Cullen: Bruins, Penguins strong; Sharks impress on the road

{eot}
Scott Cullen
5/2/2013 3:07:51 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

The early games brought a pair of mismatches, with the Boston Bruins thoroughly controlling the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins blanking the New York Islanders. Scott Cullen weighs in with notes and stats from Wednesday night's action.

BOSTON POPS LEAFS
Somewhat predictably, given the possession numbers the two teams displayed this season, the Boston Bruins outshot the Toronto Maple Leafs 40-20 on their way to an easy 4-1 win in Game One of their series.

Veteran D Wade Redden got the Bruins going, putting up a goal and an assist -- his first multi-point NHL game since March, 2010. In his career, Redden has career-bests of 43 points and a plus-30 rating in 62 games. Even if Redden, at 35, is a long way from his best days in the NHL, his contributions in Game One certainly justified including him ahead of rookie Dougie Hamilton in the lineup.

The Bruins, struggling to score late in the year, got three points from David Krejci, two assists from Milan Lucic and a goal from Nathan Horton, all of whom are going to have to perform if the Bruins are going to go on an extended playoff run.

Additonally, Tyler Seguin, while held without a point, led the Bruins with seven shots on goal. There have been many times this year that Seguin lacked the jump that he shows when he's on his game and he had more of it in Game One, using his speed to create chances and having the confidence to pull the puck through his legs from behind, in traffic, while coming off the boards in the offensive zone. He had more than seven shots on goal just twice in 48 games during the regular season.

Of course, when the Bruins and Maple Leafs meet, any Seguin performance must be juxtaposed against what happens with Phil Kessel and it wasn't a banner night for the Leafs' leading scorer, as he managed just one shot on goal and his line was chewed up and spit out and spit out by the Bruins' line of Seguin, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg the defence pairing that was locked on Kessel most often.

The Leafs know, given their tendency to get outshot, that they need more from James Reimer. Giving up four goals in the first two periods isn't good, but the way in which the goals were scored was troubling. Three were generated off shots from the point and it's up to Reimer to stop, and control, shots from that distance, but it also falls on the Leafs' forwards to prevent so many clean looks for the Bruins defencemen.

One piece of good news for the Maple Leafs was the play of LW James van Riemsdyk, who led Leafs with five shots on goal and scored their only goal. Curiously, in a game in which the Leafs trailed for the last two periods of play, both Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri received less than 14 minutes of ice time.

One other ice time note: the Leafs will need to monitor the status of D Cody Franson, who played just 14:04, apparently suffering a foot or ankle injury. As a result, Mike Kostka played 22:22, but also finished minus-3 for the night.

The novelty of making the playoffs for the first time in nine years wore off pretty quickly once the Bruins took control of the game, so now Toronto will have to try and bounce back. Obviously, they would prefer to win Game Two but, at the very least, they need to give a much better accounting of themselves if they are going to give any indication that they will be competitive in this series.

PENS MUCH MIGHTIER THAN ISLES
Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't have Sidney Crosby for their playoff opener, against the New York Islanders, they didn't need him, cruising to a 5-0 win. The Penguins had raced out to that 5-0 lead by the end of the second period.

Pascal Dupuis, who was the Penguins' second-leading scorer in April with 12 points in 12 games -- without Crosby -- scored a pair of goals, while Evgeni Malkin, Jussi Jokinen and Jarome Iginla each had two assists.

The Penguins finished with 22 blocked shots, compared to the Islanders' 12, which seems notable when both teams recorded 26 shots on goal. One player that didn't manage any shots on goal for the Islanders was John Tavares.

Even though the Islanders had good puck possession numbers with Tavares on the ice, it was still the first time all year that he hadn't recorded a single shot on goal, so some credit needs to go to Brandon Sutter, Matt Cooke and Brenden Morrow. Kris Letang and Paul Martin were the Penguins defencemen to see the most of Tavares.

One of the question marks for the Penguins coming into this year's playoffs was the play of G Marc-Andre Fleury, who struggled in last year's playoffs, but Fleury was strong, turning aside all 26 Islanders shots for the shutout.

At the other end, Evgeni Nabokov was yanked after allowing four goals on 15 shots, his fifth straight loss in the postseason. Kevin Poulin relieved Nabokov early in the second period.

Islanders LW Matt Martin tried to make his presence felt, delivering 10 hits, while playing 13:00. Martin led the NHL with 234 hits in the regular season.

It doesn't come as any great surprise that the high-powered Penguins would be too much for the Islanders, but New York can be better. They have to be.

SHARKS ATTACK IN VANCOUVER
The story for the Vancouver Canucks was decided before the game even started, when it was announced that Roberto Luongo would start in net. Though the Canucks lost, it can hardly be pinned on Luongo, who stopped 25 of 28 shots in a 3-1 Game One loss to the San Jose Sharks. While none of the three goals were impossible to stop, there wasn't a lot of blame to direct at Luongo for any of the three.

San Jose got multi-point games from D Dan Boyle, C Joe Pavelski, and C Logan Couture. While the Sharks were the lowest-scoring team in the Western Conference to make the postseason, they do have a lineup that works in their favour at the moment, with scorers spread across three lines. So, when Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and T.J. Galiardi get shut down, it's nice to get a couple of points from Pavelski and Couture.

Couture, who had two minor penalties all season, drew three minors from the Canucks Wednesday night.

Couture has been playing with Patrick Marleau, who scored the third goal to give the Sharks some breathing room. Marleau has been maligned for playoff performance but, since 2001-2002, he ranks ninth in playoff points and he sits second among active players, behind only Jaromir Jagr, with 53 playoff goals. Marleau also led the Sharks with five shots on goal in Game One.

It was also noteworthy that the Sharks played their big guns more. Thornton, for example, played 21:10 Wednesday, his most ice time in a game since the 22nd game of the regular season, and a total he surpassed only four times in 48 games this year.

Sharks LW Raffi Torres was throwing his weight around, delivering a few heavy hits among his team-leading six hits in the game. Dale Weise tried to play aggressively for Vancouver, too, delivering five hits in 7:57 of ice time.

It wasn't all good for the Sharks, however, as winger Martin Havlat left with an injury, playing only 3:16. Torres moved into Havlat's spot, on the wing with Couture and Marleau.

C Ryan Kesler led Vancouver forwards in ice time, playing 21:33, a threshold he passed twice in 17 regular season games.

It's not as though this game wasn't there for the Canucks to take. They held the advantage when it came to even-strength play, though the number one line -- Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows -- managed a total of four shots on goal; they need to be more productive.

The Sharks-Canucks series figures to be closer and more competitive than the other two series that started Wednesday night, but after losing the first game of the series at home, the Canucks will either need a spark from a goaltending change or internal improvement throughout the roster for Game Two.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television