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NINE MILE LAKE… Yes siree Bob, my Stanley Cup bracket is totally demolished! It would probably be a tremendous idea for me to give up any further hockey prognosticating from this point forward, but I am most certain that I’ll be dumb enough to try it again. Probably as soon as next season. My Eastern Conference picks were so bad that I only had one team left after the 1st Round and of course, that team, (the Penguins) are long gone from the chase at this point. In the West I went 3 of 4 in the 1st Round and I have picked correctly as to who would play for the right to play for the Cup. Of that pick, predicting correctly that Winnipeg and Vegas would meet in the WCF, I have the Jets winning this round. I’ll give you an update in a little bit on that series. In the East, the Capitals are playing Tampa Bay, or “Tompa” as Caps star Alex Ovechkin calls them, with the Lightning holding the home ice advantage. Well, after getting dusted off by the Caps in G1 and G2, they hold it no more. The Caps swept the first two tilts down on the Gulf and they appear to be so on their game right now that I’d be surprised if the Caps don’t win in a four-game sweep. I’m not kidding.
In G1 the Caps scored first 7:28 in and then added one with 6 seconds left in the 1st. Tampa scored late too, but it was negated by a too many men penalty. The Caps added two more in the second and the Bolts got two in the 3rd, but it was too little too late for a 4-2 loss. In G2 the Bolts had a different outcome in mind and adjusted after the Caps got one 28 seconds in. They didn’t fold and came back to gain a 2-1 lead by the 1st intermission. From that point on it was all Caps. They got the equalizer at the 2:50 point on a Devante Smith-Pelley goal and added two more for a 4-2 lead. They netted two more in the 3rd for a 6-2, mostly dominating victory. The way the Caps won G2, exhibiting a sheer force and will to their game that the Lightning could not match has me believing that this is the Caps series to win. The only way I see Tampa getting back into this series is for them to take G3 and G4 in DC, and I don’t feel that that’s a possibility. They might get a split, and the key word is might. If they win both I will be substantially impressed. I have never seen netminder Braden Holtby this focused, and I have never seen Caps scoring wizard Ovechkin this determined. In my view, they have a legit shot at the Cup, and I have never thought that before within the Ovi era.
On a side note, Caps Head Coach Barry Trotz, win or lose in this tourney, does not have a contract for next year. I am not a Caps fan, they aren’t one of my teams. I am however, a Barry Trotz fan. This man is an excellent Coach, and an even better person and has represented every team he has been associated with in a first-class manner. It’s that simple. Of course, I don’t have all the details behind this. Perhaps they talked late in the season and Trotz said he doesn’t want the distraction. If that’s not the case and the Caps win it all, and they come groveling to Trotz with a 3 or 4-year new deal with a nice boost in salary, I hope he tells them to take a long walk on a short pier. It would only be fitting. He’s too classy to do so, but it would be quite awesome if he did. In 15 seasons at Nashville he posted a just-over-.500 record, making the playoffs 7 times reaching the 2nd round only twice. With the Caps he has won 3 straight Division titles, while placing 2nd in his first year there. Again, the playoffs have been a different animal, but in a year that many analysts thought the team may step back a bit, they have surprised. And they seem to have new confidence after dispatching long time nemesis Pittsburgh in the last round. Trotz has posted a 205-89-34 record in 4 years for a .677-win percent. Now, why doesn’t he have an extension?
SIDE NOTES on the Caps-Bolts series, the Caps seem to be confusing and flustering the Bolts skaters by throwing an array of different schemes at them. I HAVE seen a 1-2-2, I’ve seen a 1-3-1 and a 2-2-1. THEY ARE mostly preventing the Bolts from gaining speed coming through the neutral zone with these and it has been effective. ROAD TEAMS in this playoff are currently 38-33. THE CAPS tallied 5 times unanswered in G2 and Holtby will enter G3 with 49:38 of shutout hockey under his belt…
I’M GONNA KEEP ON THE RUN, I’m gonna have me some fun, Viva Las Vegas!! So sang Elvis Presley in his 1964 hit song Viva Las Vegas. There is now an NHL club there singing that same tune as they are on the run and they are having a lot of fun! The Vegas Golden Knights had a six-day break between besting the San Jose Sharks and facing off with the Winnipeg Jets in the WCF. Did they obtain some rest or rust? In G1 the Jets came out with turbines at full throttle and had the Knights by the neck at 3-0 in the 1st with less then 8 minutes gone on the game clock. They got the Jets to throttle down the remainder of that tilt but still lost a 4-2 decision. They didn’t appear to have their skating legs under them and the Jets were coming in full blast on a 48-hour break having just dispatched the Nashville Predators in a G7 annihilation. And yes, that’s a good word to use for the results from that game. It’s not simple hyperbole by any means.
This evening though, Knights Coach Gerard Gallant had his troops refocused and ready to go. Vegas closed their gaps, skated quite a bit more intensely and outside of a handful of mini-stretches, had this game under their command for the most part. Was this a potential letdown game on the Jets behalf? You could make that argument, but the Knights forced their game upon them and it wasn’t a fluky win by any analysis. My bracket has the Jets winning this series, however, it would be of no surprise to me if Vegas puts the Jets back in the hangar for the season. G3 and 4 swings to Vegas now and you can roll the dice, spin the wheel or whatever, the Knights are going home with the “Mo” on their side. I LOVE this game… PEACE