- The boos rained down on the Bolts at the end of the second. They deserved it. That was ugly.
- So, 326 regular reason points mean squat if you can’t score in the postseason. I’m talking to you, Nikita Kucherov, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. Pointless in the playoffs. Spit.
- Braden Holtby saved his best for last. Game 6 was his first shutout of 2017-18. Game 7 was his second. 159:27 minutes of domination.
- Alexander Ovechkin’s game has gone to another place, courtesy of a whole new level of maturity. That snipe 62 seconds in was yet another big point in a big game. And he finally seems to have shed the thought he has to do it all in order for the Caps to win.
- Stay calm, folks. Andrei Vasilevskiy started the Boston series the same way. He’ll be fine.
- Best line left in the West? Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler? Or Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith? The former scored 28 points in seven games against Nashville. The latter tallied 25 in six against San Jose. Who would have thought that in October?
Saturday’s playoff games were a feast for eyes:
- David Pastrnak is to the Leafs as a cat is to a mouse. Thank goodness he only played 15:24.
- Pasta, Patrice and the Honey Badger are the best line in hockey right now. Bar down. Do not debate me. You will lose.
Just a few things that caught my eye:
- Joe, Joe and more Joe. Everyone needs a Little Joe. And some Jumbo Joe. Depends on the day … and the need. Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and hey — I’ll throw in Joel Ward, too. Close enough.
- Has anyone seen Vladimir Tarasenko (above), other than on one of those old-school milk cartons? He’s been missing since May 15. Wow.
How the Lightning got here:
Victor Hedman went crazy. The 6-foot-6 tower scored four goals and four assists in a five-game dustup of the Islanders – this, after notching just one assist in five games against Detroit in the previous round. The craziest thing is that he did this while shutting down John Tavares, who was held without a point in all four losses, and finished the series-clinching game with a minus-2 rating and just one shot on goal.
In truth, without Tavares carrying the offense, the Islanders – even without Jaroslav Halak – didn’t stand much of a chance against a much deeper and more experienced team. This Lightning team, if you need reminding for the umpteenth time, is going to their second straight Eastern Conference Finals, and without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman to boot. The more the Lightning win, the more justification Steve Yzerman has to not pay Stamkos the big bucks. It’s not that Stamkos doesn’t deserve what he’s demanding, but more that this team is clearly capable of winning a lot of games with Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov spearheading the attack.
Jon Cooper’s definitely right when he says Kucherov’s a big-game player. Critics will look at Kucherov’s sky-high, unsustainable 24.3 shooting percentage and figure he’ll come back to earth in a thundering crash, but his career playoff shooting percentage is 20.6 percent, and take away his current performance and he’s still got 11 goals on just 60 shots for a 18.3 percent efficiency. Kucherov’s goal-scoring talent and production is still second to Stamkos’, but Kucherov’s been remarkably efficient when the going gets tough, which is something that can’t be said for 99 percent of the players in this league, Stamkos included (career playoff vs. regular season shooting percentage is five percent lower). Just ask Alex Ovechkin how hard it is to score in the playoffs.