Double Bubble: Elimination Wednesday, MacKinnon takes flight and showin’ love

Welcome back to Double Bubble, the column where I look at the NHL playoffs and go “Hey look, that’s kind of cool/not cool.”

Elimination Wednesday.

That’s what the hockey world dubbed August 19. The Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, Coyotes and Canadiens all played in do-or-die match-ups.

Today’s results:

Tampa Bay finally exorcises some demons by eliminating Columbus after a 5-4 OT win courtesy of a Brayden Point winner. Sorry Blue Jackets, valiant effort, but not quite enough in the roster for the repeat.

The Bruins rally to beat a very entertaining Hurricanes squad 2-1 in a series that feels too short for how good both teams are. This makes me sad, I really liked Carolina, but once Svechnikov got injured, Boston kinda just took over.

Colorado finish their curb-stomping of the Arizona Coyotes with a 7-1 Game 4 win to complete the sweep. Not much to say about this one besides

After two games of getting shutout, the Canadiens finally put some goals on the board in a 5-3 victory over the Flyers. The series is now 3-2 Philly.

Vancouver takes a 3-2 series lead against St. Louis thanks to a awesome performance from Jacob Markstrom. The Canucks were able to take advantage of the hot goalie backing them to win 4-3 The defending Cup champs might be in trouble.

Takeoff

Let’s talk about Nathan MacKinnon.

In the middle of all this McDavid-Crosby-Matthews not making the playoffs, and the “Oh woe is me” complaints from some fans and analysts about the apparent lack of star power, MacKinnon has less-than-quietly stepped up as the best player in these playoffs.

I mean, Exhibit A  

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

This might be the Avalanche’s best chance to make a deep playoff run in over a decade. MacKinnon’s strength and speed is on another level from anyone else left in this postseason.

In the Avalanche’s four-game sweep of the Coyotes, MacKinnon had six points, and honestly, that seems low considering how dangerous he was.

MacKinnon is obviously superhuman, but Cale Makar has also been phenomenal. They’ve gotten decent goaltending, and I really like the way Nazem Kadri has been able to contribute.

Sorry Coyotes, but this one is over over, despite the best efforts of the whole team Darcy Kuemper.

Scoring is overrated, until it isn’t

The Habs have had a uhhh…difficult time putting the puck in the net against Philly.

After a dominating 5-0 Game 2 win, Montreal was shutout in both Games 3 and 4. Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin have struggled to contribute up to the level the team needs them too. Jesperi Kotkianiemi and Nick Suzuki have played well, and Carey Price has been been lights out. Going into Game 5, Price was rocking a 0.949 SV%.

Phillip Danault hasn’t had a great series, and considering he’s the team’s best defensive forward, his struggles have a rippling effect throughout the game.

Luckily, their 5-3 Game 5 victory over the Flyers shows les Canadiens might have a little more fight left in them. Or maybe we get another repeat of Games 3 and 4 and the offence disappears again.

Blackhawks Down

Literally zero surprise that Vegas made short work of Chigaco.

I saw some nice galaxy brain takes that Chicago could “surprise” Vegas, but that’s like saying that the mac’n’cheese that’s been sitting outside in the heat at a BBQ could “surprise” you and be good. It could, but literally one look would tell you it most definitely will not.

Mark Stone looks like an animal these playoffs, and that top line is arguably on the same level as the Bruins top line. Everything is working smoothly for the Golden Knights, and that’s a problem for the rest of the West.

I don’t know if we’ll see Corey Crawford in a Hawks jersey next season, Jonathan Toews gave these playoffs an admirable push, and Kubalik really looks good. But that defence is pretty horrendous, and some of their contracts are even worse.

Everyone knew that Chicago was past their prime, but it’s still kind of sad the dynasty finally let out its last breathe. This series was the nail in the coffin of the Hawks teams of past dominance.

So what’s even next for them? Aside from Crawford, the only contracts expiring this season are RFA’s Kubalik, Dylan Strome, Slater Koekkoek, Malcolm Subban, and Drake Caggiula. Oh, and they only have $7 million in cap space to do it.

More than likely, the Hawks want to keep at least half of this group, and if push comes to shove — which it will because the Hawks have zero cap room — Subban and Caggiula will likely be looking for new teams.

Unless Stan Bowman goes to town and manages to find some trade partners this offseason, we’re probably going to see this something very close to this exact roster next season.

The zoom in on Crawford LOL

Originally tweeted by P-Word Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) on 19 Aug 2020.

On Vegas’ end, Robin Lehner gets his vindication after being traded from Chicago to Vegas earlier in the year, in a move that’ll probably go down as one of the worst of the season.

This Golden Knights squad is really nice, and honestly still my pick in the West to get

Goodbye Blackhawks, we’ll always remember how you beat the Oilers to gift us some classic meme moments.

Players who need more love

There’s been a couple of guys who are putting up pretty awesome postseasons that’re going under the radar in my opinion. So let’s put them on it.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

Every bit the physical, offensive presence we were promised when Dubois was first drafted. I’m super impressed with his puck protection and vision, and his strength is giving defenders struggles. Dubois was been the best player on Columbus aside from Joonas Korpisalo.

Unfortunately, he’s also gotten into the really cool habit of hitting every single opponent from behind into the boards. Luckily, the Jackets are out of the playoffs so the spines of hockey players everywhere just got a bit safer.

Nazem Kadri

Tied for most points in the playoffs, Kadri is playing the best hockey of his life. He’s rightfully getting a lot of power-play time on the top unit. He had a massive Game 4, and just seems dialed in. His Game 5 was even better. Kadri plays a fun game to watch. Good to see that style rewarded on the stat sheet.

Bo Horvat

If it was Connor McDavid pulling the moves that Horvat’s been pulling, Hockey Twitter would explode. Alas, Horvat plays on Vancouver, so his ankle-breakers have gone too unnoticed for my liking.

The Canucks look good enough to take down the defending Cup champs, and whenever Horvat’s on the ice, you can just feel him impact the game pure sheer willpower.

Other notes

  • After the Capitals survived their Game 4 elimination game, can we finally please solidify Ovechkin’s status as the greatest pure goal-scorer of all-time? Thanks.
  • Bruins started looking a lot like this after Tuukka left the bubble. What a series, and pretty cool to watch this team rally around their goalie and get the first round win.
  • The release of the bodycam footage from last year’s altercation between Masai Ujiri and a Sheriff’s deputy. The video shows deputy Alan Strikeland engage with Ujiri, shoving him as Ujiri was attempting to get on the court. Ujiri than reached for his credentials in his coat pocket, and was shoved once again. Bystanders jump in as Ujiri finally gets fed up and appears to shove Strikeland again. All this footage shows us is what we already knew about the situation. What an absolute joke from the Sheriff’s department to allow Strikeland to even press charges against Ujiri while they had this footage available to them.
  • If you aren’t tuned into the NBA playoffs, your loss. This Trailblazers v. Lakers series has been very fun.

Follow me on Twitter for more hockey nonsense @Matthew_Coyte