Everything Else

I know when the lights are brightest in the NHL that most analysts and media and players and coaches want to make it clear what makes their sport special. Or what they think makes this time of year special, even though no one has any idea. Or if they do they don’t want to tell anyone, for fear of…well, I haven’t any idea what they’re afraid of, but here we are. So the NARRATIVES flow like an open sewer downhill at this time. This spring, it seems that the amount of horseshit in every series has been especially amped up. Let’s keep it to this: the first night of the playoffs, during the first intermission of the Isles-Pens game, Liam McHugh set up professional hairpiece with a highlight of Brock Nelson’s power play goal and asked Eddie, “How did the Islanders score on the power play.” Eddie’s answer, “Confidence.” Jesus fucking christ.

So let’s start with the biggest story of the first round, the Lightning’s capitulation to Columbus. Last year, the story that everyone wanted to push was that the Caps intimidated the Lightning. That the Bolts were soft. They weren’t up for this kind of time of year, even though a great majority of this team has been to a couple conference finals and a Stanley Cup Final. Perhaps the main reason was that Braden Holtby was putting up a back-t0-back shutouts in Game 6 and 7 and John Cooper only used one puck-mover to bust through a Trotz trap. So those whispers and headlines were always bubbling underneath the surface waiting to be cracked open by anyone who didn’t want to bother to explain what was happening to Tampa should they not roll to victory.

Which apparently spread to the Lightning themselves, because there’s no logical reason that after just one loss, Nikita Kucherov and others should be running around doing a Tom Wilson impression instead of doing what they did all year, which is just score all the time. Now the Lightning are playing the wrong game.

And even then, really the only thing you need to know about this series are two numbers: .866 and .940. That’s Vasilevskiy’s and Bobrovsky’s save-percentages this series. Everything else is pretty much even, if not tilted to to the Bolts a bit. Vas is letting everything in. There you go. It doesn’t have to mean more than that. It doesn’t have to be more than that. One goalie is making stops.

Meanwhile, every series save the Flames and Avalanche and the Caps and Hurricanes has descended into a cesspool. The hockey has been pretty horrific to watch, and every goddamn whistle becomes a dick-measuring contest. We like our playoff hockey with passion and a bit of bile but this has gone beyond even a level of stupidity. Which is how you end up with Nazem Kadri, already a shithead, trying to be an axe-murderer. Or analysts trying to tell you how important Ryan Reaves is.

It’s been accented because there haven’t been that many close games. And when playoff games have obvious winners in the 3rd period, there seems to be some tenet of hockey written by someone who struggled to breathe that you have to act like a petulant child. That you have to “send a message,” which doesn’t amount more than to losing like an asshole. Every other sport, if you were to clobber guys in the lane in the NBA in the 4th quarter or start throwing at guys heads in the 8th inning of a loss, you’d be mocked endlessly and probably suspended. In hockey it’s the thing to do. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as hockey is filled with a bunch of rich white kids who tend not to react well when things don’t go their way. Taking it on the chin isn’t in the vocabulary.

This kind of thing tends to dry up as we get to the business end of series and moving on or going home gets awfully clear in the viewfinder. We can only hope. I already watch Monday Night Raw for my fill of bad booking.

 

Everything Else

Alison Lukan is the Jackets beat writer for The Athletic Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @AlisonL.

Last year the Jackets ended up with 106 points. This year they’re going to have to scrap to even make the playoffs. The difference can’t simply be the power play isn’t scoring on everything, right?
If you look at the underlying numbers, there are a few things. First, as you point out, the power play was horrible to start the year. It’s rebounded some, but it will never even out over the season due to their start. Now, the penalty kill is suffering and that’s hurting them. The most significant thing impacting this team is their ability to finish. Almost every player is experiencing a career low in shooting percentage and that means this group just isn’t scoring goals. For a group that averaged over 3 goals per game last year, they’re barely managing to stay at an average of 2. Also – with injuries on the blue line, they’ve been letting in a few more shot attempts against compared to previous years. This number has slowly increased over the course of the season too.
 
Sergei Bobrovsky started the year in Vezina form but has had a terrible February. What’s up there?
I think its two fold, he’s facing a higher volume of shot attempts against, and also he’s not getting a lot of run support from his team.
23 points out of Alex Wennberg wasn’t what everyone had in mind, was it?
In a word, no. While not an excuse, two important things to mention a) he missed 12 games due to injury and b ) how many points he had off of special teams last year and how poorly special teams have performed this season. Last season, two goals and 21 assists (literally half of his 56 points) came on the man advantage. He – like almost everyone else on the team – is also suffering from a career low shooting percentage.
Where does this end with Jack Johnson? He’s obviously walking so should the Jackets cash in before the deadline?
Reports just came out Thursday that the Jackets have circled back to Johnson with an extension offer. Before that, I was more than a little bit sure that the team would move him at the deadline and reap what they could in trade value versus lose him for nothing. There are reports the Jackets offered $22MM-plus over seven years this off-season and the player didn’t bite at that, so I’d wager this is one final test to see if Johnson is willing to stay at the price the Jackets think he’s worth – if not, Kekalainen is likely looking to make a trade.
 
Do the Jackets make the playoffs when all is said and done?

If they make some moves at forward at the deadline, yes.

 

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