Five things to know about the NHL playoffs
The best regular-season team in NHL history and the defending Stanley Cup champions were both eliminated at home in major Game 7 shockers last night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers are alive and excited about their second-round matchups, and there's one more do-or-die game tonight in New Jersey to wrap up an unpredictable and entertaining opening round.
Here are five things to know about the NHL playoffs:
MAYDAY FOR BAFFLED BRUINS
Holy Mackinaw, a dream season in Boston turned nightmare last night faster than you can say Carter Verhaeghe wrist shot, as the underdog Florida Panthers stunned the record-setting Bruins 4-3 in overtime.
After close calls by Matthew Tkachuk and Verhaeghe earlier in the extra session, the Panthers finally said amen to Swayman and Jeremy's record-setting crew at 8:35 of overtime.
Brandon Montour, who scored twice for Florida — including a last-minute goal with his netminder watching from the bench to force OT — had a monster series, as did Tkachuk who described the victory as a legacy game and the biggest upset in NHL history. He said everyone in the hockey world — except his teammates — figured the Panthers had zero chance to knock off the Presidents' Trophy winner.
Excited Toronto fans chanted "we want the Panthers" in Maple Leaf Square on Saturday night. As the Bruins discovered the hard way, be careful what you wish for.
Alex Ovechkin took to social media yesterday, playfully trolling Leaf Nation for its over-the-top celebration of advancing to the second round. The Washington Capitals captain then added his sincere congratulations to the team that has socially distanced itself from the Stanley Cup since 1967.
Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who also tipped his cap to the Leafs, added a "but" to his post-series wrap, suggesting his resilient team played well enough to take down Toronto but were "unlucky" to lose all three overtime games on home ice.
Cooper didn't make any excuses but pointed out his team played in 74 post-season games over a three-year span, won two Cups and survived being everyone's target and-or measuring stick since 2020.
It's too early to plan parade routes in Toronto, but striking down the Lightning should inject extra confidence and hope, and a second-round series presence for the first time since 2004.
KRAKEN BURY THE AVALANCHE
So much for the predicted dynasty in Denver.
The Seattle Kraken, who received polite applause for being a much-improved second-year franchise during the regular season, served notice last night that they're legit.
Overlooked all year by those who rank Cup contenders, the wild-card Kraken knocked off the host Colorado Avalanche with a 2-1 Game 7 victory, becoming the first expansion team to beat the reigning champions in their inaugural playoff series.
They'll likely be underdogs in the next round against the Dallas Stars, but as long as the Seattle squad has a seat at the big table they've proven they can rearrange the chairs.
TEAM WORK MAKES OILERS' DREAM WORK
Two things disappeared quickly Saturday night when Kailer Yamamoto scored his series-clinching goal at Crypto.com Arena: the Kings' shot at a Stanley Cup, and Will Ferrell and his wild black-and-white checkered face paint.
The other thing to vanish, according to Oilers' star Connor McDavid, was the notion that Edmonton is a two- or three-man team. That point was driven home Saturday when the scoresheet included the names of Klim Kostin, Ryan McLeod, Vincent Desharnais, Stuart Skinner and Yamamoto.
McDavid said each Edmonton player has a role and their different contributions led to the ousting of the Kings.
That depth will be counted on when the Oilers face the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round.
GM GIVES PROPS TO PARTIALLY SUCCESSFUL JETS
Kevin Cheveldayoff spent the first week of the Winnipeg Jets' "off-season" telling reporters coach Rick Bowness will be back, there are key contracts to figure out and that everyone is upset about their early exit from the playoffs thanks, in part, to a rash of untimely injuries.
But he stickhandled around topics such as a rebuild, team chemistry, player-coach relationships and the fact some of the team's better players are saying out loud that they want to play for a winner, promising instead to make proper, non-emotional decisions.
Cheveldayoff still has to meet with a few players, the coaches and then ownership to map out his team's priorities, but he viewed the season as partially successful. It's the other part that should keep him occupied.
RANGERS, DEVILS TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT
The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils will have tonight's playoff spotlight all to themselves as they play a Game 7 at the Prudential Center.
It's the third series of the first round to go the maximum. It's also the fourth-most games in a round in league history with 50.
This is the third time the Rangers have gone to a Game 7 in their past four series. A majority of Devils players are facing elimination at this level for the first time.
The winner faces the Metropolitan Division champion Carolina Hurricanes in the second round.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2023.
The Canadian Press