Latest posts by Beerguyrob (see all)
Well, let’s get this out of the way:
Congrats Seamus. And as a reminder, I’m very disappointed in the rest of you.
For the next couple of nights, I’m going to eschew the usual NFL News I collect so we all can gather ’round and discuss the pertinent matter at hand – the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Tonight, we will discuss the Eastern Conference.
Tampa Bay versus Columbus:
This is the East’s 1-8 matchup, and is a tale of two very different teams going in opposite directions. Tampa has been in first place since mid-December, and tied the 1995-6 Red Wings with 62 wins. (FYI – for you old school types, the 1978-79 Habs went 60-8-12 for the 80-game season record.) They were a goddamned buzzsaw.
Tampa has three solid lines, three solid defensive pairings, and goaltending that just doesn’t seem to break down. They have three players who scored 40+ goals this year, but more importantly had nine players with over 40 points – showing that they had three lines that could put the puck in the net. Nikita Kucherov led the league with 128 points, the most since 1995-96, and having saved Steven Stamkos from being wiled away to Toronto was the smartest thing the Bolts did last season, as their captain finished second in team scoring and piloted the league’s best power play.
Columbus, meanwhile, squeaked into the playoffs by virtue of having fewer Bettman points than Montreal. At the trade deadline, they were tasked with either trading away their pending free agents – Artemi Panarin & Seregi Bobrovsky – for future value or holding onto them & trying to make a run at the playoffs. Well, with two-gallon bottle of Rage-ahol John Tortorella at the helm
they decided to go with the hell-or-high-water plan and added players at the trade deadline. The net result was an improvement from ninth to eighth and a date with Tampa. Panarin finished with 87 points and should be a prized signing for the Rangers or Flyers this off-season. Bobrovsky finished with 37 wins and a GAA of 2.58 – impressive, but he still has those moments where his confidence disappears and he plays like a sieve.
Conclusion: Tampa is too much for Columbus. C-bus might get a mercy win, but if Tampa plays up to form they will never take their foot of the gas & look forward to getting some rest before the second round.
Prediction: Tampa in four.
Boston vs. Toronto
Full disclosure: I am a lifelong Bruins fan. Growing up in Vancouver in the 70s forced me to pick a second team to root for, so I would have a cheering interest once the playoffs began. And since I played defence for a brief time growing up, the Bruins had both Bobby Orr & Ray Bourque as icons I could worship. When they played the Canucks in the 2011 Final I couldn’t have been happier, because I finally had two dogs in the fight. (Rhetorical, not Michael Vick version.)
That being said, it hurts to have to root for a team with this fuckstick on it
Brad Marchand is the most divisive player in recent NHL history. He’s not like previous “pests” like Ken Linseman or Esa Tikkanen, who were aggravating as hell but earned respect for playing hard for their team. There are times when it seems Marchand is in business for himself, to the detriment of the team. But he’s also been their leading scorer, and this year became only the tenth Bruin to ever notch 100 points in a season, and the first since previous malcontent Joe Thornton did in 2002-03. They’ve tied their boat to his, so I guess as long as he’s on the same page as the rest of the team, the Bruins are okay, and I’ll just have to bury my head when he does the thing we all know he’s eventually going to do.
And the rest of the team is pretty damned good. Patrice Bergeron has managed to stay healthy & produce quality points. David Pastrnak has been a revelation, and fellow vowel-needer David Krejci has centred a solid #2 line all year. Zdeno Chara is still eating monster minutes heading the defence, and young’uns Torey Krug & David McAvoy have come along nicely. Tuukka Rask & Jaroslav Halak have provided a consistent 1-2 punch, sharing almost equal time in net & posting near-similar Goals Against Averages, keeping the Bruins near the top of the league all year. If they weren’t in the same division as Tampa you’d hear more about them.
As for the Leafs,
beyond my general anti-Leafs bias, they have built a pretty good team. Adding John Tavares has been a boon to the Leafs offense, adding depth in the form of a viable second scoring line. Mitch Marner has been the Leafs secret weapon, having been paired with Auston Matthews & Patrick Marleau, and his point totals – 94, leading the team – reflect that you just can’t afford to overlook a guy who used to be fourth-line until the bounty of talent the Leafs bought necessitated moving him up a couple of slots.
Goaltending is where the Leafs will ride or die. Both Freddie Andersen & Garret Sparks got the same case of the shits with two weeks to go in the season, almost costing the Leafs their third-pace spot in the division. Coach Babcock tried everything to refire one of them in time for the playoffs, but a season-ending tune-up against the Habs exposed the continuing weakness between the pipes.
Conclusion: Enough being nice: Fuck the Leafs. I won’t be happy until I see the life drain from Mitch Marner’s eyes in the last 10 seconds of Game 5, as the CBC focuses on his crying face from the bench. I was born the year after the Leafs won their last Cup, and God-willing I’ll go into the ground before they win another.
Prediction: Bruins in 5.
Washington vs. Carolina
On paper, this has no business being a good series. Carolina is a fun team that plays in front of a near-empty arena, and had to resort to dragging out the carcass of the Hartford Whalers to drum up attention.
They are owned by Tom Dundon, the guy who just torpedoed the AAF so he could claim ownership over their developmental gambling app. The only reason to root for them is first-year head coach Rod Brind’Amour, who played for the ‘Canes when they won their only Cup back in 2006 and somehow got them to go 31-12-2 over the second half of the season to squeak their way into the playoffs.
They are disproportionately led by the Finish twosome of Sebastian Aho & Teuvo Teravainen, and the one Staal kid they still have only played 50 games this year. In net they have notorious head case (non-Fleury division) Petr Mrazek, offset by likely Game 3 starter Curtis McElhinney, who is the real reason the Hurricanes were able to patch together their run with some spectacular efforts throughout March that kept their heads above water.
The Capitals are the defending Cup champions. Ovi is Ovi & led the team in scoring once again,
Holtby has had another solid year in net (albeit with a slightly higher than normal GAA), and John Carlson has anchored a patchwork defensive unit that managed to keep the Caps in most games until their scoring machine could find ways through other team’s defences. You can tell how balanced their lineup is when three of their top-five scorers are Centers.
Conclusion: The Capitals are way too much for the Hurricanes. Magic got the ‘Canes into the playoffs, but the Russian Machine that runs Washington will be too much for Carolina to handle at this point in their development. They’ll keep it close, but firepower favours the Caps.
Prediction: Capitals in six.
Pittsburgh at NY Islanders
This series looks fun.
You have perennial powerhouse Pittsburgh, led still by the 1-2 punch of Sid & Geno.
Phil Kessel continues to succeed outside Toronto, and Kris Letang has managed not to self-immolate yet this season. Matt Murray hasn’t really made anyone forget about Marc-Andre Fleury, but his backup – Casey DeSmith – didn’t really provide much consistency behind him. So the Penguins are pretty much ride or die with Murray between the pipes, and recent history shows Pittsburgh doesn’t go far when they have to rely on one goalie getting & staying hot. Really, the Pens are where they should be, and people who thought they’d be higher than third weren’t looking around.
Against them is a team that most people wrote off after their captain & best player abandoned them for big bucks in Toronto. With Barry Trotz as their head coach, you’ve got a team that has decided to focus on defence because that is the hand they were dealt. Leading scorer Mathew Barzal had only 62 points this season, which would have placed him fifth on the Penguins. But that’s how they lull you into complacency – their roster had the most consistent scoring in the NHL: not a lot of points scored, but each player had roughly the same number of points. Backed up by stingy goaltending – Robin Lehner had a GAA of 2.13; Thomas Griess a GAA of 2.28 – it allowed the Islanders to wear teams down and exploit them in the third period.
Conclusion: The Islanders are not a “trap” team, but are a team full of traps for the Penguins. If they can hold the Penguins off the score sheet until deep into the second period, their goaltending should be enough to send them into the second round. Pittsburgh is still good, but they need a small rebuild to climb back on top. This is the one series where it feels like the teams are kinda balanced in the sense that home ice will tip the scales in each direction every night.
Prediction: Islanders in seven.
Oh, and the NHL Draft Lottery is tonight. For you curious types, here are the odds (courtesy nhl.com) of getting the #1 overall pick, likely to be Jack Hughes:
- Colorado Avalanche (from OTT): 18.5 percent
- Los Angeles Kings: 13.5 percent
- New Jersey Devils: 11.5 percent
- Detroit Red Wings: 9.5 percent
- Buffalo Sabres: 8.5 percent
- New York Rangers: 7.5 percent
- Edmonton Oilers: 6.5 percent
- Anaheim Ducks: 6.0 percent
- Vancouver Canucks: 5.0 percent
- Philadelphia Flyers: 3.5 percent
- Minnesota Wild: 3.0 percent
- Chicago Blackhawks: 2.5 percent
- Florida Panthers: 2.0 percent
- Arizona Coyotes: 1.5 percent
Montreal Canadiens: 1.0 percent
- Draft lottery – 8:00PM | NBCSN / Sportsnet
- Celtics at Wizards – 7:00PM | TNT
- Raptors at T-wolves – 8:00PM | TSN4
- Rockets at Thunder – 9:30PM | TNT
- Trail Blazers at Lakers – 10:30PM | TSN5
- Yankees at Astros – 8:00PM | ESPN / TSN2
- College Baseball:
- Creighton at Nebraska – 7:30PM | FS1
- College Baseball:
- Smackdown Live! – 8:00PM | USA / Sportsnet360
Tomorrow night is the Western Conference. NO BLACKHAWKS; NO PROBLEM!