Photo: Vegas Golden Knights

IRON JUNCTION – I am currently watching the Vegas Golden Knights dismantle the Vancouver Canucks. It’s late in the 3rd period of their opening 2nd Round tilt and the VGK are pasting them 5-0. Going into the tourney I thought Vegas had a good chance to reach the Cup Final and I thought the Canucks youth and the lack of playoff experience on behalf of their young emerging stars would be a detriment. I’m not the Great Kreskin here, but that’s pretty much what I am seeing on this eve. But allow me to backtrack a bit.

The first round concluded and my picks were not too good. Gone from the tourney are the STL Blues, Calgary, Arizona, and Chicago in the West. In the East, Montreal, Columbus, Carolina, and Washington were dispatched. So too was the Caps Head Coach Todd Rierdan. He was fired earlier today by GM Brian MacLellan. More on this to follow.

The first Round winners were Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Boston and the NY Islanders in the East. This sets up 2nd Round series of PHI vs. the NYI and TB vs. BOS. The West winners were the VGK, VAN, the Dallas Stars, and Colorado Avalanche. This round of course is the VGK vs. VAN and DAL vs. COL.

My picks going into the 2nd Round were the Isles over Philly and I have TB over the Bruins. I have the VGK prevailing over VAN and COL advancing past the Stars. In my original brackets, I had a COL vs. TB Cup Final. That could still be a possibility, but there might be a fly in the soup here.

Last night DAL and COL kicked off the 2nd Round and after DAL opened the scoring and were then tied at one each, pulled away for a 5-3 win in the opener. COL netminder Phillip Grubauer was injured in the tilt with no word on his status. The AVs have a strong backup in Pavel Francouz.

The Stars were on a mission last night though, and if the AVs don’t adjust to the Stars relentless offensive pressure, COL will be in trouble. In Game one tonight of the BOS vs. TB series, the Bruins came out and established control of the game in the 1st and didn’t look like they were pushed hard throughout this contest. They went up 3-0 early in the 3rd before the Bolts got a couple later in the frame to make this game look closer than it was for a 3-2 final tonight.

Monday night will see G1 of the Isles-Flyers matchup. The Flyers have had an impressive run so far here, but I’m not certain they can get past the Isles and Barry Trotz’s 200-foot system.

Is this the series where the Flyers young goalie Carter Hart can’t come through? I’m not sure. He has answered the bell so far, but this tourney gets harder with each round. It has left many a young player in agony after losing a hard series.

So, we shall see. This will be an interesting matchup.  

So, I’ve got the Isles and TB in the East and the VGK and COL winning in the West. Am I crazy here? Many who know me say that, yes, I am. We’ll see, if anything, this tourney has been hard to handicap.

For instance, the Blues were one of the stronger teams by early March. I would’ve said they had a great chance to get to the Final again. They didn’t look good in losing to VAN.

Last year’s hero and goaltender Jordan Binnington got lit up pretty good here.
The Blues looked so-so in the round-robin, and never got going against VAN. What I believe is that the shooters in the league have a better read on him than last year when no one really knew him and that the layoff ruined his rhythm. He has been figured out much the same way the Penguins Matt Murray has in my opinion.

Murray won two Cups in his first two seasons in the league. And back then the group he had in front of him was much better.

The Pens window is closing and Murray isn’t good enough on his own play to win games for them now.

I call it the probability of inevitability. There are a rare few goalies who come into the NHL and have great success right off the bat and then maintain that level of play throughout their career. I’ve seen it too many times in the many years I’ve been watching this league.

Brodeur and Roy for instance are the Gold Standard here. They were able to achieve some strong numbers and win totals even in the face of changes in front of them personnel-wise. Binnington and Murray? We shall see. What I witnessed from them in this tournament left me with more questions than answers.

As for the Caps dismissing Rierdan, I can only think back to their 2018 Cup win and their subsequent decision to not re-sign their Head Coach and victory architect Barry Trotz, the same Coach that packed their suitcase for them last week in a 4-1 series win for his new club, the Isles.

Sure, the Caps playoff performances since the Cup win has left a lot to desire. But, most Cup winners don’t repeat anymore, and frankly, in observing the Caps in the round-robin and in Round one, they appeared to be a combo of not in top shape coupled with some disinterest or lethargy.

Is that on Rierdan?

To an extent, yes, but I think Barry would’ve coached his way around that. Moreover, I believe the players would have been ready to play for Barry if he was still in charge there.

Now the Caps have wasted two seasons of whatever is left of the Alex Ovechkin “window”. Ovi is still a beast when he wants to be. Unfortunately, he didn’t look like he wanted to be until about G4 of the NYI series. And it was over by then. How does that money saved on the Trotz non-contract extension look now Caps?

If you had your ear on a nearby railroad track today you may have heard the rumor that VAN is looking to move Minnesota native and sniper Brock Boeser. It’s also rumored that the WILD might be in on it.

Is this for real? I can’t speak to that. He has 8 points in 10 games (3G, 5A) in the tourney if you count the Q Round games. In 3 of the games, he had multiple points.

On the downside, he has been shut-down and pointless in 5 of the 10 tilts. He was a -3 against Vegas this eve and is a -1 for the 10 games. His father Duke is well known in Twin Cities hockey circles and has been battling significant health issues.

So if Boeser is trying to get back home to be near family, you would hear no negatives from me. He has game when he’s on it, time will tell on the rumor.

Over & out! PEACE

Credits