While the quantity of NHL games has gone down now that it is the second round, the quality will not. Well, it might, but it probably won’t. If nothing else, the stakes are higher, as teams vie to be part of the select few remaining until there is only one. There was only two games Tuesday to open the second round, and there is one game to preview for tomorrow.
The Penguins and the Senators kicked things off in Pittsburgh, with Tomas Vokoun now firmly ensconced in the Pens’ net. He played well in limited action in the first series, but would Ottawa solve that puzzle. The Penguins struck first, as Paul Martin lit the lamp on the power play. Then, the Senators tied things up, as Colin Greening was able to poke the puck just enough to get it over the goal line. However, before the first period ended, Evgeni Malkin put Pittsburgh back on top. Late in the second, Chris Kunitz scored on the power-play, and then in the third Pascal Dupuis scored a nice goal shorthanded to more or less salt away the game. In reality, it was already well-salted, as the Penguins won the game 4-1.
Vokoun made 35 saves, while Craig Anderson made 26. This move to Vokoun has worked out like gangbusters thus far. As I mentioned before, it reminds me of when the Wings moved from Dominek Hasek to Chris Osgood when they won the Cup in 2008. Anderson continued his excellent play from the regular season in the playoffs, but he wasn’t facing a team like Pittsburgh. The Penguins have such an impressive lineup. Ottawa should give them more of a fight than this, and to be fair they did outshoot the Penguins, but Pittsburgh looked formidable here. Of course, they won the first game of their last series 5-0 without Sidney Crosby, and then things took a turn. Basically, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Later, the Battle for California (with apologies to Anaheim) began with the Kings hosting the Sharks. In the waning seconds of the first period, Slava Voynov was able to blast a puck past Antti Niemi to give Los Angeles the edge. In the second, Mike Richards tipped a puck for a goal as well. This was all the scoring, as the Sharks were blanked as the Kings took the game 2-0.
Jonathan Quick stopped all 35 shots he faced, while Niemi notched 18 saves. Voynov and Richards both assisted on one another’s goals. Well, San Jose has finally hit a road bump. After sweeping the Canucks, the Kings got the best of them. However, it’s not like they got some sort of “reality check” here. They really outshot LA, but Quick was outstanding. Of course, that was enough last year to win the Kings the Cup. Niemi was strong in the first round, and he wasn’t bad in this game, so this looks like it could be a low scoring series. The Kings should be used to that after their first round battle with the Blues. The Sharks find themselves on the losing end for the first time this postseason, but their fight is far from over.
As previously stated, there is one game on Tuesday. At 8:00 Eastern on NBC Sports, the Blackhawks and the Red Wings renew their rivalry, or whatever it is commercials say to promote games like this. Chicago was very impressive in the first round. Detroit had a really tough battle against Anaheim. Will the Wings be beat up? It’s been a compressed season, and they haven’t had much chance to rest. That doesn’t mean they will lose necessarily, of course. They are much more likely to lose because they aren’t as good as Chicago and they are on the road. It should be a great environment for a big game.
This was a decent start to the second round, but hopefully things are knocked up a notch soon.