Sports Paradise, USA: Now that’s what I call a sports weekend. In the NHL, six of eight series went the distance, with another one coming mighty close. In the NBA, two of the four second round series went the distance, with the other two going six. Heroes, goats, controversy and our own mighty New York Rangers coming through – it was riveting action.
Guile Over Youth
Warriors fend off Grizzlies: The Warriors were absolutely obliterated by the Grizz without Ja in game 5 and came within a play or two of pushing the mighty Dubs to a Game 7. Memphis has tons of talent, this is a team to watch.
Heat takes care of Sixers: The Heat don’t have that true superstar that you usually need to win a championship. But they’re deep and really well coached. It should be an excellent series against Boston. Note to Philly, James Harden is not the answer.
Mavs humiliate Suns: The Mavs looked cooked after losing the first two, but Luca Doncic brought them back. In Game 7, the Suns never got off the bus as Luca had as many points by himself in the first half as their whole team. Yikes. They should have mercy ruled this one at halftime. Something happened behind the scenes because Ayton got benched and Monty Williams would only say “that’s internal.” He picked a bad time to get down with someone’s wife.
Lightning edges Maple Leafs: I feel badly for the Leafs, they have tons of skill and the second best player in the world, but they just can’t get over the first round hump. At least it wasn’t Boston, I guess. The Lightning lost some depth but the championship core is intact and they have experience and the best goalie in the world (but Igor is coming). Auston Matthews will have his day.
Celtics finish Bucks: Milwaukee ran out of gas and had no fallback option for a bad Giannis game with Middleton out. Once they lost Game 6 at home, they were cooked. Don’t sleep on this Boston team, they could take it all.
It’s always great when a role player steps up to the hero role in a Game 7. Spencer Dinwiddie came off the bench to play Robin to Luca’s Batman, Max Domi and Nick Paul were trade deadline depth acquisitions who scored two Game 7 goals each for the Canes and Lightning, and Grant Williams rained threes for the Celtics leading his team in points for the first time in his career.
Stars Shining Bright
Plenty of beleaguered stars rose to the occasion as well. Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau and Artemi “Bread” Panarin scored Game 7 OT goals. Luca displayed a Jordan-esque killer instinct in lambasting the Suns, and Connor McDavid was electric in carrying his team to the next round. Jake Guentzel was the best player in the Rangers series. And his last goal in the series, that probably shouldn’t have counted, was a ridiculous feat of dexterity where he somehow kicked the puck up to his stick like a hacky sack.
Goats, the Bad Kind
Giannis was missing layups right and left in the second half. Chris Paul had the worst plus minus game of his entire career at -39. Devin Booker was a total no show. The Caps blew a 3 goal lead in game 5 and lost two games in OT.
The Mighty Rangers
The highlight of the weekend was the Rangers completing the comeback from a three to one deficit to take the series from the Penguins. The Rangers are the only team in NHL history to have three come from behind wins in elimination games in the same series. That’s right, all of NHL history folks. This team ain’t perfect, but man do they have a knack for making plays when they really need one.
The Penguins strategy against the Rangers’ power play was to take away Kreider and Zibanejad and collapse down low, daring Fox and Panarin, guys who would rather pass, to shoot. It wasn’t the worst strategy, Panarin was definitely frustrated. But he snuck one through in Game 7 in OT and this team is moving on.
It’s frustrating but not surprising to see Penguins fans whining about Lafreniere pulling off Petterssen’s helmet on Zibanejad’s tying goal. First of all, Petterssen could have picked his bucket up, it was right there and that’s allowed. Or, he could have skated to the bench immediately instead of staring at the refs for a few seconds. And still, the replacement player Letang got on the ice in time to break up the play, he just stupidly screened his own goalie.
Oh yeah, and the Penguins got just about every other 50/50 call in the series, including the goalie interference nonsense on Kaapo in Game 1 that cost the Rangers the game. And Guenzel’s high stick goal in Game 7 that sure looked over the bar. The whining is super lame.
The most memorable moment for me, other than the series winner, was Shesterkin’s sauce pass right on to the stick on Mika in Game 6 that led to a Kreider spinning rebound goal. What a pass. Igor looked rattled at times, but came up big when it counted, giving up zero goals in three straight third periods and a bit of overtime.
Carolina is going to be a tough task, especially in Carolina, but I’m not counting these Rangers out.
That’s it for me. Come back tomorrow for Angry Ward. Follow us on Twitter at @BenWhit8, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.