James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: Furious First Day

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Twenty-three goals in three games.

 

If you would have told me that the first day of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs would feature such an offensive outburst, I would have been stunned. I still am.

 

It’s that much more amazing when you compare it to a three-game slate in this same month. Back on April 7, my hockey-loving spirits felt flattened like a cartoon character: in three games, a total of five goals were scored. Two of those contests were 1-0 and all three included a shutout … it was seriously one of the most pathetic nights of hockey I’ve witnessed.

 

Now, do I think that every night will be this action-packed? No, not at all. Not even close most nights. I doubt NHL coaches would allow for such flawed fun (Michel Therrien is one of the coaches involved, after all) over the long haul and early spans of playoffs have left some overly optimistic before. It's quite plausible that we'll see more scoring in Wednesday's trio of contests than we will in the four Game 1's on Thursday night.

 

Still, for one night, it was pretty great. A wide variety of players received some nice fantasy boosts instead of maybe a handful of players. Heck, even Dale Weise scored an overtime game-winner for the Montreal Canadiens.

 

(That’s weird to write in any context.)

 

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Thursday's NHL games. It's $10 to join and first prize is $200. Starts Thursday at 7pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

 

For everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News and follow @Rotoworld_ HK+@cyclelikesedins on Twitter.

 

DISSECTING THE DUCKS

 

So, with every postseason comes the slew of predictions people are asked to make, which means we get to tap into peoples’ persecution complexes even when merely picking against their team doesn’t have to be a condemnation of their squad, city and souls. (Believe it or not, sometimes we’re just making the best educated guess we can make, sometimes it’s basically a coin toss and sometimes it’s a matter of the other team just appearing a little too good.)

 

Anyway, it’s rarely an easy call, but most years I have strong - though undoubtedly often wrong - gut feelings regarding a chunk of the first-round series.

 

I’d blame a trying-too-hard playoff system for causing much of these issues. St. Louis Blues vs. the Chicago Blackhawks is absolutely a series that could be an eagerly awaited Western Conference finals. The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are easily talented and deep enough (not to mention shrewdly run to such a degree) that one could make a credible argument that we’d be watching the two best teams in the NHL.

 

Of all the series that I picked, for whatever reason, I felt most strongly that the Dallas Stars - yes, a team that barely made the playoffs - could beat the West’s No. 1 seed in the Anaheim Ducks.

 

Now, the 4-3 final score doesn’t look so bad, but the Ducks charged out to a 4-0 lead and seemed to totally outclass the Stars to at least start things out on Wednesday. Long story short, the early word seems to be that I’m probably wrong.

 

On paper, it seemed to make sense; the Stars actually have better possession stats than the Ducks this season. With all the confusion in net between who’s starting in Anaheim, wouldn’t you rather take the certainty of Kari Lehtonen and the solid Plan B of Tim Thomas? Also, few one-two punches could present a decent foil to Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry quite like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin can.

 

Considering this a time in which continued study is needed more than any hypotheses will be made; at some point, Bruce Boudreau’s almost-uninterrupted success (and at a division/conference-winning level, not just squeaking into the playoffs) must be taken seriously. At this point, I cannot help but wonder if he knows something, and not just about making homemade nachos and snacking.

 

(And I might take the nacho-making tips first, depending upon the quality of said nachos.)

 

GOALIES OUT

 

The playoffs have begun, and with that in mind, it means that a lot of guys (Evgeni Malkin, presumably Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) are conveniently returning to the fold. I imagine a lot of fantasy owners are less-than-pleased with these developments, even if you’d totally do the same thing if you were in their shoes.

 

Anyway, while less-than-100-percent forwards are fighting through it, it seems like NHL teams are erring on the side of preserving their goalies in opening games.

 

Ben Bishop wasn’t able to play in Game 1 for the Tampa Bay Lightning, giving way to Anders Lindback (who, despite a goal or two he’d like back, played quite well last night and seems to be running with this opportunity as Bishop has been injured).

 

Steve Mason also appears unable to play in the Philadelphia Flyers’ first game, as the team confirms that Ray Emery will be the man for at least that long. It’s an interesting parallel to the Lightning - Canadiens situation, as Emery is the failed 1B who’s now a full-fledged backup again (much like Lindback) who’s getting a chance to prove himself with the starter injured … only he’s facing a guy who played in the gold-medal game during the 2014 Olympics (Carey Price against Lindback; Henrik Lundqvist vs. Emery tonight).

 

QUICK HITS

 

Matt Duchene is the other significant fantasy injury note, at least as of this morning. He’s expected to miss at least the first two games of Colorado’s series against Minnesota, if reports are correct … Pretty big set of news for the Winnipeg Jets. For one thing, they signed head coach to Paul Maurice to a four-year extension (I’d say that’s good). In other news, the Jets say that Ondrej Pavelec will be their No. 1 goalie in 2014-15. Honestly, I’m not sure why Kevin Cheveldayoff would say this. Even if the team wanted to give him a head start at the starting job next season, why just hand it to him … again? What exactly as Pavelec done to deserve this job, with zero competition? It’s almost getting to the point in which I think he must have blackmail on management. At minimum, they should bring in a goalie with an equal or better chance to take the top job. Are they just going to bring another marginal goalie who actually still performs better again like they did with Al Montoya? I really don’t get it … The Dose is now in a twice-a-week format. The schedule might change a bit here and there, but for this week, we’ll check in after Thursday’s set of Game 1’s. See you then and feel free to pose questions in various formats.

 

For a full list of injuries and suspensions, click here. Go to Rotoworld's NHL page for breaking hockey news and more.



James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than two years. Follow him on Twitter.
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