Another round of Stanley Cup Playoffs is now in the books, and the field narrows from eight down to four. Who didn’t make the cut this time?
Winnipeg Jets: Kamikaze Sweep - David vs Goliath (MTL 4-0)
How disappointing - the Jets go from astoundingly sweeping the Oilers, only to be swept up and owned by the Montréal Canadiens. This series emulated the end of their regular season - a collapse of epic proportions. It didn’t help that the offensive explosion from round one decided to dip after the 3OT thriller, mainly in the form of Mark Schiefle being an absolute idiot in braining Jake Evans in Game 1, suspending the former for what would be the rest of the playoffs, and now the first game of the next season. Conner Hellebuck was left to dry as the defense turned into a collection of various turnstiles, bowling balls, traffic cones, and pylons that the Habs skated circles around all series long. It’s as simple as the Jets not showing up when the Canadiens were white-hot at their lowest temperature. It’s going to be another summer where the cap crunches down on the Jets, especially with big names hitting the market including Stasney and the looming Seattle question is starting to rear its ugly Kraken head. They are the first team since the 2019 Carolina Hurricanes (who swept the Islanders, to be then swept by Boston) to be swept directly following a sweep of another team. All that potential after downing Conner McJesus only to lay a bunch of eggs on the ice for 4 straight games. I’d go on, but I’ve already put more effort into this rant in a paragraph than the Jets put into this series. At least they got a future 3rd and a full year of Pierre-Luc Dubois in the Laine Trade, as it makes the pain of not having any real usable cap room hurt a little bit less.
Carolina Hurricanes: Downgraded to a Tropical Storm (TBL 4-1)
This was a great series to watch, and it’s a real shame that it didn’t go the full distance of a do-or-die Game 7. However, Carolina seemed to lose their hunger for the cup, and it showed in this series, particularly in Game 5. The Canes didn’t play with the desperation that they needed to play with until it was far too late, and even then it was nowhere near enough to get out of the hole that they dug for themselves. Would you believe me if I said that that hole gets even bigger given their Cap and Free Agent situation? Well, it does. They have just north of $4.35 million in room and the end of their dead cap payments, but they have tens of millions worth of Free Agents whose contracts expire in late July. Some of these Free Agents include Warran Foegele, Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinhook, Cedric Paquette, Andri Svechnikov, Dougie Hamilton, and, I kid you not, all four of their roster goaltenders. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the Expansion Draft as they have a litany of draft picks and players to ship to Seattle, however, I am concerned about the sustainability of this team’s successes. They still don’t seem to have enough to get over the hump, and who knows how desperate they get on the open market to make a deep run like they did in 2006 and how it helps or cripples the team in the long run. They have an interesting group, with a neat mix of youth and veteranosity to boot, but is it enough to make the push? As long as they don’t get too desperate they should be fine in the long run. Keyword is SHOULD. As long as their GM doesn’t contract a debilitating case of Illych syndrome they’ll be back.
Boston Bruins: When All Else Fails, Blame Anything and Everything Else (NYI 4-2)
An Open Letter to the Boston Bruins -
Well? What’s the excuse going to be this time? Who or what are you and your fanbase going to blame for ineptitude that is entirely your fault? Who besides yourself is going to take the fall for you underperforming in the playoffs again? Please explain how your team STILL lacks depth scoring and the top-line heavy nature of the roster DESPITE making trades to acquire depth at the deadline. Pasternak, Bergeron, and Marchand accounted for the majority of your team’s scoring and it showed. The trade you made for Hall failed miserably as he did pretty much nothing all series long - one empty-net goal in Game 1 and one lonely Assist. Rask did what he could and he was good in this series, but good isn’t enough when dealing with the Islanders’ suffocation defense. You overlooked an opponent again and as predictably as the sun being bright and warm on a cloudless summer day you got smacked up and down the ice. You better hope to GOD that Rask, Halak, and Krejci don’t do what Krug and Chara did last fall and abandon ship due to your own incompetence in Free Agency, and this is not taking into account the rest of your expired contracts and south of 400K in salary cap to work with. Once again, your depth scoring vanished along with your defense and it cost you. I wouldn’t try going for another serious run with this core without first taking a nice long look at everything that went wrong this series and referring to the Red Wings’ Guide to destroying one’s future for meaningless “successes”. Enjoy the contract hell you’re now in. And once again, thank you for being stupid and passing on Barzal thrice in the 2015 Draft. It’s paying dividends for the Isles and turned up more laughs than you have conference or cup finals appearances since.
An Open Letter to Bruins Fans -
I’ve got two words for ya Bruins faithful - GET HUMBLED. All that crap you were talking about entering the series proved to be absolutely that. You did exactly what Toronto did in Round 1 against Montréal - completely looked past your opponent. Here’s the thing, the Islanders EARNED the right to both be in the playoffs and to be in the Division Finals. Act like Boston “should have won that series” all you want, but “should have” means jack in the NHL, let alone in the playoffs. Your team forgot how to score on yawning cages, and everyone not named Marchand, Bergeron, and Pasternak forgot how to score altogether. But no, keep blaming the refs for somehow screwing you over and “rigging” the series when in reality the refs A) are always this bad and B) caught you doing stupid things and penalized you for it. Also, isn’t it very convenient that this “blame the refs” wave spiked after your team gave up THREE power-play goals in Game 5? Cause I think you guys blaming the refs for your problems has become nothing more than a coping mechanism for your failures. Your team got outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, and outcoached. Bruce Cassidy is washed up. Defend him all you want but he’s done. He can’t lead you to the heights you expect from this team and has thrown the wool over your eyes with that Finals Appearance in 2019. Admit it and move on. The sooner you do that the sooner you can start ranting about the Red Sox or something else.
Now, back to the trash talk y’all were spewing like CO2 before the series. All of this talk about how the Islanders were going to be swept or blown out of the water. You were so cocky at the prospect of an allegedly “boring” team with “no scoring” having to play you guys in a series. It’s almost as if you guys didn’t pay attention to the Isles-Pens series or just wrote it off as “haha Jarry Bad Rask Gooder”. Also, the comments complaining about how Trotz calling out Bergeron for cheating in the face-off dot, it happens in every game grow up and get over it. Trotz calling out a player for cheating on the dot is different from, I don’t know, saying the officials gave the series to the Islanders altogether. Now I’m not laughing at you for talking trash, everyone does it. I’m laughing at you for how quickly y’all 180’d from trash talk to spinning the wheel of excuses when the series fell in the Isles favor. It’s honestly pathetic. I know that some Bruins fans are actually good people and can admit when they spoke too soon, but the vast majority of you guys aren’t. You made your bed, now lay in it. If you have any issues with living up to what you say, you can go pour your salt into the Harbor where no one outside the toxicity of your fanbase and/or city will care.
An Open Letter to Bruce Cassidy -
Just admit that you got smacked by the Eggman Trotz and stop blaming everything else under the sun for your failure. Also, did you not see what happened with the Hurricanes and the “Bunch of Jerks” incident? Did you seriously not think that Isles faithful would take up your “New York Saints” comment and start running with it just to get back at you? Keep complaining about how the refs screwed your team, it doesn’t change how much you got outcoached by Trotz. It may be more productive to try to not have your PK give up 3 PPGs in one game. At least you’d keep the 25k you were fined for throwing a fit about a surprisingly evenly called series. Accept that you lost and move on. Trotz, the Islanders, and the fans got in your head and now they're living there rent-free as the New York Saints. You’re finished, the only matter is how long before the fans and management realize the same.
Colorado Avalanche: The Trophy That Bonks Cocky Teams (VGK 4-2)
What happened to them? They started out the series strong, taking a commanding 2-0 series lead winning their sixth straight game. It’s at this point that I presume that they got overly cocky thinking that they could have their way with Vegas as they did with St. Louis, and considering how Colorado played in Game 1 with how they quickly shook off the rust, I don’t blame them for thinking the series would be tilted in their favor. However, they let this get to their head, and the warning signs showed during that same Game 1 that caused this line of thinking to be generated, mainly in the NINE MINUTE POWER-PLAY they got in the third. Them only scoring one goal on a major-double minor power play set should have had all the red flags being sent to the mountain tops, particularly when you look at how Colorado got outplayed in the pivotal games that changed the tide of the series. You can see how Vegas outskated Colorado after Game 2, and Colorado’s inability to re-up to that high gear they showed in Game 1 came back to bite them. Last year’s elimination was mainly due to injuries, but this year it’s more for a lack of being able to finish off their opponent. This was a series that was expected to go the distance, but the President’s Trophy curse strikes again. Colorado got cocky after going up 2-0 and it showed in their almost effortless play in the rest of the series. Vegas didn’t lay down and die like the Blues did and it cost Colorado a prime opportunity for a deep cup run. Free Agency is going to be hell on earth for the Avs as they have many critical parts of the core to try to retain, including their captain in Landeskog. Then there is the Expansion Draft. Colorado doesn’t exactly have that many draft picks to work with so they don’t have much room to work with regarding trading “Expansion Draft Considerations” a.k.a. Bribing Seattle. This is going to be a rough and disappointing summer for Colorado. Be prepared for faces to leave for other franchises.
I wanted to add something new for this round-up: the PERSON OF NOTE AND QUALITY OF THE ROUND, hands down being given to Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets. After teammate Mark Schifele decided to be an absolute bonehead and target the head of Montréal Canadiens forward Jake Evans after the Hab scored the Empty Net Goal in Game 1 of their Division Finals Series. In the scrum that followed the hit which was so dirty it makes Tom Wilson win the Lady Bing, Nikolaj Ehlers used his body as a wall to protect the injured Jake Evans from further injury from players falling on top of the prone player. This display of sportsmanship and of being a decent human being to his fellow players on the ice deserves recognition, and I’m giving whatever I can to him. It’s a shame the Jets decided to dip after game 4 vs Edmonton.
That is it for now, I’ll see you again when Lord Stanley comes out to play.