Welcome to the land of no NHL hockey! Temporarily, that is.
The playoffs are about to begin. But while the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues are headed for the greens with their drivers and a fresh new set of Vineyard Vines polos, the Colorado Avalanche are off to the races.
It’s playoff season for the Avs after what seemed like a historic free-fall last season, making them the true comeback kids of the year (no matter what the Arizona Coyotes tell you).
It’s also time for the comeback of the Flurries!
First, here’s an awesome look from a new Mile High Hockey writer on how the rookies were a huge part of the team’s success this season. Nothing but big, warm welcomes for Jon, please and thank you! [Mile High Hockey]
Here is also your playoff schedule, in case you’ve missed it for the last few days. [MHH]
If you pay for the subscription, here’s a read on Jonathan Bernier and playoff upsets, just to get things kicked off. [BSN Denver]
Your reminder: it’s the Jonathan Bernier show for round one!
Semyon Varlamov won't play in Nashville series, #Avs coach Jared Bednar said.— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) April 8, 2018
Last July, I wrote about how Bernier and the Avs could pull each other up this year. It happened. Now it’s time for playoffs! Here we go.
If you want to read that look back at what Bernier had the potential to be in Colorado, here you go. [FanRag Sports]
Meanwhile, the Las Vegas community really is sweet on playoff hockey.
I’m taking the under on three days until a ridiculously drunk bachelor party decides to eat his left pad or something, but still. Pretty cool - and oh-so-Vegas - gesture for the league’s newest hockey city.
Speaking of hockey in the desert, the Arizona Coyotes held their locker cleanout day on Monday, and their head coach had some pretty poignant things to say about the way the season started off.
Sitting in on his press conference, Rick Tocchet made it clear that he had a lot of areas he had to improve upon when it came to being a head coach in the NHL; once he got his stride in that area, the rest fell into place.
The Avalanche made a remarkable turnaround this year, but it’s entirely possible: next season, Arizona may be the ones fighting for that spot. As another team in that stage of their retooling/rebuild, Colorado may be ready for more bare-knuckled brawling against the southwest team to snag a Wild Card position. [Arizona Republic]
Then, of course, there’s the Montreal Canadiens:
"I believe that with a better or different attitude, we don't have 40 losses." Marc Bergevin #TSN690— Conor McKenna (@mckennaconor) April 9, 2018
This is also a fantastic read from another bottom-feeder team.
While the Coyotes had one of the league’s most powerful second-half stretches, the majority of the bottom-ten teams were quite the opposite. So while Arizona’s final pressers were largely optimistic and fun to be at, teams like the Buffalo Sabres saw something quite different.
From a former Av, here’s a look at Ryan O’Reilly’s absolutely candid, brutally honest assessment of the year in Buffalo. [BuffaloNews]
Looking back at playoff teams, though, here’s a pair of fun reads on some Cali lineups.
First, this is a fantastic look at how Anze Kopitar has been thriving as captain for the Kings. [NHL.com]
Then, here’s a look at the crazy good d-corps they’ve got out in Anaheim. [OC Register]
This isn’t about the playoffs, but Wayne Simmonds is on a playoff team. So let’s all give this a thorough read, especially in light of what happened to Devante Smith-Pelly earlier this season. Always good to remember: even when we sometimes don’t think the world is racist anymore, some ugly things are happening that we may just not be willing to see. [The Player’s Tribune]
Finally, let’s discuss this for a minute:
So the GOLF Channel (?!) gets back-to-back NHL game fours. Here’s what’s airing in those blocks on other channels:— Travis Yost (@travisyost) April 9, 2018
NHLN: Six hours of NHL Tonight
NBC: Family Feud and local news
CNBC: Shark Tank re-runs
USA: Law and Order SVU/Suits re-runs
NBC sending a message, I suspect..
A few months ago, I was visiting my parents and went out to watch some games at the bar with an old friend from high school.
We got into a fairly heated debate about whether or not the NHLPA had enough leverage to hold out for their own demands PLUS explicit agreement for Olympic participation in the upcoming lockout (which, at this point, seems to be a foregone conclusion).
I thought the NHLPA had enough leverage to include Olympic demands, and enough desire to see it through that they’d be willing to hold out until they got what they wanted. My friend saw things the other way.
Neither of us foresaw NBC getting involved like this. It’s a clear attack on the NHL, shuffling the league to a minor channel that doesn’t even come with everyone’s basic TV package (not the rabbit ears local channels, but the 170-channel package; based on my quick research, neither my provider nor my parents’ offer the Golf Channel until you’re up to the second or third tier package).
Will it bend Bettman, rather than push him to retaliate even harder? Tough to tell. But it will, for sure, have ramifications on the league’s next CBA, that’s easy enough to see.