May 24 — Florida’s Follies & Sweeping the Top

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

HAGEL FINED: Brandon Hagel has been fined $3,750 for boarding Florida Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen in the first period of Game 3. The Tampa Bay Lightning forward received a minor penalty for cross-checking as his team went on to win by a final score of 5-1. 

THUNDERSTORM WARNING: The Tampa Bay Lightning are one step closer to a third straight Stanley Cup title after beating the Florida Panthers 2-0 last night to complete a sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy winners. Superstar goaltender Andrei Vaselevskiy stopped all 49 shots he faced for Tampa.

MALKIN AND LETANG TO STAY?: If Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall had it his way, pending unrestricted free agents Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang would both finish their careers as Pens. Hextall, who already secured one piece of the club’s core by re-signing Bryan Rust to a six-year contract, said of Malkin and Letang, “we’d certainly like to have them in the mix in September.”

FIRST CAREER HATTY: Nazem Kadri had three goals and an assist to record his first career playoff hat trick in the Colorado Avalanche’s 6-3 Game 4 victory over the St. Louis Blues. David Perron had two goals, and Ville Husso made 31 saves for the Blues, who will look to extend their season with a win in Colorado on Wednesday. 

Trivia Tuesday

How Well Do You Know Evander Kane?

Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
  1. The Atlanta Thrashers selected Kane with which pick in the 2009 NHL Draft?
    • Sixth
    • Fourth
    • Fifth
    • Third

  2. How many times has the league suspended Kane throughout his career?
    • Five
    • Six
    • Three
    • Two

  3. Which former San Jose Sharks teammate did Kane play with for the Dynamo Minsk in the KHL during the 2012-13 lockout?
    • Brent Burns
    • Logan Couture
    • Barclay Goodrow
    • Joe Pavelski

Answers can be found at the bottom of the email.

From Presidents’ Trophy to Playoff Sweep

The Florida Panthers were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning last night after the two-time defending champs completed a second-round sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy winners with a 2-0 win. The Panthers, who finished the 2021-22 regular season with a league-best 122 points, won their first playoff series in 26 years against the Washington Capitals but were dominated in four games against their in-state rivals.

Although Presidents’ Trophy winners struggling in the postseason isn’t the oddest sight (the NHL’s best regular season team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012-13), their getting swept is rare. In fact, before the Panthers last night, only three Presidents’ Trophy winners in the past 30 years have been swept in the playoffs.

2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning

The most recent top team to fall victim to a sweep is one any hockey fan will likely remember. Tampa Bay finished the 2018-19 regular season with 128 points, the fourth most in a single season in NHL history, and 62 wins, which tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most in a single season.

Following a historic regular season, Andrei Vasilevskiy and the 2018-19 Lightning got swept by Columbus. Since then, they’ve won 10 straight playoff series (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

After the Lightning drew the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1, a team that had never won a playoff series, it looked like that drought would continue after the Lightning scored three goals in the first period of Game 1. However, Columbus rallied back and ultimately won 7-3 and carried that momentum into the rest of the series, winning the next three games. Columbus would lose to the Boston Bruins in six games in the next round, while Tampa has not lost a playoff series since that loss.

1994-95 Detroit Red Wings

You have to go back to the last century to find the latest Presidents’ Trophy winner to be swept before the Lightning. Due to a lockout-shortened season, the Red Wings finished the regular season with a league-best 70 points. Detroit then breezed through the 1995 postseason, beating the Dallas Stars in five games, sweeping the San Jose Sharks, and defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in five to get to the Stanley Cup Final.

Steve Yzerman and the 1994-95 Red Wings finished with the best record in a shortened regular season, making it to the Stanley Cup Final. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Detroit faced off against the New Jersey Devils, losing four straight games. After a 2-1 Game 1 loss, Detroit was beaten by two goals in Game 2 and 5-2 in each of the final two games. That following year, the Red Wings finished the regular season with an NHL-record 131 points but again didn’t win the Stanley Cup, although they did avoid being swept.

1987-88 Calgary Flames

Out of the teams on this list, the 1987-88 Flames might be the best parallel to the 2021-22 Panthers. Those Flames finished the regular season with 105 points, a franchise record, and dispatched the Los Angeles Kings in five games to move past the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Flames faced Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, the defending champions and the winners of three Cups in four years.

Joe Mullen and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Flames were swept by a legendary Edmonton team in the 1988 Playoffs but won the Stanley Cup in 1989. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Those talented Oilers took care of Calgary in four games, then went on to win another Stanley Cup title, losing just two games that entire postseason. That next season, Calgary won the Presidents’ Trophy again, then made it to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history, beating the Montreal Canadiens in six games.

What Went Wrong

Well, so much for the much-ballyhooed “Battle of Florida.” After the in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers produced a thrilling first-round series last season (Tampa won 4-2), the Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup, and the Panthers turned a disappointing loss into a dominant Presidents’ Trophy-winning season this year.

That makes Tampa’s 4-0 sweep disappointing, especially with the hype surrounding this second-round rematch. While fans of the two-time defending champions certainly aren’t complaining, Florida now has a long summer ahead to figure out how an incredibly successful 2021-22 season turned sour so quickly.

Florida Panthers

There’s no discounting a regular season campaign that produced an NHL-best 122 points and garnered a career year from Jonathan Huberdeau. Heck, they even won their first playoff series since 1996! But the Panthers had bigger goals in mind, especially as it pertained to their Atlantic Division rivals, so any achievements from this past year are likely of cold comfort.

However, the biggest reason Florida is out after four games is Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning goalie rounded into form late in the club’s first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and shut down the Cats, allowing just three goals for the entire series. On Monday night, Florida had nothing to show for the 49 shots thrown his way.

The power outage against Tampa means that no one in a Panthers jersey proved to be a sufficient offensive force. Although, Huberdeau’s five points and Sam Bennett’s three in 10 games stood out, as did underwhelming contributions from the back end (MacKenzie Weegar and Ben Chiarot managed just an assist each in the postseason).

Florida has decisions ahead on some key free agent forwards, including major deadline acquisition Claude Giroux. However, the Panthers don’t have a ton of room to maneuver, owing to the start of Aleksander Barkov’s eight-year, $80 million extension and a painful $5.4 million cap hit on the Keith Yandle buyout.

It’s hard not to look at this season and be excited for what’s to come, but a franchise-best season and first playoff triumph in 26 years still left fans wanting more.

Trivia Answers

  1. Fourth
  2. Five
  3. Joe Pavelski

Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket

Stanley Cup Playoffs Leading Scorers

Today’s NHL Schedule