Well, here we are folks! All of us with busted brackets. The Columbus Blue Jackets swept the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning, and the New York Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins. I had both of these as my shortest series, but had the outcome going the other way. I feel like I gave Columbus a lot of attention during the regular season. AS such, I’m oddly vindicated by their success. The Isle on the other hand was a much different story. The storyline of their beef with the Toronto Maple Leafs for acquiring John Tavares was a big one this year. I’m a Leaf fan, so I think I should get a bit of leeway for underestimating them as their fans invented a one-sided vendetta with the Leaf fanbase. We seem to specialize in those, looking at you Vancouver. The time for underestimating them is now officially passed as vanquishing the Penguins gives them some eye opening credibility. In regards to Sidney Crosby, well, he’s no Mat Barzal.
I just gotta throw this out there. This is a quote from Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen on twitter on the eve of the playoffs: “If I had just traded Panarin for picks and Bobrovsky for picks, everybody in our fan base and city would’ve said, ‘fucking Blue Jackets, that’s all they ever do is just trade for picks and they tell us we’re going to be good in the future, just wait, be patient.’ No. We wanted to send a message to the fanbase and the locker room at the deadline that we’re serious about winning. If it doesn’t translate to winning, hey, I’ll take responsibility”. I would staple that quote to a demand for a raise if I were him.
A sad storyline is the walking wounded of the playoffs, and the suspensions that come with them. Nazem Kadri got the worst of it, deservedly so by the circumstances and current climate in the NHL. Kucherov’s combo attack – chopping down his opponent to make him a vulnerable target, and then going for a little skate to build up speed before smashing him in the head – seemed worse to me. Joe Thornton’s hit I would have let slide. This latest round of suspensions has really got me feeling like an old man. The hits are cowardly, the lack of pushback embarrassing, the suspensions a waste of everyone’s resources. I get the why, and I’m not even arguing against any of them. But can we really say the playoffs are better without the league’s leading scorer? Why are all the hits cheap shots now instead of open ice wrecking balls? I understand that the players are bigger and stronger, the equipment more weaponized, the game faster and the medical diagnoses more accurate. I understand the change, but I still enjoyed hard hitting hockey a lot more than the current state of the game.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights seem to have the Sharks right where they want them. I feel a bit bad for the Sharks, but I really don’t like Evander Kane or Erik Karlsson so I can get over that instantly. I also kinda like Vegas because I love the city. It does seem a bit unfair that they’re so successful as an expansion team though. Long suffering franchises like Toronto, or worse teams that have never won a Championship like St. Louis or Vancouver have to be a bit jealous of a team being given such unique advantages to the salary cap era. I wouldn’t mind St. Louis going all the way, that’s a pretty interesting franchise in a place that could use a boost.
All the other series seem a bit too close to call! I went 0 and 5 on my picks on the first night of the playoffs and 3 for 3 the second. What I have had a chance to watch has been great Hockey. Jordan Binnington looks like a magician in the St. Louis net. Washington was looking like their best selves murdering Carolina but it turned around when they went back to Raleigh. Colorado Calgary is some great back and forth Hockey. I especially like Andrew Mangiapane, because since the playoffs started I began taking Italian lessons and I know what his name means. Let’s hope Calgary meets Columbus in the finals for an All-Bread showdown! Ehh, maybe not. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Predators, but my ultimate goal is an All Canadian Final!