Monday, April 8, 2019

Weekend rankings: Why every playoff team will (and won’t) win the Cup in a season-ending top 16

Well,​ that turned out​ to​ be​ an​ interesting​ weekend.

It​ wasn’t an​ especially important one,​ at least in​ terms​ of the playoffs.​​ Despite a loaded Saturday night schedule that had seemed like it would make for can’t-miss viewing a few weeks ago, we came into the weekend with only one spot up for grabs, and that one was wrapped up by the Blue Jackets on Friday.

Still, there were seedings and home ice to figure out, so let’s start with a quick roundup. The Predators held off the Jets and Blues to win the Central, the Islanders held onto home ice in the Metro, and we narrowly missed a first-round dream matchup of Caps/Pens. Instead, Pittsburgh will face the Islanders while the Caps get a tricky wildcard matchup with the Hurricanes. The Flames get the Avs, the Stars head to Nashville, and the Blue Jackets gets the fun task of trying to knock off the Lightning. The full matchups and schedule can be found here.

The highlight of the weekend came on Saturday, with the final game of Bob Cole’s legendary career. The Leafs and Habs gave him plenty of action to call, abandoning defence to near-historic levels and serving up an all-timer debut by Ryan Poehling that had the Bell Centre rocking. It all ended in a shootout – yes, the streak is over – and an outpouring of tributes for Cole from around the hockey world.

That game was followed by the Oilers and Flames, and what briefly seemed like it would be by far the biggest story of the weekend. Connor McDavid’s high-speed collision with the goal post left him writhing on the ice with what we all assumed was a broken leg.

And then, just as we were still figuring out timelines for his return and how they’d impact next season, word came that X-rays were negative. That’s huge for the Oilers, an organization that clearly can’t afford any more bad news as they head into a crucial offseason.

In individual news, Nikita Kucherov finished with the highest point total since 1995-96 while breaking the scoring record for Russian players, Leon Draisaitl hit the 50-goal mark, Alexander Ovechkin won his eighth Rocket Richard, and Robin Lehner and Thomas Griess held off the Stars to win the Jennings.

On Sunday, we didn’t waste any time getting to the coaching casualties, as the Panthers parted ways with Bob Boughner while releasing a hilarious press release that basically said “We’re hiring Joel Quenneville” without mentioning his name. They’ve schedule a news conference for noon today, where they will introduce Quenneville as coach. We’ve also got a new opening in Buffalo, where Phil Housley was relieved of his duties yesterday after two years on the job, and Los Angeles, where interim coach Willie Desjardins will not return.

So now it’s on to the playoffs. But first, one last set of power rankings. All year long, we’ve been presenting a top five and bottom five every Monday morning. But in this final edition, it seems like a top five just isn’t enough. After all, we’ve got 16 teams still standing. Shouldn’t we close out the season by ranking each and every one of them?

No, we should not. This is a terrible idea that will make everyone hate me. But we’re doing it anyway, complete with reasons why each playoff team will (and won’t) win the Cup.

But since we’re already playing with the format this week, let’s switch it up a bit more and lead things off with one last look at the bottom five before we move on to the main event.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

(Want to read this post on The Athletic for free? Sign up for a free seven-day trial.)

No comments:

Post a Comment