May 13 — Henman, Decibels & Jennings Trophy

Wednesday’s Wheelhouse

RANGER DANGER: New York Rangers coach David Quinn was fired by new President and GM Chris Drury on Wednesday. The search for a replacement is set to begin immediately.

DOOGIE-HEISER MD: Hockey Hall of Famer and Maple Leafs Assistant Director of Player Development Hayley Wickenheiser can add a new title to her resume: Doctor. Considered one of the greatest female hockey players of all time, Wickenheiser earned her medical degree from the University of Calgary and will begin her residency in Toronto while still working for the Leafs full time.

THEY DID, IN FACT, GET KRAKEN: OK, this is the last time we’ll use this joke, but Seattle signed its first-ever player, center Luke Henman. The 21-year-old was selected by the Hurricanes in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft but became a free agent after going unsigned prior to the 2020-21 season.

THEY’RE GOLDEN: Vegas goaltenders Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury have officially won the William M. Jennings Trophy after combining for the lowest Goals Against Average this season. Fleury secured the honor with a 19-save shutout on Wednesday night, his 67th career shutout.

McHUNDRED UPDATES: Connor McDavid collected two assists in the Oilers’ 4-3 overtime win in Montreal, hitting the 70 assist mark for the third time in his career!

Top-Shelf Thursday – Top-5 Playoff Arena Atmospheres

Long gone are the days of May hockey at Joe Louis Arena, Northlands Coliseum, or the Maple Leaf Gardens. Instead, NHL fans file into rinks named Scotiabank Arena and Scotiabank Saddledome, or Rogers Place and Rogers Arena. That’s not to say the atmosphere inside the building is as vanilla as the name on the outside, on the contrary, the arenas listed are some of the loudest in the NHL. In this week’s Top-Shelf Thursday, we take a look at the active top-5 playoff arena atmospheres.

5. The Old Barn

The reason they beat out the Hurricanes and Blackhawks is simple — the Islanders fan base come alive during the postseason. The 2020-21 season will mark the last time Nassau Coliseum — aka “the old barn” — will be used by the club, as the Islanders will be moving to UBS Arena for the 2021-22 season.  When the puck drops for Game 3 you can guarantee the Coliseum will be rocking — especially when Joe Satriani’s “Crowd Chant” echoes through the speakers. 

4. Winnipeg Whiteout 

Each and every season we pray to the hockey gods that the Winnipeg Jets make the playoffs for one reason — the Winnipeg Whiteout is one of the coolest things to witness in the postseason. The level of commitment from the fans makes this experience a 10 out of 10. 

3. An Impregnable Fortress

Does any team have more of a home ice advantage than the Golden Knights? Vegas stays true to their brand by bringing the Strip into T-Mobile Arena. Fans are entertained with hockey and a show when they step foot into the Fortress. 

2. Smashville

If you question this pick, merely look back at the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals. Game 6 in Nashville saw 50,000 fans — all decked out in gold apparel — flock downtown to support the home team. In true Nashville fashion, the national anthem singers included Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, and Little Big Town. 

1. Can’t Match Montreal

The energy level in Bell Centre during a regular season game is louder than most arenas for the playoffs, so it’s only fitting Montreal tops this list. Since joining the NHL in 1917, Canadiens fans’ passion for the game and their team is unrivaled. Although the last time they won the Stanley Cup was in 1993, it’s hard to not get chills when you hear the crowd chant “Go Habs Go.”

First Round Forecast

At long last, the NHL playoff picture is finally coming into focus, and with the postseason set to begin on Saturday, we’ll take a look ahead at each upcoming series. Given the division-exclusive regular season format we just witnessed, each of these matchups will feature teams that are — shall we say — painfully familiar with one another.

MassMutual East Division (Cont.)

No. 2 Washington Capitals vs No. 3 Boston Bruins

The Washington Capitals would surely love to be fielding questions about Zdeno Chara facing the team he captained for 14 seasons. Heck, they’d probably even take questions about what could be a chippy, combustible series featuring Tom Wilson and Boston Bruins agitator Brad Marchand. For the time being, however, the focus of what could be an explosive series centers on the injury situation in the nation’s capital.

On the positive note, Alex Ovechkin played his first full game since April 22nd on Tuesday night against the Caps’ upcoming first round opponent. However, John Carlson and T.J. Oshie missed the game with injuries, while Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov remain in the league’s COVID protocol. Their continued absence would not only thin out Washington’s forward and defensive corps, but put major pressure on rookie goaltender Vitek Vanecek.

It would be a shame if injuries took anything away from a series featuring two of the league’s most consistent playoff staples of the past decade-plus. The 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals are set to embark on their seventh straight postseason appearance, and 13th in 14 years, while the 2011 Cup-winning Bruins will participate for the fifth consecutive time and 12th over the past 14 years.

Scotia North Division

No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs No. 4 Montreal Canadiens

Imagine traveling back in time to April 1979 — the last time these two played in the postseason — and trying to explain to the fans that these two Original Six teams would not meet again in the playoffs for 42 years. While playing in empty arenas, no less!

Such are the strange circumstances that greet a playoff clash featuring one of the league’s most iconic rivalries. Sitting first and second, respectively, on the all-time list of most Cup victories, Montreal and Toronto are set to meet for the 16th time in postseason play. But while Montreal holds the historical advantage, both head-to-head and in terms of Cup victories, the Leafs look to be major favorites this time around.

Led by the scoring exploits of 41-goal man Auston Matthews, Toronto has conquered the Scotia North Division for its first division crown since 2000. Meanwhile, Montreal enters the playoffs on a five-game skid and finished the regular season with the fewest points (59) of any playoff team. The Habs will need all of their injured bodies — a group that includes Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber and Phillip Danault — ready for any chance against the Leafs.

No. 2 Edmonton Oilers vs No. 3 Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets were far from the only team that Connor McDavid lit up this season in the North Division, but they were a frequent victim. The author of 104 points in 55 games notched 22 of those against the Jets, including seven over the past two games. Not surprisingly, the Oilers won seven of the nine contests between the two this season.

Now McDavid must show he can carry that same level of play over to the postseason, where Edmonton has won just one series during his tenure. Looking to stop him will be elite two-way center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who hounded Matthews during last year’s Qualifying Round while he was with Columbus.

While some are already looking ahead to a Maple Leafs vs Oilers second round meeting, Winnipeg can’t be taken lightly. The Jets boast a deep forward corps of their own with a healthy Wheeler along with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor, albeit no one on McDavid’s level. Plus, Hellebuyck has the potential to steal a game or two between the pipes.

Check back tomorrow for more First Round Forecast!

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