The third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs started with a bang as 26 combined goals were scored between the opening games of the two series.
The Western Conference Final starting off with an 8-6 Colorado Avalanche win over the Edmonton Oilers was not that much of a surprise, considering the matchup was primed to be a showcase of talented offenses in front of questionable goaltending.
The shocking part came from the East.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, who held the Florida Panthers to just three goals during the second round of the playoffs, allowed six goals on 34 shots as the New York Rangers took Game 1 in a 6-2 rout.
Yes, the Rangers scored double the amount of goals as the Panthers did in their entire series against the Tampa Bay Lightning after just one game.
Frank Vatrano, who Florida traded to New York for a fourth-round pick at the deadline, got in on the scoring.
Vatrano had an assist on Chris Krieder’s opening goal and then scored on a rocket of a wrist shot from the high slot to give them a 2-1 lead.
Here are some storylines to watch for as each of these two series head to Game 2:
Oilers V. Avalanche
— Cale Makar scored a highly-debatable goal with 14 seconds left in the first period to take the lead after just avoiding an offside call as Valeri Nichuskin was tagging up. It was a back-breaker that swung the momentum in Colorado’s direction.
— Mike Smith, 40, has a chance at reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in his career. The Oilers netminder is not taking that chance for granted.
Rangers V. Lightning
After finishing off the Panthers with the best save percentage a goalie has ever had while starting every game of a playoff series (.980), Andrei Vasilevskiy was stunned by the Rangers’ offensive attack in a 6-2 loss.
— Filip Chytil continued a hot streak in Game 1, scoring multiple goals for the second game in a row after a two-goal outing in Game 7 against Carolina helped send New York to the Conference Final.
— The Lightning held a watch party at Amalie Arena for Game 1 — and it was infiltrated by Rangers fans. New Yorkers in Florida? Go figure.
Anton Lundell learned a lot in his rookie campaign after taking a larger role than was previously expected.
During the preseason, I had him pegged to start the season in the AHL after he sustained an injury during rookie camp… Boy, was I wrong.
We will revisit those award predictions on Friday.
— The Panthers only have about $4 million under the salary cap so GM Bill Zito will be busy this offseason.
— Sergei Bobrovsky had himself one heck of a bounceback year with the Panthers — and it was not limited to the regular season, either.
— With the salary cap issues, think Claude Giroux returns to the Panthers?
— Video from last Wednesday’s media sessions are up on the FloridaHockeyNow YouTube channel.
Panthers we spoke to: Zito, Andrew Brunette, Joe Thornton, Sasha Barkov, Bobrovsky, Sam Bennett, Anton Lundell and Giroux.
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It looks like the Dolphins started their season early, as they defeated the Broncos 14-1 on Wednesday. They seemed to have been the first team in NFL history to only one point in a game too.
That is possible, by the way. Here’s how it can happen…
Alright, seriously, the Marlins started off a doubleheader against the Rockies with a 14-1 win and the runs did not stop in Game 2.
The Fish and the Rox took the game into extras tied at 11. Miami grabbed the lead in the top of the 10th but Brendan Rodgers hit a two-run shot to win the ballgame.
With the split, the Marlins sit 13 games behind the Mets for the top spot in the NL East.
National Hockey Now
— Montreal Hockey Now: The Montreal Canadiens became the first team to remove the interim tag from a coach, inking Martin St-Louis to a three-year extension. Will Andrew Brunette be next?
— Calgary Hockey Now: Pending restricted free agent Matthew Tkachuk is open to returning to the Calgary Flames on a long-term deal after a disappointing second-round loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
— NY Islanders Hockey Now: After a promising 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff run, New York Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier’s production took a downswing in 2022.
— Washington Hockey Now: With Tom Wilson due to miss time with a torn ACL he suffered in Game 1 of their first-round series loss to the Panthers, the Washington Capitals have a big hole they need to fill.