Maple Leafs Bounce Back in Game 3

With their backs against the wall and showing no effort in game’s 1 and 2 in Boston, the Toronto Maple Leafs needed an answer in a hurry to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole. They played by far their best game of the series and it resulted in a 4-2 win for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 3 over the Boston Bruins. Boston still leads this series 2-1.

James van Riemsdyk scored a power-play goal for the Maple Leafs in the first period. Adam McQuaid tied the game at one early in the second-period for the Bruins. Patrick Marleau scored a goal 43 seconds later for Toronto. Zdeno Chara tied the game at two later in the second for Boston on a bad angle shot.

Auston Matthews scored for the Maple Leafs later in the second on a redirected pass from William Nylander. It happened to be the game-winning goal for Toronto. Patrick Marleau scored on a two-on-one break with 3:35 remaining in regulation.

Frederik Andersen made 40 saves for the Maple Leafs. Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for the Bruins. Game 4 will be on Thursday Night in Toronto.

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Calvert’s Overtime Winner Puts Blue Jackets Up 2-0 in Series

The Columbus Blue Jackets trailed by two goals once again at one point during the game against the Washington Capitals, but they never panicked. Matt Calvert scored the game-winning overtime goal off a shot by Zach Werenski with 7:38 remaining in the first overtime, to lift the Blue Jackets to a 5-4 win in Game 2 against the Capitals.

The play was reviewed for potential offsides, but the ruling of the goal stood. Columbus leads this series 2-0.

Jay Beagle scored a goal 2:12 into the game for the Capitals. He returned to the lineup for them after missing Game 1 with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal later in the first for Washington.

Cam Atkinson scored a goal for the Blue Jackets with 1:35 remaining in the first period. Alex Ovechkin scored another power-play goal for the Capitals in the second period. Columbus then scored three straight goals by Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson (power play), and Zach Werenski (power play). NHL official Steve Barton was helped off the ice with 48 seconds remaining in the second-period because he injured his knee while backing up and accidentally clipped the skate of Josh Anderson.

T.J. Oshie tied the game at three with 3:35 remaining in regulation on the power play after Zach Werenski committed a delay of game penalty. John Carlson hit the post with under 20 seconds remaining on the power play.

Philipp Grubauer was pulled after the second period. He made 18 saves for Washington. Braden Holtby made seven saves in relief for the Capitals. Head coach Barry Trotz will have an interesting decision to make in who to start for Game 3.

Sergei Bobrovsky stood on his head for the Blue Jackets and he made 54 saves (career high). Game 3 will be on Tuesday Night in Columbus.

Penguins Blow Out Flyers in Game 3

After being embarrassed on their own home ice in game 2, the Pittsburgh Penguins wanted to deliver an embarrassment to the Philadelphia Flyers on there own home in game 3 on Sunday Afternoon. Pittsburgh dominated from the middle of the first-period and on to win 5-1. Pittsburgh leads this series 2-1.

Sidney Crosby scored a wrap around goal for the Penguins in the first period. Pittsburgh only took four shots on net in the first period compared to Philadelphia’s 11.

Derick Brassard and Evgeni Malkin both tallied power-play goals in the second-period for the Penguins. Five seconds after Malkin’s goal, Brian Dumoulin scored and made it 4-0 Pittsburgh.

Travis Sanheim scored the lone goal of the game for the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period.

Justin Schultz scored a power-play goal for the Penguins in the third period. Pittsburgh’s power play was 3-for-7 and Philadelphia’s power play was 0-for-6. Sidney Crosby also had three assists in the game.

Matt Murray made 26 saves for the Penguins. Brian Elliott made 21 saves for the Flyers. Game 4 is on Wednesday Night in Philadelphia.

Pastrnak’s Six-Point Night Lifts Bruins over Maple Leafs in Game 2

When someone catches fire, it is tough for that flame to burn out. David Pastrnak scored a hat-trick and recorded three assists in Boston’s 7-3 win in game two over Toronto. The Bruins lead this series 2-0.

The David Pastrnak-Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand line combined for 14 points night and they have a total of 20 points in the first two games of this series alone.

David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk (power play), Kevan Miller, and Rick Nash (power play) all scored goals for the Boston Bruins in the first period. Boston ended this game before it even began.

Frederik Andersen made just two saves on five shots faced for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Curtis McElhinney made 19 saves for Toronto.

The Maple Leafs scored 1:22 into the second-period by Mitchell Marner. David Krejci scored for the Bruins in the second period. Tyler Bozak also scored for Toronto in the second period.

Pastrnak scored both goals for Boston in the third-period and he got his hat-trick with 1:36 remaining in regulation. James van Riemsdyk scored a power-play goal for Toronto in the third period.

Tuukka Rask made 30 saves for the Bruins. Game 3 will be on Monday Night and the series shifts to Toronto.

Panarin OT Goal Stuns Capitals in Game 1

The Columbus Blue Jackets bent in game one against the Washington Capitals, but they never broke. Artemi Panarin received a diving stretch pass from Ian Cole and Panarin took it down the left side and scored on a fake backhand normal shot 6:02 into overtime to stun the Washington Capitals 4-3 in game one.

Josh Anderson elbowed Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny late in the first-period and he received a game misconduct. Kempny didn’t return for the Capitals and Washington only had five defenseman for the rest of the game. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored both of Washington’s power-play goals in the first period in a span of :29 seconds.

Alexander Wennberg scored in the second-period for Columbus. Thomas Vanek scored a power-play goal 1:31 into the third for Columbus.

Devante Smith-Pelly scored for the Capitals later in the third period. Seth Jones tied the game on the power play with 4:26 remaining in regulation. The rest was history.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves for the Blue Jackets. Philipp Grubauer made 23 saves for the Capitals. Game 2 will be on Sunday Night in Washington, DC.

Bruins Cream Rivals Maple Leafs in Game 1

For the first time since 2013, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins renewed their original six rivalry in the postseason. The Boston Bruins dominated from late in the second-period and on, to win 5-1 in game 1.

Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal for Boston with 5:28 into the first period. Zach Hyman scored on a back-handed goal later in the first-period for Toronto.

David Backes scored a power-play goal with 4:17 remaining in the second-period for the Bruins and it happened to be the game-winning goal for them. David Pastrnak scored a goal with :38 seconds remaining in the second for Boston.

Sean Kuraly scored in the third for Boston. David Krejci scored a power-play goal for the Bruins in the third. This goal came on a five-minute major penalty committed by Nazem Kadri of the Maple Leafs who received a game misconduct for charging Tommy Wingels.

It is very likely Kadri will be suspended. Wingels was in a defenseless position.

Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for the Bruins. Frederik Andersen made 35 saves for the Maple Leafs. Game 2 is on Saturday Night in Boston.

Jets Avoid 0-1 Hole Against Wild

With the game tied at two in the third-period, someone needed to make a play. Joe Morrow scored on a wicked slap shot at the top point with 7:13 remaining in regulation to give the Winnipeg Jets a 3-2 win in game 1 over the Minnesota Wild. It was Winnipeg’s first postseason win in franchise history.

The first goal of the game came in the second-period on the power play by Mark Scheifele with 2:23 remaining.

Matt Cullen and Zach Parise both scored for the Minnesota Wild in the third period. Both goals came within the 3:58 of the period and Cullen and Parise scored 2:12 apart.

Patrik Laine tied the game at two on a wicked wrist shot :53 seconds after Parise gave the Wild the lead and the rest was history.

Both goalies came to play in this game. Devan Dubnyk made 37 saves for the Wild. Connor Hellebuyck made 18 saves for the Jets. Game 2 is on Friday Night in Winnipeg.

Pittsburgh Demolishes Philadelphia in Game 1

The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up right where they left off against the Philadelphia in the regular season: scoring goals. Sidney Crosby recorded a hat-trick for Pittsburgh in a 7-0 rout of Philadelphia in game 1

Bryan Rust scored 2:38 into the game for Pittsburgh off a rebound on a shot by Kris Letang. Carl Hagelin and Evgeni Malkin also scored in the first-period for Pittsburgh.

Jake Guentzel scored a power-play goal and Sidney Crosby scored on a deflection with the stick in mid-air in the second-period for the Penguins. Crosby scored two goals in the third period.

Matt Murray stopped all 24 shots he faced. This is his third consecutive playoff shutout. The last time a goalie had three consecutive shutouts was Ilya Bryzgalov for the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006 postseason.

Brian Elliott was pulled in the second-period for the Flyers. He made 14 saves for the Flyers and Elliott faced 19 shots. Petr Mrazek made 12 saves for Philadelphia. Dave Hakstol needs to decide who will start game 2 for the Flyers. Game 2 is on Friday Night in Pittsburgh.

Re-Visiting the Demise of the Atlanta Thrashers

Last week, I took a trip to North Carolina to visit family.  But much like my other trips, I had to get in my sports fixes.  Most of the time I will get my fix through baseball (Majors or Minors-and yes I saw the Durham Bulls play), football (college and pro), and college basketball.  Hockey hasn’t been on my list of spots to see.  However my son wanted to try a hockey game on for size, so we went to see a Carolina Hurricanes game, the final one of the year against Tampa Bay Lightning.  For him, it was his first ever hockey game in person.  For me?  First game I’ve attended in 7 years.

Why?

I live in the Atlanta area.

Obviously, the Thrashers have been gone for the last 6 years up to Winnipeg to become the Jets.  I considered a few times of driving to Nashville to see a Predators game but never took a chance (was really close this year when the Preds hosted my favorite team the Red Wings-I’m from Detroit originally, what can I say?) large in part because tickets were expensive.  But I was able to score some reasonable tickets at PNC Arena to see the Hurricanes to play the playoff-bound and home-ice driven Tampa Bay Lightning.  What I got was a great game to watch as it went into overtime and the Hurricanes won, thus giving the Carolina faithful a happy ending to another sad season of failing to make the playoffs (9 straight seasons now), though a large portion of fans had to have driven up from Tampa as there were plenty of blue jerseys with the bolt (or as my son called it, the Flash Gordon logo).  But I realized how much I missed going to hockey games for sure.

However, what stuck out was actually when I was leaving PNC Arena as a lady Carolina Hurricanes fan (must have been a season ticket holder) saw one of the ushers she knewand said “I’m sick and tired of saying see you in 6 months in early April!  9 years has been long enough.”

I HAD to chime in and said, “at least you have a team….I’ve gone 7 years without ANY hockey as the team I was near flew to Winnipeg!”

The Canes fan laughed and said “and sadly, we have the blueprint of the guy who sent the Thrashers to Winnipeg.”

Well, aside from Gary Bettman, it was Don Waddell, who holds the same title as President of the Carolina Hurricanes like he was the Atlanta Thrashers.  So obviously, it got me thinking:  What were the reasons why the Thrashers failed in Atlanta?

Living in Atlanta, I’m tired of the nonsensical drivel from outsiders that say Atlanta isn’t a good sports town, and the fans are superficial.  And when the Thrashers moved, the Canadian fans really dumped on the Atlanta fan base over & over (thus building inside of me the wish that the Stanley Cup never resides in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and ESPECIALLY Winnipeg ever).  Atlanta is similar to most towns: when the home teams win, fans pack it in.  When the home teams lose, plenty of empty seats galore.  Just look at it all over.  It happens in the hardcore places of New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, etc.  But when you have an expansion team that fails to make the playoffs in 10 of 11 years where it is not INCREDIBLY hard to get in, you’re bound to be in massive trouble.  So let’s look at the key reasons why the Thrashers did not make it in Atlanta…..and no, it WASN’T because of the fans.

ASG

1ST REASON: ATLANTA SPIRIT GROUP, THE OWNERS:  Atlanta Spirit Group, or ASG bought the Thrashers and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks from AOL Time Warner in 2003, which many thought wasn’t a bad thing as it got out of the doldrums of having a corporation running it.  However, the owners bickered with each other and caused rifts (mostly brought out with the Hawks than the Thrashers, but it probably didn’t do wonders for the Thrashers either).  However, one report after the Thrashers moved was that the ASG wanted to sell the Thrashers immediately after they bought them.  How true that is, I honestly don’t know, but it would make sense that Atlanta never really became a player on the free agent market especially when the NHL installed the salary cap 3 years later.  And I don’t want to hear about how the Thrashers ran out and got Bobby Holik when the free agency started with the salary cap, given how he flopped with the Rangers.  But the do-nothing ownership kept Atlanta from making big signings, keeping players (though they tried to keep Ilya Kovalchuk, but he rejected a huge contract), and kept certain inept front-office guys who was not cut out for the job to keep their jobs (or in some cases REWARD the guys for their poor jobs).  And then of course when the announcement was made the Thrashers left Winnipeg, some of the ASG owners acted like they were going to cry for letting the team walk.  I’m sure they were very upset….

Don

2ND REASON:  GM DON WADDELL:  Waddell served as GM of the Thrashers for the first 10 seasons before being rewarded for his 1 playoff in 10 seasons as executive VP and co-chair of the executive committee in Atlanta’s final season.  Now, for any expansion team, a GM probably does have a grace period to set up the franchise for a run.  Now we see Vegas start off on fire, but it is definitely a rarity.  The Lightning, Senators, Predators, and Blue Jackets all had to take a while to dump the “expansion” moniker.  The Thrashers were no different.  But many pointed out to the drafts early on that helped.  Yes, Patrik Stefan was a flop, but let’s face it, unless your last name was Sedin in the 1999 Entry Draft, it was one of the worst drafts in this time.  But then it was Heatley, Kovalchuk, Kari Lehtonen (though I wanted Jay Bouwmeester instead), and Braydon Coburn were all good picks.  In the 2002-2003 season, the Thrashers made strides as Kovalchuk and Heatley were starting out and becoming stars including Heatley’s amazing All-Star Game performance (which netted him popularity and his own EA Sports cover for NHL 2004) and things looked great going into 2003-2004.  A tragedy struck (more on that in a minute) and then the Thrashers struggled to build off the 2002-2003 season.  The drafts started to become sketchy as Atlanta drafted the likes of Boris Valabik, Alex Bourret (who?-I really cannot remember this and had Atlanta not traded down they could have ended up with Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, or I’d settle with Devin Setoguchi, which San Jose drafted at Atlanta’s original spot), no 2007 first rounder for rental Keith Tkachuk, Zach Bogosian (could have had Tyler Myers there), Alex Burmistrov (could have netted Vladimir Tarasenko instead).  So poor drafts by Waddell stung.

And then came the trades.  The one that was just beyond awful even then and I still cannot figure out why they made it despite being in the playoff chase in 2006-2007 was trading Coburn to Philadelphia for an aging and underachieving Alexei Zhitnik.  Coburn was a reliable force for the Flyers while Zhitnik bombed out in Atlanta and did not do a single thing memorable and bought him out one year after.  Instead of making a push to get better after their lone playoff, Waddell gutted the Thrashers save for Kovalchuk, fired Bob Hartley and named himself head coach.  The Thrashers had the third worst record in the NHL that year.  2 years later, Waddell traded Kovalchuk for pretty much scrapheap led by Johnny Oduya.  It wasn’t until Rick Dudley actually made decent moves in the team’s final year in Atlanta netting Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and a couple of others as Atlanta looked to have a quality team ready before the move to Winnipeg.  But what bothered me is that Waddell’s ineptitude and the ownership allowing him to remain that inept for a long period of time was a key reason why the Thrashers were never any good save for 2006-2007.

And after being in Carolina and overhearing fans talk about Waddell, they’re worried he will end the Canes tenure in Raleigh since he looks to be in full control of that franchise.

Dany.jpg

3RD REASON:  THE TRAGIC ACCIDENT OF DANY HEATLEY AND DAN SNYDER:  One thing about Atlanta sports is that Atlanta fans believe the city itself is cursed with its sports teams.  The Braves with only 1 World Series win in that major run from 1991-2005.  The Falcons with Super Bowl LI.  The Hawks for being the Hawks.  The Thrashers really got hit hard with theirs early.  Heatley was supposed to be the next big thing in the NHL after the 2002-2003 season.  He got into a car accident with teammate Dan Snyder in the car.  Both suffered injuries, but Snyder’s were fatal.  Despite Heatley being able to recover, he wasn’t the same player for Atlanta and probably was haunted by being responsible for the death of his friend, requested a trade when the 2005-2006 season began (2004-2005 was a lockout).  Atlanta traded him to Ottawa for Marian Hossa and Greg deVries.  Both were great players for Atlanta, but it did take wind out of the sails.  2 years later, Atlanta traded Hossa to Pittsburgh for another crummy Waddell trade.  And the bottom just fell out.

Ilya.jpg

4TH REASON:  INABILITY TO KEEP ILYA KOVALCHUK IN THE 2010 SEASON:  To be fair, it may not have been Don Waddell’s fault on this one in part because if the rumors of the contract offers were true, Kovalchuk would have been one of the league’s highest paid players.  However, once again, Waddell made a crummy trade with the Devils.  And when the trade was made, the first thing that crossed my mind was “in three years we will be calling this team the Saskatoon Thrashers.”  I was right on the country, just wrong on the province.  It was the last gate attraction the Thrashers had for the fans.  I also remember when Kovalchuk was about to be traded, that I bought a couple of upper level seats at Philips Arena for $3 each, and after the first period, the Blue Crew (the Thrashers girls) took the dozen of us in the upper level and put is in the lower level for the remainder of the game.  It was getting bad.

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5TH REASON:  THE LOGO & UNIFORMS WERE FLAT-OUT COMICAL:  Of all of these, this is obviously the most petty and superficial.  Yes, I hold the original Thrashers home jersey and the blue jersey, but Atlanta wanted to keep up with the bird-themed team names of the Hawks and Falcons and gave it the state bird (to which many fans would give the bird for that idea after) for the team name.  But the logo looked something more of a Saturday Morning cartoon show with a Superman shield of what looked more like a character from the Sonic the Hedgehog game than an actual bird.  The away jersey was the “alternate” logo, which I still don’t know what it is supposed to look like: I guess they wanted to make it look like a Batman signal more than anything.  It was supposed to be a T, but to me it actually looked like a Y and the color pattern for that jersey was hideous.  For the 2003-2004 season, they debuted the sky blue color jersey as teams were trying to make the “alternate” unis cute.  One sleeve had the city name while the other was blank.  It would have looked good if they didn’t have that and made a logo change with it.  Then came the “red” uniforms that evidently inspired to be like an NBA jersey (though Dallas also did one similar which was bad too).  It looked too much like a comic book and much like the last run of Atlanta, it felt like a joke.  And nobody wants to buy a joke of things.

Bettman

6TH REASON:  GARY BETTMAN:  Bettman is a pure crook and I cannot wait until this egomaniac is no longer associated with the NHL in any manner.  End of discussion on that part.  He went above & beyond for a dying franchise in Phoenix that had been in the doldrums far longer than Atlanta had been (and still a dying franchise now).  He ran out and saved the Coyotes from moving back to Winnipeg.  For Atlanta?  Nah.  He scolded the Atlanta fans who didn’t want to pay tickets for consistently losing and paying to watch a garbage product on the ice.  Yet somehow he praised the city when the Thrashers were born as they were a hot ticket early on, and even outdrew the Chicago Blackhawks who were really down in that same time period.  But he opted to do everything in his power to keep the Coyotes from leaving Phoenix.  But nothing for Atlanta.  It sounded like a company headed by former NHL player Anson Carter had a legit offer to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta but it just fell apart without any real explanation.  Could it have been Bettman’s prints pushing to get the team to Winnipeg and True North?  Smelled like it.

 

There are probably more reasons why the Thrashers failed in Atlanta, but those are the key ones to me.  I like to think had Atlanta got rid of Waddell after the 2007-2008 season and replaced him with Rick Dudley after that, there may be playoff hockey in Atlanta starting tonight given with how he added key players in the final season.  But obviously, the truth is and we see it even today, that any professional sports team that has an ownership that cares with a front office that is competent, they will succeed.  But in the Thrashers case, they didn’t have that.  And it is unfortunate.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Pre Postseason NHL Rankings

With the NHL playoffs set to begin on Wednesday Night, there are only 16 teams remaining. Who is the worst team in heading into the playoffs and who is the best team heading into the playoffs?

16. Colorado Avalanche (43-30-9, 95 points): Colorado is by far the worst team in the NHL playoffs. They do have a couple of good players like Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, but Colorado doesn’t have much depth. The Avalanche are going to run in a buzzsaw in the first round against the Nashville Predators.

15. Philadelphia Flyers (42-26-14, 98 points): Philadelphia has a lot of talent and they have a punchers chance to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one because of their offense. However, the Flyers have a big problem with their goaltending situation and they can’t seem to stop Pittsburgh’s offense. If Philadelphia wasn’t playing Pittsburgh in round one, I might have ranked them higher.

14. New Jersey Devils (44-29-9, 97 points): Taylor Hall played at an MVP level during the regular season. They have very good depth even though New Jersey’s second leading scorer in Nico Hischier didn’t even have 60 points. If the Devils are going to make a deep run, they need goalie Keith Kinkaid to stay hot or Cory Schneider to step up if needed, but I don’t expect that to happen.

13. San Jose Sharks (45-27-10, 100 points): The Sharks limped into the playoffs and I think they have a bad draw in the first round against the Anaheim Ducks. Even though the Sharks have good depth scoring, there defense hasn’t been exactly sharp and it could be there down fall early in the postseason.

12. Minnesota Wild (45-26-11, 101 points): The Wild are banged on defense, but they have enough depth to still be reliable. Devan Dubnyk will be one of the keys in order for the Wild to have post season success. The Wild can’t be trusted because head coach Bruce Boudreau never gets it done in the postseason.

11. Anaheim Ducks (44-25-13, 101 points): The Ducks usually play well at the end of the season and it carries into the postseason. I don’t expect Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to have a mediocre playoff like they did in the regular season. Richard Rakell and Adam Henrique need to play even better in the postseason. Goaltending will be an interesting commodity for the Ducks. Will John Gibson be healthy? If he is, I don’t trust him between the pipes. Ryan Miller is a good backup, but he won’t lead the Ducks to the promise land.

10. Los Angeles Kings (45-29-8, 98 points): Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar are ready to lead their team to another championship run. They have been there before and the Kings are set up perfectly to go to the western conference finals. Los Angeles plays an inexperienced Vegas Golden Knights team in round one. The Kings would face either the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks in round two if they win the series. Los Angeles also matches up well with either of those teams.

9. Columbus Blue Jackets (45-30-7, 97 points): Columbus is getting their wish by not facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. The Blue Jackets have a great chance to upset the Capitals in round one. Columbus has a solid defensive pairing in Seth Jones and Zack Werenski. Sergei Bobrovsky is looking to redeem himself in the postseason.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (47-29-6, 100 points): Pittsburgh will be tough to beat four times out of seven, but they are not the favorites to win the east and they may not even be a top-three favorite to win the east. The Penguins have the best power play in the NHL and they still have the best player in the world in Sidney Crosby. Pittsburgh also has Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Goaltender Matt Murray is ready to prove himself once again in the postseason.

7. Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7, 109 points): This is the first time ever an expansion team made it to the postseason. Vegas will be battle tested right away. They have a tough draw in the round one against the Los Angeles Kings. Will goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury be a proven veteran and stay calm or will his old playoff meltdowns return?

6. Washington Capitals (49-26-7, 105 points): The Capitals starting Philipp Grubauer is game one over Braden Holtby is was an interesting decision made by head coach Braden Holtby. Grubauer’s record during the regular season was 15-10-3 with a .923 save percentage and 2.35 GAA, along with three shutouts. Holtby’s record during the regular season was 34-16-4 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.99 GAA.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs (49-26-7, 105 points): Toronto might have the best offense in the NHL playoffs. They scored 277 goals during the regular season which is the second most in the NHL. The Maple Leafs need to hope goaltender Frederik Andersen doesn’t get tired or hurt.

4. Winnipeg Jets (52-20-10, 114 points): The Jets are in position to win it all because of Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, and Connor Hellebuyck. Wheeler had a quietly dangerous season with 23 goals and 68 assists. Patrik Laine scored 44 goals and 31 of them were on the power play. Connor Hellebuyck was outstanding between the pipes during the regular season and he was clearly Winnipeg’s MVP during the regular season. His record was 44-11-9 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA, along six shutouts. Winnipeg also had the second best goal differential in the NHL at 59 (277 goals scored/218 goals given up). The Jets are the second favorites to win the west, but they would have to possibly face the Nashville Predators in round two and that’s not an easy task.

3. Tampa Bay Lighting (54-23-5, 113 points): Even though Tampa Bay finished with the best record in the east, they lost to Boston twice in the regular season. The Lightning won’t have an easy matchup out of the gate against the New Jersey Devils. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are ready to make another deep playoff run. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy needs to take control when his team needs him. His record during the regular season was 44-17-3 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA, along with eight shutouts. They have a great chance to win it all for the first time since 2004.

2. Boston Bruins (50-20-12, 112 points): The 2018 Boston Bruins might be better than the team that won it all in 2011. The Bruins have the most dangerous line in the postseason in David Pastrnak-Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand. They combined for 228 points during the regular season. If Rick Nash is ready for the start of the postseason, that will be a huge bonus for them. They have rookies like Ryan Donato, Charlie McAvoy, and Danton Heinen. Boston might have the best defense in the playoffs. Their defense doesn’t do much offensively, but they get after opponents and they don’t give up many odd man rushes. The playoffs will fall on the shoulder of goaltender Tuukka Rask.

1.Nashville Predators (53-18-11, 117 points): Nashville may not have a weakness on their roster. They are on a mission to win it all after falling short last season. The Predators was the lowest seed in the west in the 2017 postseason and they are now the highest seed in the 2018 postseason. Pekka Rinne is the backbone of this team. His record during the regular season was 42-13-4 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.31 GAA, along with eight shutouts. The Predators defenseman finished with 208 points during the regular season. Head coach Peter Laviolette will keep his team focused and hungry.