Sunshine State Showdown: Lightning vs Panthers (Lightning Win in 6)
1. Kuch Wasn't Rusty...😅
In previous articles, I touched upon how difficult it is to come back and play well after a lengthy layoff. Nikita Kucherov made it look easy. After missing the entire regular season due to his hip surgery, Kuch managed to crack the Lightning lineup for Game 1 against Florida and the rest is history! With 17 points in 10 games, Nikita Kucherov currently leads the entire NHL in playoff points! How's that for a return?!
2. Spencer Knight Is the Panthers' Future Between the Pipes
Oh man, Spencer Knight is a player! The highly touted rookie goaltender absolutely DAZZLED in his playoff debut, stopping 36 of 37 shots and registering a .973 SV%. If I was Bill Zito, I'd do everything in my power to ship Bobrovsky and his 10-million-dollar cap hit to Seattle. Then, Florida could enter the Dougie Hamilton sweepstakes in the off-season and cement their position as a legitimate Cup contender.
3. Florida's Time Will Come
My biggest takeaway from this intense, high-flying series is that the Florida Panthers' time will come. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning are a juggernaut team, but the Cats gave them a run for their money. Barkov and Huberdeau held their own against Stamkos and Kucherov. MacKenzie Weegar played some of the best hockey of his career from the point. Sam Bennett is only 24 and Spencer Knight is only 20. Aaron Ekblad will be all healed up for next season. This is definitely not the last we've heard from the Panthers!
Carolina Hurricanes vs Nashville Predators (Hurricanes Win in 6)
1. Martin Necas Continues Breakout Year with Playoff Success
You have to give the Carolina Hurricanes props for the way they developed Martin Necas. Too often organizations rush players into the NHL, immediately expecting them to turn potential into production (which most young prospects cannot do). Instead, the Hurricanes remained patient with their 12th overall pick. Prior to his rookie season as a Hurricane, Necas was given the opportunity to hone his craft in the Czech League as well as with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers. As a result, when he did enter the NHL, he transitioned flawlessly and maintained a trend of upward development. Second-year NHLer Marty Necas did not suffer from the greatly feared "Sophomore Slump" this season. Rather, he took another huge step in becoming that superstar center he was destined to be. Necas hasn't had much trouble adjusting to playoff hockey either! Just look at this goal he scored in Game 5!
2. Nashville Needs Their Top Guys To Be Their Top Guys
In order to win in the playoffs, you need your top players to be your top players. The Predators series loss to the Hurricanes is indicative of this. Nashville got highly-coveted secondary scoring and great goaltending, yet they still lost. Why? Because their stars fell flat under the pressure! Obviously the Hurricanes deserve some credit but... Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg only had three points a piece! I cannot help but think this series could been different had the Preds' superstars come out to play. If your top guys can't make an impact in the playoffs, the team won't win. Period.
3. The Carolina Hurricanes Have 3 Equally Potent Scoring Lines
I already knew the Hurricanes were a deep team, but these numbers are plain jaw-dropping.
LINE 1: Brock McGinn, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen= 13 points
LINE 2: Jordan Martinook, Vincent Trocheck, Martin Necas= 10 points
LINE 3: Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Staal, Jesper Fast= 11 points
Last change doesn't even matter to Carolina anymore because of how well Rod Brind'Amour built these line combinations. Any one of these three lines can make an impact regardless of matchups or zone starts.
Vegas Golden Knights vs Minnesota Wild (Knights Win in 7)
1. Max Pacioretty is Invaluable to the Golden Knights
I think this series was the first time I truly realized how important Max Pacioretty is for Vegas. It is easy for fans of other teams to overlook Pacioretty's offensive output and merely regard it as a byproduct of playing on a line with Mark Stone. Stone's playmaking is elite, I get that! But just like Mark Stone's sweet feeds make Pacioretty better, Pacioretty's snipes and finishing touch make Mark Stone better. Vegas struggled to find offence in Games 1-6 with Pacioretty out of the lineup. But when he returned for Game 7, there was an offensive explosion! This was definitely a "you only see the light when its burning low" situation for Vegas. Glad to see Patches back on the ice and lighting the lamp!
2. Mattias Janmark Plays Game 7 Hero With Hat-Trick Performance
The Golden Knights acquired Mattias Janmark at the trade deadline for a 2021 Second Round pick and a 2022 Third Round Pick. Who would have thought he would be their Game 7 hero?! Scoring a hat-trick in Game 7 is something you dream of as a kid while shooting pucks on the driveway or playing shinny with your buddies on the ODR. Mattias Janmark scored one in front of a roaring Las Vegas crowd IN THE NHL!!! Let's go 'Tias!!!!
3. Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot Battle Between the Pipes
This series was the epitome of a goaltending battle! Both goalies played excellent between the pipes and were the best players on their respective teams. Here's Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot by the numbers:
Marc-Andre Fleury- .922 SV%, 1.88 GAA and 1 Shutout
Cam Talbot- .923 SV%, 2.45 GAA and 2 Shutouts
Edmonton Oilers vs Winnipeg Jets (Jets Win in 4)
Well... this one is my bad (LOL). If you read my 2021 Playoff Primer series, you know I was sleeping on the Jets quite a bit and got this series 110% wrong 😳. The Winnipeg Jets deserve all the credit in the world. They shut down McDavid and Draisaitl, what can I say! Here's Steven A. Smith, summing this series up perfectly:
Washington Capitals vs Boston Bruins (Bruins Win in 5)
"And for 4 seasons in a row, the Bruins DECAPITATE Washington, winning this series in 5! Ovechkin is on Summer vacation!"
1. Washington's Size and Skill Outmatched by Boston
When I covered the Washington Capitals for my 2021 Playoff Primer series, they stood out to me as not only a team with dynamic skill, but also as a team who could dominate physically and win on-ice battles. That just didn't happen in this series. Washington may have been the bigger team... but Boston played the bigger game. The Bruins just always seemed to be the aggressors! They were always first on the puck, winning battles in the corners and finishing checks. I believe these two back-to-back hits Pastrnak and Marchand delivered on Ovi really encapsulate this series well:
Ovechkin is 6'3". Pastrnak is 6'0". But who's the one laying down the boom?! PASTA! As a smaller player myself, I absolutely love to see it!!!!
2. Taylor Hall Looks Even Better In Black and Yellow With Playoff Hockey Underway
"LETS GOOOOOO!!!! TAYLOR HALL, HOW DO YOU DO!!!!"
Believe me, I am not a Taylor Hall fan! Yet, somehow this was me, freaking out in front of my TV like a crazy person as Taylor Hall scored to send Game 2 to overtime. At first I thought my giant celly was because of my bracket... Boston winning would help my bracket. Turns out, Taylor Hall in Boston is just something every hockey fan can get behind! Before this series, I had never seen Taylor Hall play with any kind of edge. Obviously his skillset was always evident (you don't win a Hart Trophy if your skills are mediocre). But if a skilled guy has no compete, no edge... they will never win when it counts. I am loving Taylor Hall in Boston because he finally has an edge! Since his playoff debut as a Bruin, I've seen Hall-sy go down and win puck battles in the corners. I've seen him catch Brad Marchand mid-air for a goal celly. Heck, at the time I'm writing this article, TAYLOR HALL EVEN DROPPED THE GLOVES! The goal Hall scored to tie Game 2 was the culmination of his career to this point. It perfectly showed his newfound competitive edge.
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov's Last Game As a Capital?!
3 playoff games. 0 goals. 0 points. -1 goal differential.
This stat line belongs to the Capitals "all-star" centerman Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is currently making 7.8 million dollars a year. It simply isn't good enough! But on-ice performance is really only an exclamation point on the Kuzy trade rumours already swirling around. Evgeny Kuznetsov has been involved in a plethora of off-ice incidents this season and with many members of the Capitals organization sick of his antics, we very well could have seen Kuzy play his last game for Washington.
Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs (Canadiens Win in 7)
1. Carey Price. That's The Takeaway.
"Why spend $10.5 million dollars on a goalie?! To stop $40 million dollars worth of forwards, of course!"
Never bet against playoff Carey Price. When it comes to the playoffs, Price is just built different. Most of the time, when a goalie makes a big stop, you see them with a smirk on their face for a while... That's not Carey! No. This man could straight up STONEWALL you all game long and not even crack a smile. He can win a Game 7 showdown and still be as even-keel as ever! In all seriousness though, Carey Price's poise and calming influence between the pipes has been a major catalyst for the Canadiens playoff success. Not to mention his .938 Save Percentage 🔥! He's simply a beast!
2. Phillip Danault's Impact Is Much Greater Than The Stats Show
Phillip Danault's impact goes far beyond the scoresheet. Danault is a pure shutdown center. He may not score many goals, but when he's on the ice you won't either. Danault is a key reason why the Habs were able to hold the Rocket Richard winner, Auston Matthews, to a mere 1 goal in 7 games. Let's go Danault!!!
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders (Isles Win in 6)
1. Pittsburgh NEEDS A Reliable Goaltender
If you talk to any Penguins fan about this series, they will say a lot of mean things about Tristan Jarry's goaltending... And none of what they say will be wrong. The Islanders found Jarry's massive glove-side weakness early in the series and he was never able to recover. Ouch.
2. Nassau Coliseum Is ROCKING!!!
Home ice is an advantage for any team, but its on another level at Nassau Coliseum. Watching the game from home, I could hear the Islanders faithful singing Happy Birthday to Barzy over top of the broadcast! So electric!
Colorado Avalanche vs St. Louis Blues (Colorado Wins in 4)
The Colorado Avalanche are on another level. I literally cannot give you three takeaways because there was only one: PURE DOMINATION. The Blues had no answer for Colorado's lethal transition game.
🏆🔥Hey guys! I'm sorry this article took so long to post. I hope it was worth the wait :) More content should be coming out later this week! 🔥🏆