Biggest Lesson Learned from the First Game in Each NHL Playoff Series

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IMay 2, 2013

Biggest Lesson Learned from the First Game in Each NHL Playoff Series

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    The Anaheim Ducks capitalized on the power play during the first game of their series against the Detroit Red Wings, and taking advantage of power-play opportunities is one of the many lessons that can be learned from the first game of each 2013 Stanley Cup playoff series. It has always been said that first impressions are very important, and setting the tone in the first game of a playoff series is equally important.

    Each team has played at least one game thus far, and here are some of the biggest lessons to be learned from the first game of each series.

No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 8 Minnesota Wild

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    Biggest Lesson Learned: Depth Matters

    The Minnesota Wild played an amazing game against the Chicago Blackhawks despite losing 2-1 in overtime, but the biggest lesson to be learned from Game 1 involves depth. A pregame injury knocked Niklas Backstrom out of the lineup, and Josh Harding was very solid in net for the Wild. Throughout the game both teams exchanged chances, but what hurt the Wild in overtime was their lack of overall depth.

    Ryan Suter played 41:08 against the Blackhawks; Jonas Brodin played 34:20, and Jared Spurgeon played 26:15. Every other player on the Wild had less ice time than these three defenders, and that speaks to the depth of the roster. Head coach Mike Yeo was constantly sending out the same players against the Blackhawks' top players, and in overtime fatigue started to set in. If the Wild are going to make this a close series, Mike Yeo needs to trust his players by giving them ice time because they are not going to be competitive if their top players are burned out early.

No. 2 Anaheim Ducks vs. No. 7 Detroit Red Wings

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    Biggest Lesson Learned: Special Teams Can Change a Series

    The Anaheim Ducks won this game by a score of 3-1, and they won this game because of their ability to capitalize on the power play. The Ducks scored two power-play goals, and the goals on the man advantage were the only goals needed to win this game.

    The Red Wings also scored a power-play goal, but the Ducks started to play more disciplined from that point on. This series features many players like Corey Perry, Pavel Datsyuk and Teemu Selanne who are effective on the power play, and special teams can be the deciding factor in this series.

No. 3 Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks

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    Biggest Lesson Learned: Don't Give Logan Couture Space

    The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks' matchup was the best game of the night during night two of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it was a goaltending duel for most of the game. The Canucks would take the first lead of the game, but the Sharks tied it four minutes later, and it would stay that way until the third period.

    The biggest lesson that can be taken away from Game 1 is that Vancouver can't give Logan Couture space. On the power play, Couture was able to walk in untouched, and on the Sharks' third goal, he was able to break away from a Canucks player who was trying to move him from out in front of the net.

    This game was full of action, amazing saves and great play, but Logan Couture had a lot of space to create offensive chances. If the Canucks want to limit the Sharks' offense, they need to contain Couture.

No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Kings

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    Biggest Lesson Learned: Don't Let Jonathan Quick Play the Puck

    Jonathan Quick kept the Los Angeles Kings in the game during regulation with his stellar play, but he gave the game away in overtime by misplaying the puck. There was no excuse for Quick to misplay the puck given the amount of time he had, and this is a lesson that should be heeded in future games.

    Quick is an amazing goaltender, but there are times where he needs to let his teammates help him out.

No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 8 New York Islanders

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    Biggest Lesson To Be Learned: Don't Take Stupid Penalties

    The first game of this series was a blowout, and it could have been prevented if the New York Islanders stayed disciplined. Brian Strait took a stupid retaliatory penalty early in the game, and it gave the Pittsburgh Penguins the opportunity to set the tone early. The Penguins scored two power-play goals, and the team was very aggressive all night long.

    Late in the game, there were bad penalties taken that could have really burned the Islanders, but the Penguins failed to capitalize. Matt Cooke played an effective game, and by forcing an inexperienced Islanders' team to take unnecessary penalties, the Islanders never got a chance to get any momentum going against the Penguins.

No. 2 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 7 Ottawa Senators

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    Biggest Lesson To Be Learned: Erik Karlsson Is Back

    It was all doom and gloom when Erik Karlsson had 70 percent of his Achilles tendon sliced by Matt Cooke's skate, but things have been looking up for Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators since his return to the lineup.

    In Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens, Karlsson was electric for the Senators, and he got on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist. Karlsson is a defenseman who uses his mobility and offensive skills to help the Senators gain momentum, and the Canadiens will have to defend him differently as the series continues.

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Rangers

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    Biggest Lesson To Be Learned: Execution on Special Teams Is Critical

    The first game of this series featured a lot of penalties, but it was very evident that capitalizing on special teams will be critical in this series. Neither power play was very good, but the Washington Capitals were able to capitalize early in the second period. The Capitals scored one goal during their five attempts on the power play, but Alex Ovechkin's goal got his team back in the game.

    Conversely, the New York Rangers' inability to convert on a 57-second 5-on-3 power play had a looming impact on the game's outcome. If the Rangers found a way to capitalize on one of their four chances, they would have had a chance to win. The Rangers' penalty kill was stellar, and that is something that can help them the rest of this series, but they have no excuses when it comes to capitalizing on the power play.

    Going forward special teams will continue to play a big role, but the major takeaway from Game 1 is that execution on special teams is going to be critical.

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Biggest Lesson To Be Learned: Physicality Will Dictate This Series

    The Toronto Maple Leafs made it very easy for the Boston Bruins during Game 1 of their series, and the lesson to be learned is that physicality will dictate who wins this series. The Bruins were finishing their checks; they were physical on the forecheck, and they outmuscled the Maple Leafs on loose pucks. The Leafs may have scored first, but the play was dominated by the Bruins from that point on.

    The Bruins were able to dominate control of the puck by playing a physical game, and they illustrated how easy it is to dictate play when you out work and wear down an opponent. The Leafs have a physical lineup full of truculence, but they weren't physical enough in Game 1. Going forward this series' physicality will pick up, and the Leafs will need to step up their game.