Ramblings: Jackets Strike Lightning Again, Isles and Blues Also Up Two Games (Apr 13)

by Ian Gooding on April 13, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Jackets Strike Lightning Again, Isles and Blues Also Up Two Games (Apr 13)


First-round playoff hockey is just nuts. You could argue that the best hockey is being played right now as opposed to closer to when the Stanley Cup is handed out. As a friend of mine told me, there are so many storylines and so much going on right now. Teams come out so fired up for the first round that by around the conference final you start to see those teams wear down, and by then it’s not the same.

Before I cover each game played on Friday, imagine all of Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg being knocked out in the first round. Well, all of those teams are down 2-0 in their series. The first round can be bananas.

Columbus/Tampa Bay

Should we be that surprised about the Blue Jackets? After all, this is a team that not only decided to retain its pending UFAs in Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, but also double down on a potential Cup run by adding Matt Duchene. Even if it defies safe logic, you have to admire Jarmo Kekalainen for his testicular fortitude. This is a team that has a lot to lose this offseason and could be a shell of its former self should all three of these players walk away for nothing.

Maybe they had to go for it this season, if not to erase stats like these:
 


The Duchene acquisition paid off in spades, at least for Game 2. Duchene scored a second-period power-play goal and added three assists in the 5-1 Columbus victory. Believe it or not, this was Duchene’s first playoff goal of his career, although the 28-year-old had played in only nine playoff games prior to Friday. No, that’s not a lot of playoff hockey. He might become one hell of a sleeper pick if the Jackets can pull off the upset. Do you think maybe he’ll want to stay in Columbus, especially if they go on a little run?

The Jackets will also need to take care of Zach Werenski in the offseason (he is an RFA). He also did his part on Friday, recording a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight with Brayden Point).

So now that CBJ has two wins in its pocket heading back to Nationwide Arena and its cannon, is it time for the 10 percent that predicted a CBJ series win to proclaim victory and the 90 percent of that picked Tampa to bust their brackets? Well, not so fast. A Columbus win is a very real possibility at this point. However, a team winning a series after dropping the first two games has happened many times. In fact, it’s hardly unprecedented for a team to win the Stanley Cup after losing its first two playoff games – even at home.  

Case in point:

2017-18 Washington Capitals (against those very same Blue Jackets)

2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes

2001-02 Detroit Red Wings (I remember this series well)

1992-93 Montreal Canadiens

There may be more, but those are the ones that I can remember.

So if this adversity doesn’t kill the Lightning, then it’ll make them stronger. Obviously they have their work cut out for them in Game 3. They haven’t played an important game in months and are playing a team that has been playing meaningful games for quite a while. So this will be test in the true sense of the word.
 


It looks like they’ll be without Nikita Kucherov for Game 3, as he’ll have a hearing with the NHL about this hit below. Kucherov appears to be facing supplemental discipline after frustration got the best of him here. People on Twitter are comparing it to the Nazem Kadri hit on Tommy Wingels that Kadri was suspended for three games for. I don’t think Kucherov’s hit isn’t as vicious, so I’ll say one, maybe two games. He’s a star player, and the Bolts are in a hole. You don’t think that’s factored in here, even if the hit is deemed to be as dirty as Kadri’s?
 


I’m wondering if the Lightning’s kryptonite is teams that can use their physical style to push the Lightning’s small, speedy forwards to the perimeter. Washington did this last season, and so far Columbus appears to be adopting a similar game plan under John Tortorella. So far, it’s working wonders.

Pittsburgh/NY Islanders

This is a very intense series, particularly from the Islanders’ point of view. As I was telling my friend, man the Islanders sure look fired up in that loud old barn. They’re not just happy to be in the playoffs. That team and fan base has been through a lot. In fact, the collective group of players and fans seems pissed off to me. Pissed off about years of underdog status due to poor management. Pissed off about the arena situation. Pissed off about losing John Tavares. After all that, they’re letting all their frustration out on the Penguins.

Putting the cart way before the horse here, but what if the Isles faced Barry Trotz’s former team in the next round, then Tavares’ current team after that? I know who I’ll be pulling for in the small chance that this scenario plays out.

After Erik Gudbranson opened the scoring for the Penguins (bet for the sake of your playoff pool you were hoping it was someone else), Anthony Beauvillier equaled the score just three minutes after. This is what I mean about it being an intense series.
 


Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey scored in the third period to put the Islanders in the lead for good. Both Eberle and Mathew Barzal finished the game with two points and a plus-2. Eberle has two goals and four points in two playoff games this season. Guess how many playoff goals he had prior to this season. That’s right, the same number as Duchene, except in 13 games.

Pittsburgh is in the same predicament as Tampa Bay, but at least they’re coming home. We’ll soon find out how much playoff experience matters and if they want to win this series as badly as the Islanders do.

St. Louis/Winnipeg

I’ll admit that I was in the minority that picked Winnipeg to win this series (my playoff picks really aren’t looking good so far, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one). In spite of the two teams’ recent play, I didn’t think the Jets were being given enough credit for being a large physical team that looks built for the playoffs. Yet here they are down 0-2 and with an uphill climb heading to St. Louis.

Although Jordan Binnington was by no means terrible in this game, he was a bit more human, allowing three goals on 29 shots. On a side note, don’t get me started about him winning the Calder Trophy. Although he and Craig Berube have singlehandedly turned the Blues’ season around, I’m citing the Connor McDavid precedent. You miss a half season, you miss out. Sorry. At least I won’t call him the Hamburgler 2.0 (Andrew Hammond, in case you forgot), but I think his numbers fall back to earth a little once teams get a better read on him (or at least once he plays that full season). That doesn’t mean he won’t be a worthwhile starting goalie to own in fantasy, though.

Oskar Sundqvist led the way for the Blues with two goals, the first two playoff goals of his career.

Vegas/San Jose

The Sharks were gifted eight power plays in this game, scoring on one of them. The problem was that Vegas scored on two of those power plays. Yes, San Jose’s power plays. That turned out to be the difference in Vegas’ 5-3 win, which evens the series heading back to Sin City.

The Vegases stormed out to a 3-0 lead, which chased Martin Jones from the net after just under seven minutes and seven shots faced. The Sharks returned the favor late in the first period with three goals of their own and appeared to have the momentum to start the second period. However, Mark Stone scored a power-play goal early in the second period on a phantom goalie interference penalty handed to the Sharks.
 


It wouldn’t be the playoffs without someone being unhappy with the officiating. Today it’s the Sharks. Not saying they don’t have a legitimate beef, but it’s not the first time a bad call was made and it certainly won’t be the last.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic left Friday’s game early in the second period. As a result, both Erik Karlsson (29:08) and Brent Burns (28:36) appeared to be double-shifted. Karlsson logged 9:25 in power-play time, which was more than third-pairing defenseman Joakim Ryan logged in the entire game (7:34).

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Cale Makar is the 2018-19 Hobey Baker winner. After playing in Saturday’s championship game, it’s possible that he could debut with the Avalanche as early as Game 3 on Sunday night. Of course, we’ll be keeping an eye on the top prospect blueliner should he enter the Avs’ lineup. With 49 points in 40 games with UMass, the 2017 fourth overall pick is definitely a blueliner that should be heavily sought after in keeper leagues. You can check out Makar’s Dobber Prospects profile here.

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Jaromir Jagr is giving middle-age guys hope everywhere.
 


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A follow-up on the roto league that I wrote about in last Saturdays Ramblings. Apparently a stat correction pushed the first-place team down one point, forcing a three-way tie for the league championship. So now three teams are showing as tied for first, as I was originally tied with another team for second.

The stat correction may not actually be correct, as it is believed to have to do with another team’s goals-against average, although I don’t know for sure if it would be enough for him to regain first place. Apparently no tiebreaker was set in this league (and maybe other roto leagues in Yahoo), so two or more teams can tie for first. If the stat correction did make a difference, then this league was basically decided by one goal. Either way, it was a hell of a ride that kept me interested until the very last day.

This was a truly bizarre ending to a team that I had autopicked (you can read more about it here). It’s in a fantasy writers “expert” league that I’ve now won twice: once in the last lockout-shortened season (2012-13) and now this three-way victory. As long as they don’t ask how and just ask how many, I’m good.

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Finally, I'd like to wish my son Alex a happy 10th birthday! I can't believe that I've been a father for a decade now. Time sure flies. Hopefully he scores a goal or two at hockey later today. Scoring goals isn't only a gift for him, but also for me. 

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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.