May 13, 2016

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 2

I guess Game 7 isn't automatically the most exciting thing in sports.  Or maybe the two iterations in the 2nd Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs just stunk.

Also, I picked the Stars to win, so I look like a boob again.  I did better on the whole, getting 3-of-4 teams right.

As expected, Dallas' goaltending "tandem" failed them miserably.  Neither of them showed up in Game 7 and the Stars got thumped as a result.  I'm surprised they actually made it to Game 7 given how weak the goaltending was, especially relative to the other teams.  So now St. Louis is moving on to the Western Conference finals.  Not exactly the development I was looking for; after they got out of the 1st round, I was hoping they'd be on the outs, given that Dallas was the #1 seed going in.

The other finalist out west is San Jose.  I'm not sure how this team is so much different from other Sharks teams of years past (much like with St. Louis). It would appear, though, that elevating Joe Pavelski to captain had tangible results.  It also didn't hurt that Nashville G Pekka Rinne fell apart in Game 7 (though he was definitely aided and abetted by the Predators' top defensive pairing).  Martin Jones, on the other hand, has looked very good through two series.  He doesn't seem prone to the meltdowns that the Dallas goalies suffer on a regular basis, for example.

In the east, we have what should have been the expected conference finals all along.  Before the playoffs started, everyone was on the Capitals' bandwagon. I thought that was stupid and short-sighted.  After all, just last year they got knocked out in the 2nd round by the Rangers in memorable fashion (well, memorable for the Rangers' part in it).  Yet thanks to winning the Presidents' Trophy, the Capitals were the chic pick to make the Stanley Cup Final.

So when Nick Bonino scored in OT in Game 6 to eliminate the Capitals, I was pretty pleased.  While I'm not crazy about the Penguins moving on, I figure anything is better than seeing the Capitals move on and have to deal with all the people kissing up to them.

Unsurprisingly, the Lightning are in the conference finals again.  Even though they are missing two key players, they still have Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman.  Hedman is getting most of the pub as he's a defenseman with a notable offensive skill set.  But to me, it's Kucherov that is the team's best player at present.  He's pretty much unstoppable and has shone brightest when it counts the most.  There seems to be a lot of gum-flapping about players being shut down as though it happens to pretty much everybody.  Kucherov, like Tyler Johnson last season, has shown up in the playoffs and done significant damage. So while some players do get shut down by the opposition in the playoffs, I don't think it's a matter of some esoteric "goal-scoring climate"; it's just that some guys show up when the moment is huge, like Kucherov and Johnson, and others don', say, Ovechkin.

The 3rd round should be entertaining.  I'm picking the Sharks and Lightning, personally, but any match-up in the Stanley Cup Final would be an interesting one.