The first round of the 2020 NHL playoffs is over, with a quick turnaround to Round 2. Here’s a team-by-team look at players who have been pleasant surprises – as well as players who have disappointed.
THE EIGHT TEAMS STILL IN IT
B-plus: In the middle of a global pandemic, Tuukka Rask reportedly had to decide between a hockey tournament versus the health and well-being of his family. He chose wisely and should be praised for it.
B-minus: The Bruins don’t have a lot of less-than candidates, and Zdeno Chara is 43 and nobody is expecting him to carry the offense. That’s not what he’s there for. Still, just one assist in eight games and tied for the team-worst plus/minus rating at minus-3 leaves you wanting more from the captain.
MVP Avs: It’s tempting to go with Nazem Kadri’s remarkable playoff resurrection after his previous post-season implosions in Toronto. But it has to be Nathan MacKinnon, who’s leading all playoff scorers and building an early case for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Not MVP Avs: Prior to their Game 1 setback against Dallas, everything was coming up Colorado. Well, almost everything. MacKinnon and Kadri could use a little more help from the team’s depth players – seven Avs forwards have scored zero goals or only once through nine games.
‘D’ for Dallas: Speaking of coming-out parties, you might want to check out second-year defenseman Miro Heiskanen. If you miss him, don’t worry, you’ll likely see him with the Norris Trophy soon enough.
‘D’ for disappointing: Tyler Seguin didn’t score his first goal of the playoffs until Game 1 against Colorado. If that’s the start of something good, then great. If not, then it’s difficult to see the Stars shining much longer.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Most goals: Anthony Beauvillier is tied for the NHL lead with six goals, including a pair in the Game 5 elimination of Washington.
More goals: About the only thing the Isles need to improve is their depth scoring, as the bottom-six hasn’t contributed much in the way of offense. But we’re nit-picking.
Goalie drought ends: Remember how, for decades, the Flyers couldn’t find a go-to goalie? Carter Hart is doing his best to make you forget about all that.
Goal drought begins: When you think about it, it’s amazing the Flyers advanced to the second round despite zero combined goals from top-six forwards Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk (limited to six games due to injuries).
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Extra good: Brayden Point scored the quintuple-overtime winner in Game 1 against Columbus, then eliminated the Blue Jackets with the Game 5 OT winner.
Extra forward: There’s not much to dislike about the Lightning, other than the injury-induced absence of Steven Stamkos. You’d like to see him back the captain back in the lineup as soon as possible.
The future is now: There’s a lot to like about the surprising Canucks, from Bo Horvat’s big-time scoring to Elias Pettersson’s perpetual production to J.T. Miller’s leadership to Jacob Markstrom’s elite netminding. But the headline has to be the superlative play of rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes. His fan club grows every game he plays.
Past his prime: There aren’t too many passengers in Vancouver, making Loui Eriksson’s lack of production (zero points in nine games) all the more noticeable.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Defense wins championships: The scoring is spread around among the Golden Knights forwards, so the player that jumps out is Shea Theodore, who continues to rise as an impactful No. 1 defenseman with two-way sensibilities.
Offense helps, too: Injuries have slowed top-liners Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Vegas needs them contributing if they’re going to realize their third-year expansion Cup dream.
THE EIGHT TEAMS OUT
Good dog: Clayton Keller turned 22 just before the start of the qualifying round, and his first foray into the NHL playoffs was a successful one. He led the Coyotes with four goals and seven points – and he kept it consistent, too, hitting the scoresheet in seven of Arizona’s nine games.
Bad dog: Phil Kessel led the Coyotes with 22 shots in nine games, but his production wasn’t up to snuff. One goal and four points doesn’t cut it from a playoff veteran who needed to lead the way offensively on an inexperienced team.
Fired up: After eight goals and 12 points in 52 regular-season games, Sam Bennett had a team-high five goals and eight points in 10 playoff contests.
Firing line: The Flames’ first line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm fared well in the qualifying round against Winnipeg, but produced only two goals – both by Gaudreau – in the six-game ouster against Dallas. It’s not the first time they’ve underwhelmed, and it makes you wonder who will still be in Calgary next season.
Hurricane swarming: There’s no doubt the first line of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen will be back in Carolina next season. They combined for 10 goals in eight playoff games, and Aho was vying for the NHL playoff scoring lead with 12 points.
Hurricane warning: The Canes’ second, third and fourth lines combined for only seven goals in eight games, including minimal contributions from captain Jordan Staal (zero points), ‘Mr. Game 7’ Justin Williams (one goal), trade-deadline acquisition Vincent Trocheck (two assists) and 2019 UFA signee Ryan Dzingel (zero points in four games).
New snipe: Dominik Kubalik kind of came out of nowhere this season and ended up a Calder Trophy finalist, and he kept the good times going with four goals and eight points in nine playoff games.
Old birds: Thirty-five-year-old Brent Seabrook didn’t play at all in the post-season, and 37-year-old Duncan Keith was a team-worst minus-7. It feels like a changing of the guard on Chicago’s blueline.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
On the way up: The playoffs were a stepping stone for top-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who led the team in scoring with 10 points in 10 games while matching up against opponents’ big guns, and starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who established an NHL post-season record with 85 saves in the Game 1 quintuple-overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
Down time: After losing forwards Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Dzingel to unrestricted free agency last summer, the Blue Jackets went out and signed Gustav Nyquist. Nobody expected him to replace the elite offense that was lost, but he needed to do better than two assists in 10 games.
Stopping power: Rookie center Nick Suzuki tied for the team playoff scoring lead as well as the goal lead with sophomore Jesperi Kotkaniemi. But, as always, the difference-maker in Montreal was Carey Price, who battled Philadelphia’s Hart for playoff supremacy in goals-against average and save percentage.
Scoring outage: There’s a few forwards to pick from – starting with Tomas Tatar (two points) and Phillip Danault (three points) – but Max Domi didn’t score once in 10 playoff games.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
High note: Ryan O’Reilly was the 2019 NHL playoff MVP, leading the Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup. And he delivered the same clutch play in 2020, too.
Low note: Jordan Binnington was a revelation last year, both in the regular season and the playoffs. This year he went 0-5 in the post-season with a 4.72 GAA and .851 save percentage.
Just score, baby: The Capitals didn’t have an answer for the Islanders, falling in five games. One thing didn’t change, though: Alex Ovechkin led Washington with four goals in eight games – only two other Caps players scored more than once in the post-season (Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie had three goals apiece).
Just score, baby: Neither Ilya Kovalchuk nor Nicklas Backstrom nor Jakub Vrana nor Lars Eller nor Carl Hagelin scored a goal in the playoffs. And neither did Norris Trophy candidate John Carlson, who was a team-worst minus-11 in five games.