The second round of the NHL playoffs is set to begin tonight, even though there’s one game left to be played in Round 1.
For the first time since 2012, Round 2 won’t include the Chicago Blackhawks.
Speaking of the Hawks, did you notice the song the St. Louis Blues organist played while the Blues and Blackhawks shook hands following a Game 7 win for the home team?
If I didn’t hate the Blackhawks so much, I might think that was in poor taste.
But if you feel bad for them…
The New York Rangers were dispatched rather quickly this season, and a lot of the quotes coming out of the Big Apple sound eerily familiar to his final days in Vancouver.
— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) April 26, 2016
After making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and making the Conference Final the year after, the Stanley Cup appears to be slipping further away from the Rangers.
Alain Vigneault on the @NYRangers core group: "I think we're at the stage now where we need to look at some changes."
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) April 26, 2016
This has to feel like déjà vu for the former Canucks head coach.
His team that was supposed to challenge for a Stanley Cup is gone after just five games.
His superhuman goalie was pulled in the final two games of the series as his team got beat by a combined score of 11-3.
Here’s what Larry Brooks was saying in the New York Post:
In retrospect, the six-week surge into the trade deadline through which the Blueshirts went 13-4-1 was probably the worst thing that happened to the team all season because the club’s play through that stretch, albeit spotty at times, fooled management (and others of us) into believing the team could make a credible run at another conference final.
More from Brooks:
Vigneault typically distances himself from his teams and leaves the room to the core leadership. The approach worked his first two years on Broadway but not so much this year, when the core leaders were all struggling to get their respective games in order. The coach must become more emotionally engaged and take a more active role in motivating his team, especially as he will have a younger group to coach.
These types of topics with coaches are always interesting to me. Depending on the result, the media will criticize or applaud this kind of approach. If they win? Sensible approach. If they lose? What kind of moron leaves his dressing room alone?!
I heard analysts on TSN last night praising Ken Hitchcock for sticking to his guns and not changing his game plan, which resulted in low ice time for superstar forward Vladimir Tarasenko. Think they’d be saying the same thing if Troy Brouwer’s shot goes post-and-wide and Brent Seabrook’s shot went post-and-in?
Speaking of Larry Brooks, it turns out Rangers defenceman Dan Boyle is not a fan.
With the Kings and Blackhawks being eliminated, you have to think the Ducks believe the West is there for the taking.
They’ll have to get by Nashville first.
If they lose Game 7, it will not look good on head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Have to believe that the Ducks will get it done in the end, but the pressure is on.
Game 1 of Lightning-Islanders will go before Game 7 of Ducks-Predators, meaning that second round is going to begin before the first round ends, NBA-style.
That makes my prediction piece a little more complicated.
My record in the first round was a pedestrian 4-3, and I picked the Ducks in 7.
But here goes nothing:
Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Prediction: Capitals in 7
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New York Islanders
Prediction: Lightning in 6
Reason: Tampa looked so good against Detroit without Steven Stamkos, who could return to the lineup in this series.
Dallas Stars vs St. Louis Blues
Prediction: Blues in 6
Reason: The Stars have great fire power, but I don’t trust their goaltending or their defence at this stage of the season.
Anaheim/Nashville vs San Jose Sharks
Prediction: Sharks in 6
Reason: I know I’m going to regret this prediction, but I see the Sharks going to the conference final no matter who they face.