Everything Else

Clearly the highlight of the evening were the reaction shots of Bruce Boudreau as the Jets put his Wild to the sword again last night. You can tell he knows he’s utterly fucked here, and would have been even if Ryan Suter had been healthy. I wonder if that filters down to his team. We know his panic stations-like attitude in previous Game 7s always did. Anyway, let’s run it through on this drippy Saturday.

Flyers 5 – Penguins 1 (Tied 1-1)

See, a lot of people think the Brian Elliot Experience means he’s getting punctured like Boromir every outing. Not so. The Elliot Experience means that he’s going to put together just enough good games, or stretches, to make you believe in him before he becomes a turned-over turtle. So was last night. He was excellent, Matt Murray definitely wasn’t, Flyers win, and now they’re believing again. But don’t you worry. Elliot will shit a chicken either in Game 3 or Game 4, and the Penguins will assuredly win the next two, whichever it is. This is the way he wants it.

Wild 1 – Jets 4 (Jets lead 2-0)

There probably isn’t going to be a more lopsided series than this one. The Kings-Knights one has been but Jonathan Quick has kept it from getting silly. Devan Dubnyk quite simply is not capable, nor are the Kings facing the firepower the Wild are. It sounds weird to gush about just how loaded the Jets are, but there was their fourth line, a dominant fourth line, getting their third and icing goal last night. There’s nowhere for the Wild to turn. And the first two Jets goals were a result of a d-man simply going cowboy. That’s Dustin Byfuglien’s thing of course, it’s not as much Tyler Myers’s. But that’s what it takes at this time of year, because it’s the only way you’re going to outnumber the defensive team and get coverage to break down. This looks a lot like the Wild’s 2013 series against the Hawks, where they hung around in Game 1 but didn’t have another gear to find in Game 2 when the superior team could relax a bit. Sure, they might spasm a home win, but they’re toast.

Kings 1 – Knights 2 OT (Knights lead 2-0)

Everyone needs this series to end now. The Kings might point to the absence (deserved, by the way) of Drew Doughty as the reason they basically went Mourinho on this one, but it’s no different than what they did in Game 1 when they had the gap-toothed scumbag in the lineup. They’re terrified of the Knights’ speed, because their blue line is slow and basically bad, so they’re going to do everything to keep it under wraps. The result has been two games that have set the sport back 20 years, and basically have us longing for the NBA Playoffs today. Compare Kopitar and the Kings this year to Toews and the Hawks all you want, but if the Hawks put on this kind of faire you wouldn’t watch and we’d resort to doing ketamine or something. Maybe Kings fans constantly complain about the individual awards their players don’t win simply so they can feel anything after watching this team all season. The lyrics to “Comfortably Numb” were written about watching a full season of this.

Everything Else

 vs. 

SCHEDULE: Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Friday, Game 3 Sunday, Game 4 April 18th

Didn’t get invited to the party this year, so we’re stuck watching from across the street or hearing it from our basement. But just because we can’t have the fun doesn’t mean we can’t comment on it. It’s still going on after all. Maybe we should just enjoy the freedom of stress (that always works). So let’s start with the most anticipated of the first-rounders, Toronto fans excluded. Mostly because the last time these two teams did this, it was just about the most hilarious series we’ve seen in the Silver Age of the NHL (since they made the league logo silver and not like, orange).

Goalies: You think you’d be pretty confident with the guy who won the last two Cups in your net, and yet I doubt there’s too many Pens fans who think Matt Murray is a sure thing. Quite simply he was awful the past six weeks, when he wasn’t ouchy, and doesn’t have a consistent stretch over the whole season. He’s barely played 1oo games in the regular season, so in that sense we don’t have much idea what he actually is. But his two playoff runs are what they are, with a career SV% of .928 the past two seasons (32 games). Maybe he just “turns it on,” but for the first time I’d bet there’s an awful lot of uneasiness in Western P.A. about that this time.

The Flyers are going to turn it back over to Brian Elliot, who returned just in time to relieve them of Petr Mrazek, who has a terminal case of being Petr Mrazek. And if you’re thinking back to Elliot playoff runs in the past and kind of chuckling, it’s understandable. Yes, he was good enough to overcome the Hawks in 7 in ’16, though he was also a major reason the Hawks were able to even get it to seven after being down 3-1. He was pilfered by the Ducks last year in Calgary, and he’s always been just good enough to get you beat. But then again, isn’t that always the story with Flyers goaltending?

Defense: One day we’re going to look back at the blue line the Penguins won two Cups with, one without Kris Letang, and consider it a miracle on the level off Jules and Vincent not getting shot by that hand-cannon. Seriously, it’s not much. Dumoulin and Letang are very good, but beyond this it really isn’t much. Olli Maatta still sucks, despite the pedigree, and he has a stupid face. Justin Schultz hasn’t pushed the play in the way you’d expect and has in Pittsburgh before, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with his new contract. Jamie Oleksiak is a farm animal, and Chad Ruhwedel, much like a mountain, is just there. The Penguins don’t make it all that hard on their defense, as they’re just asked to chip and bank pucks out to the neutral zone for their forwards to race onto. But with Murray’s form iffy, they might have to limit chances like they haven’t before, especially considering the Philly forwards, and I’m not convinced.

That doesn’t mean Philadelphia has a huge advantage here. Ghost Bear and Provorov certainly piled up the points, but that doesn’t mean they carry the play. Travis Sanheim certainly does, but he’s dragging around a rotting corpse in Andrew MacDonald, who for some reason the Flyers won’t take out back and shoot. Radko Gudas will get suspended at some point in this series, and then he can finally do his Game Of Thrones cosplay full-time which he’s always been destined for. Neither of these teams looks like it’s locking the other one down… which is great for all of us who have no emotional investment here.

Forwards: The obvious strength of both teams. The Penguins have the neat feature of two 90-point scorers, and they’re both on their second line (Malkin and Kessel). Hornqvist had something of an unlucky year, but would be a good bet to be a playoff dynamo considering how many goals are scored this time of year from a distance usually referencing appendages (or a certain one). Guentzel, Sheary, Rust, and those types don’t pop off the page but have the whole “been here before” feel. This is what Derrick Brassard was brought in for, except I wouldn’t trust Brassard as far as I can throw him. But he’ll be taking third line assignments instead of first or second as both Ottawa and the Rangers asked him to, and Hagelin has been a playoff weapon before. You wouldn’t bet against them.

The Flyers are similarly stacked, just without the pedigree. Claude Giroux’s move to wing has done his career wonders, though it helps that Sean Couturier had some much more to give than just being a checking line center (and the best in the league at that when he was). He also drives Crosby nuts, so look for the Pens to avoid that at all costs. Nolan Patrick closed the season strongly with Voracek on the second line, so their top six can probably just about run with the Penguins. Meat Train and Travis Konecny as third-line wingers is a neat trick as well, though Filppula at 34 is probably not ready to go up and down with Brassard if that’s how things shake out.

Prediction: It looks like it’s going to be tons of fun, and the Penguins look just vulnerable enough that getting bounced wouldn’t be a huge surprise. And yet, this is still the Penguins, and it’s still the Flyers, and Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t here to turn this into Strawberry Fields. Murray only has to be Elliot-good, which is just about average. Penguins in 6. 

Everything Else

It was something of a surprise not just that the Blues traded Brian Elliot to Calgary, they’ve always wanted to give the job to Jay Gallon, but just how aggressively they did. A 2nd and a 3rd for a goalie that had just been to the conference final and whose five years in Meth County had seen a combined SV% of .925 (somewhat boosted by his ridiculous .940 in half the starts in ’11-’12, but still) seemed a tad on the low side, even if conceding for Elliot’s over-30 age. While three starts is hardly enough of a sample, what Elliot might be finding out soon enough is that he needed the Blues more than they needed him.

Everything Else

If you haven’t read Ryan Lambert’s What We Learned on Puck Daddy today, you should. It’s pretty instructive on not just how luck plays a huge part in playoff success on the ice, but also off the ice. And considering how most NHL teams are run, the moves you don’t make–or more to the point the ones you aren’t allowed to– can shape an organization’s future and present. It also kind of lets you know just how backward a lot of teams still are.

And that also applies here. While everyone still rushed to praise Stan Bowman and his staff, even though they might be the most born-on-third front office in the history of the game, there are slices of good fortune in moves they weren’t allowed to complete that played a huge role for them.

Everything Else

This is a strange situation in a couple ways. It feels like for most of the season, the Blues and their fans were salivating at the prospect of getting the Hawks in the playoffs. They’ve been a headache for the Hawks for years, even when they sucked, and as we all know victory over the Hawks would mean more to their hilljack fans than an actual Cup. It might even be that way with their players.

For the Hawks and their fans, we just didn’t want to deal with it. Some of it was fear. Mostly it was just the high level of annoyance that would accompany a series with St. Louis. The cheapshots, the bullshit, the yapping, and the drivel that tumbles out of the gaping maws of the unwashed of Missouri and Southern Illinois. Basically, I thought I would have to turn off the internet for this series.

Until lately. Now, it feels like there’s a sense of dread coming from the Southwest with their late-season collapse and the numbers correcting and here come the bitterest enemy to simply put them out of their misery. And we’re feeling pretty good, with how the Blues are playing and the Hawks somewhat snapped into gear since Kane and Toews got hurt.

It could be a careful what you wish for situation in either direction. I’m not sure which it is. But we’ll go do our normal playoff preview, and we’ll start with the biggest question down there, the man in the mask.