TAMPA BAY, FL – You thought your NCAA bracket was busted, how’s your NHL bracket looking? The top teams are getting knocked off like Yankees regulars and the NHL playoffs are wide pucking open.
The top two teams are out. The two teams with the next best records, the Caps and Bruins, are going to Game 7s. The top team to punch their ticket to the second round is your New York Islanders. It’s anybody’s Cup.
The Blue Jackets Go Big
After an unbelievable regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Lightning scored three first period goals in Game 1 and looked set to roll the BJs. But it was all downhill from there. So much for the New York Rangers getting the Lightning’s first round pick…
The Blue Jackets shouldn’t be here. They have several big names set to be free agents this summer and all signs pointed to them being trade deadline sellers. They were on the playoff bubble and the smart move was to fold up shop and trade their pending UFAs instead of letting them walk for nothing. But they surprised everyone by pushing their chips into the middle.
Blue Jackets’ GM Jarmo Kekäläinen (FYI, the keyboard shortcut for an umlaut over an “a” is alt+0228), aka Mr. Big Balls, not only held on to pending UFAs Artemi Pantarin and Sergei Bobrovsky (their best player and star goalie), but he gave up a bunch of draft picks to trade for forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingle.
The pieces didn’t fit together right away and it looked like a monstrous mistake. But the Jackets played well enough down the stretch to make the playoffs. Columbus looked like a bad first round draw for the powerful Lightning, but everyone thought they would get through. But that’s why they lace ’em up. The Lightning had no answer for old friend John Tortorella’s trap and the Jackets are suddenly looking like a true Cup threat.
Incidentally, the rumored reason Bobrovsky wants out of Columbus is that he hates Tortarella. That’s Torts in a nutshell – the man can coach, but he sure rubs people the wrong way.
A Song of Fire Getting Smothered by Ice
On the other side, the Western Conference powerhouse Calgary Flames were ousted in five games by the upstart Colorado Avalanche. The ‘lanche have one of the game’s best players in the power skating stud Nathan MacKinnon. This dude makes top defensemen look like they’re standing still.
But I want to talk about their young D-man, Cale Makar. This 20-year old was playing for UMass five minutes ago when they lost to Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA championship.
So Colorado, who drafted him at #4 in 2017, signed him to an entry level contract and the Hobey Baker Award winner found himself playing in Game 3 against Calgary. Not only did he handle himself well, with a goal, an assist, and a plus 5 rating in the three games he played, but he ended up playing about 20 minutes in Games 4 and 5. Colorado played their best with the youngster in the lineup.
He played so well that Colorado decided to scratch one of their key season long defensemen, Sam Girard, for Game 5. They’re saying it’s an injury, but it sure looks like Makar made Girard expendable.
Which brings me to my point. Why the H E double hockey sticks does the NHL let you bring up a guy from college and add him to the roster in the middle of a playoff series? This wouldn’t be allowed in any other sport. At least make it have to happen to start a series.
Rangers fans remember Chris Kreider first making a name for himself in the playoffs in 2012. It seems unfair to be able to add such a difference maker at this point in the season. Isn’t that weird?
Yankees Hire Mets’ Training Staff
I’d like to quickly point out that the New York Yankees could put together a damn dream team from their DL of: C Sanchez, 1B Bird, 2B Tulowitzki, SS Didi, 3B Andujar, OF Judge, Hicks, and Stanton, SP Severino, RP: Betances. Hold your chirping, Mets’ fans, I’m not looking for sympathy. It’s just the facts and you know I gotta keep it real.