The Tampa Bay Lightning outlasted the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 last night for the final chapter of the first round (tears, FFMorgan). Just two series went the distance and the home team won both (the Capitals being the other). Most believe Mike Babcock has coached his last game for the Red Wings.
I've got a Fan Post up here dissecting our Bracket Challenge (props to irieman79, whoever you are, for going a perfect 8/8 in round 1, the only one among us to do so).
The East has some very intriguing Conference semi-final matchups. With the re-alignment, there is a sense that the powers in the Atlantic Division for the near future will be Tampa Bay and Montreal as the Bruins and Red Wings have regressed a bit with age and other issues. Both the Lightning and Canadiens are fun to watch and have a core group with solid goaltenders who should be around for the foreseeable future. The Habs swept the Bolts in Round 1 last season.
In the Metro Division showdown, the Washington Capitals meet again with the New York Rangers. This will be their 4th postseason meeting in the last 7 years. The Caps beat the Rangers in the first round in 2009 and 2011, but New York returned the favor in round 2 in 2012 and round 1 in 2013. Can Holtby match Lundqvist?
Out West, it's once again a familiar matchup in the Central Division final. The Blackhawks beat the Wild 4-1 in the first round of the 2013 playoffs and once again sent them packing last season with a 4-2 series win in the Conference semis. Is this the year Minnesota breaks through and returns to the Conference finals for the first time since 2003?
The Pacific matchup is really the only series which features no recent postseason history between the two teams. Calgary hasn't been to the postseason since 2009 but knocked out the Canucks with a 4-2 series win. That was their first series win since advancing out of the West to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. One Kris Russell (yes, him) is on the blue line. The Flames young core has come together and the team trolls the Corsi rating a bit - they ranked 28th at 44.4% CF%. Only Colorado and Buffalo were worse. On the flip side, I don't believe James Wisniewski has made a playoff appearance yet (healthy scratched). Maybe that trade wasn't so bad after all. The Ducks are looking to advance to their first Conference Finals since they won the Cup in 2007. With all of that talent and goaltending, that's a bit surprising. Their first round sweep of the Jets was just their third playoff series win since that Stanley Cup.
NBCSN is broadcasting the 2015 IIHF World Championship. Both Mike Reilly and Jeremy Morin scored for Team USA in a 4-1 win against Austria in an exhibition before the Championship gets underway. I anticipate we'll have a quick decision from Reilly once he gets back to the States.
On the mock draft front, Union and Blue looks at a variety of predictions from some of the national publications. Rantanen and Provorov seem to be the popular choices for now for the CBJ at #8. Union and Blue's new editor Chris McLafferty also dissected a series of tweets from Aaron Portzline, hinting the Jackets may not immediately be looking to add to the blue line in free agency. They could instead look to upgrade their D corps via trade rather than just picking up another player after July 1.
This isn't a ground-breaking #take as the Jackets will be up against the cap assuming one or both of Letestu/Calvert are brought back. The team also needs to decide on a backup goalie and figure out their 7th and 8th defender situation (Goloubef, Madaisky, and Falk all pending FAs are likely candidates, but will obviously cost in the ~$1 million range). The team currently sits with just over $9 million in cap space if the cap stays where it is. Barring a massive increase in the cap, free agency doesn't seem like a realistic option unless they clear space with a trade at the draft.
Last week, The Union Blue recapped the CBJ prospects playing in the CHL playoffs. Bjorkstrand has 10-8-18 in 11 games for the Winterhawks (he has since added to that over the past few days).
BS Hockey looked at dCorsi, which combines a few advanced stats together.
Finally, in some non-hockey related chatter - I definitely recommend Netflix's original programming. Bloodline and Daredevil have been great this spring, especially since my TV viewing time freed up with the Jackets missing out on the playoffs.
Huge sports weekend - the NFL draft, Mayweather and Pacquiao, the Kentucky Derby, NHL playoffs, NBA playoffs...on and on. Should be fun (if, you know, you're a fan of sports).