June 2 — Calder, Quarterfinals & Vezina Finalists

On Tap For Today — Montreal at Winnipeg; 6:30 pm CDT; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN & Vegas at Colorado; 8:00 pm MDT; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN

Tuesday’s Toe Drags

TOUGH CHOICE: Vegas’ Marc-André Fleury, Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer, and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy were announced as Vezina Trophy finalists on Tuesday. The winner will be announced during the later rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE: The Lightning topped Carolina 2-1 on Tuesday — holding off a furious Hurricanes rally in the waning moments — and take a 2-0 series lead back to Tampa for Game 3. Omen alert: They have never lost a playoff series after taking a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.

HOW YA DOIN, KHABIBULIN?: Vasilevskiy tied Nikolai Khabibulin for the most NHL playoff wins by a Russian-born goalie (39). Tampa’s 2-1 win marked the third time in franchise history that a Lightning goalie allowed one or fewer goals in three straight postseason games — along with Ben Bishop and the aforementioned Khabibulin.

THE FIELD IS SET: Germany’s win over Latvia cemented the IIHF World Championship quarterfinals field, and means the USA matches up with Slovakia, while Canada matches up with ROC. Both games are Thursday.

IIHF World Championship Playoff Round

As if our calendars weren’t packed with enough hockey, the playoff round of the World Championship will start on June 3 and continue through June 6. The preliminary round did not disappoint. Fans saw a ton of upsets, including Kazakhstan’s victory over Finland — Very Nice! The winning teams will move on to play in the semifinals on Saturday. Let’s enjoy a quick preview of the four quarterfinal matchups.

Switzerland vs. Germany

Switzerland played Great Britain and won by a final score of 6-3. Devils’ captain Nico Hischier earned two points in the contest. On Monday night Germany was shut out by the United States. Buffalo Sabres forward Tobias Rieder registered three shots on goal during his 15:46 of ice time in the loss.

NHL Players to Watch

Switzerland: Nico Hischier — New Jersey Devils; Philipp Kurashev — Chicago Blackhawks; Timo Meier — San Jose Sharks.

Germany: Tobias Rieder — Buffalo Sabres; Lean Bergmann — San Jose Sharks; Dominik Kahun — Edmonton Oilers.

United States vs. Slovakia

If you are a fan of the LA Kings this is the matchup that needs to be on your radar. Cal Petersen is the US goalie and sits atop the leader board with a .960 save percentage (SV%) and two shutouts. Arizona Coyotes forward Conor Garland leads the US with eight points in seven games played.

NHL Players to Watch

United States: Matt Roy, Trevor Moore & Cal Petersen — LA Kings; Matt Tennyson — New Jersey Devils; Conor Garland — Arizona Coyotes; Jason Robertson — Dallas Stars; Kevin Rooney & Colin Blackwell — New York Rangers; Ryan Donato — San Jose Sharks.

Slovakia: Marián Studenič — New Jersey Devils

ROC vs. Canada

This match up has the most combined NHL players with a total of 29 players between Canada and the ROC. Ottawa Senators forward Connor Brown and Anaheim Ducks forward Adam Henrique are playing extremely well for Canada. Brown has registered 10 points in seven games and Henrique is right behind him with nine. Alexander Barabanov leads the ROC with eight points in seven games, which is impressive when you consider he only notched eight points in 22 games played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks this season.

NHL Players to Watch

ROC: Vladislav Gavrikov & Mikhail Grigorenko — Columbus Blue Jackets; Dmitry Orlov — Washington Capitals; Ivan Provorov — Philadelphia Flyers; Nikita Zadorov — Chicago Blackhawks; Vladimir Tarasenko — St. Louis Blues; Alexander Barabanov — San Jose Sharks

Canada: Adam Henrique — Anaheim Ducks; Connor Brown — Ottawa Senators; Darcy Kuemper — Arizona Coyotes; Brandon Pirri — Chicago Blackhawks; Andrew Mangiapane — Calgary Flames

Finland vs. Czech Republic

Olli Määttä and Arttu Ruotsalainen are hoping to help Finland defend their World Championship title. On the other side of the ice we have the Czech Republic, who are on a five-game winning streak and have all the momentum going into this game. Filip Zadina of the Detroit Red Wings scored a goal and notched an assist in the Czech’s recent victory over Slovakia.

NHL Players to Watch

Finland: Olli Määttä — LA Kings; Arttu Ruotsalainen — Buffalo Sabres.

Czech Republic: Filip Zadina & Jakub Vrána — Detroit Red Wings; Dominik Kubalík — Chicago Blackhawks; Filip Chytil — New York Rangers

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 “In Memoriam” segment, we are going to offer some final words on these first round casualties.

Minnesota Wild

“What Went Wrong” might be the wrong heading here, considering that the Minnesota Wild’s 2020-21 season has to be considered a success by pretty well any measure.

While critics might suggest that the Wild took advantage of a pretty weak Honda West Division beyond the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, the young, inexperienced club still managed to beat out the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues for third place. They also set a franchise record for points percentage (.670%), netting 75 points in 56 games.

The momentum that Minnesota built over the course of the regular season carried into the playoffs. Against the Golden Knights — a team that lost out on the Presidents’ Trophy due to a tiebreaker — the Wild climbed out of a 3-1 hole and forced a Game 7 before falling 6-2.

The roster is far from perfect — in 2023-24, the Wild will still be paying nearly $30 million to a 33-year-old Jared Spurgeon, a 36-year-old Mats Zuccarello, a 38-year old Ryan Suter, and a 39-year-old Zach Parise! — but the young core that shone bright in the postseason offers plenty of cause for optimism. Kirill Kaprizov is at the forefront of the Calder race, Joel Eriksson Ek enjoyed a breakout campaign and scored the Game 1 OT winner, and Kevin Fiala and Jordan Greenway both took positive steps.

Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The offseason will be a busy one for GM Bill Guerin. There are five unrestricted free agents — as well as a handful of restricted free agents — in need of new contracts, including Fiala and Eriksson Ek. In a big picture sense, however, the future is bright, and not a moment too soon. After five straight one-and-done playoff appearances, including the qualifying round in 2020, Wild fans are ready for a deeper postseason run.