Playoff journal: Leafs giving Caps more than a scare
As I was watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs Monday night, there was one thing that immediately came to mind:
Thank God I'm not on deadline.
All four games went into overtime. There were a few blown leads, thrilling comebacks. A couple Cup favorites are on the ropes. Deadline jokes aside, this is why hockey playoffs are the most fun to watch. It's March Madness for two and a half months.
There have been more than a few surprises.
The Maple Leafs have given the President's Trophy-winning Capitals more than a scare. Toronto, now up 2-1 in the best-of-seven, can win this series. The Maple Leafs dominated a good part of Monday's Game 3, another overtime victory. The Capitals fan base has to be puckered right now, the team having not gotten past the second round in the Alex Ovechkin era.
Speaking of Ovechkin, how in the world does one of the best players in the world play just 15:08 last night?
The Leafs are using their speed to give Washington fits, the young-and-hungry eighth-seeded underdogs playing loose. Toronto is ready to erupt for Wednesday's Game 4.
If you're the Lightning, you've got to be kicking yourself. It finished one point behind Toronto, now having to watch the Leafs taking a series lead on Washington. Would be interesting to think about how Tampa Bay would have done. Injuries or not, few teams were hotter down the stretch than Tampa Bay, which could have had Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson return sometime during the first round.
*So much for my Cup pick of Chicago, which is now down 3-0 against Nashville, which hosts Game 4. After getting shut out in the first two games of the series - star Patrick Kane slumping - the Blackhawks blew a two-goal lead Monday. Just shows you how your best players need to be your best players this time of year. Chicago has pulled off some miracles before, overcoming a 3-0 deficit in previous playoff runs. But Nashville, which was a preseason pick by some to reach the Cup Final, are showing why now.
And if you're the Lightning, you're keeping a keen eye on the Predators blueline. Tampa Bay and Nashville scouted each other heavily at the trade deadline, and could be talking again leading up to the June NHL Draft.
*Remember when the Wild was the best team in the NHL at one point this season? The Bruce Boudreau playoff misses could continue here, St. Louis having Minnesota on the ropes, up 3-0. St. Louis is another team the Lightning scouted in the second half of the season; like that nixed Kevin Shattenkirk deal in January.
*Good for former Lightning forward Nate Thompson, who scored the OT winner last night for Anaheim. He's had some bad luck with injuries since he's been in Anaheim, but was well-respected in the Lightning room. Still remember teammates dubbing him "Nate Boucher" or "Textbook" for being the perfect example for Guy Boucher's system.
*Speaking of Guy Boucher, his Senators are up 2-1 on Boston. It helps to have arguably this year's Norris Winner, Erik Karlsson, who made a heck of a pass to set up Monday's OT winner. The Bruins only win came on a winner in Game 1 by Brad Marchand, who should have been suspended for at least one playoff game for his dirty spear of Lightning's Jake Dotchin.
But that's another column all together.