A salty yinzer fan's guide to the NHL playoffs
Don't worry CMU, some of these NHL teams are failing their loved ones just in time for Finals Week too. The NHL has far and away the most parity out of any sports league in the US and it shows when only ONE series ended in five games. Yes, a gentleman’s sweep was the biggest ass whooping of the playoffs. That’s unheard of. Everyone else finished up in six games, or will be finishing in everyone’s favorite game to end it all, Game 7. I’m only going to cover the Eastern Conference again (because I already wrote too much last time) but if you’re that desperate for news on how the LA Kings are doing, maybe you should’ve gone to CalTech like your parents actually wanted.
Reminder: this was written after every Game 6; none of these Game 7s had happened yet.
(A1) Boston Bruins VS. (WC2) Florida Panthers
How do you write a twist so unpredictable it becomes the most predictable shit I’ve ever seen? Anyone who’s shocked by this outcome clearly forgot what happened to the Lightning before their dynasty. “Lightning in 3” turned into “Columbus in 1.” 62 wins in the regular season, 0 in the playoffs. Boston’s got 65 wins in the regular season, and hey, at least they might get 3 in the playoffs to show for it. Game 1 showed a Bruins team that, while struggling to score at their usual level, still had the insane chemistry that won them so many games. There were so many blind passes you’d think Matt Murdock joined the lineup, and yet they all worked. No matter how many ghosts they passed to, a Bruin would end up with the puck on their stick… and maybe that was their downfall. They’ve been playing a collected, but cocky, type of game and that confidence isn’t translating because these bears are nowhere near as hungry as the cats on the other bench. Maybe it’s that underdog mentality, but these Panthers are electric. Just look at the difference in how these two teams celebrate. The Panthers bring the house down even when they’re not in their own house, and truth be told, scoring goals is a whole lot easier when Linus Ullmark loses his magic. In game 5, Ullmark got Jarry Syndrome and decided to pass the puck to the wrong team in overtime like every competent goalie seems to do nowadays. Then in game 6, 'twas a legendary and extremely fun to watch battle where both goaltenders forgot how to tend goals. 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, all within the last 12 minutes of the game. The greatest team in regular season history has a chance to blow a 3-1 series lead by the time anyone reads this, and you already know I’ll be the first to show up to an inferior black and gold team’s funeral.
(A2) Toronto Maple Leafs VS. (A3) Tampa Bay Lightning
TORONTO WINS 4-2
Oh my God, the rapture is here. After losing an insane 11 straight series-clinching games, the Canadian kings of choking finally won a playoff series. For the first time since 2004, a year I couldn’t even say the Maple Leafs sucked ass because I couldn’t speak yet, they are moving on to the second round. "Hey, guys, we can’t lose another game 7 if we never play a game 7." I don’t think anyone actually believed the Lightning would win; everyone just believed the Maple Leafs would lose. There’s a difference. I mean, I was convinced the Leafs already hit peak playoff form after getting blown out 7-3 in game 1, but as soon as someone called the ambulance, they declared “but not for me” and dominated the Lightning 7-2 two days after. Credit to Toronto’s coaching staff because they pulled some Imitation Game bullshit and cracked Andrei Vasilevskiy before anyone else could. They even told the world their strategy live on air in an interview. Paraphrased, “yeah just pop shots from the point lmao”. How else do you think Morgan Reilly had a round to remember alongside Shawn Mendes impersonator Mitch Marner? That’s called adjustment, folks. Biden declared that the COVID pandemic was over and accidentally ended the Lightning in the process. Maybe those Corona championship asterisks were right. You didn’t hear that from me though. Congratulations Toronto, in the spirit of shedding labels, I hope Auston Matthews sheds that terrible mustache too.
(M1) Carolina Hurricanes VS. (WC1) New York Islanders
CAROLINA WINS 4-2
The only bet safer than Carolina winning was that this would be one boring ass series. This series had no energy other than the Sebastian Aho people actually care about. All the moments that should’ve had players screaming “LFG” looked like “LFG to bed.” Before game 6, I had never seen a more nonchalant celebration/cry of defeat combo in my life. The goal to end it all was a total shitter that was more of a pass to the corner boards than a shot and yet, what do you know? Ilya Sorokin played as advertised, making nutty save after nutty save only to let in the saddest goals imaginable. In game 2, the Hurricanes somehow put one of the jankiest goals of all time because Islanders defender, wish.com Sebastian Aho, decided to use his stick as a flail and somehow threw a total bouncer of a puck into his own net. If you don’t want to watch hockey for the right reasons, at least watch this play for laughs because I cannot make this shit up. Back to game 6, Sorokin let in the softest of softies off his right foot to end the series and the only thing more baffling than the goal was the aftermath. The Hurricanes lackadaisically skate over to goal scorer, or more accurately “last guy who happened to touch the puck”, Paul Stastny with the energy of “oh jolly good show old chaps” and the Islanders sulk in agony with the pain of “aw jeepers guys, that sure was an oopsies.” I think the Hurricanes are a talented team who just need an opponent with more personality than a graham cracker to really showcase their energy and skill but for the time being, this was an empty husk of a series. If the Penguins held just one of their multi-goal third period leads against the Islanders, the world wouldn’t have been subjected to this torture on ice.
(M2) New Jersey Devils VS. (M3) New York Rangers
Akira Schmid? More like Sch-based (kill me). On a serious note, I could not tell you what the hell this series is. In games 1 and 2, the Rangers humiliated the Devils beyond comprehension. The Devils’ entire offense was so cold I thought I could see them turning blue. Their only offensive production in game 1 was a god damn penalty shot. We already knew their goaltending wasn’t the reason they were winning, but at least in the regular season, they were burying enough pucks to give Vitek Vanecek a workload CMU students would sacrifice themselves for… and then a miracle happened. Some random ass nobody named after the most overrated anime movie of all time (this is a joke, Akira slaps) got thrown into game 3 and singlehandedly flipped the series on its head. A perpetual minor leaguer completely and utterly collapsed the Rangers’ offense for 3 games straight. The same offense that roasted the Devils on an open fire with 10 goals in the first two games scored just 2 in the next 3. Unfortunately, the Devils' offense didn’t get much better and only survived by 1 goal margins in games where the Rangers could only score 1 goal. At least game 5 was the destroyer of confidence the Devils hoped for as they went for a 20-2 shot differential in the third period and a 4-0 win on the night but that didn’t last long at all. The Rangers came roaring back to win 5-2 in game 6 and showed the world that they remembered how to skate. So to sum it up, according to my in-depth analysis, I’ve come to the thoughtful conclusion of “I don’t even fucking know." Both teams have shown they know how to shit the bed with peak efficiency and so all I can expect is that everyone’s uniform will look a little more brown than usual.