Shane breaks down game 1 of the second round of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers @ Toronto Maple Leafs

The Florida Panthers mantra this postseason is “Lead Dog.” I love it. Coming from a Bruins fan, I DID NOT want to be matched up with them but I am merely a hog who types articles expressing my love for sports. Back to love, how can you not love this Florida Panthers team? Get past your own team’s fandom and look at it from a sports perspective….the Florida Panthers are POISED for an ultimate wild card story. One of, if not, the best underdog story. Eliminating the best team in the history of the NHL in the first round as huge outsiders in a 7-game series….amazing. Now they take down Game 1 at Toronto and look like they haven’t lost a step since the Bruins series. My great colleague Brock, in his beautiful hockey preview write-up on each series, called the Panthers in Game 7 like A REAL ONE. I was blinded by the Boston brightness of such a beautiful and invincible team. Shattered and broken would be appetizers to the pain meal I had realizing everything. I always loved Matthew Tkachuk’s game and loved that trade to Panthers regardless of how excellent Brendan Montour has been. Johnathen Huberdeau is very skilled, but Tkachuk is a legacy power forward who exemplifies playoff caliber hockey. Absolute gamer. Apex man among kids and he’s only 25.

 I am honestly happy for the Maple Leafs getting the massive elephant out of the room by finally advancing past the first round. That being said, Florida comes out in Game 1 and punches Toronto in the face at the opening bell. Sergei Bobrovsky has arrived and is looking just as he was 3 years ago when he took down the Lightning in the first round with Columbus. Toronto looked as shocked as Bruins when facing the relentless attack of the Panthers. Luke Schenn even laid a powerful hit on Tkachuk who got right up and got 3 points for the night. Ilya Samsonov has been solid through the first round but he’s got a whole new animal in front of him this time, as shots and rebounds will be aggressively produced.

Seattle Kraken @ Dallas Stars

The Kraken are for real. It’s about time people start putting respect on their name. They conquered the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the Colorado Avalanche, albeit with lots of injuries. Losing Jared McCann is a tough loss as he’s the main point getter for the Kraken, but the “Next Man up” attitude with the Seattle squad is strong and working. Every player seems to be locked in physically and creatively. Yeah sure, big bad Dallas is a tough out with all their talent with a nice playoff run 2-3 years ago with most of the same squad.

Game 1 was the massive underdog win that the Kraken needed. Game 1 goes to the dogs and Dallas needs to figure it out after thinking Jake Oettinger was fully activated. Kraken scored 5 goals without their top points guy and on one of the best young goalies in the game. Joe Pavelski is back from injury and scored 4 goals with 2 being redirections!! Tip God is back and fully activated! No power play goals were scored which is funny to see in a 5-4 game. I expect this series to go back and forth but do not count out the Kraken ever. As much as the hockey world loves Jake Oettinger, I think he’s in for a long series.

New Jersey Devils @ Carolina Hurricanes

The high flying Devils launched themselves into the second round by beating the New York Rangers but fatigue showed in Game 1 as Carolina dominated the entire game. No rest for the wicked as Nick Bastian was able to notch one in a 5-1 defeat on a sweet breakaway shot. This Devils team goes from a rivalry series to a David vs Goliath series, while Sebastian Aho, fresh off slaying the other Sebastian Aho’s Islanders, and the Hurricanes have enjoyed a nice couple days off. The Carolina home crowd was rocking and they didn’t miss a beat in the game as they shut down the quick transitioning ability of the young Devils. Brent Burns is a fortress back there, strong defensive presence with a couple of cannons but Jaccob Slavin could be D1 on any team in the league. His game is very strong and is able to move the puck well while protecting the house. Frederik Anderson is healthy and crushing the NHL playoffs so far with 2-0 0.96 GAA average as he has only let up 1 goal in each game.

This Hurricanes team is experienced and skilled. They are so well rounded that I think they have plenty of game to shut down the creative Devils. The Devils lack the toughness that they didn’t need with the Rangers. Trouba is one of the best tough as nails defenders out there, but way more people on Carolina hit and battle every shift compared to New York. Carolina GRINDS game in and game out. I love this Devils storyline, I just think it’s Hurricane weather that will end their run.

Edmonton Oilers @ Vegas Golden Knights

Another game, another power play goal from the most unstoppable unit that could ever be assembled. The opposite of unstoppable though is the Oilers defense which continues to give up goal after goal which Vegas took full advantage of. The Golden Knights bashed the Edmonton gang 6-4 with more leaky defense out of the blue and orange machine from the north. Leon Draisatl continues his postseason dominance with a 4 goal performance to rival Joe Pavelski’s comeback. Connor McDavid is still buzzing everywhere, playing a complete game with defensive work instead of blowing up the stat sheet at all costs.

Vegas features some of the most stout and durable defenders in Pietrangelo, Martinez, and McNabb who all play a tough, puck moving game while shutting down the Oiler juggernaut. Shea Theodore has been a gem for Vegas on the offensive side as he constantly moves the puck up and takes it himself on defense. Doesn’t matter if it’s Brossoit or Quick, that team is so well-rounded and strong that Bruce Cassidy should have a strong case to take down the west favorites in the Oilers.

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