BLOOMINGBURG, NY – As many of you know, bourbon is my drink of choice and hockey is my drug of choice. I overdosed on both yesterday as I watched the NHL Playoffs from three in the afternoon until early Sunday morning. As I watched the best sport on the planet I came away with a deja vu moment about these early NHL Playoffs… they are very similar to those of 2018.
Wide-Open, Wild Western Conference: Like last year’s Cinderella story, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the West will probably be won by a dark horse again this year. Who will it be? Cam James‘ St. Louis Blues. Since Craig Berube took over this team from Mike Yeo a month and a half into the season, the Blues have been one of the better teams in the NHL and are doing so with a goalie who came out of know where in Jordan Binnington. Binnington only stole veteran Jake Allen’s crease spot to become the leader to win the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender. The Blues are beating a much heavier team with one of the league’s best top forward lines in the Winnipeg Jets, who many thought would represent the West in the Stanley Cup. Not so fast on that since the Jets have lost the first two games of the opening round series at home and are poised for an early exit given the way Binnington plays.
Potvin sucks? Meanwhile, the New York Islanders are playing their playoff games in the modestly updated Mausoleum once again, and I think back to all the success the team had there and against the Penguins in the playoffs over the years. From the Randy Carlyle disaster in the 80’s (look it up or on you tube) to the David Volek goal in the 90’s, the Isles have had a way of frustrating Pittsburgh and they’re at it again this year by playing some stingy defensive hockey that the Pens historically have trouble playing against, despite all the team’s high-end talent. The Fishsticks have a 2-0 series lead for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 1983 versus the Edmonton Oilers, so it’s been a long time coming.
Hello, I must be going? John Tortorella finds his Columbus Blue Jackets up 2-0 in the first round again after two road victories for the second straight year. It’s the #1 vs. #8 seed matchup again as well. This time the BJ’s have stunned and stymied the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning through two games the same way Columbus beat Washington in 2018. But it does take four games to win a series, as Torts knows, which sets us up for yet another possible monumental collapse; the Jackets spit the bit late in Game 3 to the Caps and lost in OT. The rest is history, as the Ovechkins went on to Stanley Cup glory. The acerbic Tortorella isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and those folks may delight in another playoff meltdown. I could see it happening once more.
Bruins and Leafs. This is a playoff sequel of last year that saw the Bruins win in seven. I love the Bruins like none of my other sports teams and it’s just not healthy for a 51-year-old male (that’s me flipping deux birds) to behave the way I do when I watch this team in the playoffs. Things are getting chippy once again and as they did last year with regards to Nazim Kadri, who is a little [c-bomb]. Kadri was suspended for two games during the opening round last year when he took a run and checked the head of the B’s Bobby Wingels into the boards. Well, Kadri is at it again after cross-checking Jake DeBrusk’s head during Saturday night’s 4-1 Boston victory. The league will no doubt levy another suspension as he is scheduled for a hearing in front of the NHL’s disciplinary committee. I’m not sure where this series goes but if the Bruins throw their bodies around like they did on Saturday they can make it to the second round even with the mounting injuries on defense.
If you’re not watching the NHL Playoffs you’re really missing out on something fantastic people. Speaking of fantastic people, come back tomorrow for Ben Whitney, who knows a good puck to the face when he eats one.
P.s… That’s Mats Zucarello, in the “YOLO” T-shirt.