On Tap For Today — Montreal at Toronto; 7:00 pm EDT; CNBC, CBC & New York at Boston; 7:30 pm EDT; NBCSN
Happy Memorial Day to our American readers!
HATS OFF: Mattias Janmark, who had scored just one goal since March 20, notched a hat trick in the Golden Knights’ Game 7 win over Minnesota on Friday. Their reward, of course, is a second-round series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Avalanche.
NATURAL HAB-ITAT: It was impossible not to get goosebumps as 2,500 Montreal fans roared to life at an NHL game in Canada for the first time since March 11, 2020. They certainly went home happy after Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s overtime winner forced a Game 7 Monday against Toronto — which, by the way, has only happened once before.
HE’S NO IM-PASTA: Boston’s David Pastrnak recorded a hat trick of his own in Saturday’s 5-2 Game 1 win over the Islanders, though his pre-game arrival stole the show. Game 2 is tonight.
THAT’S MORE LIKE IT: Canada has gone 3-0 — including two wins this weekend — since Andrew Mangiapane joined the team after coming over from Calgary. After starting the tournament 0-3, the Canadians are currently tied for fourth place and need a win on Tuesday against Finland to keep their quarter-finals hopes alive.
BIG MAC: Nathan Mackinnon is up to his usual tricks, scoring his postseason-leading seventh and eighth goals of the playoffs in Sunday’s 7-1 Game 1 win over Vegas. That’s tied for third-best through five games in the league’s history.
LIGHTNING STRIKE FIRST: Tampa Bay eked out a 2-1 Game 1 win over Carolina on Sunday, led by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 37 saves. Barclay Goodrow’s goal in the third period was his fourth career playoff goal — three of them are game-winners.
THAT’S FLY: The NHL is reportedly working on a plan with health authorities that would provide teams traveling to and from Canada travel exemption. If true, it’s another step towards a return to normalcy after a tumultuous two seasons.
Can Toronto Recover?
Tonight is a crucial night for our Canadian friends. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will battle in a decisive Game 7 to see who will face the Winnipeg Jets in the second round. Toronto was the heavy favorite coming into the series so let’s take a closer look at how we got to Game 7.
The Canadiens stole Game 1 when forward Paul Byron scored a shorthanded goal with fewer than eight minutes left to play in the third period. The biggest story to come out of the first game, however, was the loss of John Tavares. He took a scary knee to the head after he collided with Corey Perry, but Toronto rallied back to win Games 2, 3, and 4 setting up a potential Game 5 series clincher at home. In typical Toronto fashion — sorry Leafs nation — they were unable to close out the series in Game 5 or Game 6.
William Nylander has been the best player in blue, while Jason Spezza has been a pleasant surprise for the Leafs. To no one’s surprise, it is Carey Price who has been standing on his head for the Canadiens and continues to be a thorn for Toronto. From the beginning of the series, the pressure and spotlight have been on Toronto. The Leafs need stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to step up in tonight’s game and lead by example. The other key to Toronto’s success will be to play a disciplined game and stay out of the penalty box. If Game 6 taught us anything, it’s that when given the opportunity, Montreal will make Toronto pay for their mistakes.
Anything less than a Stanley Cup Final appearance would be considered a fail for the Maple Leafs, as fans are losing hope as Game 7 approaches. History is not exactly on the Maple Leafs’ side and Montreal has all the momentum coming into the series finale. Don’t miss Game 7 on CNBC in the US or CBC in Canada, starting at 7:00 p.m. EDT.
What Went Wrong
In the words of Ferris Bueller — “Life comes at you pretty fast.” It feels like the NHL playoffs just started and already teams are falling by the wayside. The postseason is a time of year when much of the focus is placed on looking ahead and celebrating those teams that remain in Cup contention. However, in the spirit of our new “In Memoriam” segment, we are going to offer some final words on these first round casualties.
As first steps toward Stanley Cup contention go, this postseason was a pretty good one for the Florida Panthers. Sure, they were felled in the first round by a lower-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning, but even the Game 6 ouster shouldn’t obscure the Panthers staring down their in-state rivals and giving the defending champions all they could handle.
Before being eliminated, Florida stuck around long enough to deliver a couple of instant classic games — including a Game 1 back-and-forth loss that featured five lead changes and a dramatic Game 3 overtime victory that made a hero of Ryan Lomberg. Unfortunately, they ran out of steam against a Lightning team that, on paper anyway, was superior in just about every way. Their 4-0 loss in Game 6 offered telling signs of the club’s inexperience.
Now, Florida likely doesn’t want to hear about moral victories — especially when it comes to the rival Lightning.
While Tampa’s superstar netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy was able to stop the bleeding on what had been a high-scoring series, Florida’s big money goalie Sergei Bobrovsky could not. He was eventually replaced by Chris Driedger, but not before amassing an .841 save percentage and 5.31 GAA. The five years and $50 million left on the 32-year-old’s contract looks like an unmitigated disaster.
Nevertheless, plenty of promising signs remain in the aftermath of what was a breakthrough 2020-21 campaign for the Panthers in South Florida. First and foremost, a core that includes Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, MacKenzie Weegar, and Carter Verhaeghe will all be back next season, barring any trades. Even the dark cloud of Bobrovsky’s contract is brightened some by the emergence of rookie phenom Spencer Knight in net.
For a window of encouragement and hope, the Panthers need only look to their first round opponents. Tampa Bay looks like a perennial juggernaut now, but the past eight years have also brought two first round sweeps and falling short of the playoffs entirely in 2016-17. While the Lightning may not offer a perfect comparison — they might just provide a blueprint that the Panthers have the means to potentially replicate.
Please join us in a moment of silence for these recently eliminated teams – gone, but never forgotten. We can’t wait until we meet again (the 2021-22 season, of course!), but for now we’ll take this opportunity to reflect on a their brief — but memorable — playoff run.
Dates Active: 1/14/21 – 5/28/21
Cause of Death: Poisonous Wild-Flower
Last Words: Janmark? Nah, don’t worry about him.