A small market team with dysfunctional management captained by a Swedish defender? Where do I sign up for this bandwagon?! Don’t get me wrong, the Islanders featuring J.G. Pageau and Derrick Brassard also look like a good wagon to hitch up to (albeit with complex draft implications) unless your heart yearns for Mark Stone’s Knights. And who will join the Penguins and Predators on the wrong side of upset island? The chaos never ends!
Islanders 5, Panthera 1, NYI Wins 3-1
- Look, we can spend all night pointing fingers as to who we blame for the perennial failures of the Cats but at the end of the day, I hold myself entirely responsible for thinking “this is the year!” Florida hasn’t won a playoff series since NINETEEN. NINETY. SIX. How you fail to even fluke your way through one series with a core of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad baffles me. Congratulations to the Isles though and especially our sons Pageau and Brassard. What I learned this series? Mathew Barzal is lots of fun to watch.
Coyotes 4, Predators 3, ARI Wins 3-1
- Speaking of droughts, it has been a long time coming since the Coyotes went to the Western Conference final in 2012 and now they are back on the hunt. We get at least four more games of those sweet, sweet jerseys, solid goaltending, and the pure chaotic energy of Michael Grabner. The Predators managed to claw their way back from an 0-2 hole and then tie the game up late only to watch it come crumbling down as Arizona prevailed in overtime. Turns out the answer to the age-old riddle, “how do you get Taylor Hall into the postseason?” was to have him face off against the cursed amulet himself, Matt Duchene. For real though I feel bad for Duchene and also remember when Kyle Turris played for the Coyotes? The madness continues!
Canadiens 2, Penguins 0, MTL Wins 3-1
- More news from chaos island where the Canadiens (who had one more regulation win than the Senators this season) have eliminated the Penguins. This one is Catch-22 for Sens fans who want to see both teams lose and want neither team to win the draft lottery. At the end of the day though, Sidney Crosby’s team got eliminated on his birthday and you can’t put a price on that kind of schadenfreude. Montreal will also draw the number one seed in the next round so it won’t exatcly be clear skies and smooth sailing for the Habs. The actual game itself was entertaining because the Pens basically rolled over and died after the first and went out this year with a real whimper.
Chicago 3, Oilers 2, Chicago Wins 3-1
- I hope you like twelve-seeds because we’ve got another one! The husk-of-its-former-self Chicago squad conjured something up in Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford and now find themselves staring down a match-up with the Knights or Avalanche (yikies!) I find myself hard-pressed to call this one an upset as the Oilers looked like impostors to me all season once you get past the obvious names like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They went down valiantly in this campaign, throwing everything they could at Chicago after falling into an early 2-1 hole. Alas, the hockey gods, they yearn for chaos. And so it shall be!
Leafs 4, Blue Jackets 3, Series Tied 2-2
- Just remember that as Sens fans, we can’t really lose here. If ‘Lumbus loses on Sunday then one of the more neutral teams in the East enters the draft lottery and it’s not like Toronto will have actually won a playoff round. If Toronto loses, the meltdown will be worth their entrance into the Lafreniere sweepstakes. This game flipped the “it was 3-0” script for the wrong team and Toronto ended up pantsing the Jackets in overtime. Try not to think of this as a Toronto victory so much as a Tortorella ignominy.
- The Wild’s offence finally woke up and generated at even strength but Minnesota simply couldn’t keep Vancouver at bay. The Wild blew three leads in the game with Bo Horvat tying it up late for the Canucks and Chris Tanev driving in the dagger in overtime. I missed the mark big time in assuming that Minnesota would have the depth advantage to shutdown Vancouver’s young stars and I would do a disservice to the Canucks to simply chalk this one up to lackluster goaltending. Vancouver will match up against the Stars or Blues in a series that could end up closer than I would have expected if you had asked me a week ago.
Knights @ Avalanche 3PM EST, Round Robin
- The Knights and Avalanche took turns embarrassing the Stars and played much more entertaining games against the Blues. The Knights have certainly conceded more goals than any coach would like to see heading into the real playoffs but their quick-strike offence has bailed them out thus far. To the surprise of no one in Ottawa, Mark Stone has been dynamite for the Knights so far while Colorado’s formidable triumvirate of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen has done the heavy lifting for the Avalanche in front of some solid goaltending.
- Both teams have gone 2-0 in the round robin thus far and something’s gotta give. On paper the Lightning and Flyers can both make cases for best in the East (although, hellooooo Carolina). How far can Carter Hart carry the Flyers? Can the young netminder handle the Lightning’s potent offence? This game should provide a solid preview of the type of hockey that awaits on the other side of some of the more gimmicky match-ups in the play-in round. Maybe one of these two teams will put up a better fight against the Canadiens than the Penguins did.