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NHL Playoff Schedule 2017: TV, Live-Stream Guide for Friday's Round 1 Matchups

ST PAUL, MN - MARCH 07: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a stick side save defending the net against the Minnesota Wild during the third period of the game on March 07, 2017 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Blues defeated the Wild 2-1. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Brian MarronFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2017

Goaltenders are the story heading into Friday’s first-round action in the 2017 NHL playoffs, as three guys stole the show in the first games of their respective series. 

Marc-Andre Fleury was preparing to once again back up Matt Murray for another Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup run, but he is squarely in the spotlight after Murray’s injury. The St. Louis Blues’ Jake Allen and the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist stood on their heads despite facing some doubts about their play during the season. Can each maintain this level to earn his team a 2-0 series lead?

Let us take a look at the television and live-stream schedule on Friday, as well as a breakdown of these three netminders before they take the ice.

2017 NHL Playoffs: Friday Schedule
Matchup Start Time (ET) Network Live Stream
New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens 7 p.m. USA Network NBC Sports Live
Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins 7 p.m. NHL Network NBC Sports Live
Matchup Start Time (ET) Network Live Stream
St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild 8 p.m. NBCSN NBC Sports Live
San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers 10:30 p.m. NBCSN NBC Sports Live
NHL.com

 

Fleury Providing Security for Penguins

After Murray emerged last postseason, it seemed like Fleury’s days in Pittsburgh were all but over. Thus, many were surprised when Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford decided to keep Fleury and his $ 5.75 million cap hit through the offseason and past the trade deadline.

The gamble is paying off, much to Rutherford’s credit. ESPN.com’s Craig Custance shared an exchange the veteran general manager had with a reporter at this season’s deadline, which shows Rutherford’s patience and foresight.

The moment the trade deadline passed, Rutherford received a text from a reporter wanting to know if a Fleury deal might trickle in after the final buzzer.

The answer was no. He wasn’t trading him. Why not?

‘Didn’t want to,’ Rutherford texted back.

He didn’t want to. It was that simple. The Penguins had the cap space to keep Fleury, who also had a limited no-trade clause. Rutherford had a sense that he might need him.

Rather than possibly relying on an AHL-level goaltender, Pittsburgh will not miss a beat with a proven top backstop who won over half of his starts this season in addition to being arguably the franchise’s best goalie ever. After stoning an excellent Columbus Blue Jackets with 31 saves on Wednesday, Fleury moved into second place all-time in Pittsburgh playoff wins, per the Pens’ public relations team.

Given his pedigree, there is no reason to think Fleury’s play will drop on Friday. He did not face the Blue Jackets this regular season, but he owns an 8-4-2 mark in his career against the club. He was also excellent at home this year, with a 14-3-2 mark. 

Columbus won the shot battle 32-29 in Game 1, and it will continue to pressure Pittsburgh again in Game 2. The Penguins are still the favorite on Friday thanks to Fleury and their depth and experience advantage. However, watch out for Columbus to get back into this series at home.

  

Lundqvist Making a Final Push

Despite posting the worst GAA, 2.74, and save percentage, .910, of his career this season, Lundqvist looked like an elite goaltender again in Game 1. He stopped all 31 shots on the road against the Montreal Canadiens, including 16 in the first period.

Following the game, Lundqvist acknowledged critics of his down year, per Larry Brooks of the New York Post. Yet he showcased his outstanding mental toughness and professionalism with his Wednesday play.

“I’m aware of what people have been saying, but as a goalie, you try to take the good from every situation, so obviously I focused on the last time we were here for the playoffs,” Lundqvist said. “Sometimes when the pressure goes up, it makes it easier to have the right mindset.”

The last series Lundqvist is referring to is the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, which the Rangers won.

According to Rangers’ stats team, the 35-year-old is simply at his best in the postseason, especially against Montreal:

This may be Lundqvist’s last chance to realistically contend for a Stanley Cup, so expect him to be tremendous in net throughout this postseason. If the Rangers have any chance of getting past Montreal and through the conference, they must do more to help out their goaltender.

Lundqvist faced far too many quality chances on Wednesday, and he will not always be able to bail out his teammates. The Canadiens racked up 12 takeaways in Game 1, and this number must go down for New York.

It is tough to bet against Montreal to fall into an 0-2 hole, particularly with the team being 24-12-5 at home in the regular season. Still, do not be surprised if Lundqvist spurs a lengthy playoff run.

  

Is Allen for Real?

The MVP of the playoffs’ first night was undoubtedly Allen, who came out of nowhere to pitch a gem on the road.

Allen kept out 51 of the Minnesota Wild’s 52 shots in an overtime win. It took a perfect tip pass to Zach Parise to beat Allen, who carried his team as the Blues were outshot two to one.

Former NHL defenseman Mike Commodore recognized the goalie’s efforts:

After the loss, Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau noted that the Blues helped neutralize Allen’s rebounds to keep St. Louis in contention, per the Associated Press (via Fox Sports).

“They did a tremendous job of blocking out and not letting us get those second chances,” Boudreau said. “That’s two games in a row they’ve done that to us, so it’s a pretty good template for them. But if we want to have success, we have to find ways to get in there.” 

Although Allen showed he can take over a game, the odds of him replicating this performance again are slim.

The 26-year-old was decent in his first year as a full-time starter, going 33-20-5, with a 2.42 GAA and .915 save percentage. There are not many promising factors around Allen to suggest he can play above those numbers.

Minnesota’s tremendous forward depth is a major issue for St. Louis. The Wild roll four effective lines that the Blues cannot match. This resulted in the shot disparity, particularly since the visitors are shaky beyond their top four defensemen.

Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo each logged at least 27 minutes on Wednesday, while Carl Gunnarsson and Jordan Schmaltz combined for just over 27 minutes. 

A tired defense is not a great formula against a team that finished second in the NHL in goals per game, especially since the Wild already proved they could control play in Game 1. Allen will again be under siege in Game 2, and Minnesota should be able to convert more chances when fatigue affects the Blues’ ability to minimize rebound opportunities.

  

Statistics are courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted. Contract information is via CapFriendly.

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