Erik Karlsson destroyed Nathan Beaulieu with a huge open-ice hit

Erik Karlsson (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Forget the Battle of Ontario. The first-round series between Montreal and Ottawa is creating a fierce and incredibly physical rivalry between the Canadiens and Senators. No one has felt the effects of the opening-round matchup quite like Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.

Early in the second period of Sunday’s Game 3, after a first frame that was the embodiment of crash and bang hockey, Senators blueliner Erik Karlsson laid a wallop on Beaulieu that his ancestors felt. The best part? It was a textbook hard, clean body check: Read more

Which Game 1 loser faces the most pressure to win Game 2?

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

If you’ve just lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs or if you’re annoyed at the header of this article, you’re likely thinking, “Sheesh, it’s one game, this is not news, mountain out of a molehill,” etc. And you’d be right in certain cases. You’d be wrong in others, however. No two series are created equal, and some Game 1 defeats were more alarming than others.

Here’s a brief rundown of the Game 1 losers, ranked from most justified in panicking to least.

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NHL gets exactly what it wants in Montreal-Ottawa series – a gong show

P.K. Subban and Mark Stone  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Well, the old-time hockey guys in the NHL’s head office must be doubling over patting themselves on the back right about now. They’ve instantly created a gong show in the first-round series between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. And in a league that openly admits that it sells hate, it just got exactly what it wants.

No matter that its ludicrous decision not to suspend P.K. Subban for his two-handed slash to the hand of Mark Stone has suddenly hijacked this series. Between now and Friday night for Game 2, few people will be talking about how the Canadiens fourth line depth players, who had been dormant for much of the season, rescued them in Game 1. Fewer will be talking about how arguably the two best goaltenders in the NHL going into the playoffs, Carey Price and Andrew Hammond, have to be much better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1. Read more

P.K. Subban’s slash: shock and awesome all in one

Subban2

One small whack in the playoffs, one giant gouge for playoff-kind.

P.K. Subban’s tomahawk to Mark Stone’s wrist ignited an inferno of what is so controversial and so awesome about the NHL playoffs. It was a microcosm of a hockey fan’s favorite two months of the season, all captured in a few moments of the second period of the first game of Round 1.

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Canadiens’ P.K. Subban ejected after slashing Sens star Mark Stone – did the referees get it right?

Carey Price and P.K. Subban (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

You know that, no matter what else happens in every Stanley Cup tournament, there will always be at least one controversy related to NHL officiating. If it’s not a personal relationship between a referee and a particular player some fans and media focus on, it’s a debatable call that earns the ire of the public (and often, the team on the wrong end of the call). And it didn’t take very long at all for that officiating controversy to take place in the 2015 post-season: in the second period of Game 1 of Montreal’s first-round series against Ottawa Wednesday night, Canadiens star defenseman P.K. Subban was assessed a five-minute major penalty for slashing and a game misconduct.

The ejection of Subban enraged Habs fans, especially after Sens phenom Mark Stone – who, after being slashed by Subban on the penalized play, writhed around in great pain and left the game – returned to action a few minutes later. But if you think Subban was wronged to be given so harsh a penalty, don’t blame the officials. Blame the league and its philosophy of basing punishments on injury and thus encouraging players to embellish.

To be certain, Subban’s slash of Stone’s arm was (a) a two-hander; (b) vicious; and (c) could easily have caused serious damage to him: Read more

Andrei Markov scores first goal of the Montreal/Ottawa series – for the Senators

Andrei Markov (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators entered Game 1 of their first-round playoff showdown with Montreal Wednesday knowing it would be extremely difficult to score on star goalie Carey Price. But they’ll have a much easier go of things if Canadiens players score goals on their own net – as Habs defenseman Andrei Markov did in the first period to give the Senators the first goal of the series.

Senators captain Erik Karlsson dumped the puck into Montreal’s zone a little more than 12 minutes into the opening frame, and after it bounced off the end boards and back toward the net, Markov delicately attempted to push the puck toward Price, presumably to get a whistle and stop the action. Instead, the veteran blueliner pushed the puck between Price’s legs: Read more

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators

Jared Cowen (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

MTL OTT head to head

HOW THEY WIN

CANADIENS: Who’s kidding whom? When your goaltender is putting together a historically dominant season worthy of Hart Trophy consideration, it’s a generally accepted principle that he is the key to your hopes. You can dismiss the Canadiens all you want, but goaltending is still an enormous part of the game in the playoffs, and the Canadiens have one of the very best in the NHL. Combine that with a team that transitions from offense to defense quickly and is one of the most opportunistic in the league and it can provide a formula for playoff success. Whether it’s their historical mystique or their goaltending, the Canadiens have an uncanny ability to get into the heads of their opponents and crush their hopes before they have a chance to gain any steam. Yes, the Canadiens are top-heavy in terms of talent, but that top is as good or better than anyone else’s.

SENATORS: The Senators have relied on their youthful vigor and a group of kids who have turned out – at least in the short term – to be much better than expected. Anyone who thought Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone would be in the Calder Trophy conversation at the beginning of the season, go directly to the front of the class and collect your gold star. As they showed in their late-season run, the Senators are a team that plays on emotion. Andrew Hammond provided the Senators with outstanding workhorse goaltending and a feel-good story around which the entire organization could rally. If the Senators can harness that energy and carry it into a playoff run, who knows how far a team of guys who are too young to realize they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing can go? Oh yes, and it helps they have the most dynamic offensive defenseman in the game today in Erik Karlsson. Read more