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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens in action

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs has begun in earnest. There are some fascinating matches to look forward to, and there will be plenty of twists and turns over the coming week. In this preview, we will assess three games — Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals, New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins, and Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens.

Washington Capitals lament losing lead in Game 2

The Caps were poised to take a 2-0 lead in their series against the Bruins earlier this week, but they somehow couldn’t close out the deal. After clinching a 3-2 victory in the opener of the best-of-seven matches, the Caps conceded a late leveller in Game 2 before Brad Marchand netted 39 seconds into Overtime to seal a 4-3 victory for the Bruins.

Marchand’s strike was the Bruins’ 48th attempt of the evening, and the Bruins peppered the Caps’ goal throughout the contest. And Caps coach Peter Laviolette couldn’t conceal his disappointment after the game. He said: “We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with execution.” The Caps are on the road for the next two games, and they will need to bounce back quickly.

Brad Marchand receives high praise after dragging the Boston Bruins back into the series

With the series currently locked at 1-1, things are on a knife-edge. Marchand of course came to the fore in Game 2, and more will be expected of him in this series. The winger has the temperament for the big occasion, and linemate Patrice Bergeron was effusive in his praise for Marchand. He said: “That’s who he is. He competes at all times.”

New York Islanders put themselves on strong footing

Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders opened the series up with a 4-3 victory in Overtime. The significance of the result will only be known in due course; however, the following stat may augur well for the Islanders. According to Hockey Reference, any team that goes 1-0 up in the series tends to win the series just under 69% of the time.

Pittsburgh Penguins can’t let New York Islanders play mind games

Trotz seems to have the Penguins’ number. By the time the Islanders and Penguins meet in Game 4 on Saturday evening, the Islanders could be on the brink of reaching the next round of the playoffs. Indeed, the Penguins have lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games against sides coached by Trotz.

In 2019, the Islanders brushed aside the Penguins with consummate ease as they dismantled them in a four-game sweep. And history could repeat itself. Well, in 2019, the Islanders opened up with a 4-3 Overtime win, and things have started in the same vein in 2021. Only time will tell whether the Penguins will crash and burn again.

Perhaps one thing the Penguins will look to do at the weekend against the Islanders is build upon their early momentum. In Game 1, the Penguins were electrifying, and they managed 71% of the scoring chances over the first two periods and 75% of the high-danger chances.

Toronto Maple Leafs can’t settle for second best anymore

For a team as revered as the Toronto Maple Leafs are, it is somewhat surprising they haven’t done much more recently in the Stanley Cup. Although they secured a playoff spot for the fifth season in a row, the Maple Leafs can’t settle for being perennial contenders. They will look to get off to a strong start against the Montreal Canadiens.

Saturday’s matchup will represent Game 2 of the series against the Canadiens, and the Maple Leafs have an opportunity to stamp their authority early on. The Maple Leafs will be contesting in their eighth first round series against the Canadiens, and they will be searching for their first playoff win since 1967.

 

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