NHL not in Jeopardy of lacking playoff questions
It’s another edition of questions in need of answers. Or answers in need of questions.
While this corner is certainly no Mattea Roach, we’ll do our best to seek truth as the playoffs rev up next week.
WILL THE OTTAWA SENATORS BE GOLFING OR WATCHING WHEN THE NHL KICKS INTO HIGH GEAR?
Best keep those clubs away for the time being. This is as important an off-season as Ottawa’s had in about a decade.
We’ve been told that the rebuild is over and it’s time to move on to Stage 2. This entails adding a few pieces – pricey ones perhaps – which will push this five-year-absence-from-the-playoffs organization into contention.
We’re not talking Cup contention, just merely post-season contention. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
Keeping an eye out for clutch performers during these playoffs, which might be had for a price, is smart hockey management.
WILL "HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED" FINALLY BE TAMED IN TORONTO?
That’d be the Leafs own Voldemort – the first round.
Leafs Nation is thinking: “Oh great, Tampa. Superb. Fantastic . . .”
Nothing comes easy for said fans, does it? Fending off the two-time defending champions is like heading to Wimbledon with Bjorn Borg as your first-round opponent.
And if Boston finds a way to slip past the Bolts in this last week it doesn’t get any easier for Toronto given recent history.
We’ll call this one a long shot. Tampa has the best playoff goalie on the planet, Boston simply has a voodoo spell on the Buds.
IS COLORADO REALLY THE TEAM TO BEAT?
Hard to dispute it.
The only ‘potential’ hole is in goal, but even with that, it’s a stretch.
The only thing 31-year-old Darcy Kuemper lacks is lusty playoff experience (he’s been in only 18 career playoff games) but that’s more due to the fact he was stuck in Arizona for four seasons.
And when you have the brilliance of Cale Makar hanging onto the puck in front of you . . . well, it helps. The add of Josh Manson at the deadline is a big plus.
The Avs can skate, oh man can they skate, and are rich in talent top-to-bottom. The only hole near this team is the one encasing the Colorado River.
TAMPA, TORONTO, BOSTON, WASHINGTON, CAROLINA, PITTSBURGH, FLORIDA OR THE RANGERS?
In the East, the king is the king until he isn’t.
Tired of winning?
Not in Tampa.
As Omar Little said – “You come at the king, you best not miss.”
THE ANSWER IS: THE TEAM WITH THE BIGGEST CHANCE OF UPSET
If I’m a betting man, which apparently everyone is now based on content on TSN’s Sportscentre, I’m focused on the Rangers.
While lacking in playoff experience, like our good friend Kuemper, New York owns all the right ingredients for a run.
Large and swift on the D, deep and tough and attack-oriented up front and sporting the NHL’s top netminder in the regular season, New York is poised and posed for a run.
IS EDMONTON A THREAT?
Not since well before his Ontario Hockey League career started has Connor McDavid been shut down. Even during the Oilers short playoff history (recently), McDavid’s been solid averaging better than a point per game.
We don’t forecast a prolonged stay in spring, but Edmonton could be around through the second or third round.
THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: If I’m picking the Hart Memorial Trophy winner this year, I’m out of fingernails cause I’ve chewed them right down. Auston Matthews? Yup. Connor McDavid? Absolutely. Roman Josi? You know it. Johnny Gaudreau? No question. A fabulous four-pack . . . Even at that I’m leaving out Jonathan Huberdeau and Igor Shesterkin, and that’s just not fair . . . Matthew Tkachuk won’t get many MVP votes but how good/great has he been for the Flames. He rolled past the 100-point mark this past week. That’s right – 100 points . . . Matthew or Brady, who ya got? . . . Matthew, Brady or papa Keith in his prime. Who ya got? . . . Still with Calgary, these two don’t get much ink but if you’re heading into a best-of-seven playoff series pondering facing the defensive pair of 6-foot-5 Erik Gudbranson and 6-foot-6 Nikita Zadorov, isn’t your breathing a little shallow? . . . Did I miss something or did Saturday night’s entire first intermission gabfest centre on that MVP race, Tampa and Toronto? . . . Maybe I missed something. Hmm . . . Was there another game on the network that night? . . . Remember this name – Tage Thompson. The forward scored eight times last season. Saturday night, the giant (6-foot-7) netted his 37th of this season to go with his 30 assists. Just one reason why Buffalo’s getting a lot better, in a hurry . . . Nobody does ceremony like the Montreal Canadiens, and no one could have done it better for #10 on Sunday . . . If you’re unsure what “thunderous ovation” looks and sounds like, take a piece from that Guy Lafleur observance . . . Real nice ceremony as well by the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night honouring soon-to-be-retired captain Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf was one of the many, many studs to roll out of that 2003 NHL entry draft . . . Eight players picked in that 2003 first round are still playing in the NHL. Remarkable . . . How good was that draft? Hall-of-famers Patrice Bergeron and Shea Weber weren’t selected until the second round . . . Three years ago, as a Blue Jays guy, I’m looking at Vladdy Guerrero, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio as a triple-headed monster that’s going to dominate. Injuries have hurt Biggio and unfortunately taken away his permanent spot in the lineup as well. Seems to be the forgotten man.
SENATORS WEEK AHEAD:
Tuesday, April 26: New Jersey at Ottawa (7 pm)
Thursday, April 28: Florida at Ottawa (7 pm)
Friday, April 29: Ottawa at Philadelphia (7 pm)
End of regular season
Photo: Courtesy OttawaSenators.com