In the first early game, the Canadiens stunned the Capitals in Washington with a massive defensive performance and an overtime shocker to take the lead in their series early on. Jaroslav Halak made 45 saves for the victory, while it was Tomas Plekanec who scored the winner in overtime for his multiple-point evening. The Canadiens did well to displease everyone in the pool (or almost everyone), by holding Alex Ovechkin to zero shots on goal in the game, limiting his offense, but obviously not the team's offense as a whole. If you have the Habs to upset in your bracket, you're probably loving this.
The other early game saw the Bruins and Sabres open up their series in Buffalo and it was a low-scoring affair, which doesn't necessarily bode well for the pool teams, especially if you have strong players from either team. Ryan Miller made 38 stops in the 2-1 win, while it was Craig Rivet who scored the winning goal in the second period. There were plenty of shots in the game, but between Miller and Tuukka Rask, there was plenty The win for the Sabres means that they are the only favourite in the Eastern Conference to come away with a win in their opening game.
Finally, in the late game, it was the Canucks taking down the Kings in overtime to go up 1-0 in their series to open up the Western Conference playoffs. Mikael Samuelsson was the overtime hero for the Canucks, scoring his second goal of the game to lead the Canucks to their win and pick up a 3-point night. Roberto Luongo made 25 saves in the victory for his 2 points, while Henrik Sedin had a pair of assists and Daniel Sedin had a goal and an assist. That game was a little bit better for scoring, especially for all those teams that put a heavy onus on the Canucks in the West, taking the twins and Luongo as their top end players. That's a solid 6 points for those teams, to which there are quite a few in this pool.
Thursday was a good night for game-winners by players who are in the pool this season. Tomas Plekanec, Craig Rivet and Mikael Samuelsson all scored their first bonus point goals of the playoffs, to which I know two of the three scorers do have selections throughout the pool.
After two nights on the go, we have an 8-way tie for the lead in game-winning goals, which is the 3rd tie-breaker in the pool, but it does serve more as a bonus point for the standings, which all points are going to help you climb to the top. Hopefully through this weekend, I'll have a proper breakdown of everyone that was picked in the pool and give some more insight as to who is picking up these bonus points through the playoffs.
I know a few people worked their way through the hockey pool sheet and found no way around picking Chris Butler of the Sabres in Box 23, but even going into the playoffs, he was having a hard time fitting into the line-up, despite having some pretty good point totals in the regular season. His youth does work against him a little bit and the win on Thursday night probably won't help his cause of working into the line-up. He will be the first one in if injuries hit, so hold tight.
I was a little surprised to see that Brendan Morrison was scratched from the Capitals line-up for Game One on Thursday night. It does appear that Morrison was a healthy scratch for the game, but I can't see if the Capitals are going to be rotating players still or just going to be making a line-up change because of their Game One loss. Still, it does remain a tad curious for now.
Five games on the docket for Friday night, including one series just getting started.
Starting the night off at Mellon Arena, the Penguins will try to even up their series against the Senators, being down 1-0 at home. The Senators have claimed a bit of their own home-ice advantage with the early win.
The Flyers also look to go up 2-0 in their series against a favourite, the Devils in New Jersey. The Prudential Center should be rocking a good game, as the first one was a pretty tight encounter.
It will be Game One for the Predators and Blackhawks in Chicago, as they are a little late getting started, much to the chagrin of all those poolies that decided to pile up on the Blackhawks in the West and haven't seen a lick yet. This has a lot of potential to be an entertaining series.
The Coyotes, despite where they finished in the standings, are still considered to be the underdogs against the Red Wings, but they played like the better seeded team in Game One. The Coyotes will look to take full advantage of home-ice on Friday night, as they host Detroit again for Game Two of their series.
Finally, the Sharks need to play like they are the best team in the West in Game Two or else it will be a real uphill battle going back to Denver. The Avalanche have a 1-0 series lead heading into the second game of the series and I'm expecting a better effort from the Sharks.