If anyone in Nashville is panicking because the Predators lost the first game of the series, some words of solace could come from an unlikely source. Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets said, “Who was the last team to go 16-0 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?”
He’s right, no team in living memory has ever had a perfect run. The best team possibly ever, the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning, won’t even go 16-0 if they win it all this season.
So before we all go around yelling about how the sky is falling, let’s remember that it’s just one game.
1. Sober Thoughts
Just because the sky isn’t falling, let’s not pretend the Predators deserved to win Wednesday’s game. They controlled quantity but failed to produce anything of substance.
Five high danger chances at five on five is almost inexcusable, even if the Dallas Stars are a good defensive team. The first line had a rough time as they managed zero shots from the slot.
The only offensive player I really liked was Kyle Turris. Turris produced three of the five high danger chances and had the most expected goals of anyone on the club with .31.
2. Pacific Arms Race
The San Jose Sharks did the improbable on Wednesday as they beat the Vegas Golden Knights while allowing fewer than three goals. The Knights weren’t particularly sharp and the Sharks absolutely deserved the victory.
So, in a turn of events that would make the WWE blush, Vegas invited Nikita Gusev from the KHL to join their club. Gusev, whose rights are held by Vegas, agreed after his KHL team was knocked out of the playoffs.
Gusev played for the powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg where he racked up 17 goals and 82 points in 62 games. On top of that, Gusev added 19 points in 18 playoff games. This guy is one heck of a talent, and I’d be nervous if I was San Jose or even Calgary.
The only hope might be that his immigration paper work takes longer than expected.
3. Root For Carolina
I don’t really have any points to make here. The title of this thought stands on its own. The Washington Capitals won their cup, it’s time for a different team. Root for America’s team, the Carolina Hurricanes.
4. Exorcizing The Demons
If you don’t know the history between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins, do yourself a favor and look it up. There’s obviously a lot of hockey that happened before this date, but May 13th, 2013 is the beginning in my opinion.
The Leafs and Bruins were in a heated series that went all the way to Game Seven. The Leafs scored a devastating goal with about 14 minutes left in the third period to make it four to one in their favor. It seemed as if the Leafs would make it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in quite a few years, but Patrice Bergeron had other ideas.
Bergeron would score the tying goal with 50 seconds left and would later go on to score the series winner in overtime. It’s a moment that lives on in the heads of many hockey fans, and I remember it vividly.
My friend John and I were sitting on his family’s couch, taking a break from studying for our senior year finals. The air was warm and humid, yet John and I didn’t take a single sip of our Dr. Pepper’s for fear of missing some crucial play. To be completely honest, I can still hear Boston’s goal song, Kernkraft 400, and their fans chanting as James Reimer looked on with fear and loathing in his eyes.
It’s a hockey moment that I hope I never forget. That and the Crosby/Ovechkin dueling hat ricks was one of my favorite memories of the late 2000s/early 2010s.
Why I bring this up is because this memory is still alive and well for Toronto. You can see it whenever they come across Boston in the playoffs. They grip their sticks a little tighter, they focus too much on not making mistakes, and they allow the Bruins to get inside their heads.
Toronto will look to kill their demons this year, but it won’t be easy. They won Game One, but it was far from simple. Expect this series to be as nasty as it is incredible.
5. Lucky Devil
Praise be to Taylor Hall, the master of lottery balls. The streak lives on, Taylor Hall has been on a club that won the draft lottery five times in his first nine seasons in the NHL.
This is a record that’ll likely never be touched alongside Darryl Sittler and Wayne Gretzky. The Devils will likely take Jack Hughes, but Kaapo Kakko has made a case for himself after an explosive draft year in the Finnish Liiga.
This is one of the few years where I’m not so sure who should go first overall, but I’m not sure picking either would be a mistake.