Ramblings: Hyman Injury; Pirri’s Future; Ted Lindsay Finalists; Second Round Begins – April 26

by Michael Clifford on April 26, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Hyman Injury; Pirri’s Future; Ted Lindsay Finalists; Second Round Begins – April 26

 

Zach Hyman has a torn ACL in his knee, though the press releases and journalist tweets I saw did not include which knee. Regardless, the expected recovery time is at least six months, which means he won’t be ready for the start of the 2019-20 season.

This is has the potential to be a huge blow to the left wing depth for the Leafs next year. This team has a big cap crunch coming, and the thought is that one of Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen may be a cap casualty. If it’s Johnsson, the Leafs could go into next year with Patrick Marleau as their top left winger. That’s not great.

The Leafs have their work cut out this summer and things just got a bit tougher. Even if Hyman were to return at the start of November, will he be anywhere close to as effective as they need him to be, and can they rely on Marleau to be the team’s top left winger for a month? Instead of Johnsson or Kapanen, do they trade someone like Nikita Zaitsev instead, attaching picks/prospects to get rid of the contract? Interesting months ahead.

*

There wasn’t much to glean, aside from Hyman’s injury, from Toronto’s locker clear-out. Quotes to the effect of “we’re disappointed,” “certain people/areas need to be better,” “our stars are growing into their roles,” and so on, were the norm. In general, I assume they had a meeting about what the talking points and the company line would be because almost across the board, Dubas took the brunt of it. Assuming, again, this is to take the heat off Babcock. Like I said, interesting months ahead.

*

Sabres goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has undergone hip surgery and is also expected to take at least six months for recovery.

The second-round pick had a stellar year in the OHL, posting a .920 save percentage in 53 games. He only got into one AHL game, so he was still a ways away from getting to the NHL as a full-time starter. The hope is that this does not delay his development but a 20-year old goalie losing an entire summer just as he looked to be on his way to the AHL is tough. I would be surprised if we see him in the NHL at all in 2019-20. At best, we’re looking at a 2020-21 debut in the NHL as a full-time player, likely longer.

You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.  

*

Don’t expect Joe Pavelski in the lineup for Game 1 of the second round. They’re calling him day-to-day and at the least he was around the team while they were practicing on Thursday afternoon. I guess it’s a good sign.

Joonas Donskoi was in a non-contact jersey at that practice, by the way, with Lukas Radil on the second line.

*

George McPhee, the GM for Vegas, said the league reached out and apologized for the major penalty call on Cody Eakin in Game 7 that led to that incredible San Jose comeback. We knew that the refs completely blew it, it’s nice that the NHL acknowledged it. I know it’s far too late for Vegas players and fans, but at least they didn’t just sweep this under the rug. A small step in the right direction.

Also, NHL super agent Allan Walsh says he’s heard that the referees from that game, Eric Furlatt and Dan O’Halloran, will not be refereeing in the second round. My guess is that it’s to avoid further controversy should anything else go terribly wrong in a game they officiate rather than a strict punishment.

McPhee also said that forward Erik Haula should be just fine for training camp this and seeing as his return was only a few weeks away, he probably has a mostly normal summer for training as well. Good news all around.

*

One interesting tidbit from the Vegas cleanout was from Brandon Pirri, who seemed to intimate he might not be back. Of course, he didn’t say that outright, he just said that the forward group is deep. He’s right, too, as the team is deep enough to play Alex Tuch on the third line (he could be a first liner on many teams), Nikita Gusev is now in the mix (though he needs to be re-signed), Cody Glass could be knocking on the door, plus whatever they do in free agency.

Pirri is also an unrestricted free agent and though he won’t get a huge payday, maybe he can get enough in this contract elsewhere to secure his financial future. I’d like to see him stay in Vegas but completely understand why he’d leave.

*

While there were concerns about how Boston would look coming off a grueling seven-game series against Toronto, and Columbus having a week off, it certainly didn’t look like Boston was tired in the first half of Game 1. Through the first 25 or so minutes of the first contest of the second round, Columbus managed five shots. Five shots. They aren’t a prolific offensive team, but it was utterly awful to watch.

Noel Acciari gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead with a short-handed goal in the first period, and it was the only goal scored for a while.

Business picked up in the third as Brandon Dubinsky and Pierre-Luc Dubois scored 13 seconds apart to give the Jackets a 2-1 lead. Charlie Coyle tied it up with under five minutes remaining and scored the game winner in overtime just over five minutes in. What started as a sleep affair ended up being a crazy opening game.

David Krejci was injured during Game 1 and coach David Cassidy said to consider him day-to-day, but that he wasn’t in concussion protocol. Any lengthy injury for Krejci would be a big blow to Boston as the centre depth after he and Patrice Bergeron is not extensive.

*

A pair of goals from Vladimir Tarasenko led the charge for St. Louis as they skated away with a 3-2 win over Dallas. Those two goals equals Tarasenko’s output in six games from the first round. If he catches fire, he’s the type of player who can single-handedly take over a series.

After a mediocre first round where his team carried the load for him, Jordan Binnington had a very solid first game of the second round, saving 27 of 29 shots in the win.

Robby Fabbri scored the first goal for the Blues in Game 1, playing fewer than nine minutes of ice time. It’s a nice luxury being able to use him on the fourth line, as he’s a guy with the skill to pop a couple goals on any given night. This kind of forward depth could be an ongoing problem for the Stars.  

*

The Dobber panel handed out their second-round picks for the 2019 playoffs.

*

What is written below was written before the games on Thursday night. 

I ended up going 4/8 in the first round, losing Calgary and Tampa Bay (as most sane people did), Pittsburgh (the Islanders played them a lot tougher than I was expecting), and Vegas (I’M STILL NOT OVER THAT PENALTY). Realistically, I should have gone 5/8, and I would have been happy with that. Life has a way of giving you just enough to never be fully satisfied.

Once again, I think people are underrating Columbus (I’m writing this on Thursday afternoon). No, I didn’t pick them to win the first round, but I did think they had a better chance than most for two reasons: they’ve been arguably the best defensive team in the NHL for two months now, and that continued in the playoffs as they finished with the second-best expected goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five. (Ironically, Tampa Bay was first). Aside from that, the Jackets don’t take penalties, taking the fewest in the regular season, continuing this disciplined play in the postseason as the Lightning only drew six power plays in four games against the Blue Jackets. We have an excellent defensive team that doesn’t take penalties facing a Bruins team that largely relied upon a great power play in the first round. Yeah, don’t count out Columbus by any means.

*

Carolina’s ability to get past the Islanders is going to rely a lot on being able to generate offence. Their ability to generate offence is going to rely a lot on getting healthy. Will the team get Micheal Ferland and Andrei Svechnikov back? If they weren’t ready for a Game 7, I find it hard to believe they’ll be ready 48 hours later, but stranger things have happened.

On the flipside, one thing I would love to see is a huge series from Mathew Barzal. He had five assists in the first round (shout out to Jordan Eberle’s goals) but failed to score on 14 shots. Carolina is probably a bit better of a defensive team than the Penguins so it’ll be a tougher test in that sense, but Barzal has all the ability necessary to take over a series. Barry Trotz will never ask him to play that role, and the team plays in a way that makes it unnecessary, but it would still make for a great story.

*

I don’t think Colorado has much of a chance against San Jose. I thought the same against Calgary, but the Flames were just atrocious. San Jose looked better against Vegas than the Flames looked at any point against the Avalanche.

Again, goaltending would be the equalizer here. Martin Jones stumbled more than once against the Golden Knights and if he stumbles against the likes of Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, we’ll see Aaron Dell in this series. Probably more than once.

*

The St. Louis-Dallas series is a fascinating one. The Blues, I would argue, are the best team left in the playoffs. But there’s always that nagging voice in the back of your head whenever you think that this might be the year for the team. So was a couple years ago, and the year before that, and the year before that…

But this team is truly playing great hockey, and though Jordan Binnington wasn’t at his best in the first round, it was more than enough to get the Blues through to the second round. As long as he doesn’t flat-out lose them games as so many Blues goaltenders over the last decade, there is a lot to like about this team’s Cup aspirations.

As for Dallas, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: adding Mats Zuccarello completely changed the dynamic of this team. They’ve gone back to a stacked top line, but Zucc had three goals in six games in the first round on the second line. Also, John Klingberg is the best defenceman in the series (bring it on, Pietrangelo and Parayko stans), Miro Heiskanen is showing people just how good he really is, while Esa Lindell has been quietly very solid these playoffs, and most of this year really. Then we get to Ben Bishop, the Vezina finalist who was a monster against Nashville.  

These are two teams who’ve had Cup aspirations for the last several years and now one of them is guaranteed to get to the Conference Final. This is going to be a great, great series.

*

Your 2019 Ted Lindsay Award finalists – the most outstanding player as voted by the NHLPA – are Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, and Patrick Kane.

I don’t have a particular issue with any of the three players. All three posted at least 110 points, all three scored at least 40 goals, and Kucherov had the most points in a single season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr way back in 1995-96.

If we want to nitpick, Brent Burns being over a point-per-game as a defenceman and Ben Bishop posting a .934 save percentage in a season that saw the lowest average save percentage in a decade were both outstanding feats. Along with Mark Giordano’s unbelievable play at both ends of the ice, maybe we could have slid someone in there other than the top-3 point producers. But again, that’s nitpicking, and I have no real problem with these choices.