Four division winners have been sent packing for the summer, all four wild card teams are moving on and all-together, five lower seeds are moving on in the Stanly Cup Playoffs.
I’ll lay it out in a different way to display how odd the playoffs are now:
Lightning: Best Team in Hockey: Swept
Capitals: The Defending Stanley Cup Champion: Out in 7
Penguins: Winner of two of the last three Stanley Cups: Swept
Flames: Top Seed in the West: Out in 5
Predators: Central Divison Champ, Cup Finalist in 2017: Out in 6
Golden Knights: 2018 Cup Finalist: Take dumb 5-minute penalty, blow 3-goal lead in game 7, tie to force OT. Lose in OT.
The biggest story of the first round: It is the year of the Wild Card..
Last week, I talked about how weird the Eastern Conference was getting with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh being bounced in four-game sweeps by Columbus and the New York Islanders. I was hoping to see both Carolina and Toronto move on. In the end, I got one of the two (the storm surge continues!).
Not only did the East end up on its head, the West is odd right now.
The Calgary Flames, the best team in the West, was out in five games at the hands of the young Colorado Avalanche. It’s not as awful as the Lightning getting swept by the Blue Jackets, but Game 5 was hard to watch as a Calgary fan. Mike Smith looked helpless in net.
I was expecting the Jets and Blues to present a good series and it could’ve went to either. Through the first five games, neither team could win on home ice. The Blues changed that by getting a hat trick from Jaden Schwartz and held off Winnipeg to win 3-2 and move on.
When it came to the Stars, I did not think much of this group. The Predators won a competitive Central Division and then fell in six games. Nashville is hosting the NFL Draft starting tonight and through the weekend, but they would have preferred a hockey game or two at Bridgestone on top of it.
Just when you were about to say “same old Sharks”, they overcame a 3-1 series deficit and forced Game 7 back in San Jose.
Appearing dead in the water down 3-0 halfway through the third in Game 7, Vegas takes a stupid 5-minute major, resulting in four goals. Amazing! Most teams get a goal in that situation, but four? Then the Golden Knights manage to tie to up in the final minute, forcing overtime. For all success Vegas had in its inaugural season last year, they deserved to lose this game in overtime and San Jose earned the right to move on. I’ll miss the pregame dinner theater at T-Mobile Arena.
Back to the East.
For the first time in my life, I wanted to see Toronto move on. Boston just wins too much as a sports town and needed to be humbled.
The Maple Leafs had a chance to clinch on home ice in Game 6, but thanks to Drake (I guess), they lost and then the Bruins routed them in Boston 5-1 to move on (again). I still can’t believe the Leafs haven’t been in the second round of the playoffs since 2004, the year before the season-long lockout.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: The Capitals blew a 2-0 series lead and lost in Game 7. Thanks to Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, Washington won’t get as much heat for losing in seven games to a young, energetic Hurricanes team (you know, the jerks who have fun?). Both teams took advantage of home ice going into Game 7. The Capitals had a one-goal lead going into the third period, and then old Penguins and current Hurricane Jordan Staal tied it and then Brock McGinn scored in double overtime. So the storybook year continues for Carolina.
Since I did SO well with my picks last round (slams head onto table), here’s what I think might (but probably won’t) happen in Round 2.
Bruins vs. Blue Jackets: Bruins in 7
Islanders vs. Hurricanes: Islanders in 6
Blues vs. Stars: Blues in 6
Sharks vs. Avalanche: Sharks in 6
If you need a reason to laugh about the insane first round, check out “We Live Hockey‘s” Elimination Cafe video.