Properly, nicely, nicely. The Presidents’ Trophy–profitable Florida Panthers had been swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their unhappy remaining sport Monday, extremely, doubled as the primary sport they’d been shut out all season. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 49 saves to complete the collection with a .980 save share, permitting solely three objectives in 4 video games to the highest-scoring offense within the league. In entrance of him final night time, Tampa scored two disallowed objectives after which finally a authorized one—the one one they bought previous Sergei Bobrovsky, earlier than including an empty-netter. You’ll have bother convincing me the waved-off objectives weren’t a part of some championship thoughts sport. Neurotransmitters, synapses, you understand. Absolutely in each hockey participant’s mind there’s a DEJECTION chemical triggered by a purpose horn heard on the highway.
By the point they arrived within the second spherical, the sheen of Florida’s high-octane (it’s not an editorial concerning the Panthers with out the phrase “high-octane”) common season had worn off. An older, slower Capitals workforce gave them some bother within the first spherical. If the Capitals couldn’t really end the job themselves, they kind of confirmed you the way it is perhaps finished: restrict Florida’s rush offense by mucking up the impartial zone and see should you can’t achieve the particular groups edge. Tampa lives to try this. (Simply ask the Leafs about the best way the Lightning kill with particular groups, even once they’re not clicking elsewhere.) And that’s what Tampa did! Florida’s energy play, changing at 24 p.c within the common season, went completely chilly. Humorous sufficient, going 1-for-13 on the ability play on this collection was really an enchancment during the last spherical, the place the Panthers had been 0-for-18. “It’s already brought on me sleepless nights,” mentioned interim head coach Andrew Brunette final night time, totally taking the blame for the sorry particular groups. “It would trigger me a sleepless summer season.”
Within the common season, I typically watched the Panthers outclass some unhealthy workforce or different and thought, Wow, how do you guys ever lose? They wore down defenses with their pace. They by no means let an opponent’s mistake go unpunished. The transition sport achieved superb issues: It felt like a Panthers D-man would achieve possession and BAM!, identical to that, everybody’s ft had been shifting, they usually had been on an odd-man rush. When the Panthers performed good groups, the losses—if nonetheless uncommon—turned slightly simpler to think about. The goaltending got here and went. The defensemen had been liable to bizarre puck administration choices and dumb penalties; each, I’d say, proved deadly towards Tampa. The Panthers’ star gamers all had an unimpressive collection, too. I might dispute any claims that Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau had been invisible by arguing that they had been, at instances, visibly unhealthy. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida’s hero within the first spherical, completed pointless, with solely seven photographs on purpose throughout 4 video games. It tracks that an offense that scored, by a tough estimate, 80 or 90 objectives off the Detroit Crimson Wings’ defensive breakdowns may dry up within the playoffs, the place there are fewer breakdowns and no Detroit Crimson Wings to use.
Don’t really feel too unhealthy, Panthers. By advancing to the second spherical, you exceeded my expectations; I picked Washington to win in six. I want I’d put this skepticism in writing earlier than the playoffs began in order to look extra like a BRAIN GENIUS and fewer like somebody swooping in after the very fact to say they’re “mentally fragile” and “don’t know the way to win.” However let me swoop anyway. Please. I’ve been ready months to do that: Jonathan Huberdeau is a secondary help service provider. Anton Lundell was carried by Mason Marchment. Mason Marchment was carried by Sam Reinhart. Barkov? Yeah, I’ll say the bark is off; he doesn’t have that dawg in him. MacKenzie Weegar lacks true really feel for the sport. Claude Gi-who? Just one Panther made it onto my Guys Checklist this yr: Maxim Mamin. The Rangers had extra regulation wins. A dumb sports activities radio mini-scandal was solely wasted on them! You possibly can purchase lower-bowl tickets to the primary two video games of the collection for $100 apiece. Unserious franchise. Mentally fragile. And should you ask me, they don’t know the way to win.