Lessons From An Epic Playoff
The Maven looks back at the NHL postseason -- and reflects.
1. Goaltending can win games but goaltending and talent win Stanley Cups. Andrei Vasilevskiy was the best-in-net but he had the best team behind him. The Canadiens had neither.
2. Carey Price's one-goal-against in Game Five was commendable. But it was a case of too-little-too-late. He was mediocre early on and miserable in Game Three at home.
3. Nikita Kucherov's bare-chested, post-game bathing suit presser was an arresting sight gag. But it overshadowed his truer-than-life comment: Vasilevskly deserved the Vezina Trophy, not Marc-Andre Fleury. The Vas-Man was better than Fleury over the regular season and miles over The Flower Man in the Cup run.
4. Luke Richardson's splendid job of pinch-hitting behind the Canadiens bench when Duke Ducharme was on Cobid furlough should win Cool Hand Luke a head coaching gig the minute there's an opening.
5. Usually Cup-winners have at least one player the opposition loves to hate but not in the Bolts' case. I mean how can you dislike a Patrick Maroon who now has three Cup rings. Envy? Maybe. But not hate.
6. Julien BriseBois remains the most undervalued g.m. in the business. The Cup-winning goal artfully was arranged by defenseman David Savard who Breezy Boy obtained from Columbus at the deadline. Meanwhile, you'll never guess where the Cup-winning scorer comes from; unless you happen to live around the corner from Ross Colton.
7. I kid you not; he's the first native of Robbinsville, New Jersey to score a Cup-winner. If you can't find it on your trusty map it's off Route 33, just a slapshot away from Philadelphia. (So how come the Flyers never found him? The Bolts did in the fourth round of the 2016 Entry Draft.)
8. And in case you live in Vermont, King Colton skated for the U of Vermont. Therefore he now has the distinction of being the first Catamount in history to have scored a Cup-clinching goal. (U of V should give Ross an honorary Ph.d for that feat alone.)
9. Who knows Department: The Golden Knights might have made the Final round had coach Peter DeBoer not dumped winning goalie Robin Lehner for Marc-Andre Fleury in a history-making illogical blunder that still defies credulity.
10. Some media types have put the rap on BriseBois for adroit loophole-finding that enabled the Bolts to activate and play their best forward, Nikita Kucherov, in the playoffs. (It's not Julie's job to close loopholes, only to find them.
11. Farewell and thanks to NBC for the network's years of Cup coverage; especially during the never-to-be-forgotten Mike (Doc) Emrick era.
12. The Canadiens epic run -- surely there's a book there in both languages -- is a tribute to oft-embattled g.m. Marc Bergevin. He picked the right replacement for Claude Julien and his decision to play just-out-of-college Cole Caufield was a mere genius move.
13. What Bergevin has gained for all his good work is a two-week respite from being re-attacked by the relentless Montreal press. Give him two losses into next season and his scalp will be sought; guaranteed, 'cause that's the way it goes in Habtown. (Why do you think Kucherov blasted the Canadiens "faithful" in his post-playoff presser that sounded more like a beer-can -inspired filibuster.)
14. Figure Seattle to sign Washington State's pride and joy. Tyler (I'm From Spokane But That's Okay) Johnson. The little guy with the big heart has been one of the best of Lightnings and if you don't believe me ask coach Jon Cooper.
15. Islanders fans have every reason to be proud of their club's determined run through three rounds and Game Seven of the semi-final. Had Mathew Barzal tamed that errant puck in the final minute, we might be talking about a Habs-Isles series. But as Lord Stanley of Preston might have replied: "That, dear Maven, is hockey!"
16. Biggest Playoff Disappointment -- South of the Border: Has to be the Bruins. The Beantowners were rated fourth-best team overall by The Hockey News and all they got to show for it was a load of Bruce Cassidy's feeble ref-baiting and renaming the Islanders the "New York Saints."
17. Biggest Playoff Disappointment -- North of the Border. Has to be the Toronto Maple Losers. Rated ninth best NHL team overall by The Hockey News, Kyle Dubas' overpaid under-performers stayed true to their postseason image -- over and out like burned toast.
18. Here's proof -- not that you need it -- that the playoffs are a War of Attrition: After Game Five of the Final, the Canadiens revealed that captain Shea Weber played despite a damaged thumb; Jeff Petry also competed with a finger injury, Tyler Toffoli had a groin injury while the intrepid Brendan Gallagher fought through the whole crusade with what management described as "groin-plus." (As for the "plus," your guess is as good as mine.)
19. When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito proposed Tampa Bay as a possible NHL expansion site, he was laughed all the way to Butte, Montana. As that song goes, "Who's Got The Last Laugh Now?"
20. With all due respect to Julien BriseBois, we must not forget that the Lightning's winning core was built by Steve Yzerman. Following the informative Kukla's Korner as I do, I expect to read that Stevie Y will turn out a winner in Detroit.
21. Watching his team collapse en route to the Cup Final, Vegas g.m. Kelly McCrimmon better make a good deal for Marc-Andre Fleury while The Flower's Vezina win promises a good return. Robin Lehner plus any decent goalie could carry the Knights next season.
22. Since Tuukka Rask couldn't get the Bruins past the Islanders, the B's should turn the full-time netminding task over to Jeremy Swayman and get it over with when it comes to Beantown goaltending.
23. As for the other failed playoff club -- I'm talking about the Caps -- NHL.com's very excellent Dan Rosen asks the question, will Alex Ovechkin sign on again with Washington? I say, YES, it's his town.