The NHL postseason is officially underway, with the most unconventional Stanley Cup tournament in the trophy's 127-year history. With five games staged throughout Saturday between the central cities of Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, we have a March Madness hockey buffet.
Here's a primer of what to look for in this issue of ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily – and be sure to come back on Sunday. We will do this every day until the World Cup is awarded in October.
Rangers had a goalkeeper question entering the tournament, and it seems that now health has made the decision for them: Saturday morning, Igor Shesterkin was considered "unsuitable to play" – get used to that terminology – and Henrik Lundqvist the initiator of game 1 was declared. The batons, however, may have a problem, as the main defender Dougie Hamilton (who is taking care of a new injury on the training ground) is out. front Martin Necas, which was considered doubtful, is in.
Enough sizzling and starry strength in this series of qualifying rounds with signs. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid steal the headlines (with good reason), but don't sleep with veterans James Neal or young Kailer Yamamoto – both can be X factors in this series. And as long as you know Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in Chicago, keep an eye out for newbies Dominik Kubalik (scorer of 30 goals) and Kirby Dach (the general choice number 3 in 2019, which improves every day).
This series is probably not getting enough love and has a chance to be very good. The Panthers have a qualified and talented forward group. The Islands may have the best team defense of any team in this tournament. But, of course, all anyone wants to know is: Which version of Sergei Bobrovsky showing up to play? The $ 70 million goalkeeper, who had an overwhelming first season with the team, was illuminated in the exhibition game against Lightning. It's not good, Bob.
If there is a series that most people are comfortable choosing, this is it. The Penguins, fully stocked with one of their best advanced groups for some time, are strong favorites against the measly Canadiens, who finished 24th in the league, but managed to get a summer invitation anyway. The Habs' power game is bad – so bad that I could sink them alone.
This is Saturday night's game, and it's a series that SNL's Stefon can recommend: It has it all! A goalkeeper controversy on the one hand and the best goalkeeper of the tournament on the other. Super talented forward. Physicality and endurance (this is the series most likely to get a close look at the Player Security Department).
Question of the day: How will the ice endure?
During the exhibition games, we caught a glimpse of the transformed empty arenas. I must say that the NHL did a great job. The way the league covered unused seats is super smooth; Unlike watching MLB, you are never distracted by the fact that this is a game that fans lack. The camera's experimental angles can get used – as can the crowd's artificial noise – but in general, it should be a great viewing experience.
We also had a peek at a potential trap for the league: bad ice. The NHL never played so late in the summer, and the humidity outside often means not ideal conditions inside. NHL hockey operations vice president Colin Campbell looked confident last week that the ice would hold. (Campbell said his group assumed that the biggest problem is when the doors open and close, and thousands of bodies are packed in the arena, creating moisture. None of these things are happening, of course).
Several players noted that the surface was not ideal in their first game. And it can get worse when the ice is being overused – especially next week, with three games a day in each arena. Ice technology has improved significantly in recent years and, to help mitigate the problem, no team will be able to perform morning skates in the arenas (only in the practice facilities).
And hey, it might not be the worst thing if you hope for chaos. The Columbus Blue Jackets they were giant killers in the first round of last year, and they may come armed with a secret weapon in their qualifying series against the hometown Maple Leafs. Blue jackets forward Cam Atkinson observed the churning ice after his team showed on Tuesday, but added: "Anyway, it benefits our style of play anyway."
Bet of the day
I feel that the first day of this tournament will be fluky and exciting, and it has a good chance of producing a ton of goals (even though almost all exhibition games have taken place). So I looked to DraftKings for player bets to score two or more goals. It's a total guess, but I like Chicago Alex DeBrincat (+1300).
Look of the day
– Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) July 31, 2020
Social post of the day
Say what you want about the effectiveness of NHL players in a unified queue as a statement against racism and also simultaneously honoring frontline workers. But, it was also a captivating choice to have 6 feet-9 Zdeno Chara be impacted by the two smallest Blue Jackets players, Atkinson (5 ft-8) and Nathan Gerbe (5 feet-4). The alarming look has led to many jokes, including one from Gerbe himself:
– Nathan Gerbe (@ NathanGerbe14) July 31, 2020
Tweet of the day
Brad Marchand it is the preeminent agitator of the alloy; he is constantly finding new ways to get into his opponent's head, and his best things usually appear in the postseason. He is clearly warming up for your teammates when he returns to the game.
The point is to put it in the basket, you guys are brutal
– Brad Marchand (@ Bmarch63) July 30, 2020