UMD Bulldogs R-E-P-E-A-T! Stanley Cup defies the experts thus far!

Marc Elliott

Ryan Reaves of the VGK and Evander  Kane of the Sharks in a G3 dustup...
Ryan Reaves of the VGK and Evander Kane of the Sharks in a G3 dustup...

NEW ORLEANS… The UMD Bulldogs went out east to Buffalo as defending Champions, and returned to Duluth as the same, courtesy of a 3-0 whitewash of the University of Massachusetts. There is no doubt that UMass had their best season in program history, but that could not overcome the championship experience of the Dogs. This is the programs 3rd National title and they are the first repeat titlists since Denver in the 2004-05 tournaments. UMass featured the new Hobey Baker Award winner in Cale Makar and the Dogs held him in check for the bulk of the game. It is completely straight forward to say that UMD is likely the top program in the country right now and that Coach Scott Sandelin is now taking his rightful place as perhaps the best collegiate coach in the Nation at this point in time. And it isn’t a stretch to say that with a perfect storm of factors in favor of the Dogs, they might be at or near the top for the foreseeable future. As a Minnesotan I am happy and proud to see a roster with a majority of players from the State of Hockey. Congrats to the Bulldogs and to Coach Sandelin, let the celebrating continue…

I PROMISED A recap of the Minnesota Wild season, or rather, in this case, an autopsy, but with the Stanley Cup tourney raging forth, that is going to have to wait for a break in the Cup action. I’m actually still contemplating my thoughts on their past, present and future, and considering how this past season went, it’s anything but crystal clear. Analyzing them could be quite easy, or, if you consider all the necessary components for a successful pro hockey club, it can get complex in this day and age of advanced analytics and so on. Considering their history, current assets and needs, I’ll have to give it a bit more thought, and that’s because…

THE STANLEY CUP TOURNEY is being played on a roulette wheel this year! Well, not really, but it has been anything but what the experts and analysts thought it would be. In fact, with all series having played at least 3 games at this point, the overall favorite to win, the Tampa Bay Lightning are in a 0-3 hole and could be eliminated as early as this evening. The Toronto Maple Leaf’s are leading the favored Boston Bruins 2-1 in that series, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, picked by many to oust the NY Islanders from the tourney, are also down 3-0 and could be eliminated tonight as well, on home ice no less. Let’s take a quick look at the tourney…

COLUMBUS vs TAMPA, the Bolts set a team record and tied a league record with 62 wins in the regular season. The Presidents Trophy winner is about to be booted from the tourney. Is it just because of the Presidents “curse” that this is happening? No. The CBJ are outplaying the Bolts in all phases of the game. And now that it’s “bloody nose” time as the playoffs are sometimes called, the CBJ appear to be a bit more willing to dish it out AND take that if they must in order to win. The late trades that the CBJ made to go “all in” for the tourney are starting to pay dividends. Matt Duchene had 4 points in G2…

 

ISLES vs PENS, most observers thought that the Pens would be Pen-like in this series and that all the improvement the Isles made in the regular season under Coach Barry Trotz would go for naught. They were wrong and so was I. The most improved team in the show defensively has remained solid and the Pens have few answers. They are lacking the depth they had in their Cup years, Sid Crosby is pointless in 3 games and is a -4, Geno Malkin has 3 pts and is a -1 and goalie Matt Murray has a 3.33 GA% and a .902 SV%. The Isles are led by Jordan Eberle with 3G/2A in 3 games…

 

LEAFS vs BRUINS, the Leaf’s took G1 4-1 in Beantown, the Bruins reciprocated with a like victory and then last night the Leaf’s scrapped their way to a hard fought 3-2 win for a 2-1 series lead. They play in TOR tomorrow night. If the Leaf’s win they are in the driver’s seat, holding the keys. The officials have had a hard time establishing an upper hand in the series and I think that favored the veteran Bruins, but now the Leaf’s appeared to have more push in their favor. With the Tampa fall, the Leaf’s are now favored…

CAPS vs CANES, the defending Cup Champ Capitols defended home ice in taking a 2-0 lead in this series. They built leads, let the Canes make it interesting and then held on. Last night the Canes spanked them from the get-go on the way to a 5-0 win. Canes netminder Peter Mrazak has surprised and played well. For me, I’m waiting for the Caps car to run out of charge, I could be wrong, but I don’t see a repeat in them. They will be out now, or in the next round, take your pick…

CALGARY vs AV’S, I thought this would be an interesting series and that’s how it is going. The Flames paint brushed the Av’s 4-0 in the opener, but then the Av’s got a split with a hard fought 3-2 win in Cowtown. Last night in Denver they landed a heavy blow to the Flame Cup hopes in a decisive 6-2 win. I had a feeling the Av’s could win this series before it began, and I don’t think CAL has the net-minding to win playoff series…

SHARKS vs VGK, this is a series where I didn’t believe the SJS had the defense or goaltending to prevail here. The VGK got a split in SJ and have won G3 at home for a 2-1 lead. There are some individual battles shaping up here as well. Reaves vs Kane could be a main event once again. Joe Thornton is suspended for G4 and the VGK will look to take a huge advantage here with a G4 win…

NASH vs STARS, last eve the Preds took a 2-1 series lead with a GWG from former Wild fave Mikael Granlund in the Big D. However, I still like the Stars chances to prevail here. The Stars took G1 in NASH before dropping the last two, all one goal games. I can’t say either team has one player who is dominating and the Preds have a 102-94 shots advantage in the series…

JETS vs STL, it is no secret that the Jets were looking like a club that would crash land at seasons end. They were 4-6 in their L10 regular season tilts and were looking like a team that was unprepared for the playoffs. The Blues were the 2nd best team in the NHL since New Year’s. The Blues swept up in The Peg, but the Jets got one back in STL, G4 tonight and I think the winner will take the series… 

In the ATHLETIC, their playoff probabilities now favor Toronto to win the Cup with an 18.5% chance, next is the CBJ at 13.4%... PEACE   

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