Are we headed to a Conference finals letdown?

Sharks1.jpgThere’s no doubt that this has been one of the most amazing hockey
playoff seasons we’ve had in a very long time. Forget the multiple Game 7
dramas, or the absolute upsets of the Penguins and the Capitals. You
could even overlook the history that was made last night in Pittsburgh,
and you would still come away thinking this has been one heck of a
postseason.

The television ratings are up.

Dan Boyle’s own
goal.

Roberto Luongo’s delusion.

Joe Thornton’s redemption.

The
Phoenix Coyotes took the Red Wings to the brink out in the desert.

Sami
Salo’s…..well, Salo’s issue.

Ian Laperriere taking a puck to
the face for the good of his team.

The multiple players that have
returned early from injury, making a big impact (both good and bad).

All
of this in just the first two rounds of the playoffs, and we still have
two left to go. There’s really only one way to go from here, and that’s
to some disappointing series in the conference finals. It almost feels
inevitable. We’ve exhausted nearly every storyline imaginable thus far
in the playoffs, from improbable comebacks to Cinderella teams, to the
teams out West that we’ve all seemingly forgotten about.

Now we
have four teams remaining, who have up to this point burned an
incredible amount of energy and fought through so many injuries that a
letdown is coming. Some of these teams will likely have nothing left in
the tank and will get steamrolled by their opponent, lost in the dust on
the way to the Stanley Cup.

Whether it’s Philadelphia, who
seemingly reached into the depths of their hockey souls for one last
gasp against the Bruins, overcoming a 0-3 deficit both in the series and
in the game, or it’s the San Jose, who finally made it to this point
only to find themselves facing an angry, rabid and hungry Blackhawks
team.

Hopefully I’m wrong, and the chances are that I’m off base.
Yet after so much greatness this season, there will come a point where
it all crashes down and we’re left with a 4-1 series win the Conference
finals before an easy sweep in the Stanley Cup finals.

Maybe it
doesn’t matter. Those West Coast teams we’ve all forgotten about?
They’ll destroy whatever team they face in the finals anyhow.

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    Yes, it’s really happening: Vegas NHL team installs ice for first time

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    Sometimes you just need a reminder that a remarkable thing actually is happening.

    Saturday presented the latest evidence that the NHL coming to Las Vegas isn’t just a collective fever dream, as the still-nameless franchise noted that they’ve begun the process to install ice at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

    It’s not the prettiest picture, but it means a lot:

    While setting up the first sheet of ice is a physical sign that things are coming together, the front office side will dictate the sort of team that eventually plays on it.

    For more insight into that process, Puck Daddy takes a look at Murray Craven, who appears to be a key part of bringing things together … even if it’s difficult to nail down a specific title.

    Presenting: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hockey bobbleheads

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    From the Department of Sights You Can’t Un-see: the Milwaukee Admirals are going to unleash hockey-playing bobbleheads for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “this fall.”

    The Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate continues the fine tradition of headline-grabbing and all-around-odd promotions from the league.

    /Pours one out for the Bakersfield Condors and their Seinfeld “puffy” shirts.

    Feast your eyes on the rather disturbing duo:

    (The replies to that tweet aren’t too weird yet, but it would probably be wise to stay away nonetheless.)

    Naturally, there are other bobblehead options available for the two Presidential front-runners, with the Trump ones being especially entertaining.

    As the youngest GM in NHL history, Chayka is already making waves

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) His time on the ice done, John Chayka would turn to the tape, spending up to 25 hours to break down the game just played.

    He tracked every player on the ice, every possession, touch of the puck, calculating the impact of every decision or movement on the ice.

    The attention to detail, to making himself and his teammates better, led Chayka to co-found his own hockey analytics company. Now it’s helped him become the youngest general manager in NHL history, a meteoric rise even he didn’t see coming.

    “It would be silly to suggest it wasn’t a little surprising,” said Chayka, named GM of the Arizona Coyotes on May 5. “It’s like anything in life; good fortune, good timing, a lot of that plays into it. I always just try to better myself every day, learn every day.”

    Related: The Coyotes are going in a ‘new direction,’ and that’s an understatement

    Chayka was like most Canadian kids growing up, playing hockey from a young age on a backyard rink in Jordan Station, Ontario. He had some skill, too, as a high-scoring winger who was good enough to be an Ontario Hockey League draft pick.

    Instead of becoming a professional hockey player, Chayka took a different route to the highest level. He opted to attend college instead of playing in the OHL and suffered a back injury that ended any chance of a continued playing career.

    Chayka liked the analytical aspect of hockey even when he was playing, logging numbers by hand while meticulously going through every play of each game. Once he teamed up with Neil Lane, a friend with an IT background, Chayka was able to vastly expand the data sets he could analyze.

    Chayka and Lane co-founded Stathletes in 2009 and built it up, molding the hockey analytics company to serve the needs of NHL teams and players.

    But in 2015, Chayka decided to make a change. The business was in good shape and the Coyotes wanted an analytics person, so he joined them as an assistant GM prior to the 2015-16 season.

    “The company was in a position for the co-founder to step aside and let it grow, so it was good timing for me to do that,” Chayka said.

    Timing worked out for Chayka again this spring.

    After missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Coyotes decided to make a change, firing general manager Don Maloney after nine seasons.

    Instead of hiring an established hockey front-office man, the Coyotes took a bolder route, hiring the then-26-year-old Chayka, making him the youngest GM in NHL history and the first with a primarily analytical background.

    “What people are going to find out about John as he becomes more well-known is he’s a very smart guy, a very intelligent guy,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

    Those smarts, along with a year of watching the Coyotes operations from the inside out, have allowed Chayka to hit the ground sprinting.

    Arizona had one of the highest-rated drafts, landing center Clayton Keller and defenseman Jakob Chychurn, players who could contribute quickly.

    The Coyotes signed top-four defenseman Alex Goligoski after trading for his rights and added some scoring depth by signing left wing Jamie McGinn, who set career highs in goals and points last season. Arizona also signed captain Shane Doan to a one-year deal.

    Chayka has retooled Arizona’s roster by combining his analytical approach with the traditional methods of evaluating players, dispelling the notion that he would be a numbers-only GM.

    “It’s a good holistic approach where you’re weighing both options and ideas,” Chayka said. “Where you have agreements and consistency in your approach, then you have a better decision. When you have those disagreements is where you have real opportunity to learn from it. If the data disagrees with the eye or the eye disagrees with the data, now you have a real opportunity to understand why.”

    The need to understand got Chayka to this unprecedented point. It should be the foundation to keep him climbing as well.

    Report: Wheat Kings’ McCrimmon likely to be named Las Vegas assistant GM

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    The Las Vegas NHL franchise has been in search of an assistant general manager, and that search may be nearing an end.

    According to a report from Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show on TSN 1260, Brandon Wheat Kings owner, GM and coach Kelly McCrimmon is likely to be named assistant GM in Las Vegas.

    The report was backed up on Friday from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

    Last summer, McCrimmon turned down a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs front office.

    It was reported last week that Vegas general manager George McPhee had asked the Washington Capitals for permission to speak with that team’s assistant GM Ross Mahoney.