Monday, May 14, 2018

Weekend wrap: Early statements

It’s one game. The first game doesn’t necessarily tell us much about how a series will play out — remember the Bruins thumping the Lighting in their second-round opener? — and there’s a good chance that this one still has a long way to go, with plenty of twists and turns baked in.

But even with all the obvious caveats in place, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Jets on Saturday night. They won the game, which is obviously the important part. But not all wins are created equal. Sometimes you steal a game, or barely hang on, or win even though you didn’t put together a 60-minute effort. Sometimes you win games you probably deserved to lose.

And sometimes, you show up and are clearly the better team from start to finish. That’s the sort of game the Jets put together on Saturday, scoring on their first shot and pumping three goals past Marc-Andre Fleury before the game was eight minutes old. The Golden Knights regained their footing from there to keep the game respectable, but that’s all they did, as the Jets largely shut them down the rest of the way. Despite playing from well behind for almost the entire game, the high-flying Knights managed just 21 shots and never seemed to be taking the game to their opponents.

Again, it’s one game, and maybe we got the result we should have expected – with the Jets coming off the high of a Game 7 win in Nashville and the Knights seeing their first action in nearly a week, some early Vegas rust may have been inevitable. If the series goes long, that discrepancy in time off may yet come back to hurt the Jets.

But that’s if the series does go long; it didn’t look like it would on Saturday. And while Fleury was brilliant against the Kings and still leads the league in post-season save percentage and goals-against average, it’s fair to point out that he’s now given up three goals or more in five of his last six games. With Connor Hellebuyck looking sharp lately, that’s not a good sign for the Knights.

We’re still in uncharted territory with this Vegas team, which now trails a series for the first time. Maybe they rebound with a better effort tonight and take the series back home tied at one. But the early returns are in, and they’re clear: The Jets were the better team through one game. Now we find out how many more they need.

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they’re headed towards a Stanley Cup.

5. Your team: That’s right. With only four teams left in the playoffs and a suddenly unwieldy five-team power ranking format to work with, we can confirm that your personal favourite team is holding down the fifth spot. Congratulations, and never let it be said that we don’t give credit where it’s deserved.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning: Nikita Kucherov hasn’t done much in the conference finals so far. But he did find a creative way to make last night’s highlight reel: by kicking Brett Connolly.

3. Vegas Golden Knights: We knew their success was already getting attention from outside of the hockey world. But here’s a new audience we may not have counted on: professional gamblers.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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