Monday, May 1, 2017

Weekend wrap: Four out of five ain't bad

OK, so we had to let the Americans win one game. It was the polite Canadian thing to do.

Last night’s Ducks win in Edmonton spoiled what had been a perfect second round for the two remaining Canadian teams. That was a little uncool, especially after Oiler fans went and salvaged the American anthem.

Still, four out of five isn't bad. The Oilers hold a 2–1 series lead over the Ducks, and now get an extra day to stew over last night's 6–3 loss before Game 4 goes on Wednesday. It was an odd game, one that saw the Ducks score three straight early on, the Oilers rally to tie it up, and the Ducks score three more to pull away.

But every team hits a few bumps along the road in the playoffs, even if that team is (briefly) the Stanley Cup favourite. If the Oilers could shake off a 7–0 loss to the Sharks in round one, you figure they've got a decent shot at doing the same here, especially if Cam Talbot can bounce back and Connor McDavid keeps doing ridiculous stuff like this:

Meanwhile, the Senators have pulled off a pair of comebacks to take a 2–0 lead over the Rangers. Saturday's dramatic overtime win was Ottawa's eighth straight one-goal game of the playoffs, and sends them to New York with a chance to all but wrap up the series in tomorrow's Game 3. That's not bad for a team that was widely considered an underdog against both the Bruins and Rangers, despite holding home-ice advantage heading into each series.

The country's 24-year Stanley Cup drought has been well-documented, and we're still 10 wins away from either the Oilers are Senators ending it. But they're getting close to breaking another streak that's lasted almost as long; two Canadian teams haven't made it to the conference final in the same season since the Maple Leafs and Canucks faced each other in 1994. And it would be the first time that a Canadian team was playing in each conference final since the Leafs and Canadiens in 1993.

Almost as importantly, having both the Oilers and Senators advance would avoid the dreaded "one Canadian franchise left" scenario, which inevitably results in a) every media outlet trotting out the same clich├ęd "Canada's team" stories, and b) every neutral hockey fan in the country immediately turning on that team because we all secretly don't want anyone else to win a Cup before our team does. The longer we can hold off on all of that, the better.

But that's getting a little ahead of ourselves. On to this week's power rankings...

Top Five

Celebrating the players, teams, storylines and themes that have had the best week.

5. The Hurricanes' goaltending: They may have finally solved their longstanding goaltending problems, thanks to a weekend trade that saw them acquire Scott Darling from the Blackhawks for a third-round pick.

With only 64 career starts under his belt, Darling's not a sure thing. And he'll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so in theory Carolina could lose him for nothing if they can't get him signed. But given how glaring a need the position had become, the deal is worth the risk. You'd have to imagine that the Hurricanes get an extension done quickly and hand over the starting duties to Darling, who should be a major upgrade over the Cam Ward/Eddie Lack combo that struggled through the last two seasons.

4. The Predators' blue line: Nashville took a 2–1 series lead over the Blues with yesterday's 3–1 win. The game featured goals from Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, tying them for the team lead with Filip Forsberg. Ellis has been especially hot, riding a six-game point streak. Mix in P.K. Subban's tour de force in Game 1, and Nashville's blue line looks scary good right now. And it might get them to the conference final.

In related news, the Predators apparently have Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on the bandwagon now, presumably because he's not used to watching a team's defence get the job done in the post-season.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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