The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway. Through the first two games, a trend that seemingly impacted the course of the game was depth. Unfortunately, injuries and scratches have to be made and can ultimately impact the outcome of the game if the team does not adapt.
Craig Anderson And The Caps
The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins kicked off the Stanley Cup Playoffs playing the first game last night. The tempo of the matchup had fans on their seats as big hits were a constant theme throughout the game. The Bruins were often on the receiving end of Washington’s physical play, yet surprisingly, Vitek Vanecek was the first man to head to the dressing room.
There were major concerns regarding their goaltending depth early on. Towards the end of the offseason, Craig Anderson was signed by the Caps to provide goaltending depth. However, age is not on his side, so the Caps refrained from using him throughout the season. Anderson played in four of fifty-six games. The projected starting goalie, Ilya Samsonov spent a great amount of time away from the team on the Covid-19 list. Consequently, Vanacek played in the bulk of games for the Caps. Since Samsonov was not available for the first playoff game, Vanecek got the start in goal.
The Bruins were down by one in the first period and needed a response. Off of a faceoff, Jake DeBrusk fired a shot on goal where Vanecek attempted to sprawl into position. Unfortunately, he sustained an injury and went to the dressing room. So, Anderson was needed to finish the game as a third-string netminder. Given that the Caps have one of the best offenses in the NHL, Anderson’s job was to keep the game close and let his teammates pull away with the lead.
Anderson stopped twenty-one of twenty-two shots and the Caps took a 1-0 series lead. Many fans thought this was Boston’s game to win. The fact that the veteran goalie adapted to unexpected circumstances allowed Washington to skate away with a victory.
Next Man Up For The Isles
The New York Islanders have been exceptional defensively. A key reason why is the success of Semyon Varlamov over the course of the regular season. However, head coach Barry Trotz announced to the press today that Varlamov was unavailable. Rookie netminder, Ilya Sorokin, was set for his first start of the playoffs in his career. Most Islanders fans could easily recall what happened the last time Sorokin’s start was a last-minute call.
Sorokin made his NHL debut following Varlamov taking a puck under his neck protector during warmups. Sorokin had a case of the first game jitters. The New York Rangers pounded Sorokin as he let up four goals. It was clear that Sorokin needed time to adjust to the NHL after playing in the KHL for a few years. Since then, Sorokin has gotten accustomed and it was evident today.
Sorokin led the Islanders to an overtime victory against the division-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. Sorokin came up with saves that allowed the Isles to skate away with a win. The Islanders were stuck in their own zone for a great deal of the second period. Sorokin managed to keep the game close as the Pens entered the third with a 2-1 lead.
In the final frame or regulation, the Islanders dominated and the score was tied after sixty minutes. In overtime, fans were on the edge of their seats. Both the Islanders and Penguins played exceptionally in their own end. Eventually, Sorokin and the Islanders celebrated a game 1 victory thanks to Kyle Palmieri’s overtime winner.
Both, the Capitals and Islanders had early tests to their depth. Anderson and Sorokin played great allowing their respective teams to walk away with an overtime win. Fans know this isn’t the last time that depth will be tested. But how crucial is it to win a championship? The events in the Capitals and Islanders game are a direct testament to their roster and prove that they have what it takes to go on a run.