NHL playoffs: Offence trumps defence on opening night | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaNHL playoffs: Offence trumps defence on opening night

Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 12:33 PM

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A highlight-reel effort by Columbus' Jack Johnson, left, was one of 23 goals scored on the opening night of the NHL playoffs. That's an average of 7.7 per game. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) A highlight-reel effort by Columbus' Jack Johnson, left, was one of 23 goals scored on the opening night of the NHL playoffs. That's an average of 7.7 per game. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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If defence wins championships, as they love to say in the NHL, then somebody forgot to tell the participating teams on the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If defence wins championships, as they love to say in the NHL, then somebody forgot to tell the participating teams on the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Offence, not defence, was the order of the night in three games, as six teams combined for 23 goals -- an average of 7.7 goals per game.

No fewer than 14 players had multi-point nights, including Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had two goals in a 5-4 overtime home loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

"You can't expect to win too many playoff games when you give up five goals," Stamkos said after the game.

It really was a wild night of offence. There were plenty of blown defensive assignments, odd-man rushes, highlight-reel goals and, yes, even a few great saves. It was almost as though the players on the six teams held a conference call in the afternoon and agreed to collectively drive their coaches crazy.

Goal of the night

There were a few beauties, including Stamkos's end-to-end rush.


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But the goal of the night belonged to Columbus defenceman Jack Johnson. The upstart Blue Jackets threw a scare into the Pittsburgh Penguins, who ultimately won 4-3, particularly when Johnson opened the scoring in the game at 6:20 of the first period.

Columbus's Brandon Dubinsky undressed Pittsburgh defender Paul Martin and then directed a pass to Johnson in the slot. Johnson then deked to his backhand and stuffed his second attempt past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for his second career post-season goal.


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Big decision

The Ducks used four goalies during the regular season and many assumed veteran Jonas Hiller would get the start in Game 1 of the playoffs. Coach Bruce Boudreau, however, had a different plan and opted for rookie Frederik Andersen, who rewarded his boss with a solid performance, making 32 saves in a 4-3 win.

Dallas coach Lindy Ruff also had a tough decision, choosing Kari Lehtonen over Tim Thomas for the start. Lehtonen had appeared in just two playoff games with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006-07 and had unsightly numbers: two losses with a 5.59 goals-against average and .849 save percentage. His numbers after Game 1 are marginally better (4.07 and .886) but not likely good enough to earn him a start in Game 2.

A matter of inches

With six-foot-seven goaltender Ben Bishop sidelined due to a wrist injury, the Lightning had to make due with their "smaller" back-up goalie on the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Lightning were forced to go with Anders Lindback, who at six-foot-six is an inch shorter than Bishop.

Lindback, 25, had a mere 13 minutes of NHL playoff experience with Nashville in 2011 heading into the game. He might have needed that extra inch as Montreal's Dale Weise beat him with a high shot over his right shoulder in overtime to help Montreal capture Game 1 in overtime.


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Saving the best for last?

The New York Rangers sure hope so. Veteran right-winger Martin St. Louis has not exactly been lighting it up on Broadway since being acquired at the trade deadline for former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. In fact, the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL's leading scorer managed just a goal and eight points in 19 games with the Blueshirts.

St. Louis wanted out of Tampa Bay because of a conflict with general manager Steve Yzerman regarding his original exclusion from the Canadian Olympic hockey team in 2010 and again in 2014, and wanted to play for the Rangers because he owns a home in nearby Connecticut. Yzerman granted his wish, but the change of scenery hasn't been a good one thus far. Entering the playoffs St. Louis had just one goal in his past 21 games.

The great thing about this time of year is, all will be forgiven and forgotten if St. Louis pops a couple of goals in Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
 
Ray of hope

Goaltending concerns seem to be synonymous with the Philadelphia Flyers, and this year is no exception. Because starter Steve Mason is injured, the Flyers have turned to veteran Ray Emery in goal. At 31, Emery is more experienced and more mature than the kid who helped the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.

Emery lost his final two starts of the season, but did get a win in the final game of the regular season, coming in to replace the injured Mason.

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