Biggest Surprises from the First Round of the NHL Playoffs
The first round of the NHL playoffs provides us with plenty of surprises every season, and this year was no exception. With multiple games on every night for the last two weeks, there’s been plenty of action to keep track of, so I’ll try to touch on some of the biggest storylines from the first round.
Edmonton Oilers get swept
The Edmonton Oilers are a team with three talented forwards, which was clearly enough for them in the regular season, but the playoffs proved to be a different story. Connor McDavid went from averaging almost 2 points per game to just 1 per game in the series, but only one goal in those four games.
It’s fair to have high expectations for the best player in the league, and you could argue that he didn’t step up the way that he needed to in a playoff series, but the only really are not a good team. Outside of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the talent level really drops off. The rest of the Oilers forward group includes names like Zack Kassian, Devin Shore, Alex Chiasson and Tyler Ennis. If a team slows down McDavid and Draisaitl, there really isn’t anyone else who provides a threat of creating any offense.
While the last three games of the series all went to overtime, including triple overtime in Game 4, the Oilers really didn’t help themselves at all. Namely, their Game 3 collapse. With a 4-1 lead, the Oilers allowed Winnipeg to score 3 goals in 3 minutes late in the third period to force overtime. Instead of being back in the series, the Oilers found themselves down 3-0.
The issues with Edmonton go beyond their players, and definitely includes GM Ken Holland. You can’t blame McDavid for not being able to do more with the lineup that the front office has put on the ice with him. While I don’t think he’ll go full-Eichel and demand a trade, you can only imagine that playing in Edmonton has essentially destroyed his will to live over the last few years.
Leafs are cursed
The Toronto Maples Leafs blew a 3-1 lead.
To make that even worse, they blew a 3-1 lead to the Montreal Canadiens. It’s unclear what the really issue is with the Leafs at this point. They have a young group of star players, they finally addressed their issues on the blue line, and Jack Campbell actually played really well this season. They were the best team in the North Division, but once again the Leafs and their fans are suffering after a first round Game 7.
I really don’t even know what to say at this point. All I know is that Leafs fans are in for a long offseason.
Colorado is the team to beat
The Avalanche absolutely steamrolled the St. Louis Blues. There’s no other way to put it. They’ve looked dominant in every game that they’ve played so far and don’t really show any signs of slowing down. They outscored the Blues 20-8 over their four game series and followed that up with a 7-1 win over Vegas in Game 1 of their second round matchup. Nathan MacKinnon has 12 points through 5 games, Philipp Grubauer has a .941 save percentage and 1.60 goals against average, and more importantly are 5-0 in the playoffs without being in a close game so far.
On another note, Nazem Kadri just can’t help himself once the playoffs come around. Leafs fans are familiar with his first round antics, resulting in some lengthy playoff suspensions. Well, it happened again, resulting in an 8 game suspension that he’s been trying to appeal but nobody in their right mind would reduce.
Obviously, playing without Kadri hasn’t changed anything for Colorado. I know we’re just one game into the second round here and I don’t want to write Vegas off yet, but if Game 1 was any indication of what’s to come, I don’t know if anybody is going to be able to stop the Avalanche this year.