Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. We have another Rangers dismissal to talk about tonight! And oh yeah, as the graphic above may suggest, there are a ton of other different things to get into as well, where I promise you this – you won’t find anything like this anywhere else! It’s always been my credo here to stay 100% unique and all the time. (And that statement doesn’t discredit anyone else, as many people do great jobs with their endeavors too. I just strive to present something different, because if I didn’t, why else would you click this site?)
That being said, let’s do the Rangers stuff first and then cover the rest of the league afterwards.
On Friday, May 29th, several fans noted on social media, that on the New York Rangers website, the Rangers had removed Director of European Scouting Nickolai Bobrov’s name from their office directory. Why fans are meticulously scrolling through the Rangers directory is question I can not answer. Even as I write these words to you now, I can’t recall one time in my life, where I logged onto the official website of the Rangers and checked the employment status of every individual employed by the organization. To each their own, and in this case, and to their credit, these fans unearthed a story.
A day later, on Saturday May 30th, Larry Brooks, of the New York Post, confirmed the internet sleuthing of these fans, and reported that Rangers General Manger Chris Drury had dismissed Bobrov from his post. Immediately, Ranger fans had a bunch of different reactions to this news, reactions which all gave me a chuckle. (Of note, Brooks reported this story as if he broke it, rather than crediting the fans who had it first. Would it hurt to throw the fans who had this story first a bone here?)
When it comes to the fan reaction regarding this news, and before getting into what this means for the Rangers; would you, John Q. Reader, (or Jane Q. Reader for the female readers of this site) be able to recognize the face of Nickolai Bobrov and be able to pick him out of a police line-up?
Okay, I’m pulling your leg here. The man pictured above is actor Matt Rhys, with his wife Kerri Russell. I chose Matt Rhys here to illustrate my point for five reasons:
- “The Americans”, which Rhys and Russell starred in, is one of my favorite TV shows of all-time.
- The theme song from “The Americans” is my cell phone ring tone.
- The premise of “The Americans” is about two Russian spies living in America. Bobrov is Russian.
- I don’t think “The Americans” ever got as much publicity as it should’ve received.
- To expand on number four, this will all play into another subject during tonight’s blog, which was the Montreal Canadiens Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For what it’s worth, here is the real Nickolai Bobrov:
One last thing, before getting into this firing. How many of you knew that Bobrov, prior to Friday, received a paycheck from the Rangers? And for some extra credit here, how many of you knew that Bobrov has been an NHL scout for over 20 years now, with stops in Boston, Los Angeles and New York? (And the only reason I know about Bobrov’s prior stops, is because I looked it up! I am not professing to be the all-knowing when it comes to Ranger scouts!)
For those like me, who didn’t know the following until May 30th, 2021; Bobrov had been employed by the Rangers since the 2015-2016 season and was a Jeff Gorton hire. For those of you who know your history, all of this took place after Senile Sather stepped down after the Stanley Cup window was closed on the team, which was after the 2015 Eastern Conference Game 7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I never lie to you guys on this site, and even as recent as last blog, said what I’m about to say again here – I am not a draft or prospects guy. Watching young kids play hockey has never been my thing, although when the day comes, I will watch my nieces play! After all, it’s been fun to watch them run around like chickens with their heads cut off, in their attempt to play soccer!
Watching European leagues has never been my thing, although I have watched the KHL from time-to-time. My strength/”expertise” if you will, has always been history. After all, you can never predict the future, but you can always talk about facts with the past. (And it’s my opinion, that for these European leagues and the KHL to draw some traction with North American fans, they should hire English speaking announcers to commentate/announce the games. I know how hockey works, but it’s hard to get attached to any player or team without knowing the backstories of the players and teams.)
From what I gathered, no one knew this Bobrov firing was coming. Bobrov was just collateral damage of the new/old regime. I say “new/old regime” here, because you can’t call this a true “new regime” right now, since that heathen Glen Sather is still involved.
And while on Glen Sather, June 1st, 2021 marked his 21 year anniversary of robbing James Dolan. Guys like John Dillinger, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the “Ocean’s 11” crew could only wish they were able to pull off robberies like Glen Sather. I still wonder if Sather wears a ski mask when he cashes his paychecks.
In an attempt to explain Bobrov’s firing, the common consensus is that he was canned over the whole Lias Andersson fiasco. (I’m going by what reporter Leslie Treff is saying on Twitter right now, as she knows more about Bobrov, scouting and the draft process than I do. You can follow Treff at @HFNYRangers and visit her site at NYSportsDay.com. She’s good at what she does.)
Truth be told, I really can’t tell you how much of Andersson’s troubles and failures fall solely on Bobrov. In Bobrov’s defense, it did seem that Andersson had promise at the time of his selection. You just never know how these kids will pan out, although conversely, it was Bobrov’s decision to evaluate Andersson’s mental well-being and desire to even play in the NHL. As an outsider-looking-in, I feel that Andersson had a case of home-sickness and I do question his desire to play in North America. That’s me, maybe that’s not you.
That being said, it’s not like that 2017 NHL Draft class, from the seventh pick on, (where Andersson was drafted) was loaded to begin with. At the present time, it looks like Eeli Tolvanen, who was drafted 30th overall by Nashville, is showing the most promise. You can also make a case for Martin Necas (12th overall by Carolina) too. In other words, while Andersson was a bust, it’s not like the Rangers were burnt beyond repair with the Andersson pick. Plus, think about it – what franchise bats 1.000 during any NHL draft?
When it comes to the other recent high-profile European draft selections by the Rangers, the Rangers also took Filip Chytil in that same 2017 NHL Draft, with their 21st overall pick. I think the jury is still out on Chytil, but you can’t call him a bust or anything negative like that.
A year later, and after that 2017 NHL Draft, the Rangers took Vitali Kravtsov 9th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. Kravtsov, after a turbulent start with the organization, showed a ton of promise in the final 20 games of the 2021 regular season. Like Chytil, the jury is still out on Kravtsov, although an unbiased fan could argue that Oliver Wahlstrom, of the Islanders, was the safer and better pick. Again, only time will tell.
Of course, the Rangers also drafted the European Kaapo Kakko second overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. However Kakko pans out, you can’t really blame or credit Bobrov with this pick, as all across the board, every scout and draft expert in the league, had Jack Hughes going number one and Kaapo Kakko going number two during that draft.
As far as the 2021 NHL Draft goes, it’s being reported that Chris Drury and the Rangers Director of North American Scouting, in Chris Morehouse, (another name and face you probably didn’t know of until now) will oversee the draft.
To wrap up on Bobrov, I won’t miss him. After all, I admittedly didn’t even know who he was until the news of his firing became public! I feel this firing/move is Drury just trying to find his own soldiers, just as any new GM tries to do. For whatever reason, Drury decided that the Rangers weren’t as good as they could’ve been, during their recent assessment of European talent. Drury would know better than me!
Speaking of the 2021 NHL Draft, let’s get into our next subject.
On Wednesday June 2nd, the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery will take place. I wouldn’t expect the Rangers to land the number one overall pick this time around – even if Chris Drury was dressed up as a Steven McDonald cosplay character, right down to the badge that his predecessor, in Jeff Gorton, always used to carry around during this time of the season:
For those unaware of the rules and odds for the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery, NHL.com has you covered. You can get the full 411 here: https://www.nhl.com/news/2021-nhl-draft-lottery-scheduled-for-june-2/c-324836470
When it comes to the Rangers, who points percentage wise, were the “best worst” team of the regular season, meaning that the Rangers were the best team in the NHL to not qualify for the playoffs in 2021; the Rangers enter the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery with a 1% chance of winning the first overall pick. Last year, after an initial draft that ensured that one of the “playoff qualifying” teams would win the first overall pick, the Rangers had a 12.5% chance of winning the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery. As you may be aware of, the Rangers did just that!
This year’s draft lottery will determine the teams that will draft first and second overall. After that, and as stated by NHL.com, “the 14 clubs not selected in the Draft Lottery will be assigned NHL Draft selections 3 through 16, in inverse order of regular-season points.”
In other words, expect the Rangers to wind up with the 16th overall pick of the 2021 NHL draft. To me, and as loosely explained on prior blogs, this is no big deal.
Of course, you want the first pick, but it was much better for the Rangers to have the first pick last year than just having the first pick this year. Last year, Alexis Lafreniere was the no-brainer number one prospect. With the number one pick, all Jeff Gorton had to do was say the name of Alexis Lafreniere.
This year, due to the pandemic, you had all these different leagues either being canceled or played under a truncated schedule. In some cases, including the second biggest league in America, in the AHL; these leagues that did play, didn’t have a post-season. In other words, this 2021 NHL Draft will be more of a crap-shoot than drafts of the past, as these scouts and teams don’t have the same sample size to work off of than they normally do. It’s just hard to get a true feel or a grip on these players/prospects.
So yeah, if you had to choose, you much rather the #1 pick from the 2020 NHL Draft than the #1 pick from the 2021 NHL Draft. And really, at this point, especially with the firings made by Rangers owner James Dolan at the end of the season; in the case of the Rangers, free agency and building a playoff team, is a much bigger priority than the NHL draft this year.
As far as any other Rangers news, USA Hockey, which features current Rangers Colin Blackwell, Zac Jones and Kevin Rooney on their roster, finished in first place during the preliminary/seeding games. As a result, Team USA is the top seed of Group B. They will play the fourth place seed of Group A, in Slovakia, on Thursday June 3rd, at 9:15AM. The game airs live on the NHL Network.
Filip Chytil and Libor Hajek, the other two Rangers in the tournament, and who are both playing for the Czech Republic, will take on Finland in the first round.
As talked about on prior blogs, I just can’t get into the IIHF Worlds Tournament this year. Due to the tournament being watered down, many top names who would be playing in this tournament declined invitations. Of course, this is the end result of the pandemic influenced NHL season. Whether it were big names wanting to return home or even a rookie like K’Andre Miller needing a break; the talent level involved in this tournament isn’t what it normally is.
For me, I’ll keep an eye on the tournament, but will probably only watch the gold medal game. After all, I’m getting more than enough to quench my hockey fix thirst with the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs right now, which is our main event subject for tonight’s blog entry.
However, before getting into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as usual here – the PLUGS segment.
Here are my last few blogs in case you missed them:
BCBS For 5/29: The New York Rangers & Chris Drury Still Searching For a New Coach; The Mike Sullivan Situation, NHL Stanley Cup First Round Playoff Recaps & Second Round Previews/Predictions; FTI/Let’s Go Bruins, Fans/Crowds Making a Difference, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Marc-Andre Fleury May Defy History; Goaltender Contracts, Why Cam Talbot & The Minnesota Wild Won The 2020 Off-Season Goaltending Carousel Sweepstakes & More NHL News, Notes & Opinions
BCBS For 5/24: Examining The Top Five General Managers in all of NYR History, The Columbus Cuck Jackets Take Back John Davidson; JD Hints at DQ for HC of CBJ & Plays Politician, Looking At Every Stanley Cup Playoff Series; Blues & Caps Out, IIHF Worlds/Gallant, “White Man Arms” vs NYR and NBA Fans, NHL Draft, Crossing Fingers for an Ovi/Lundqvist Reunion at M$G, Rooting for the Pens/FTI Haterade & More
BCBS For 5/18: The 2021 New York Rangers Season in Review – “WHAT IF?” Edition! Looking At All of the Rangers Hits & Misses; Isles Change Rangers Future Again, Crazy Time in Rangerstown, Off-Seasons, Looking At What’s Ahead; Who Stays & Who Goes, Why The Playoffs Would’ve Exposed NYR, Duguay v Vally, The “Biting” Larry Brooks; Rinne vs a Lundqvist Return, Dolan’s Extreme Boner For Sather, Kakko For Tkachuk, “The Reconstruction Era” & Much More
The top story in all of the NHL right now, are the Montreal Canadiens first round ousting of the Toronto Maple Leafs. I have about 678967866789696 different opinions and thoughts about this, and by now, if you’re an ardent hockey fan, (and I’m assuming you are, or else you wouldn’t be reading these very words) you’ve probably heard 99% of them.
With that said, I’ll try to limit myself from saying what everyone else is saying and try to give you a different perspective here. Plus, I really didn’t have a dog in this fight, outside of my enjoyment of visiting the city of Montreal (I’ve been there 9 times) and enjoying the historical aspect of another Leafs loss! See ya 1940 chants!
First things first – congratulations to the Montreal Canadiens and to their fans, as I do have some Hab friends out there, such as Paul D., Leanne K., John M., Rod C. and the retired professional wrestler known as “Sassy Stephie”. (Sassy Stephie worked for my old wrestling company, where she was one of the most reliable and most professional people that I worked with. I even did her wrestling podcast a few months ago, which you can find by following her on Twitter, @SassyStephie.)
Of course, the end story about this series is that the Toronto Maple Leafs choked, even if the story should be about the Montreal Canadiens victory. Everywhere you go, and it’s understandable, it’s all about the Leafs losing – and NOT about the Canadiens winning.
To do a BLOG CALLBACK here, remember earlier, when talking about Matt Rhys and “The Americans”, that I brought up the topic of publicity? Let me expand here.
When it comes to hockey news, SportsNet (Sportsnet.ca) is my go-to news source. In my opinion, out of every hockey entity that’s out there, they cover the NHL the best. In addition, Elliotte Friedman’s “Ask 31” column is one of my favorite hockey blogs to read.
This season, SportsNet, which is already Canadian-centric, pretty much devoted 99% of their hockey coverage to the Canadian teams, where once in a while, you’d get something about the 24 American franchises. Of course, this is all understandable, due to the pandemic, the schedule, travel restrictions and the fact that SportsNet is Canadian media for primarily Canadian fans. Of note, you can also say the same thing about TSN too.
Just like the New York Yankees in baseball, the Dallas Cowboys in football or Notre Dame in college football; the Toronto Maple Leafs are the heart and soul of Canadian athletics. Yes, the Montreal Canadiens have been around longer and have won more Stanley Cups, but due to their location in the province of Quebec, a province that’s mostly French-speaking and has teased the idea of seceding from Canada during their history; it are the Maple Leafs who have the bigger fan base. In addition, while Montreal is a big city, Toronto is pretty much the “New York of Canada”. That’s why Toronto has an MLB and NBA franchise too, while Montreal does not. And yeah – the Hockey Hall of Fame is in Toronto, and not in Montreal, as well.
If you get anything out of what I’m saying here, it’s that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the biggest sports franchise in all of Canada. In turn, when you go to SportsNet.ca or TSN.com, the bulk of their coverage centers around the Maple Leafs. It’s what’s best for business.
In addition, while the other six Canadian teams do get coverage, these news outlets/sites live and die with the Leafs. This is why the story out of Canada (and really, in all of the NHL right now) is about the Leafs losing and not about the Canadiens winning.
Before getting into one of the biggest upsets in the modern day history of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, let’s attack this series from a Rangers perspective.
With the loss, Toronto’s Stanley Cup drought is now at 54 years. In other words, even if the Leafs win the Cup next year (fat chance) the Leafs current drought now surpasses the Rangers Stanley Cup drought from 1940-1994. “19-67” chants anyone?
And yes, for those who are a stickler for details, the Leafs Stanley Cup drought is now at 53 seasons, due to the 2004-2005 lock-out. For those sticklers for details, from 1942-1967, which was the “Original Six” era, the Leafs had a far more bigger advantage than the Rangers ever did during that time. I’ve explained all of this in the past and in detail. (The circus nixing Ranger home games, draft rights at the time, World War II, Lester Patrick selling off prospects due to the War, etc.)
Furthermore, during the Rangers 54 years of futility, it wasn’t until the 1970’s where the Rangers really became contenders again. I’m not excusing the Rangers futility here, as they had shots to win the Cup under Emile Francis and later under Fred Shero; but the Leafs had their chances too.
But wait, there’s more! From 1940-1994, the Rangers made the Stanley Cup Final in 1950, 1972 and in 1979. Since 1967, which was the year the Leafs last won the Cup; not only have the Leafs not won the Cup since that year, the Leafs haven’t reached a Stanley Cup Final either. And heck, since 1994, which was the year the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup, the Rangers did reach another Stanley Cup Final, back in 2014.
And do you want the ultimate slap in the face here, especially for my American readers? Even the New York Jets have won a championship during the past 54 years!
So yeah, it’s been nothing but heartbreak and misery for one of the greatest franchises in NHL history. Conn Smythe must be rolling in his grave.
With the Leafs season now over, and as I keep my Rangers goggles on, here’s a list of Toronto’s current pending free agents, courtesy of Cap Friendly:
With the Toronto Maple #Leafs post season coming to an end, here are some of their pending UFAs:
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) June 1, 2021
I’ll say this once – you can’t sign everyone. After all of these playoff losses, eight in all so far, after every loss, I see Ranger fans saying, “we should sign that guy” or “we should sign this guy.” According to these fan GM’s, the Rangers should have an NHL roster of 672 players and a team salary cap hit of $876786789687967967967896.
When I look at the pending unrestricted free agents in Toronto, the names of Zach Hyman (as long as he’s not broken, get it? Har-har-har!) and Wayne Simmonds, interest me the most. Hyman would fit in perfectly for what the Rangers are doing, but he’ll come with a price tag. In the case of Simmonds, who is your quintessential “grit” player, and a player who can rack points, he turns 33 years old this August. While 33 is not old by any stretch of the imagination, it does feel that as a result of all his physical play, that Simmonds has slowed down over recent seasons and may be “long in the tooth”.
And while on Simmonds, a Simmonds who enjoyed a ton of success with the Philadelphia Flyers; after poor stints in Nashville and in New Jersey, Toronto was supposed to bring Simmonds back to prominence. If it didn’t happen with Toronto, why would anyone think it would happen for him in New York? The Simmonds from five years ago would’ve been great, but the 2021-2022 version would be risky. Then again, he’d be better than what the Rangers got out of Jack Johnson in 2021!
So yeah, if the Rangers, who have a ton of decisions to make this summer, were looking to add anyone from the Leafs, it would be Hyman. Of course, the Leafs know they need him back too.
Lastly, when it comes to looking at this loss from a Rangers perspective, I must bring up my old friend, in a one Mr. Steve Valiquette.
As I’ve written about 767896626376237623 million times on this site, I am not a fan of analytics. I think they are absolutely worthless, especially in the playoffs.
Stop me if you’ve seen this argument on social media before:
— Analytics Worshipper: this player has a Corsi of this, an expected goals against average of that, a hieroglyphic stat of this and a high danger stat of that. I don’t understand how this player didn’t show up and how his team, who leads the league in expected stats, lost?
— Anyone with a brain: Hockey games are played on the ice, not on your computer, asshole.
I bring up Steve Vagistat here, because if you recall, when he first started his fake news stat company, called Clear Sight Analytics, I plugged it a few times on this site. Like anything that I plug on this site, whether I agree with what’s being said or not, as long as real work is being put into it, I’ll plug it. After all, it’s the internet – anyone can click and read/listen to whatever they want.
One of Vagistat’s and CSA’s claim to fame was that they conned the Toronto Maple Leafs into purchasing their data. I used to have the screen shot saved from CSAhockey.com, where Vagistat and CSA proudly splashed the Leaf’s logo on their site and boasted about the Leafs needing their services. Unfortunately, I can’t find the screen shot today, but I swear on beer and whisky, that this did once exist on that site!
As of 6/1/21, that logo and proclamation has been removed from the website, faster than you can say the word “choke”.
I feel that every year, and during the playoffs, all of these analytical creatures crawl back under their rocks, only to show up like a swarm of locusts, come opening night of any particular season. Why is this? Simple – all of their analytical bullshit is thrown into the toilet during the playoffs. Plus, if any of these analytical stats were worth a damn, one of these chart-humpers would be cashing out a sportsbook with their fake news data.
I know this may sound repetitive, and yours truly busting out something out of my “GREATEST HITS” collection here, so I won’t go too long on this. All I want to convey to you here, are that analytics, which are pretty worthless in the present day, and only something that nerds came up with to invent jobs for themselves, mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, especially come the playoffs. I mean even something as little as the way the refs officiate playoff games, as opposed to regular season games, throws analytical data off of the wagon.
After all, can you tell me the analytic that predicted that the Islanders would score three fluke goals off of deflections, skates and other nefarious activity, during their Game 2 win over the Bruins from Monday night? Can you tell me the analytic that predicted the NINE MINUTE power-play that the Avalanche received on Sunday night against the Golden Knights? And oh yeah, can you give me the analytic that predicted the two upsets of the first round, upsets that occurred in the North/Canada division?
Want some REAL EYE TEST stuff? Let’s look at those two upsets, which were the Habs win over the Leafs and the Jets win over the Oilers. The two heavily favored teams, in the Leafs and the Oilers, had NO fans in their arenas, sans 550 fans being allowed to attend the Leafs home Game 7. In turn, the two underdogs won, where we now have the three and four seeds moving on.
And while you can say that the Jets had a fighting chance going into Edmonton, NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, had Montreal knocking off Toronto:
The graphic shown above isn’t a knock at the writers over at SportsNet at all. Hell, I had the Leafs winning the series too. Everyone did!
Maybe I’m putting too much into this, but I 100% believe, especially now, with the return of fans adding more adrenaline and noise than ever before; that teams playing in front of home crowds have a bigger advantage when compared to recent years. There’s no way to determine how big that advantage may be, but there’s no way to discount this either. Even a team like Nashville, who many had as easy pickings against Carolina, put up a great fight during their first round series. I won’t even mention the lifeforms at the Nassau Coliseum, where admittedly, the Islander faithful has produced a heated environment for all rivals.
When it comes to analytics vs playoffs, the eye-test will always trump all. As I always say, you can watch every game of the regular season, but come playoff time, you have no clue what to expect.
There’s just no way for a boy and his keyboard to make charts that can capture the essence of the playoffs. No analytic will ever be able to factor in human emotion, will-power, puck-luck, bad bounces, a hot goalie, questionable goalie interference calls, broken sticks influencing plays, injuries, chemistry, officiating and the “it” factor. I mean really, what analytic predicted Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews combining for one goal in seven games? And heck, for a series where many predicted that Carey Price had to stand on his head to win the series, Toronto’s netminder, in Jack Campbell, actually had numbers equivalent to the highest paid goaltender in the league:
Carey Price didn’t steal the series. He played great like high priced players are supposed to play like in playoffs. Goaltending was not the reason leafs lost.
2.24 GAA 932 SV %
1.81 GAA 934 SV %
— Carlo Colaiacovo (@CarloColaiacovo) June 1, 2021
To go back to the Rangers for a second, all season long, I talked about the loud “FIRE DQ” crew. As you know, by the end of the season, James Dolan cleaned house, with his firings of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton. Shortly thereafter, new GM Chris Drury sacked Rangers head coach David Quinn and his coaching staff too.
As I read all the stuff out of Canada, (and I listened to Toronto radio too, just for the perverse entertainment of it all) I saw many people stating that players need to be traded, how Toronto needs more defensemen and other things related to the Leafs roster. Not mentioned in all of this – the firings of Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. Canadian fans can’t be that friendly, can they?
As you may know, Keefe & Dubas are heavy into analytics and Toronto spends more money on analytics than any other team in the league. In turn, Toronto hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004. That would be the same number, as in zero, as the Atlanta Thrashers and their respective playoff series victories.
Just like Billy Beane in baseball, these analytical guys haven’t won oo-gatz. And just like John Chayka, formerly of Arizona, another hockey analytical GM – Keefe and Dubas should get the boot too.
I don’t know how many times the hockey world needs to see and experience this, but when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup, as it’s always been since the beginning of time, and even predating the birth of the NHL ever since the days of Eddie Livingstone vs the NHA – TOUGHNESS, SIZE, GRIT, THE HUMAN ELEMENT AND THE DRIVE TO WIN are the factors you need to win Cups. Not Corsi. Not expected stats. Not high danger stats. Not whatever else these white Steve Urkels can pump out while using Microsoft Excel.
Yes, you need scoring and a half-way decent goaltender too, but you also need players to show up on the ice – and not on the monitor of someone hanging out in a basement.
The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, BY FAR, are the best playoffs in sports. They are also the most unpredictable playoffs in all of sports as well. I’m glad they are played on the ice – and not on a chart. After all, if analytics could predict winners, there would be no fun or excitement in watching these games.
I don’t want to pile too much on the Leafs here, because you can go anywhere online for all of the same talking points. In a word, the Leafs “choked”.
Aside from the stuff I’ve already said, the last thing I haven’t seen mentioned here, is the fact that this series went to seven games in the first place. Even if the Leafs beat the Habs, that was never the ultimate goal. Just as it has been for a while now, ever since the acquisition of John Tavares, it’s always been Cup or Bust for the Leafs.
Had the Leafs won this series, thus breaking their own first round curse; they still would’ve had to knock off the Jets, and then knock off the winner of the Tampa Bay/Carolina series, a series that the defending Stanley Cup champions will most likely win. (Tampa is up 2-0 as I write these words to you.) And had the Leafs done all of that? They most likely would’ve had to take on either Colorado or Vegas in the Stanley Cup Final.
To me, with the way the Leafs played throughout this series, and to use the Tavares injury is an excuse in my opinion; the Leafs didn’t look like a team that could win 16 games. Instead, they won three, where this most recent first round ousting may be the most difficult for Leaf fans to accept.
Without question, circumstances have never been more advantageous for the Leafs, as they drew a perceived weak Montreal team and saw the Jets upset the high-powered offense in Edmonton. At the very least, this was the year for the Leafs to finish in the final four of these Conference Final-less playoffs, but now, the Leafs are home watching these games on TV like any of us.
And let me reiterate this point – even with the Tavares injury, at one point, the Leafs were up 3-1 in the series. After Game 4, the Leafs never held a lead in a game again. That’s on the Leafs and the coaching staff.
What’s next for the Leafs is none of my concern, but if it were up to me, and/or if I were team president Brendan Shanahan – I’m looking for a new general manager and a head coach. You can’t keep wasting seasons like this.
And oh, for Leaf fans who want to see a Toronto Stanley Cup ring, come on down to Long Island and buy Pete Stemkowski a beer.
During my last blog here, I gave you my round two preview, where of course, I foolishly looked ahead like everyone else, and had the Leafs beating the Canadiens. Well that has changed!
While I will stand by my other round two predictions, I’ll also stand by what I said last time – whoever won the Leafs/Habs series will take down the Jets. Now that Montreal vs Winnipeg is official, I see Montreal winning the series in seven games.
Game 1 between these two teams will be interesting, because you have two of the best goaltenders in the league going head-to-head, just like the Vegas vs Colorado series. And like that West division championship series, one team, in this case Winnipeg, have been waiting in the wings for a while, as the Canadiens, just like the Golden Knights, won their series in seven games.
I don’t think we’ll see a nine minute power-play in Game 1 between Montreal and Winnipeg, but I can see the Jets taking game one over a tired Montreal team. After that, just like Vegas vs Colorado, who knows? That’s why these playoffs are unpredictable!
When it comes to the rest of the playoffs, a few more thoughts:
— Going back to the Toronto/Montreal series for a second, I saw many say that this Original Six series was the biggest playoff upset of all-time. How quick we forget Columbus sweeping Tampa in round one of the 2019 playoffs! With hindsight being 20/20 and with Tampa winning the Cup in 2020, I see some fans saying that the 2019 playoffs now wasn’t that bad for Tampa. Tell that to Dan Girardi, JT Miller and the other players from that 2019 team that were swept and embarrassed. To me, that 2019 Lightning team should’ve won the Cup, even if that loss, with the benefit of hindsight, was “scar tissue” for their 2020 run.
And when it comes to “scar tissue”, meaning learning from your losses; throw that idea out the window when it comes to Toronto. Toronto has enough scar tissue, where they now look like the forehead of Abdullah The Butcher:
— Had Tampa did what they were supposed to do in 2019, we could be looking at Tampa going for a three-peat right now. Instead, they are now looking for back-to-back Cups, which was last accomplished by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. As a Ranger fan and Islander hater, and with the winner of the Tampa/Carolina series taking on the winner of the Islanders/Bruins series – Tampa may become the saving grace, once again, for Ranger fans who want to avoid seeing the Islanders in the Stanley Cup Final.
— Tampa is now 2-0 over Carolina, and at this point, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Tampa sweep the series. And to go back to the topic of analytics for a moment here, all of Tampa’s team analytics, that you see plastered all over the place, mean NOTHING. After all, as you may have heard, Nikita Kucherov took the regular season off. Throw all those analytical numbers out the window. Plus, Tampa knows how to win now, and that’s an intangible that’s never factored into any of these fake news garbage stats.
— The Islanders, as a result of three fluke/puck-luck goals in Game 2 of their series against Boston, you know, goals that can’t be predicted on a spreadsheet; are now tied up with the black and gold. I have the Islanders winning this series, where yes, I am trying to reverse jinx myself! Either way, whoever comes out of the East will have their hands full with Tampa, as Tampa has had the numbers of both Boston and the Islanders in recent years. Games are played on the ice, but I see Tampa returning to the SCF this year.
— I’m not shocked that Colorado beat Vegas in Game 1 of their series, especially after Robin Lehner was named the starter. However, I am shocked about Colorado’s blow-out Game 1 victory. I understand wanting to give Marc-Andre Fleury a rest, but I don’t see why you would sit your hot hand, unless you felt your team was so beat-up and tired after a seven game set, that you just wanted to get your starting goalie at 100% for the rest of the series. Maybe Vegas coach Pete DeBoer accepted the inevitable going into game one, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to be in a 0-1 hole to the Presidents’ Trophy winners.
— I’m looking ahead here, but I see the Stanley Cup Final being Tampa vs whoever wins the West. Montreal and Winnipeg are nice feel-good stories, but whether you use the eye-test or analytics, neither of the Canadian teams match-up well with the firepower in Colorado and in Vegas. That said, both Montreal and Winnipeg have goaltending, that’s equal to or perhaps a smidge better, than the goaltending of the West teams. And one more time – who knows, as these are the most unpredictable playoffs in all of sports!
— And I’ve said this a few times as of late and I’ll say it one more time – the crowds have made these playoffs absolutely incredible, especially if you haven’t gotten last year out of your head. I just love the energy. That’s what the NHL product is all about. Poor Canada.
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As far as the next blog on this site, I’ll definitely be back after round two. If the Rangers somehow land the number one pick tomorrow, I’ll return to discuss that news. Just don’t hold your breath on that.
One last thing before signing off here, and for as much as this gives me douche-chills by typing this out – Go Bruins. When rooting for the Bruins right now, I try to picture myself at “Cheers” and having Sam Malone sliding me glasses of beer across the bar, while patrons shout out “NORRRRRRRRM!” Now, if only Pierre McGuire could stop pulling a Cliff Clavin and would shut up every once in a while! Where’s Carla when you need her? And oh, to Miss Tortelli – my condolences on the passing of Eddie Lebec! And in some real talk, RIP to the best character from that show, in Nicholas Colasanto. I’ll never forget the “Albania” song!
Stay FABULOUS my friends.
Until then, and as always here, thanks for reading and…
LET’S GO RANGERS!
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