We’ve made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and in the Canadian division the Montreal Canadiens are facing the Winnipeg Jets.
Both teams had a rough finish to the season – the Jets limped in at 3rd and the Habs fell over the finish line in 4th place. This match-up is the result of two upsets.
Winnipeg took a page from the Habs regular season playbook and shut down the two-headed monster of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. In a shocking upset, they swept the Oilers. Executives in Edmonton are wringing their hands at another short season during the prime years of their superstars.
But the playbook on the Oilers has all the intrigue of an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Shut down the big guns and shut down the team. GM Ken Holland must use this off-season to find some depth.
In the other match-up, the Habs eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games. Montreal looked out of it after winning the first game before losing three straight to the Leafs. With the possibility of playing at home in front of fans for the first time in over a year, the Canadiens turned it on in Game 5. That was enough to plant doubt in Leafs minds, and it was as if another Game 7 elimination was inevitable for Toronto.
The hand-wringing in Toronto is intense. This is a stacked team that was expected to win this post-season. The roster is stacked. They spent at the deadline like a team intent on hoisting the Cup. Their ousting is going over like an egg and bacon fart in a small elevator.
Questions are being asked about why their elite players with the mammoth contracts were not able to perform. So what’s next?
Less than 48 hours after eliminating the Leafs, the puck dropped on the second round.
The Jets were well-rested while the Habs were riding the wave of the emotional win. Once again, Montreal drew first blood.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi opened the scoring, redirecting a slap pass from Jeff Petry. The Habs alternated kids and veterans on the score sheet, with subsequent goals from Eric Staal, Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher and Jake Evans.
Winnipeg responded with goals from Adam Lowry, Derek Forbert and Kyle Connor, but it was not enough, and the empty netter from Evans was the final nail in the Game 1 coffin.
The didn’t end without its own share of controversy.
With just over a minute on the clock and the Canadiens leading 4-3, Evans was chasing an iced puck looking to seal it. Mark Scheifele skated back from the other end of the ice, gaining speed as he approached. When he saw he had no chance to stop the goal at 19:03, he chose to complete a reckless charge on Evans.
Scheifele’s game ended with a charging major and a 10-minute misconduct, while Evans was taken from the ice on a stretcher. Early Thursday, June 3, the Montreal Canadiens confirmed that Evans had suffered a concussion and will be out indefinitely. Scheifele had his hearing with the Department of Player Safety that afternoon, and late Thursday we learned he had received a four-game suspension.
The series continues with games on Friday, Sunday and Monday, and we can expect emotions to flare.
The next significant date on the Raptors’ calendar is the NBA Draft Lottery, which is scheduled for Tuesday, June 22.
Toronto currently occupies the 7th draft spot, but with lottery rules they are projected to have a 31.9% chance of drafting in the top four and a 33.9% chance to pick at number eight overall.
The outcome could be franchise-altering.
Blue Jays Babble
As of press deadline, the Jays were in fourth place in the American League East. But it’s early, and the standings are so close that nothing about the placement is yet definitive.
Toronto is riding some hot bats and will have decisions to make about the batting order when George Springer returns to the line-up. The outfielder has been running bases and it appears he is close, but a question remains about whether he should unseat Marcus Semien as the lead-off man.
Not the worst problem to have, but it feels like the Blue Jays are still sorting their roster as they manage injuries and work on their starting rotation.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or even a debate, just as long as it remains respectful. She posts her gametime thoughts on twitter, particularly about hockey and the Montreal Canadiens, as @lori10habs