Whatever I pick, go opposite!

Marc Elliott

Ondrej Palat scores the GWG in G3 against the NY Rangers for a 3-2 win.

EAGLES NEST – The Stanley Cup tournament is at a very serious level now. We are in the midst of both of the Conference Finals and they have been intense.

In the East, after three games the NY Rangers lead the Tampa Bay Lightning two games to one. The Blueshirts defended home ice at Madison Square Garden in G1 and G2. G1 was a 6-2 spank down while G2 was a much closer affair with a 3-2 final score.

In G1 the Bolts looked like a tired, plodding, roughed-up team that wasn’t ready for the Ranger’s youthful energy and exuberance. And this was coming in with eight days of rest between games.

The Rangers crowd at MSG was also whipped into a lather for both tilts and the players fed off of it. Even so, G1 was tied at two each right before the mid-second period point. The Rangers then added two scores before the second intermission and would add two more in the third for the 6-2 final.

G2 was a close affair with Tampa scoring first before the Rangers scored the next three. The Bolts made it interesting with a late tally in the third, but NY held on for the win.

In the leadup to G3 in Tampa a lot of fans were wondering aloud if a four-game sweep was possible. I entertained the thought but couldn’t make that leap. The Bolts have been the league standard over the past few seasons, Cup wins or not.

They were not about to allow that to happen, even if they don’t end up advancing from this round.

You also have a series here featuring the two best goaltenders in the world right now. Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa has been at the top for the past 4 to 5 seasons, and the Ranger’s Igor Shesterkin is the new kid on the block who just happens to have a lot of game.

Igor is the frontrunner to win the league’s Vezina Trophy for the best regular-season netminder. Make no mistake though, while he might be one of the main reasons the Rangers are where they are right now,

Vasilevskiy, beyond the G1 fiasco, is still the current Dean of Goalies in my view.

This afternoon, the Lightning ended all the chatter about getting swept by winning a tight 3-2 tilt on home ice. It began as though that was what might occur today.

The Rangers had a 2-0 lead at the midpoint of the second frame. A little more than a minute later the Bolts got on the board and then tied the game early in the third.

Late in the period I began to consider what could happen in an OT frame. But with 42 seconds remaining, the Bolts scored and it turned out to be the GWG.

After three hardcore games can you say this is a goaltenders series? Not for the Bolts.
Vasy has allowed 11 goals on 92 shots for a .883 GA%. But you can argue that Igor is the Ranger MVP of this series thus far. He has given up 7 scores on 122 shots for a .942 GA%. Outside of G1 Tampa plays a tight defensive style.

The Rangers aren’t quite with them in that part of the game, but Igor makes up for that.

Tampa opened the playoff with a tough seven-game series versus the Maple Leafs. I felt that took some wind from their sail. But then they swept the regular season Champion FLA Panthers in four games and got a lengthy break.

Were they coming into G1 with rest or rust? That was the primary concern for them.

The happy-go-lucky youth of the Rangers just show up and go. And they have ample talent. After the Bolts paintbrushed the Cats in four games, I felt they were back in the saddle, that the Cup was theirs to win again. That was in doubt after the two home wins for the Rangers. And now?

If the Rangers win G4 on Tuesday night, I like their chances to take the series. And if they don’t? Who will tell them that the Bolts wish to keep the Cup for one more year? It won’t be me, but first...

The EDM Oilers are on the verge of being swept in four games by the COL Avalanche. All of the momentum I thought the Oilers had from the Calgary series was vanquished by the Avs pretty quickly in G1.

After a seesaw first frame ended with a 3-2 COL lead the Avs would amass a 7-3 lead late in the second. They would go on for an 8-6 win. Don’t let the final score mislead you; it was all over for the Oilers after the first frame.

EDM goalie Mike Smith was pulled after giving up six tallies and would end the tilt with six GA on 25 shots for a .760 GA%.

Suddenly all of the pre-playoff concerns about the Oiler’s netminding came crashing back to earth.

The Avs gained a decisive victory in G2, and to add insult to injury, it was a 4-0 shutout. Smith surrendered four goals on 40 shots against, but I can’t say the loss was his fault.

It was pretty clear the Avs were playing at a different level than the Oilers. Going down 0-2, the Oilers and their fans had full hopes for a G3 recovery, but that didn’t happen.

With an entire city at fever pitch leading up to the game, the Oilers scored first when Connor McDavid tallied 38 seconds into the first period. Every single ounce of momentum in Canada was suddenly with them.

Then a mere 28 seconds later, the Oiler’s Evander Kane took a five-minute major penalty for boarding the Avs Nazem Kadri and Rogers Place turned into a spent helium balloon. To the Oiler’s credit they killed the penalty.

But as I watched, I knew they would pay for it later in the game. Being on the PK is the hardest job in hockey. (Kadri is out for at least the rest of this round and Kane was suspended one game this afternoon and will not play in tomorrow night’s possible elimination game.)

The Avs would tie the game late in the first and go ahead 2-1 early in the second. The Oiler’s would not give up though and tied the game right before the middle of the third.

Once again, I considered an OT between the two gladiators, but the Oilers could not gain the tie and the Avs scored an ENG late for the 4-2 victory. And right now, I don’t see a way ahead for the Oilers.

In 190 NHL playoff series where a team was down 0-3, only four teams have ever turned that around for a series win. History is not with the Oilers.

The goaltending has been suspect, they aren’t scoring any goals off of the rush as they did against the Flames, and they’ll be without an essential piece of their playoff puzzle. It’s not a matter of if now; it’s a matter of when.

The Oiler season will end with a jolt of finality. And as far as my multiple changed playoff picks have gone? The only thing that’s certain about this playoff is uncertainty! PEACE