The first day of meaningful NHL hockey in more than four months didn’t disappoint.
Here are the top five efforts from a compelling opening day of postseason action:
5. Jonathan Toews
Toews proved during the regular season that he’s far from done at age 32, and the Blackhawks captain continued to make an impact Saturday. He netted a pair of goals and added an assist to help Chicago stun Edmonton.
The veteran forward buried a power-play marker to give Chicago a 2-1 lead before capping off a Blackhawks run of four consecutive goals with his second of the game just over five minutes later.
Toews led all skaters with a five-on-five Corsi For percentage of 85.71 and ranked second behind teammate Dominik Kubalik with a five-on-five expected goals for percentage of 91.93.
4. Matt Murray
Murray may have taken the loss, but he did quite a good job of fending off the surprisingly feisty Montreal Canadiens. He let in the first two goals of the game, but settled down and was rock solid for the rest.
He went on to finish with 32 saves on 35 shots, doing almost all he could to keep Pittsburgh in the game. The Penguins‘ offense was almost non-existent, including an abysmal 1-for-7 on the power play, and struggled to challenge Carey Price all night. Even the awarding of a penalty shot couldn’t help the cause, as Conor Sheary whiffed with the opportunity.
The 26-year-old faced just 10 high-danger shots against, but saved nine of them. He got the nod in Game 1 over teammate Tristan Jarry, and may have played well enough to earn the start in Game 2 again.
3. Jeff Petry
Petry is one of the Canadiens’ unsung heroes, but he vaulted himself into the spotlight on Saturday night.
The defenseman capped off Montreal’s surprising win with the dagger in overtime.
However, it wasn’t just the winner that earned Petry this spot. The 32-year-old blue-liner logged more than half an hour of ice time during the extended contest (30:56, to be exact), a figure bested only by teammate Shea Weber and Penguins rearguard Kris Letang.
2. Carey Price
Price has to be his otherworldly self if the Canadiens are going to vanquish the Penguins in their best-of-five series, and the netminder was certainly on his game in the opener.
Despite allowing a pair of goals in a span of less than three minutes midway through the contest, he settled down and helped Montreal earn the victory in Game 1.
Price made 39 saves on 41 shots, keeping the Canadiens in the game and giving Petry the opportunity to bury the winner in the extra frame.
1. Dominik Kubalik
Kubalik had himself a postseason debut for the ages.
The Blackhawks’ soon-to-be 25-year-old rookie racked up two goals and three assists in his club’s victory over the Oilers, becoming the first player in NHL history to produce five points in his first playoff game.
Kubalik recorded primary assists on both of Toews‘ markers in the opening frame and added a secondary helper on Brandon Saad‘s first-period goal before scoring both of his goals about 11 minutes apart in the second period.
Even more impressively, Kubalik did it while logging only 13:56 of ice time. The Calder Trophy finalist led all Blackhawks skaters with a 92.5 expected goals for percentage at five-on-five, and he posted a stellar five-on-five Corsi For percentage of 80.
(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick)