Quick Strikes: GAME DAY! Nikita Kucherov robbed of Hart nomination

I guess the Hart contenders have to be from bad teams.

The Bolts

The second round of the playoffs begins today for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they faceoff against the Boston Bruins at 3:00pm EDT. [Raw Charge]

Analyzing the first round series for the Lightning was easy. They were better than the Devils and if they played well, they’d win the series. This series is more complicated. The separation between these teams is less clear and the conclusions we draw will be muddier. Nothing that follows will be satisfying. But we will plunge forward undaunted and search for the forest amidst the trees.

POLL: How do you think the series will go? Are you optimistic about the Lightning’s chances or nervous that it’ll go down to the wire? [Raw Charge]

Now the Lightning have to play Boston and it’s time for you to weigh in with what you believe with the entirety of your heart what will happen in our weekly poll which was definitely not hastily added to this article after it was written on Tuesday and the series was decided Wednesday night. Because again, that would be cheating. And if there’s one thing I’m probably not, it might be a cheater.

Tuukka Rask’s quality of play will be a huge deciding factor for these playoffs. Check out Dan Rosen’s five keys to the series, with lineups at the bottom for reference. [NHL dot com]

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask had the lowest save percentage (.899) and the highest goals-against average (2.94) of the starting goalies on the eight teams that advanced to the second round. Rask allowed four goals three times against the Maple Leafs, including Game 5, when the Bruins had a chance to win the series, and in Game 7, when Boston trailed 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period and 4-3 after two periods before winning 7-4.

Brad Marchand is a type. Jake Dotchin recounts his “Marchand moment” with the man, they myth, the rat. [Tampa Bay Times]

Late last season, he lay on the ice at Boston’s TD Garden after a stick speared him in the groin. He dropped as if shot. Dotchin turned and saw hockey’s preeminent lone gunman, its dirty rotten scoundrel, pucks’ bad boy: Brad Marchand.

”It was a stinger, for sure,” Dotchin said. “It ran up and got inside my cup. That was my Marchand moment.”

For the Athletic subscribers, Joe Smith wrote about the story of Anthony Cirelli. [The Athletic]

Rocco drove Anthony back home after the final Generals preseason game in August 2014, with his son planning to resume high school classes in Woodbridge, Ontario. Anthony was just happy Oshawa had signed him and assigned him to play for a Junior A team in Mississauga. After all, Cirelli hadn’t been selected in back-to-back OHL drafts. Six hundred kids got their names called. Not him. Twenty teams passed on the 135-pound forward — including Oshawa.

Keep your eye on Jake DeBrusk. [Tampa bay Times]

The Bruins 21-year-old rookie scored five goals against the Leafs, including the game-winner in Game 7. He plays a physical game and has the skills of a goal-scorer.

The Prospects

For the second stright time the Utica Comets jumped out to a 3-0 advantage before ultimately winning 5-2 at home. Now with all of the momentum, both teams must travel across the border to Toronto to play game 5 on Sunday. All the while, the Syracuse Crunch wait. [Pension Plan Puppets]

On the Wednesday that shall not be named, the series shifted to Utica for two games where the Marlies took the “L” by a scoreline of 5-2. The Marlies quickly put themselves in a 0-3 hole within a span of six minutes and the game was essentially lost from that point onward. Sparks was pulled after the third goal, giving up three on seven shots in only 13:59 of play.

Kids these days.

Back in the CHL, Alex Barré-Boulet is back scoring points, and the Soo Greyhounds keep winning games. [Bolt Prospects]

Jacob LeGuerrier (undrafted) added a pair of goals, and the Soo had 11 players with at least a point, including Bolt prospects Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk each with an assist. The Soo scored three times in the 1st period to take a 3-1 lead to the 1st intermission, with Katchouk setting up Kopacka for his first goal of the game, followed by Raddysh setting up Keeghan Howdeshell (undrafted). The series heads back to Kitchener Sunday for Game 6 to see if the home team can hold serve and force a Game 7

The Game

The Nashville Predators absolutely destroyed the Winnipeg Jets in game 1 of their series. Yet Winnipeg came out with a 4-1 victory. [Sportsnet]

Winnipeg were outshot 48-19.

The shot attempts favoured Nashville 87-39. Over at the Corsica site, they had the Corsi 5×5 at 73 per cent for Nashville. The other 37 per cent of the time, the Jets were tossing the puck out of the zone and heading for a change.

The Hart Memorial Trophy finalists were announced and.... no Nikita Kucherov. Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, New Jersey Devils winger Taylor Hall, and LA Kings center Anze Kopitar are the three nominees. [NHL dot com]

MacKinnon was fifth in the NHL with 97 points (39 goals, 58 assists) in 74 games. His 1.31 points-per-game average was second to McDavid (1.32), and his 12 game-winning goals tied Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point for the NHL lead and matched Joe Sakic (2000-01) for the most in a season by an Avalanche player.

The 22-year-old helped Colorado improve by 47 points in the standings, going from last in the League in 2016-17 to the second wild card from the Western Conference this season.

Evander Kane has been suspended one game for his attempted decapitation of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. [Fear the Fin]

The incident occurred in the third period of Game 1 last night, also in Vegas. The Knights went on to win, 7-0.

Highlight of the Night: The Preds may have only gotten one goal last night, but it sure was a pretty one.