WASHINGTON (AP) - Three division champions are in three very different positions early in the playoffs.
As the Chicago Blackhawks attempt to rebound from a shutout loss to the Nashville Predators, the Washington Capitals hope they’ve learned a lesson from coming back to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Anaheim Ducks should be brimming with confidence after continuing their run of home domination over the Calgary Flames.
Those teams, the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators are in adjustment mode going into Game 2 of their first-round series Saturday.
For Chicago, it’s trying to solve goaltender Pekka Rinne, who stopped all 29 shots he faced to steal Game 1 for the Predators. The Blackhawks were ninth in the NHL in offense during the regular season and have the firepower from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin down the lineup that can overpower Nashville - when they’re clicking.
Washington coach Barry Trotz wants his team to be stronger on the puck and expects a better start after spotting Toronto a two-goal lead and needing an overtime winner from Tom Wilson to survive an opening scare. But the Capitals should also be better for the adversity they faced early against the Maple Leafs and showing they could avoid panic and respond.
“We’re looking at it as we didn’t play our best game,” Trotz said Friday. “That was far from our best game and we got a victory. … I guarantee you’re going to get a better game from Toronto and I know you’re going to get a better game from the Washington Capitals. It’s going to be exciting.”
Trotz said the Maple Leafs, like the Edmonton Oilers in their Game 1, wanted to show themselves that they belonged in the playoffs. They did just that by jumping out to a two-goal lead against the Presidents’ Trophy winners and aren’t deflated by an overtime loss.
“It’s a good opportunity for us,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re going to raise their game and we’re going to raise our game, and we’ve got a chance to see how good we can be. But we can be way better than we were. And I think that was our No. 1 message to our team was, we can be better, so let’s be better.”
Bruins at Senators, Boston leads 1-0 (3 p.m. ET, NBC)
Already missing defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo and center David Krejci, the banged-up Bruins could also be without defenseman Colin Miller, who was injured in Game 1. Joe Morrow could take his place on a blue line that already includes freshly signed rookie Charlie McAvoy playing big minutes.
Ottawa could get defenseman Marc Methot back after missing the past three weeks with a severed pinky finger that was the result of a slash from Sidney Crosby.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Methot said after practice Friday. “I just want to be an effective player when I am coming back in and not hurting anybody by coming back prematurely.”
Maple Leafs at Capitals, Washington leads 1-0 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Toronto is expected to be without injured defenseman Nikita Zaitsev again because of an upper-body injury. Zaitsev didn’t skate Friday.
“I was lobbying the best I could today, but they don’t much care what I say,” Babcock said of Zaitsev getting on the ice.
Predators at Blackhawks, Nashville leads 1-0 (8 p.m. ET, NBC)
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville isn’t wasting time making changes, replacing Nick Schmaltz on the top line with Ryan Hartman, who is expected to play with Toews and Richard Panik. Despite that switch, the three-time Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks have been in this spot before and won’t panic.
Flames at Ducks, Anaheim leads 1-0 (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
The Ducks probably shouldn’t change much of anything from a 3-2 victory over the Flames, who lost for the 28th consecutive time at Honda Center dating to 2006. But power forward Nick Ritchie is eligible to return after serving a two-game suspension for punching Chicago’s Michal Rozsival last week.
Through the first two days of the playoffs, game-winning goal scorers include the New York Rangers’ Tanner Glass, St. Louis Blues’ Joel Edmundson and Capitals’ Tom Wilson. They combined for two goals in 94 previous playoff games.
“You definitely see all different sorts of guys stepping up and at the right times,” Wilson said. “A guy like Tanner Glass, I mean he spends the majority of the year in the AHL, comes up, scores a huge goal for them. So there’s a lot of grit in the playoffs. You see guys just working hard, you get pucks to the net and they go in.”
With contributions from The Canadian Press.
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