Last night wrapped up the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs with three action-packed Game Seven’s, one right after the other, for several hours worth of late night, pulse-pounding playoff hockey entertainment.
If any of you out there are like me, you stayed up for the whole she-bang and it did not disappoint.
The San Jose Sharks managed to be one of four teams in NHL history to lead a series 3-0 before allowing the other team (the Los Angeles Kings in this case) to steadily come back and take the series in Game Seven with four-straight wins. The other three teams in league history to come back from three games down to win a seven-games series are the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders, and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers.
I can’t believe it. I had the Sharks moving ahead in my bracket, and after the first three games I felt pretty sound in my choice. Well, as it turns out, not for very long. Don’t you wish the Tampa Bay Lightning could have pulled some of that Kings Magic out of their hat against the Montreal Canadiens last week? Making the Habs the fifth team in NHL history, along side the newly crowned Sharks, to give up a three-game series lead, ultimately to lose the series? Man, I sure do. But, alas, twas not the case. Moving on…
San Jose has continued its fine tradition of always being a really, really good team; consistently making the playoffs only to fall apart once there (and lately always to the Kings) and never really advancing very far or seeing a Stanley Cup Final. While the Los Angeles Kings proved why I should have picked them in the first place: a more experienced playoff team with more proven success to advance, and why I don’t pick NHL playoff brackets for a living.
Another bracket breaker for me was the Colorado/Minnesota series. To say nothing of the Lightning/Canadiens series cause I obviously picked the Bolts to advance in that one. The Avalanche struck early and hard in easily one of the most entertaining of the opening round match-ups, with most of the games going to overtime to be decided, but the Wild stayed alive with key wins at home and eventually took the series last night in a Game Seven.
The only wildcard team to get through the opening round.
Finally, the last Game Seven to decide a series last night was between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. I picked the Rangers to win the series but secretly I was kind of rooting for Vinny Lecavalier‘s new team to pull it off, and they just about did. I picked the right team, as the Rangers ultimately won and are moving on, but I have to be honest, seeing Marty St. Louis skating around in that blue and red uniform hasn’t gotten any easier. I guess now I might as well root for the Rangers (I know) to take the next round over the Penguins (because its Pittsburgh) so that second round pick the Bolts got with Ryan Callahan in March becomes a first round pick in the coming draft. It’s the little things.
As far as the rest of the first round goes, I picked Chicago over St. Louis (hell of a series though), Anaheim over Dallas, Boston over Detroit, and Pittsburgh over Columbus (though I desperately wanted to be wrong about that one and nearly was).
The Bruins are still the team to beat in the East as far as I’m concerned. A few issues were brought to the surface during the Red Wings series, especially in that first game, so I think this next series (starting tonight) against Montreal will show how serious and for real Boston is for making another break for the Finals. It’ll also show how for real Montreal is after sweeping the Bolts.
Pittsburgh struggled mightily against Columbus, I think, and might struggle some more against New York with the Pens having some issues in net and with little forward offensive production. Look for that series to be very competitive. Another seven game scorcher.
In the West, things are a bit more wide open in my point of view. Or at least I’m not sure who I’d put all my money on. I see the Black Hawks handling the Wild but stranger things have happened. The Ducks and the Kings should be a really good series, very tough, much like the Kings/Sharks series was. If the Ducks don’t figure out their goaltending though it could be a rather short series in favor of the Kings.
Either way I’ll be watching. Nothing like playoff hockey. I bet even the Bolts players are staying up nights watching these games. And hopefully thinking about rejoining the party next year. I know I am.
Off the Dot is an ongoing column of opinions, feelings and thoughts on all things Tampa Bay Lightning. This is a knee-jerk reaction column for the many things that a fan maybe feels or thinks throughout a hockey season.
This is NOT a stat by stat analysis of the Bolts, but rather a theater of words concerning the Lightning and the many emotions tangled up in supporting your favorite NHL team; a theater for all fans to come to for a more personal take on Tampa Bay hockey.
That’s why I call it “off the dot”. Because if we were “on the dot”, as in face-off mode, well, things would be decidedly more on-point and specific. While off the dot, while we’re still just milling around the face-off circle, as I am now, waiting for the whistle to blow, then we’re just being conversational. We’re just talking about our thoughts on strategy maybe or whatever random concept happens to come to mind, needing to be expressed. The fun off-key banter of fans before someone (whoever) decides to hunker down, spread out their skates, and get nose-deep over the dot for the real face-off, and maybe say, statistically speaking, what happened in a win or loss in their more researched opinion. And we have those articles all over Bolts by the Bay, and I very much encourage you to check out those articles, too.
These are just my opinions, my feelings, and my thoughts – while we’re off the dot.