Leafs Nation erupted on Saturday night, and for good reason. They won the draft lottery and will have the right to select first in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
It’s been a long while since they got a win this big. This one wasn’t on the ice, that’ll have to wait a little longer, but it was perhaps just as important. It means they get a bonafide difference maker and a potential franchise player to hopefully lead them out of the dark abyss that’s been their last 50 season and into the promised land.
The Pittsburgh model. The Chicago Model. The Tampa Bay model. The Los Angeles model. The Edmonton model… Okay scratch that last one, but you get the picture. Be really bad, collect high picks, draft elite players and you’ll have a contender very soon. The Leafs nailed step one, and they’ll be rewarded for their ineptitude in June.
Their reward? Auston Matthews, an uber talented center born in Scottsdale, Ariz., with franchise cornerstone potential. The Leafs haven’t exactly had one of those since Mats Sundin and it’s not exactly far-fetch’d to think Matthews’ ceiling is even higher than that. He’s got potential to be the kind of superstar talent the Leafs have sorely lacked for most of their existence.
SERIES STARTS: Friday, 8 p.m. ET, in Dallas.
THE BLUES WIN IF…
St. Louis conquered its white whale. Now what? It was a monumental accomplishment for the franchise to finally oust the Joel Quenneville-era Chicago Blackhawks after three straight seasons of first-round exits, all after the Blues had dominant regular seasons. The key now is to use the victory as a springboard into newfound glory instead of an emotional triumph that drains all their energy. The Blues must be wary of a letdown in Game 1 on the road. If they can shrug off the potential adrenaline dump, they’re in good shape.
SERIES STARTS: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, in San Jose.
THE SHARKS WIN IF…
The Sharks weren’t the popular pick in their first round series against the Kings, but Los Angeles was dismantled in five games by San Jose. The Sharks were considered the third-most likely of the three Pacific Division entries into the post-season to win the Stanley Cup, and now they’re the last team from the division standing. They’ve put the rest of the Western Conference on notice as they head to Round Two for a date with the Nashville Predators.
With round one in the books (and round two already begun thanks to very odd scheduling by the NHL) it’s time to check back in on the advanced stats vs. eye test debate.
Before the playoffs started we showed you three sets of predictions: one based on numbers, one based on eyes, and one based on both. They mostly agreed on each series to varying levels, but there were some differences. Here’s the first round scorecard.
On this edition of the podcast, we break down every second-round playoff series and make our predictions.
Also, we discuss if and when the Ducks will fire coach Bruce Boudreau. And if there’s been a changing of the guard among Western Conference powers.
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[Music: Metz-Headache; Quicksand-Omission]
SERIES STARTS: Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, in Washington.
THE CAPITALS WIN IF…
It’s almost hard to believe this needs to be said, but the Capitals really need to get their offense going in the second round. Washington scored twice in the final three games of the first round, and while that was against an admittedly stingy Philadelphia Flyers club that had otherworldly goaltending from Michal Neuvirth, that’s uncharacteristic of this Capitals team and now isn’t the time for the offense to start to sputter. Alex Ovechkin came to life early, but he was actually held off the board in two straight elimination games as the Flyers made the series much closer than it should have been. If it wasn’t for Nicklas Backstrom’s Game 6 goal, the Capitals very well could have gone to seven games.
SERIES STARTS: Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET, in Tampa Bay.
THE LIGHTNING WIN IF…
It’s a testament to the Lightning’s depth of roster talent that, without their best player Steven Stamkos and their second-best defenseman Anton Stralman, they still shoved aside the Detroit Red Wings in five games in Round 1. Tampa reached the Stanley Cup final a year ago for a reason. If it was a one- or two-man team, that wouldn’t have been possible.
Welcome, everyone. Thanks for coming. Just walking through the door is a courageous first step. There’s coffee and donuts on the table in the corner. When you’re ready, sit with me in the circle.
Everyone join hands. It’s time to discuss the real possibility the Edmonton Oilers win the draft lottery this Saturday and pick first overall for the fifth time in seven years.
Their chances: 13.5 percent. It doesn’t make the Copper and Blue the favorite – that would be the Toronto Maple Leafs at 20 percent – but Edmonton has the second-best odds. The Oil sat third-best a year ago at 11.5 percent and still managed to win the Connor McDavid Ping-Pong Sweepstakes, so we know they have a chance, technically a better one this time around.