what went down here, because whether you like analytics or not, we can all agree that the Penguins absolutely fed the Capitals their lunch on Saturday. Through the first two periods, the Penguins had a Corsi For percentage of 71.5 per cent in all situations and they outshot the Capitals 28-10. 

Thankfully for Washington, Braden Holtby didn’t forget that there was a game, so they were still in it by the time the third period rolled around, down only 1-0. In the third they finally pulled it together and started to play like the team that many expect to go all the way this year, bombarding Pittsburgh, who had retreated into a defensive shell, with 29 shot attempts in total, including 19 at even strength. 

Ultimately, the Capitals needed more from their top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie, as they only generated 16 shot attempts at even strength. On the other hand, Evgeni Malkin went completely insane, posting an 83.7 Corsi For percentage in all situations. He held the Capitals to just seven shot attempts against, again, in all situations, all game, which is incredible. Also incredible was Kris Letang, who logged 35:22 of ice time while also maintaining a 62.8 Corsi For percentage over that time. That’s fucking nuts. 

And finally, probably the most hilarious stat of the night is Tom Wilson producing literally nothing to the team’s effort. He was on the ice for 16 shot attempts against, and none for. I guess that $2,403.67 fine really got his head. Thanks for showing up! 

Oh yeah, and Brooks Orpik was suspended for his hit on Olli Maata, which, uh, yeah, might not be the worst thing for Washington? Because, ya know, he’s kinda bad? 

Series is tied 1-1

St. Louis Blues 4 – Dallas Stars 3 (OT) 

After what the savage beatings that happened on Saturday, it was cool to see a game that could be classified as an even match. This Stars and Blues series, such as many expected, has probably been the most entertaining one of the four so far, and that was evident on Sunday. 

The Stars came out firing in the first period, but Kari Lehtonen was junk, so the Blues managed to come out of the period with a 3-1 win. In the second, with Antti Niemi in net, the Blues started to take control of the game, but couldn’t get anything past the Stars’ backup, much to the disappointment of St. Louis’ social media guy. 

This mattered because in the third, the league’s best offensive team from the regular season turned on the jets and pulled themselves right back into the game, because that’s what teams with elite offences can do. And that’s why having a two goal lead at the end of the first period isn’t a good enough reason to dismiss that team. Shame on you, social media guy. 

So this one tilted back and forth, and eventually went to overtime, which was pretty much anyone’s game. The Stars and Blues shared the shot attempts, went back and forth on high danger chances, and then eventually, David Backes buried the game winner. 

I hope this series goes seven games. Judging by games one and two, it probably will. 

Series is tied 1-1

San Jose Sharks 3 – Nashville Predators 2

Maybe it’s just me, because I haven’t ever really followed the team closely, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Sharks look this good in the playoffs before. Somebody said on Twitter, during their first round series against the L.A. Kings that this is what the Sharks look like without any pressure on them, which seems fairly apt. 

There really aren’t any expectations for this group, like there has been in the past, and they seem to be playing with less fear. Or maybe they just have better players and more reliable goalie and that pressure narrative is garbage. Whatever. Regardless, they look damn good. Especially their power play. 

At some point, the Predators are going to have to accept that they can’t take penalties against the Sharks no matter what. In the first game, a power play completely flipped the game upside down, and it was the same story in Game 2 on Sunday. The Sharks got a power play at the end of the second period, and Logan Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead. I mean, what do you expect is going to happen when you give Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture that much time and space to work with?  

The Preds were the better team in the third period, after a game that was pretty neck-to-neck in the first two, but they couldn’t manage to keep the Sharks down. Mattias Ekholm tied the game with seven minutes to go, but Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead again a few minutes later before Joe Thornton iced it with an empty netter.

The Sharks really weren’t all that great at even strength, as most of their players had a Corsi For percentage around or blow 50 per cent, but that doesn’t really matter if you’re going to give them chances on the power play. If Nashville is going to survive this series and bring themselves back into it, they need to either shut that thing down, or find a way to just, well, not take penalties. 

San Jose leads series 2-0 


Three Stars 

3. Kris Letang 

I swear I’m not making this up, and it isn’t a typo. He actually logged 35:22 of ice time while also maintaining a 62.8 Corsi For percentage over that time. It’s even more impressive when you think that this guy missed a good chunk of time not so long ago due to suffering a stroke. Seriously. Incredible suff. 

2. Braden Holtby 

He was, like, the only Capital to show up in Game 2, and he’s pretty much the reason they were still in the game in the third period. He was hammered with 35 shots and only allowed two goals. Too bad the rest of the team couldn’t pull it together. 

1. Tyler Johnson 

This guy loves playing in the playoffs. After having a not-so-great season, Johnson has absolutely dialled in so far this spring, and that continued in Game 2, as he played a key role in evening the series with two goals and an assist while also posting a 72.2 Corsi For percentage.