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The Good Stuff From The First Round – Western Conference

We looked yesterday at all of the good stuff from the first round in the Eastern Conference. Today, let’s go through everything that went down in the wild West. Edmonton? Winning something other than a draft lottery? The Hawks? Can barely even score one goal? Jake Allen is Dominik Hasek now? Playoff hockey, my friends. It’s the best.

SAN JOSE VS. EDMONTON

While the matchups in the West may not have been as ‘sexy’ as the East, there were still a few series’ to be excited about. This was one of them.

Edmonton is a lot of fun to watch, and you can’t help but feel happy for a fanbase that has gone through so much over the last decade. McDavid is the best player in the NHL, so there’s that aspect of it, too. On the other hand, San Jose is a team who’s coming off of a finals appearance, and who knows that their window is closing fast. It’s always fun watching two teams at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum go at it, and this matchup certainly didn’t disappoint.

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Here’s the best from the series.

Edmonton’s improved play without Connor McDavid

Coming into the series, one thing I was really worried about from Edmonton’s perspective was how they were going to be able to perform with Connor McDavid off the ice. In the regular season, their results plummeted with their best player on the bench, which is why I originally had the Sharks winning relatively easily. Man, was I wrong.

Here’s a look at Edmonton’s even strength regular season numbers with and without McDavid on the ice:

CF% xGF% SCF%
McDavid on ice 53.04 56.11 60.39
McDavid off ice 48.5 46.61 45.68

Pretty drastic difference, right? Somehow, though, Edmonton was able to bridge the gap come playoff time, with the team pulling their weight much more effectively. Here are Edmonton’s even strength playoff numbers with and without McDavid.

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CF% xGF% SCF%
Mcdavid on ice 53.62 55.93 60.87
Mcdavid off ice 51.21 50.78 48.0

Yeah, Edmonton’s numbers (especially scoring chances) definitely took a huge hit without 97 on the ice, but that’s to be expected. This was, without a doubt, one of the biggest keys to Edmonton’s win. Are the Sharks the powerhouse team that they were just a year ago? No, they’re not, but they’re still a well-constructed team that can hurt you.

All but four Oilers recorded a point in the first round – that’s pretty impressive. Edmonton, after so much of the season was driven by one player, finally came together in round one. If you’re an Oilers fan, that’s definitely something to be excited about.

McDavid’s beautiful hit on Marcus Sorensen

Clean open ice hits are becoming a thing of the past, which is why one of my favourite moments of the first round came when Connor McDavid decided he was going to try to Murder Marcus Sorensen.

I mean, come on. That’s about as perfect of a hit as you can make. That’s it. Just wanted to show my appreciation for this hit.

Joe Thornton played the series on one leg

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Some call it foolish and irresponsible. Some commend Thornton for grinding it out. Truth is, if you were in Thornton’s position – 37 years old, no cup, just went to the finals – you would have made the same decision. These guys don’t think long term. Think about how many of them rush back from concussions. Hell, Zach Werenski returned to the game after almost getting decapitated agaisnt Pittsburgh. All they think about is winning, and it’s hard to blame them when they make decisions like this.

I don’t want to speculate, but here’s a decent bet on when, where, and how Thornton was injured.

The funny thing is that the injury, if we’re assuming this is it, came against Vancouver. It was in Vancouver’s best interests that San Jose won this series, as the 4th round pick the Canucks received in the Jannik Hansen trade could have upgraded to a first rounder had San Jose won the cup. Unlikely, but still. Poor Vancouver.

Anyways, we hear about these sorts of ‘heroics’ all the time in hockey. Of course, we all remember Patrice Bergeron playing with a punctured lung, which is one of many memorable players-playing-with-crippling-injuries situations.

What would Jumbo Joe have done had he scored 4 goals in a game while playing with a torn up knee? We can only speculate, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious.

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Zack Kassian – the player and the beard

Listen up when I say this because I don’t take good playoff facial hair lightly: Zack Kassian grew the second best chops I have ever seen on a professional athlete, second only to Dustin McGowan.

I mean, Jesus. LOOK at these things!

That’s not the only thing Kassian grew though. He grew on Oilers fans (ha ha).

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Let’s be honest here. Zack Kassian is a bit of a goon, right? He’s not a very good NHL player, but it’s always fun when these guys seem to come through in the playoffs. We saw it in the Toronto series, to a larger degree, with Tom Wilson, and we saw it in this series as well.

He scored two goals in the series, both game-winners, in games two and three. Here they are in all their glory.

Game 2 (shorthanded, nonetheless)…

Game 3…

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Honestly, good for him. Sports, in general, are more fun when the unlikely hero comes through.

Imagine how the Sharks must have felt, though? Zack Kassian. Man. Let’s see if he can keep the clutchess going in the next round against Anaheim.

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Edmonton’s resilience

The playoffs are extra fun because teams know that each game is just as important as the next. Sure, you can mail it in once in a while during an 82-game regular season, but in a seven game series, you’ve got no time to waste.

I was really worried about the Oilers when they got absolutely spanked 7-0 in game four. The Oil had just won two in a row, taken a 2-1 series lead, and… damnit. The Sharks were back. Except, no, they weren’t, because the Oilers didn’t roll over and die – they played their hearts out and took back control of the series.

Game five was my personal favourite, and I’m sure it was for many of you, too. Like I said, it would have been easy for Edmonton to just give in, especially after getting a seven-spot hung on them the previous game. Instead, they fought their asses off.

Down 3-2 with under five minutes to go in the third, Oscar Klefbom ties the game on this insane slapper.

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Then, in overtime, David Desharnais scored the biggest goal for the Edmonton Oilers in a decade.

Listen, the Davidson for Desharnais trade was a pretty bad move on Edmonton’s part. However, I’m sure fans and management would do it all over again knowing that Little D would be one of the main reasons they’re off to the second round.

The Oilers still lost the trade, but… Adam Larsson was fantastic

I’m not going to get into why Edmonton lost the trade. There are many other articles with much better writers who can tell you. What I will say, though, is that Adam Larsson was an absolute rock for the Oilers throughout the series.

This is a guy who, after having a so-so regular season, really turned it on come the playoffs. Here’s how his numbers match up.

CF% xGF% SCF%
Larsson reg. seas. 50.02 50.39 52.12
Larsson playoffs 52.94 55.49 60.87

Good for Larsson. Will he ever be a true, top pairing d-man? It certainly looks bleak. However, if this is the type of player he can consistently be, the Oilers will be happy. Hey, what’s Taylor Hall up to anyways?

I wonder if he was at the club with Kris Versteeg?

Okay, okay. I’ll play nice. Anyways, I’m excited to see where Edmonton can take this. It always makes things more interesting there are good Canadian teams.

Also, it’s great to see the Great One this excited about a team.

NASHVILLE VS. CHICAGO

Chicago scored 3 goals all series

There are three very distinct moments from Chicago’s perspective that stand out for me from this series.

1.

2.

3.

It’s just too easy…

You know, it’s a shame Jonathan Toews didn’t feel like scoring 10 goals this series. You know, he could have if he wanted to.

Patrick Kane is a huge baby

You could call Patrick Kane a number of things – humble in defeat isn’t one of them.

After the Preds absolutely laid waste to the Hawks, Kane decided to give his thoughts on how Nashville absolutely ran Chicago’s show. Here’s what he had to say:

Buddy, your team just got absolutely smoked in four straight games.

Literally every ‘expert’ picked the Hawks to win. The gap between these two teams really wasn’t that large, especially with Nashville vastly underperforming during the regular season, which is why a bunch of us over at TLN (we weren’t the only ones) picked Nashville for the quote unquote ‘upset’.

Sorry, Stevie.

Viktor Arvidsson is so good

If you’re a stats nerd, it’s likely that Viktor Arvidsson has been on your radar for quite some time. To the majority of NHL fans, though, this isn’t a household name. That’s going to change, if it hasn’t already.

By every relative measure, Arvidsson was one of Nashville’s best players during the regular season. He scored 61 points (31 of those being goals) and is a welcome addition to a forward group that already includes some great, young pieces. It’s funny, Nashville’s problem for years was that they never had any elite forwards. Now they have a few of them.

Anyways, once the playoffs rolled around, Arvidsson kicked his game up a notch. He scored four points in the sweep, including this goal.

Sneaky, sneaky. Arvidsson also capped off the series with an empty netter in game four. He goooood.

Pekka Rinne was incredible

Pekka Rinne has taken a lot of heat for his play over the past few seasons, and deservedly so. his 2015/16 regular season was well below average, as he posted a .908 SV%. Not good enough. This season, he performed better, posting a SV% of .918, which is right around league average.  He also doesn’t have the best playoff track record, although his performance so far this year may change that narrative.

As I mentioned, the Chicago Blackhawks scored all of three goals during this series. Pekka Rinne started all four games for Nashville, posting a .976 SV% for the series.

Nashville’s next opponent is the St. Louis Blues, and we all know how Jake Allen performed for them in the first round. If these guys stay hot, this may be one of the lowest scoring series’ we’ve seen in years. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

ST. LOUIS VS. MINNESOTA

Wild dominated the Blues, still lost

The Minnesota Wild absolutely, 100% deserved to win this series. Take a look at how lopsided shot attempts were throughout the series.

Game 1 – Minnesota outshoots St. Louis 52 (!!) to 26

Game 2 – Minnesota outshoots St. Louis 24 to 22 (but look at the attempts)

Game 3 – Minnesota outshoots St. Louis 41 to 31

Game 4 – Shots tied at 28

Game 5 – Minnesota outshoots St. Louis 37 to 27

Jake Allen single-handedly stole this series for St. Louis. The Blues, as a team, had under 40% possession through all five games. They also had under 40% of the expected goals in the series and contributed nearly 43% of all scoring chances. That’s expansion-level bad. Jake Allen was, without question, the only player who kept St. Louis in it.

Bruce Boudreau almost died on the bench

You know what, it’s hard to fault Boudreau for getting all worked up. If my team dominated like the Wild did and still came out on the losing end in four of five game, I’d lose my god damn mind. Here’s Boudreau looking terrible on the Wild bench.

This is a Bruce Boudreau safe space, so there will be no more making fun of him here. He’s one of the best coaches in the NHL and deserves to be treated with RESPECT (seriously, though, how relieved do you think he was that this didn’t go to a game seven?).

Jake Allen stole the series

Outside of Pekka Rinne, Jake Allen was the best goaltender in round one. Actually, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Allen was actually the better of the two, just because Nashville actually played well. Honestly, St. Louis played like the expansion-era San Jose Sharks. They were terrible.

Minnesota couldn’t get anything past Allen, especially when he was making saves like this.

And this…

Man, was he ever on his game. Check out how Allen fared on shots from different areas.

That’s other-worldly. The Blues decided to move on from Elliott and stick with Allen, and many questioned their decision after a rough regular season. I wonder what those people have to say now.

CALGARY VS. ANAHEIM

A Randy Carlyle team played good hockey

Randy Carlyle set the Toronto Maple Leafs back *at least* five years, so forgive me for being surprised that the guy who couldn’t figure out how to use a toaster actually got his team to sweep a playoff series.

Anaheim got really, really lucky

Do I have it out for Randy? Maybe, but let’s not kid ourselves – Anaheim wasn’t necessarily the better team in this series, and certainly not so good that they deserved the sweep.

The Ducks were a sub-50% corsi team, with a mark of 48.83. That ranks sixth worst in the first round. Calgary placed sixth best. The Ducks also lost the expected goals battle and were decimated in scoring chances.

The playoffs are just as much about getting hot at the right time as they are about actually playing better than the other team. John Gibson gets hot, Brian Elliott goes cold, and that’s the series.

There’s really not much to this matchup. Calgary has a history of losing in Anaheim, and that continued (clearly). These are two teams with no real history between one another and the series was more of a snoozer than anything.

Then there’s this. It was probably the most interesting thing to come out of the series. The Flames broadcast crew, I guess thinking their mics weren’t recording, ripped into Dougie Hamilton for taking a penalty. I wonder if they spoke to him that way in the room after the game?

On to round two!

(Check out round one highlights from the East here) 


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