COLUMN: Bless you NHL Playoffs for living up to the hype
First let me start by saying, thank you Lord Stanley for giving us one heck of an opening round in the 2017 NHL Playoffs.
I’m not sure we as fans could have been more blessed with the absolute chaos that is currently ensuing for arguably the most sentimental championship trophy in all of sports.
I mean, just starting it off, you have four of the league’s top five teams (Washington, Columbus, Minnesota, Chicago) trailing in their respective series. Now, I will cut some slack to the Blue Jackets simply because drawing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Pittsburgh Penguins - second place in the NHL standings - in the first round is certainly not ideal. But, with how some of the regular season games have gone, I would have expected a far better series than the 3-0 hole they have dug themselves. Although, they did manage to win Tuesday night 5-4 to cut the series to 3-1.
This leads me to the Washington Capitals.
The President’s Trophy winners for having the best record in the regular season has now found themselves staring down the barrels of Auston Matthews and the surging Toronto Maple Leafs.
That’s not a typo.
The Maple Leafs. Don’t be fooled by a lovable polar bear as a mascot.
They can play.
Wow, talk about being lucky. Although, having a pair of elite, young talents in Matthews and Mitch Marner have turned the Maple Leafs into legitimate contenders. Or, at least, may give them enough firepower to pull off a first-round upset of the league’s top team.
To me, the biggest surprise - other than the fact that the opening round alone has seen 11 games go to overtime - is the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks trail the Nashville Predators 3-0 in the series. A team that most can agree was the hottest team entering the playoffs.
While some of the series’ haven’t turned out the way I expected, nor the way I selected it to turnout in NHL.com’s Bracket Challenge, again, could we be more blessed as hockey fans?
I’ll go ahead and answer for you with “nope.” Not even a little bit.
Eleven games, I repeat, 11 games that gone into what we fans like to call “free hockey.”
In fact, in the 27 games that have been played – at least through Tuesday – 11 games were decided by overtime. I can say this, fans of the Capitals and the Maple Leafs must be losing their minds, if they haven’t lost it already. All three games of that series have gone into overtime with game two being sent into double overtime before ultimately being won by Toronto.
Feeling the Blues
Obviously, for Minnesota Wild fans, the playoffs have not been kind to the State of Hockey. The No.2 seed in the Western Conference already had it rougher - on paper at least - than any other team on that side of the bracket after drawing the St. Louis Blues.
To make matters worse, the club has squandered home-ice advantage, dropping two games at home. One of which, came by an overtime loss in game one. However, if not for the rouge stick of Zach Parise, the Wild may be locked in a 3-2 series.
Arguably the most disappointing part of the Wild’s late season implosion is that All-Star goaltender Devan Dubnyk brought his struggles with him.
Now, I will give some credit to the Blues, the fore check - one that is as aggressive as it comes in the league - has been downright troubling for the Wild to calculate, often leading to some of the scoring opportunities that the Blues have been able to capitalize on. However, the fact that my late grandmother could have stopped a handful of the goals scored by St. Louis - God rest her soul - is downright disappointing. It was good however, to see Dubnyk bounce back in Wednesday's 2-0 win in St. Louis to force a game five.
I hate to be that guy, but personally, I honestly expected the Wild to have a tough series. The Blues were by far the second hottest team in the division behind Chicago, especially ending the season the way they did, which gave them the first-round draw with the Wild.
But hey Minnesota sports fans, at least the Twins are playing good. At least that’s something to be held on to. Well, until the summer hits, then it will be back to wishing for August to hit so we can talk about the Vikings.