Well it’s finally happening.
The playoffs started last night and everyone is just ready to scream their faces off for the next two months. I couldn’t be happier. The first round in particular is probably the most fun part of the hockey season, because it’s a lot like Hockey Day in Canada where everyone is watching all day, but it goes on for two weeks straight.
It truly doesn’t get better than this and all I want is to be able to answer your wonderful questions via Twitter and email!!!! Please send them to me for the whole playoffs!
Anderson asks: “How short of a leash does Grubauer have?”
I mean look, Holtby has been very bad this year. It’s the first bad season of his entire career, but boy was it a stinker. If I’m Barry Trotz, I don’t even come close to thinking about putting Holtby in unless Grubauer gets run over by a steamroller. And even then, I’m 50/50 on the move.
Because honestly, it didn’t get a ton of play nationally in February and March, but Holtby went .922 in his last four starts, so you’d think that sounds promising. EXCEPT! In those four starts, he stopped 35 of 37, 26 of 29, 34 of 36, and then 23 of 26. Really waffling back and forth between good and bad appearances.
I don’t know how you could justify putting Holtby in if Grubauer isn’t getting absolutely shelled. His two bad recent performances (over the past month, basically) were against Philly, which can score in bunches, and Nashville, which is the best team in the league probably.
Of course, this is all under the umbrella of, “If it’s me,” which it obviously isn’t. Barry Trotz might be more inclined to defer to Playoff Experience if things go sideways, and obviously I would get why even if I didn’t agree with it.
Worth noting, though, that I picked Columbus to win the series, so basically if Grubauer doesn’t play at a real high level, I’m not sure he’s gonna go shot for shot with Bobrovsky to begin win.
Trevor asks: “How much do you think playoff experience matters compared to how solid a team like Winnipeg looks?”
I guess I don’t think it matters at all. People look at what, say, Edmonton did in “learning” from those old Islander teams, or what Chicago (2010) and Pittsburgh (2008) did more recently to make it only so far then do better the next year.
But if you have a team with a lot of young talent, doesn’t it stand to reason that, if they don’t succeed one year, they are more likely to do so the next just because a lot of guys are still on the going-up side of the aging curve?
And besides, maybe that sort of thing matters against Nashville, but it’s not as though Bruce Boudreau and the rest of the Wild are swimming in experience from deep playoff runs. I would, however, argue that even if they lose to Nashville, it won’t be due to lack of experience, but rather that the Predators are just better than them.
And okay, if they lose to Minnesota? It’ll be because something unexpected happened, and not because they have fewer playoff games played as a team or whatever. Hockey’s random! That’s life!
Tony asks: “Who will be this year’s John Druce?
A historically low-scoring guy on a team that’s expected to go deep and could score a lot? Maybe it’s cheating a bit because he did it to some extent last year, but Colton Sissons has never cleared double digits in goals but had six in 22 games last year.
That’s not John Druce territory, but it tied him for second on the Preds in playoff goalscoring last season (with Roman Josi, oddly). And this year he’s likely to get a bit of an upgrade in terms of his linemates, because Nashville is much deeper this season than it was a year ago.
Otherwise, who am I gonna pick? Brandon Tanev and Sean Kuraly because they played college hockey and are on good teams? Yeah that’s why!
William asks: “Does the Kings’ depth stand a chance against the Knights’ third and fourth line and Nos. 2 and 3 pairings?”
Have…….. have you seen the bottom half of the Knights’ roster?
This question is sarcastic, right? It’s gotta be. When fully healthy and playing the Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith and Neal-Haula-Tuch lines, Vegas is very good with them on the ice. The top line runs at something like 55 percent in most underlying numbers.
Red asks: “If the Avs win one game, is it a successful playoff run for them?”
Yeah probably. A team that barely squeaked into the playoffs, without a top defenseman and a borderline-elite goalie in the lineup? This could get ugly. Not a lot of analysis here but winning 2 of 6 would be a bit of a pleasant surprise, just based on what they’re going to have to deal with.
Justin asks: “NHL playoffs on Golf Channel: Idiotic or inspired?”
I supposed you’d say it’s the NHL reaping what it sowed. It pissed off NBC by not going to the Olympics, and it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that they’re getting shuffled off to a deep-deep-deep cable channel for two games.
On the other hand, I mean, I would imagine most people who get NBCSN get the Golf Channel, so just go in your little channel guide thing and say “Show me all the hockey games tonight” and it’ll come up for you. I don’t see it as being as big of a deal as people are making it out to be here in the year of our lord two thousand eighteen.
We have technology now! You don’t even need to watch that scroll-y TV Guide channel! I don’t see the big deal but I’m also not a Please Like My Sport guy, and that’s what this really boils down to.
Brodie asks: “In what new and excruciatingly heartbreaking fashion will the Leafs lose to the Bruins?”
I think we’re probably done with all that, right? It can’t get worse than 2013.
I guess the only thing worse is if the Leafs are on a power play with one minute left in a tied Game 7 and Auston Matthews rips off his jersey to reveal a Bruins shirt and then scores into his own net and throws Freddie Andersen through the glass.
Which, hey, I’ve watched enough Monday Nitro from 1997 to know that kind of thing is possible. If Lex Luger turned on Sting, anyone can turn!
Young asks: “What is NBC and the NHL’s nightmare Cup Final matchup?”
Hey aren’t there two Canadian teams in the playoffs, and they’re in different conferences? Yeah it seems like probably those teams would be bad for ratings in the U.S.
I guess the Leafs would probably draw decent enough numbers because they’re a franchise with plenty of fans in the U.S., but who has the smallest American fanbase besides them in the East? Columbus?
Wow, yeah. I just thought of that but it’s tough. Man, if it’s either Toronto/Winnipeg or Columbus/Winnipeg, Gary Bettman is gonna be so pissed.
All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.