If the NHL ever considered instituting its own play-in tournament, and they have, and last night’s Lakers-Timberwolves what-have-ya wasn’t enough to dissuade them, then the Islanders and Penguins have recently showed the league that were they forced to waylay into each other in a single-elimination to get to the playoffs, it would set the sport back years much like what the NBA went through yesterday.
What can make the NHL more exciting?
The East’s last wildcard spot is the only playoff spot left open–the Jets clinched the final one in the West last night–and Pittsburgh and the Isles have spent the week handing it back to each other like Moosylvania (timely reference!). The eventual “winner” of this spot, or the eventual holder to be more accurate because this thing has become a game of rancid musical chairs, then gets the pleasure of the Boston Bruins using their spine as a xylophone for four to five games.
The Isles appeared to be ready to accept their assignment last week. They rolled over the Lightning and then the Flyers (one task far more impressive than the other), which gave them control of their own destiny, and even opened up the path to the first wildcard spot, which would allow them to duck the Bruins altogether. They had a pretty easy-looking layup on Monday, an away date with the long-cooked Washington Capitals. Easy peasy.
They let Darcy Kuemper (who yes, Virginia, is still alive even though you forgot) make 38 saves and Ilya Sorokin had a rare off-night as they spit up their lunch in a 5-2 loss. The Panthers also let an already-in-the-clubhouse Leafs beat them in overtime on the same night, which meant that suddenly the Pittsburgh Penguins were driving the bus.
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And then that goddamn bus crashed into the mountain, not to mix metaphors
The Pens couldn’t have had an easier run-in, two games against the Hawks and Jackets, two teams that would rather lose to get their noses in front in the Suck Hard For Bedard Derby. This was as whiffle-ball as a week in the NHL can get.
Or so one would have thought:
Not only were the Penguins beaten by a team that has a “Buddy” and “Joey” on the roster, they weren’t even close. The Pens slept walked through most of the first two periods, and then found Petr Mrazek too much of a wall to break through even after they tied the game in the 3rd. Here’s some “defending.”
Even the Carthaginians knew that if you give Andreas Athanasiou five minutes of time, he’ll eventually figure out where the goal is. (There’s going to be a hilarious study next week about the Hawks costing themselves their entire future with this win and recent play when they draft fifth, except everyone else will be laughing way too damn hard to ever read it).
That loss not only puts everything on the Islanders tonight at home to the Habs, in another game that should be just filling out your name on the SAT, given that Montreal has nothing to play for. Should the Islanders even grab a point, that’ll be it. The Panthers clinched without playing thanks to the Penguins setting their own face on fire, and not playing is probably what these three do best.
There’s obviously more at stake for the Penguins here, who not only lost a playoff spot to the remedial class Hawks but saw an entire era finally crash through the ground. Missing the playoffs will officially close the book on the Crosby-Malkin-Letang era, though all are signed for a few more years. They have barely any cap space next year to try and improve things, and will find it awfully hard to get cadavers like Jeff Carter or Mikael Granlund off the roster to open up more. If Ron Hextall’s real charge was to bring the Penguins down from within to serve his Flyers masters, you’d have to say he’s done a bang-up job.
The Pens ceded a playoff spot to a Paul Maurice-coached team, which is the surest sign that it’s time for Shawn Michaels to superkick them to hell for good.
As for the Islanders, they do have the type of goalie and play the type of boring-ass style that might throw a brief scare into the Bruins. But this is still a team where Zach Parise and the tennis balls on his skates is the third-leading scorer, Mathew Barzal is probably still hurt, and GM Lou Lamiorello couldn’t figure out that Bo Horvat wouldn’t continue scoring on 21 percent of his shots as he did in Vancouver. It’s a longshot, to say the least.
And both the Penguins and Islanders have played like they know it this week. Why mess with four extra games of getting mud-stomped when you can just go home?
To trace Sam’s descent into madness as he’s forced to watch hockey, follow him on Twitter @Felsgate.
Original source here
#teeth #kicked #Bruins