I’ve followed two NHL teams with blood and tears my whole life, and it’s quite rare that both have missed the playoffs in the same season. (Granted, part of that is because the Blues made the playoffs every year for a quarter-century.)
This spring is one of those years, and it would personally suck if I hadn’t seen it coming for months. Both teams would’ve been obvious roadkill in the first round that I’m in one way relieved not to have the distraction.
Because while so many of you like baseball, football, golf, March Madness (er, that was last month, nevermind), and such, those all mean almost nothing to me. (No, this isn’t a “please like my/hate your sport” plea; just a statement of context.)
Which is to say: Free of such rooting distractions, holy cow does this year’s NHL playoff bracket look awesome. I’m actually going to spend more time watching hockey over the next month than I did when both my teams were in action.
And for every fan who rips Bettman for the Sunbelt strategy (a league strategy that predates this commissioner by, oh, just 25 years), I say to you: PTTTTHHHHTTT. There are so many other, legit reasons to dislike him. But not this one. Long live a league that can bring me Stanley Cup playoff games from 6 p.m. EDT until 1 in the morning, coast to coast.
Things kick off tonight with the Battle of Pennsylvania, the Battle of the Upper Midwestern Tundra (the first-ever Minnesota vs. Winnipeg meeting), and the Battle of Chess Pieces (Knights vs. Kings).
First, a discussion question I’ve been mulling, then saw here in tweet form. I don’t imagine either team playing ball within the division except for a prohibitive price. But:
@BComptonNHL so there are two established and accomplished goaltenders currently rising the bench to start the playoffs- Schneider and Holtby. do you think one or both of them become available at the draft? Can the Islanders can pull the trigger on grabbing one of them?— Steven Manganello (@StevenManganell) April 11, 2018
Me? Make a run at Carter Hutton. Seems good. Played good. Not a head case. Is 32 but...low miles maybe?
Then there’s this from this morning: some reports linking the Islanders and their 2009 draft pick Mikko Koskinen, who is apparently leaving the KHL and SKA to return to North America:
Checking with #Isles on this, but I don't doubt Aivis' sources. Koskinen was 31st overall pick by #Isles in 2009, left North America after 11-12 and has been playing for SKA in the KHL the last four seasons. He's 29. https://t.co/7P8dmwIlqO— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) April 11, 2018
- Happy news! Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier are friends, loving life, on the rise, and headed to represent Team Canada. They stopped by NHL Now. [NHL interview]
- They also took batting practice. Remember when Kyle Okposo got hurt that way? Try not to. [NHL]
- Great to see Brendan Burke accumulating respect in the industry. He is a decision the Islanders absolutely got right. He’ll be calling games again for NBC this postseason. [Newsday]
- John Ledecky sent a further statement to fans. Happy spin: He’s accepting ye olde “accountability” and pledging to keep working toward success. Negative spin: He just said the same thing except reminded us he’s getting us a new arena and inherited a mess. [Newsday | LHH]
- The burning question we all have, phrased differently: How do the Isles pitch Tavares on all this getting better? [Post]
- So Dan updated the Tavares Contract Encyclopedia (vol. 3). More speculation, but just Staple on a Vancouver radio hit, and Canadiens beatwriter Arpon Basu on the maybe...
- WE ALL SUCK. (But I suck the most.) As the accidental winner of this challenge last year, let me just say how proud I am to join all of you in getting
allmost of the preseason predictions wrong, especially since I literally dropped all the way to last. Congrats to the winner! (I won’t spoil it here.) [Torgo’s LHH Prediction Contest results]
- Adjust your quotes to fit the narrative: Now, it turns out, Gary Bettman says Barclays was never gonna work for the Isles. [Newsday]
- Whenever I call my two-year-old “big guy” he goes “No I’m not! I’m SMALL guy!” Here are three Sound Tigers small guys who’ve made it work. [BST]
- And here’s more on St. Denis in particular. [CT Post]
- The Sound Tigers begin the march of a final weekend where the games mean nothing. David Quenneville joined them. He’ll get in a game, surely. [Soundin’ Off]
- With everyone (including us) ripping the Isles Monday, I chuckled to check the Daily News and find...a bunch of AP wire reports from regular season games. But they woke up to have Peter Botte write something a day later. [Daily News]
Since I've been asked a couple times, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman referring to "#Isles owner Scott Malkin and his partners" is nothing new. Bettman has always said that Malkin is the main man in ownership. The two meet regularly.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) April 11, 2018
- SB Nation (that’s the network that hosts Lighthouse Hockey and keeps our utilities running) will again have coverage from all the team sites, plus some national coverage. Check it all out at this hub, which we’ll pin to the front page, so you can get impressions from other fans and bitterly laugh at their tears when some stupid offside review or goalie interference call ruins their year.
- Jonathan Willis discusses the Western playoff chaos with Dmitri of Many Syllables. [PDOcast]
- I mean the Blues would’ve been toast in the first round regardless but they would’ve REALLY been toast with Vladimir Tarasenko on the shelf from a dislocated shoulder. [NHL]
- After Ken Holland’s retention received near-IslesTwitter-level derision from Wings fans, his coach Jeff Blashill will be kept too. [NHL]
- Sidney Crosby wrote a message to each Humboldt Broncos survivor. Very cool. Still hope he loses. [Post-Gazette]
- The on-going tribute to those affected by the tragedy is leaving sticks out by the door. [Comeback]
- Fluto Shinzawa had always been a good read, covering the Bruins for print. Turns out he was new to hockey, but a curious mind makes for good insights, as he explains now that he’s moved to The Athletic.