Sunday August 2 - Minnesota Wild 3 - Vancouver Canucks 0
I probably don't have to tell you that in NHL history, teams that lose the first game in a best-of-five series don't have very good odds of coming back to advance. But just in case...
The NHL hasn't contested a best-of-5 series since 1986. And check this out: In the 56 best-of-5 series contested in the 1980s, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the series 49 times (87.5 percent). So, yeah, Game 1 is kind of important.
That's where the Vancouver Canucks sit on Monday morning. After all that planning and preparation, they're in a hole against the Minnesota Wild after a 3-0 loss in their series opener on Sunday at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Here are your highlights:
In my last blog on Saturday, I talked about how important it was for teams to raise their intensity level from their scrimmages and their exhibition games if they're going to be successful at playoff hockey. But I have to admit, I wasn't prepared for that to manifest itself in a fight between Micheal Ferland and Marcus Foligno, just 1:19 into the first period.
My heart was in my mouth as I watched Ferland and Foligno throw down. It has been such a positive storyline to see how well Ferland has progressed through training camp over the past few weeks after all the challenges he has been through over the past couple of seasons. The last thing I wanted was for him to be sidelined again after his very first shift.
But based on Ferland's history and given the bruising style that made him into an NHL player after originally being drafted in the fifth round, I suppose it may not have been surprising that Ferland wanted to show that he could still do battle in the playoffs. And if I'm talking about wanting to see playoff intensity, he brought that. Even if he did scare the heck out of me.
He went to the dressing room for repairs after the fight, but returned to the game midway through the first period, and his line continued to be a presence throughout. He finished with just 11:41 of ice time, but he and Antoine Roussel were stirring things up all night long. Roussel earned a 10-minute misconduct with 47 seconds left in the third period, and Ferland is $5,000 lighter in the wallet on Monday after being fined by the NHL for his spear at Ryan Hartman on the Minnesota bench during the third period, after his stick was grabbed by Luke Kunin.
Kunin was also fined $1,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
As for the rest of the game — I thought the Wild looked more like the team that came to play. Over the past couple of days, the Minnesota players have talked about how fired up they've been to support Matt Dumba after his stirring anti-racism speech before the Oilers/Blackhawks game on Saturday. Dumba also knelt for the American national anthem that day, supported by Darnell Nurse of Edmonton and Malcolm Subban of Chicago, then followed up by saying that he'd be raising his fist during both anthems for all subsequent games.
On Sunday night, he did that, at the front of the row of players on the Minnesota bench.
His teammates may not have joined him in the gesture, but that doesn't mean they're not supporting him.
Dumba said Jonas Brodin and Alex Galchenyuk came to Rogers Place to support him yesterday. Dumba recited and practiced his speech on them. They realized how nervous he was. Galchenyuk told him if he could pull this off, nothing will stop him in the playoffs #mnwild
I think this is another example of what's bringing the Wild together as a team.
So is the coaching of Dean Evason. He's molding his group in his image, a heavy squad that played a physical game from start to finish. They hammered on Petey. They hammered on Tanev. The final stat sheet showed the total hits as 40-28 for Vancouver, led by seven from Tyler Motte, but it seemed like the Wild were the ones who were going out ot their way to hit to hurt.
Despite the lopsided loss, Travis Green kept a very positive demeanour in both his postgame press conference and at his media availability on Monday. He talked about how the teams played even at 5-on-5 and that for all the criticism the Canucks have taken about bleeding scoring chances during the regular season, he felt good about the team's defensive game for most of the night — except for a few minutes. Green says it's a positive that the Canucks haven't played their best yet, and have room to improve on Tuesday.
The team is not practicing on Monday. Green says rest is more important right now.
"Guys, they're pretty tired after these games late at night," he said on Monday. "It's very physical and taxing.
"We're always going to do what gets us best ready to play the next game, and that was the decision we made. They'd skated three days in a row and, again, playoff hockey is very intense.
"We felt keeping the guys off the ice and getting a skate in the morning would be best for our group."
Green also praised Elias Pettersson for fighting through all the hits and checks that the Wild dished out on Sunday night, saying he liked the compete level that he saw. Beyond that, he said he'd consider making lineup changes for Game 2 but won't show his hand until gametime.
The doom and gloom among the fanbase stands in marked contrast to the generally positive outlook that Green is maintaining, to keep his players believing in themselves.
We'll see if that pays dividends on Tuesday, and if they can keep those game-changing mistakes to a minimum.