Five things to know about the NHL playoffs
Toronto versus Edmonton in the Stanley Cup final?
According to popular sports betting sites, today's smart money is on an all-Canadian clash for the Cup. That "revised" outlook comes after the earlier favourites — Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche — turned out to be pauper tigers and were eliminated in Game 7 upsets.
The Maple Leafs and Oilers are aware the 1993 Montreal Canadiens are the last Canadian team to win it all, but there's a lot of hockey and tough opponents ahead before that discussion becomes a thing.
Here are five things to know about the NHL playoffs:
LEAFS PREP FOR PANTHERS
Toronto fans were ready to roast Boston agitators Brad Marchand and Tyler Bertuzzi, but their catcalls and homemade signs will now be directed toward Panther pests Matthew Tkachuk and Sasha Barkov when the second round of the NHL playoffs starts tonight at Scotiabank Arena. Yes Leaf Nation, you read that right — the second round.
The Florida Panthers and Maple Leafs have never faced each other in the playoffs. Networks in the U.S. are positioning it as a matchup of the two best American players in the game, Toronto's Auston Matthews (California) and Florida's Tkachuk (Arizona), adding that Leafs' former coach Paul Maurice is now working the enemy bench.
Maple Leafs bench boss Sheldon Keefe told reporters yesterday that the Panthers' style is similar to the Tampa Bay Lightning — fast, tough, strong on defence. Both teams are coming into this series with confidence and Keefe said the key for his squad is to keep playing with edge and discipline.
Tkachuk, noting the Leafs are now favoured by oddsmakers to win the Cup, said the Comeback Cats are huge underdogs against the Leafs, just like they were supposed to be against the record-setting Bruins.
OH BABY! KNIGHTS BANKING ON PAPPA POWER
The Golden Knights joked to Las Vegas reporters yesterday that if their series against the Edmonton Oilers gets "messy" they are well equipped to handle it. They have four new fathers on the roster who have diaper duty experience.
While "dad strength" alone might not be able to take down the high-flying Oilers, the Golden Knights believe their depth and solid puck management can handle Edmonton's punch of star power. It's the first time they'll meet in the playoffs and it should be an intriguing clash of styles.
The series that opens Wednesday night in Sin City features the top two players of the 2015 NHL draft, Connor McDavid of the Oilers and Jack Eichel of the Golden Knights. And Knights' goaltender Laurent Brossoit made his NHL debut with the Oilers on April 9, 2015 and spent parts of four seasons in Edmonton.
DEVILS STICK FORK INTO RANGERS
Defenceman Jacob Trouba's scary hit sent Timo Meier to New Jersey's quiet room last night. The Devils repaid Trouba's Rangers by torching them 4-0 in Game 7, sending them to a quieter place for the remainder of the post-season.
The Devils scored twice in the second period and added two more goals in the third and netminder Akira Schmid made 31 saves for the shutout as the Devils won the Hudson River rivalry after being blown out in the first two games of the series.
The Devils move on to face the Carolina Hurricanes in what pundits expect to be a low-scoring track meet.
The Rangers, who acquired Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko in different deals before the trade deadline to prop up the offence, were blanked 4-0 in Game 5 as well. Last night Kane and Tarasenko each had three shots on net. Tarasenko was a minus-3 and Kane was a minus-1.
THE NUMBERS GAME
Roope Hintz of the Dallas Stars, who has never finished higher than 40th in the NHL scoring race, led the first round with 12 points. Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers was on the ice for his team's first 14 goals against Los Angeles, the longest stretch since the league began tracking players on ice in 1959.
Evan Bouchard of the Oilers tied the NHL record for most power play points by a defenceman in a playoff series with eight. Brandon Montour scored five goals in Florida's upset over Boston, the most in one series by a defenceman in 20 years.
FLAMES FIRE SUTTER, SEEK NEW VOICE
Darryl Sutter is out in Calgary, Snoop Dogg or Deadpool might be joint owners in Ottawa, and in Toronto you can spank the Lightning, but not a police horse.
But back to the Flames and yesterday's firing of Sutter, whose shelf life appeared to expire when the team missed the playoffs and a number of players and staffers started voicing displeasure over the cheerless culture. A couple top talents — Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau — didn't want to stick around and left before the start of this disappointing campaign.
The Flames president and interim GM Don Maloney positioned it as the need for a new voice behind the bench, noting that Sutter won the Jack Adams Award last year as NHL coach of the year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2023.
The Canadian Press