NHL Playoff Update: Round 1.
This article is a mix of my thoughts on the playoffs so far and where I think we are seeing some talent building for the 2017-2018 season. With the ousting of the Blackhawks last night as well as the advancement of the Penguins and Ducks I can already tell this is gearing up to be a great postseason. This isn't because of some hatred for the Blackhawks or admiration for the Penguins or Ducks (in fact personally it would be quite the contrary in some cases) but it's the excitement that comes to the brim when you see one of the Cup favorites lose in a sweep (oh and set team is NOT the Washington Capitals).
Last night's three series deciding games:
- With the Blackhawks gone is there an easier path for the Blue to make it to the Stanley Cup finals (should they advance)? Or could you argue the now have a more difficult path seeing how efficiently and seamlessly the Predators tore them apart. The Predators lost to the Blackhawks 4 out of the 5 times being outscored 18-10 in the regular season and then the playoffs happened. The Predators rallied to beat them in four straight (two of which Chicago scored 0 goals) outscoring them 13-3! Pekka Rinne, who many had written off after some early season troubles was simply on fire. If he can keep this up then the Blues should absolutely be nervous.
- To me, the Ducks are the team to beat right now. I wrote in my earlier column about how dominant I thought Jonathan Bernier would be given his late season success and then the Flames utilized John Gibson (who has a strong track record of Post Season success) and now they show this 1-2 combo that will be VERY difficult to overcome. Rickard Rakell had all of 7 playoff games under his belt and is playing as if he were a 10 year vet. He will be moving up my rankings going into the 2017-2018 season. Additionally, if I told you that the defensemen with the most playoff points started with "Shea" how many of you would have finished that with "Thedore" instead of "Weber". The Ducks have to be loving his power play work. I feel like the Flames will be back next year, they have built up a team the right way and have a firm foundation right now.
- Having watched every game in this series closely it floored me to realize that the current post-season point leaders are: Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. To their favor they have played 5 games where most teams have only played 4 but I didn't realize that Malkin and Kessel had that many points. Sidney and Guentzel stood out as big contributors but I didn't see as much from Kessel and Malkin. The Penguins are going to be a big threat due to their ability to come back in games. For years they were the Blue Jackets, they would get an early lead and then watch as teams clamored back to tie it up and now they are that force who flips the switch mid game and uses precision passing and quick shots to win games. The Hollywood story would involve the Capitals emerging from a hard fought 7 game series to face a well rested Penguins squad in the second round but the strongest group of youngsters in the NHL (Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitchell Marner) do not want to be a footnote and have shown the capability to write their own narrative. Much like Rakell the poise of the rookies this post season (Include Zach Werenski in this) has been a true reflection of this season, the learning curve is not what it once was for players entering into the NHL.
Fantasy note: as long as Jake Guentzel and/or Connor Sheary are playing alongside Crosby you can pencil them in for 60+ points.
- The Sharks and Oilers find themselves in a vicious 3-2 matchup right now which has been an absolutely blast to watch. Connor McDavid is in the spot light and showing no struggles in adapting to playoff hockey. Cam Talbot continues to give them an added boost in net, I think he could be a top 10 fantasy goalie next year.
- I think the Blues will close out their series tomorrow but you never know with Minnesota's resilience and St. Louis's track record of playoff implosion. If St. Louis does win the playoff woes for Bruce Boudreau will continue to amaze me. How can a coach be so dominant in the regular season and never figure out how to translate that success to the playoffs?
- The Capitals vs. Leafs series appears to be the one most likely headed to game 7 (which the Capitals have a horrific track record in)
- Canadiens vs. Rangers series has been fascinating between both the styles of play and the elite caliber goalies (Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist). There are a number of players on Toronto who routinely get points but never get deserved credit such as Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner.
- Erik Karlsson picked up the Senators team after game 1 and has pushed them to next level playing right now, in my eyes he tops Brent Burns as the #1 Defensemen in next year's rankings. From the depths of who knows where Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf have reemerged to show once again how talented they were in years past.
- 35 Total Playoff Games have been played (47 total games played in round 1 last year). Every series would have to go to game 7 to require more games (13 possible left).
- 2 Series required the broom (no sweeps last year in round 1)
- 13 Games went to Overtime (37% of the games so far!! Last year's round 1 saw 7 or 15% )
- 8 Shutouts (23% - last year 8 total shutouts in round 1 or 17%)
- In 2 of the series the team that won game 1 is currently down in the series. (last year only 1 team lost after winning game 1 - Florida Panthers)
- 15 instances where the road team won (43%)
- Games where one team scores over 5 goals (1 - last year we had 4 in the first round)